I'm a Victorian freelance writer & photographer living in the Macedon Ranges north of Melbourne.
Published March 12th 2018
Let's Sail Away
If you'd asked me a few years ago what I thought about taking a cruise holiday I would have answered with a question. Something along the lines of "why the hell would I want to pay good money to place myself in a confined space for a lengthy period of time with a couple of thousand people I don't know?"
But, having been convinced (read nagged) to give it a go I must confess I'm a convert. I've thoroughly enjoyed the cruises I've done, both the on-board experiences and the opportunity to go ashore at locations I might not otherwise have seen.
Just over 5% of the Australian population depart on an ocean cruise annually, finding themselves in the Pacific Islands among other places. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
Cruising is big business in Australia with more than 1.2 million passengers, just over 5% of the population, departing on an ocean cruise each year. Think about it! They can't all be wrong. And now, with one cruising season coming to an end, is exactly the right time to start thinking about where to go and with whom, in season 2018/19.
Royal Caribbean International is one of the worlds major cruise lines operating 23 ships to 270 destinations around the world. Four Royal Caribbean ships operate in Australian waters from September to April each year with departures from Sydney, Brisbane & Fremantle and offering a huge variety of cruise options
For season 2018/19 these include a 5-night cruise to Tasmania on board RADIANCE OF THE SEAS departing 16th October 2018 with prices starting from $800 per person. An early Christmas present in the form of a 10-night New Zealand cruise departing 11th December 2018 costs from $1499 per person or 14-nights cruising Fiji and the South Pacific aboard EXPLORER OF THE SEAS might be what you're after, departing 15th February 2019 and costing from $2259 per person.
Royal Caribbean's RADIANCE OF THE SEAS shown here at Mystery Island, Vanuatu. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
The world's largest cruise operator is Carnival Cruise Lines carrying more than 4-million passengers annually on trips lasting from 3 to 16 days. CARNIVAL SPIRIT sails from Sydney all year round and is joined over summer by CARNIVAL LEGEND. Carnival run a number of Weekend Sampler 3-night cruises from Sydney and Melbourne. 3-nights ex-Sydney departing 7th September 2018 costs $669 per person or from Melbourne on 23rd November 2018 $739.
A 7-night Carnival cruise to the Pacific Islands departing Sydney on 18th March 2019 costs $949 per person.
Princess Cruises operate 18 ships with 2, SEA PRINCESS and SUN PRINCESS, permanently based in Australia and 5 of them sailing from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Fremantle and Auckland year round.
A 6-night Southern Australia Explorer trip departing Melbourne on 4th January 2019 and visiting Adelaide, Kangaroo Island and Port Lincoln costs $1199 per person.
An 8-night Coral Coast Cruise departing and returning to Fremantle with stops at Geraldton, Broome and Exmouth sails on 22nd October 2018 costing $1499 per person.
The theme across all the larger operators, Royal Caribbean, Princess & Carnival is very similar with the emphasis on wining, dining and entertainment. Each ship boasts numerous bars & lounges with almost round-the clock entertainment, pampering and countless on-board activities for passengers of all ages – everything from water parks and adventure playgrounds for the kids to secluded, quiet retreats for the adults.
The majority of Australian cruises depart from Sydney but Princess Cruises frequently operate too and from Melbourne. Here DIAMOND PRINCESS approaches Station Pier. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
Then you've got your niche, some might say more upmarket operators, such as Celebrity Cruises or Holland America. Celebrity currently boasts the highest rating in Australian waters for service, dining & accommodation and was voted "Best Premium Cruise Line" in Travel Weekly's 2016 Annual Globe Awards.
Holland America operate 14 ships world-wide completing an average 500 sailings per annum.
These operators generally use smaller ships with the emphasis on luxury travel and first class service with a passenger to crew ratio of about 2 to 1.
A local tour boat alongside RADIANCE OF THE SEAS off Airlie Beach, Queensland prepares to take passengers on a shore excursion in the Whitsundays. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
There's also P&O, who maintain a strong presence in Australia operating 5-ships throughout Australasia and the Pacific. Widely regarded as the economy end of the cruise market P&O has unfortunately acquired a reputation as a 'love boat' and 'booze cruise' operator, an image the company is working very hard to turn around.
So, is cruising for you? Well to pinch a line from another area of tourism, 'you'll never, never know if you never, never go'. All I can say is there was no one more sceptical than I and today I only wish I'd seen the light a lot earlier and enjoyed a lot more great seafaring holidays.
Cruise lines are all about service with a smile. Royal Caribbean's Eduardo is a great barman who never forgets a guests name. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
If you're tempted to look for a cruise you can check out the individual shipping lines or specialist cruise travel agents like Cruiseabout or websites such as Cruise Sale Finder.
But don't procrastinate any longer, start looking now for your perfect cruise in season 2018/19.
There's a seat by the pool awaiting you for the Australian Cruise Season 2018/19. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank