Australian Cruise Market Shows Robust Growth

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More Australians are enjoying cruise vacations as the number of Aussie cruisers in 2023 surpassed the total who sailed in pre-pandemic 2019, new data from the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) shows. The rebound is among the fastest compared to other markets around the globe.

Most Aussies Choose Close-to-Home Voyages

Australians are embracing the at-sea vacation option with great enthusiasm in the post-pandemic era, according to the just-published CLIA’s 2023 Source Market Report for Australia. In 2023, 1.25 million Aussies chose a cruise vacation, a small but important uptick from the 1.24 million who cruised in 2019. (The record of 1.35 million cruisers was reached in 2018.)

The number of overseas visitors traveling to Australia to join a cruise Down Under, including to destinations in Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific, totaled 217,000, a robust return close to 2019 levels. However, the CLIA report focuses mainly on cruising by Australians, with the findings showing that Aussies overwhelmingly chose sailings close to home.

Nearly 85% of cruising Aussies chose itineraries in the Australia, New Zealand, and South Pacific regions, up from 72% in 2019. This is likely attributed to the country’s remote location, the long-distance travel time to other global destinations, and, perhaps, the rise in airfare costs in recent years.

In terms of market penetration, the rate in Australia reached close to 5%, meaning that nearly one in 20 Australians experienced an ocean voyage in 2023 — one of the highest rates across the globe.

Cruise Ships in Melbourne, Australia
Cruise Ships in Melbourne, Australia (Photo Credit: Dans Destinations / Shutterstock)

Australians have not just returned to cruising, they’ve come back with enormous enthusiasm and at a faster pace than in other markets worldwide,said Joel Katz, CLIA Managing Director in Australasia

Australia has long been one of the world’s most passionate cruise source markets, and these figures confirm an enduring love for cruising among Australian travellers,added Katz.

The largest source of Australian cruisers was New South Wales, which provided 57% of the total number of cruise guests, followed by Queensland, 23%; Victoria, 10%; and Western Australia, 3.8%. Other states and territories accounted for tiny percentages of cruise passengers.

Other major findings in the data show that the average length of an ocean voyage sailed by Australians was 8.1 days, and that is slightly less than the 9-day cruise, on average, sailed in 2019.

Also, Australian cruisers are getting younger. The average age in 2019 was 50.04, and in 2023, it was 48.4, indicating that the vacation option is becoming more popular among younger folks.

Cruise Ship in Sydney, Australia
Photo Credit: cktravels.com / Shutterstock

While most Australians booked cruises close to home, in the Australia/New Zealand/South Pacific region, others did venture farther afield — 5.3% sailed in the Mediterranean; 2.5% in Asia; 1.9% in Alaska; 1% each in Northern Europe and the Caribbean; 0.8% on transatlantic and world cruises; 0.7% to Hawaii and the US West Coast; and 0.7% on expedition voyages.

Read Also: What Is a Transpacific Cruise?

Managing Director Katz noted that the relationships between the Australian government and the cruise ports are key to sustaining the country’s cruise tourism future, even as the demand for cruising is quite strong.

Balanced regulation and reasonable costs are fundamental to fostering a thriving cruise sector capable of contributing significantly to the Australian economy,said Katz.

Region Expects 2024 Will Be a Banner Cruise Year

In early April 2024, CLIA released data showing that Australia expects a banner cruise year in 2024, with 81 ships scheduled to sail in Australian waters, a 14% spike compared to 2023. In all, 3,700 ship calls are expected at Australian ports, representing a healthy 18% increase vs. last year.

Royal Princess Cruise Ship in Sydney, Australia
Royal Princess Cruise Ship in Sydney, Australia (Photo Credit: Nate Hovee)

The growing cruise industry is a boon to the national economy, totaling about $5.6 billion AUD in 2023. Most of the major cruise lines homeport ships in Australia and/or New Zealand on a seasonal basis, including Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, and Celebrity Cruises.

Royal Caribbean has already announced its plans for Down Under cruising in 2025-26. The line will deploy Anthem of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas to Sydney and Brisbane, respectively. The two ships will sail a series of 45 seasonal voyages of varying lengths Down Under and to ports in the South Pacific.

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