In 2024, Australia’s cruise industry is set to experience a pivotal year. As major cruise lines expand their presence, Australia prepares for what is expected to be one of its busiest and most diverse cruising seasons to date.
Navigating New Horizons
Australia is set to experience a landmark year in cruise tourism in 2024, characterized by an extraordinary rise in cruise ship deployments, sailings, and passenger capacities. Joel Katz, Cruise Lines International Association’s (CLIA) managing director in Australasia, revealed that 81 cruises ships are set to sail in Australian waters in 2024, marking a 14% increase over the previous year.
This surge translates to over 3,700 port calls nationwide, up 18% from 2023, signifying a substantial growth in local sailings and longer stays.
The economic impact of this boom is noteworthy. The cruise industry’s contribution to the national economy reached a record $5.6 billion AUD in the last financial year, and the forthcoming rise in capacity and port calls promises substantial benefits for communities along the Australian coast.
“The total cruise passenger capacity in Australia this year will be up by 42% over 2023, which reflects the huge passion Australians have for cruising and the strong overseas interest in sailing Down Under,” said Katz. “All signs suggest cruise tourism will continue to be enormously valuable to Australia throughout 2024 and well beyond.”
Record-Breaking Impact and Resurgence
The Australian cruise market has demonstrated remarkable resilience and expansion in the post-pandemic era. The 2022-23 season witnessed heightened passenger spending and record economic outputs nationwide, largely fueled by the enthusiasm of cruise aficionados and the strategic reopening of ports in April 2022.
CLIA and the Australia Cruise Association (ACA) reported that Australia welcomed 1,354 cruise ship visits to 62 ports by the end of its 2022-23 fiscal year, bolstering various sectors, from travel agencies to local produce suppliers.
Cruise guest spending in Australia surged to $1.49 billion AUD, a 10% increase from previous years, with average onshore spending per guest reaching $446 AUD per day.
New South Wales, particularly the Port of Sydney, garnered the largest share of the cruise market’s financial benefits, and major cruise lines like Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean have significantly contributed to the region’s economic growth through their robust presence. Thirteen new cruise ships launched in Australian in 2023 alone.
Major Cruise Lines Expanding Australia Operations
The year 2024 and beyond will witness major cruise lines intensifying their operations in Australia. Virgin Voyages’s Resilient Lady notably marked the cruise line’s entry into the South Pacific market with its inaugural journey from Melbourne and Sydney launching in December 2023.
Disney Cruise Line also ventured into Australian waters in late 2023 with Disney Wonder, offering unique Disney-themed voyages from various Australian and New Zealand homeports.
Carnival Cruise Line, set to broaden its itineraries into the 2025-26 season, features new sailings to destinations like Fiji, New Zealand, and the Great Barrier Reef aboard Carnival Splendor and Carnival Luminosa.
However, Carnival has announced its withdrawal from Melbourne’s ports starting in 2025, citing Ports Victoria’s recent port charge hikes as the cause. The sudden January 1 increase from $28.50 to $32 per passenger has stirred up considerable debate and is expected to impact Melbourne’s tourism industry. In 2024, Princess Cruises and Cunard are projected to bring substantial economic contributions with around 40 port calls.
Despite this setback, numerous cruise lines continue to invest in the Australian market. For example, Royal Caribbean continues to strengthen its Australian presence with the arrival of the Quantum-class Ovation of the Seas in Sydney.
With more than 250,000 travelers expected on its three ships sailing in Australia, Royal Caribbean is set to deliver a range of experiences from short cruises to extensive voyages across the South Pacific.
As all eyes turn to Australia in 2024, the unfolding developments underscore the cruise industry’s resilience and capacity to thrive amidst changing markets.