Keen cruisers fed up with Australia’s strict cruise bans are taking advantage of the open international borders and heading overseas to jump aboard river and ocean lines. 

A Finder survey revealed that 14 per cent of Australians were interested in cruising in 2022, meaning there are around two million Australians ready to cruise.  

Sharon Summerhayes, owner of Deluxe Travel and Cruise, says travel confidence is coming back. 

“People have definitely got more confidence,” she said. “People are looking at cruises and tours for 2023, whereas before they were a bit more hesitant, but they’re wanting to lock them away now and take advantage of the early bird specials and that’s been fantastic.” 

Ms Summerhayes says there are a number of factors holding regular punters from booking, and that includes governments shutting borders and new variants of COVID-19. But what she’s found with her clients is that they are sick of being locked down and are simply travelling. 

“People that are well travelled are saying, ‘Let’s just book it in’ – and they know a good deal when they see one.”

As far as destinations, Europe is as popular as ever, Alaska is shaping as a new star and there’s a certain bucket-list destination people don’t want to put off any longer.

“I’m actually doing Alaska this year myself,” she said. “I’ve also been getting quite a bit of enquiries for Antarctica … People are wanting to tick off their bucket list and start from the top, not the bottom. They realise now we’re not promised anything by the governments, and we need to do things when we have the chance.

“People are really upgrading their holidays. Going for longer and spending more on extra luxurious cabins on ships.

“I have been doing a lot of Celebrity bookings, especially on the Edge, which is coming at the end of next year – people have been booking the hell out of that for me.

“I’ve got quite a bit of interest in Virgin Voyages. People are wanting to try that, and I think they’re liking the adults-only concept too. I love the Virgin Brand so I think that a cruise with them will be something special and I think that’s coming across to cruisers as well.” 

If you are thinking about jumping on that dream cruise, now is the time to do it, as Ms Summerhayes says that when travel confidence and assurance rises, so will prices.

“Cruise lines have been very good with credits and refunds if things do happen,” she said. “So be confident that your money is safe and lock in that special deal while you can, because it won’t be there for long.”

Travellers want unique destinations.

Kathy Labbozzetta from Relax Travel and Cruise also warned that Australian availability could dry up quickly after official confirmation, as many Aussies have cruise credits, they’re ready to splurge with.

“Australians are waiting to use cruise credits here when it opens, spots will go quick because as soon as they can cruise, they will cruise.” 

Avid cruisers Patrea and Ed Stuttard, 65 and 61, grew tired of letting life pass by and jetted off to the USA for a series of cruises. 

Ms Stuttard says cruising is the perfect holiday for her and her husband.

“We started cruising about five years ago and realised it was the perfect holiday for us. You get a taste of what’s available by visiting the ports which enables you to go back and visit the places that are super special. Plus, waking up surrounded by ocean is a wonderful way to start your day.”

The couple enjoyed seven cruises with Carnival Cruise Line in America.

“Our first cruise was three days on the ‘Carnival Radiance’ to Ensenada, then we embarked on six back to back cruises on the ‘Carnival Panorama’ which goes to Puerta Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. We had New Years on the first of these.

“We’ve had such an amazing time onboard. The Carnival crew have welcomed us so warmly. Highlights so far, would be our camel ride along the beach in Cabo San Lucas and I’m sure for Ed he could also add scuba diving across the San Andreas fault.”

Ms Stuttard says the lines have gone above and beyond to make them feel safe on board.

“Cruise ships are generally cleaner than most places you go but what’s glaringly obvious is the amount and the continual cleaning that goes on, It’s honestly non-stop! ie; surfaces, railings, railing fixtures, legs of chat, deck chairs. There’s also 100% mask wearing compliance, by everyone. Even little children as young as two-to-three-year-old’s wear a mask.

“Also knowing that every crew member is double or probably triple vaccinated, is reassuring, which in our opinion makes a cruise ship safer than our local mall back home, safer than being in a restaurant and certainly safer than a sports event where who knows what the vaccine status is of attendees there.”

Ms Stuttard says not being able to cruise became an emotional battle.

“Initially you accept the ‘cruise pause’ but when you’re the only county that hasn’t resumed this industry it’s a tough one. It definitely plays with your mental health by removing something you love so much. 

At our ages you want to be enjoying your retirement and not have two years taken away without any road-map insight towards the resumption of cruising.”

Europe stays a cruising hotspot.

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