Australia cruise industry numbers: 1.34 million Australians took a cruise in 2017

Did you know that almost one in 18 Australians have taken a cruise? And that most Aussie cruisers come from NSW? These and many more fascinating stats about the state of the cruise industry were recently released by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Australasia.

As figures showed that more than 1.34 million Australians took an ocean cruise in 2017, CLIA Australasia's managing director Joel Katz said cruising had become the quintessential modern Australian holiday.

While the rate of growth hasn't been as dramatic as in recent years, the numbers add up to a significant 4.4 per cent more than in 2016 which, according to Katz, puts Australia on par with the world's largest cruise market, the US, which experienced growth of 4.7 per cent, and was well ahead of more established cruise markets such as Europe (up 2.5 per cent), and Britain and Ireland (up 0.5 per cent).

Katz sees plenty of future growth in the Australian cruise market – but major ports, particularly Sydney, need to get with the infrastructure program. Sydney's cruise berths are currently at capacity during the peak cruise season and White Bay is not only inaccessible to many larger ships but is not blessed with the best transport connections for passengers.

"With demand for cruising as high as ever, there is still so much potential," he said. "The best way to future-proof cruise tourism in Australia is to resolve infrastructure constraints and ensure the right regulatory settings to allow more cruising to Australian ports. As long as we can solve the lack of cruise infrastructure development in Sydney and across the region, we'll see further increases in passenger numbers."

Where are we cruising? The report revealed that Australians still spend most of their time cruising local waters with the Pacific islands (35 per cent), Australia (34 per cent) and New Zealand (8 per cent) accounting for the most cruise passengers. Asia remained the most popular long-haul, fly-cruise destination for Australian cruisers accounting for 7.3 per cent of travellers, followed by the Mediterranean (4.6 per cent), Alaska (2.8 per cent), US/Hawaii/Mexico (2.3 per cent) and the Caribbean (2.1 per cent).

How old are Aussie cruisers? Overall, the average cruise passenger was 49 in 2017. Shorter itineraries in the Pacific Islands, Caribbean and Australia appealed to younger people, while middle-aged cruisers are more likely to be attracted to New Zealand, Asia and the Mediterranean.

And while cruises of eight to 13 days are still the most popular, shorter cruises of up to seven days showed a 14 per cent growth, reflecting the increase in the number of passengers taking short breaks around Australia – largely operated by P&O Cruises.

You can find out more about CLIA Australasia at cruising.org.au

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SHORE THING

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THE PORT Victoria, BC, Canada

WHO GOES THERE Carnival, Celebrity, Crystal, Disney, HAL, Lindblad Expeditions, NCL, Oceania, Ponant, Princess, RSSC, Royal Caribbean, Seabourn, Silversea.

WHY WE LOVE IT Set on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, this pretty city is the capital of British Columbia – not its bigger sister, Vancouver, as is commonly thought. As you'd guess from its name, Victoria has a strong British colonial heritage, but long before the British arrived it was home to the Lekwungen people, who hunted and gathered there for thousands of years. Victoria's Chinatown is the second-oldest in North America.

TAKE A TOUR OR GO IT ALONE? Ships dock at the Ogden Point Cruise Terminal in the Outer Harbour area of Victoria, about 1.6 kilometres from the Inner Harbour and downtown. You can walk to the Inner Harbour through the James Bay area or past Fisherman's Wharf, take a shuttle bus or the marine shuttle, which goes from the cruise terminal to the Steamship Terminal in the Inner Harbour. This is where you'll find Victoria's main attractions, all within easy walking distance of each other: museums, shops, restaurants and pubs. Horse-drawn carriage rides are a traditional tourist attraction and a Victoria Harbour Ferry ride takes you to 15 stops around the Inner and Upper Harbours.

MUST SEE Butchart Gardens (be prepared for crowds in spring and summer); Fairmont Empress Hotel, for high tea, which has been served daily since 1908 – service begins at 11am; Craigdarroch Castle, a 19th-century Scottish baronial mansion.

MUST EAT Victoria has more restaurants per capita than any other Canadian city and is second only to San Francisco in North America. Restaurants serve cuisines from around the world and there's also an assortment of English-style and craft-beer pubs.

NEED TO KNOW Australians need an electronic travel authorisation (eTA) before travelling to Canada; if you're cruising Alaska you also need to apply for an ESTA visa waiver for the US.

ESSENTIALS hellobc.com

CRUISEFACT

Russia sold Alaska to America for $US7.2 million (about US2¢ an acre) in 1867; it became a state of the US in 1959.

NEWS

Celebrity Edge Spa

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Bookings are already open for spa treatments onboard Celebrity Edge, which sets sail on December 1 from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The 2918-passenger ship boasts a host of exciting new features; the spa promises to be a design triumph. There are more than 124 treatments on the menu, including ''signature offerings" such as the Ocean Spa Wave Massage, Hot Mineral Body Boost, Poultice-Powered Muscle Release and Zero Gravity Wellness Massage. The Sea Thermal Suite alone has eight distinctive therapeutic experiences – the Crystalarium was inspired by the therapeutic effect crystals have had on designer Kelly Hoppen's life. The Fitness Centre is equipped with the latest gear for high-tech workouts and men can pop into the Barber for a traditional hot shave and haircut. See celebritycruises.com/edge

Pandaw in India

Boutique river expedition company Pandaw has announced the launch of an India river expedition that will take guests on an epic journey along the Lower Ganges (also known as the Hooghly) aboard the stately Orient Pandaw. The seven-night, sailing from Kolkata to Farakka and vice versa will start on December 23, 2018, and will depart every week until the end of April 2019, recommencing from July 2019 to April 2020. Highlights of the itinerary include towns with Dutch, French, Danish and British colonial heritage; Hindu temples; rural villages; and Mughal tombs and gardens. Orient Pandaw has 30 staterooms on two decks, all with personal balcony space; indoor dining, a deck bar, a movie and lecture theatre and a spa. See pandaw.com

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