Aussie cruisers are taking over the world!
Well, not exactly, but for the first time ever, we’re number 1 in the world for cruises per capita at 3.6% - eclipsing even the US (who traditionally hold that honor) at 3.3%.
And it’s no wonder, with all the fantastic deals ($100*/day) and destinations available (Hawaii, Caribbean, Pacific Islands, NZ, Asia, Africa, Europe, Australia), cruising is no longer the domain of the travellers with both time and money on their side of the boat.
Nowadays you can go on cruises for as little as 2, 3 or 4 days if you wish - the average length of a cruise is 7 days, with 3 -4 port calls.
However, if you’re wondering what all the fuss is about and still have some reservations, let’s set straight some concerns you may have with the idea of cruising, and see why our cruise passenger growth rate (of 20% for 2013) is more than double the growth rate of any other major cruise market.
Potential Cruiser Concern Number 1: Cruising is expensive
Yes, cruises are not completely all-inclusive, even the luxury ones (although the current trend is towards more inclusive cruises).
There are always some offerings that aren’t included, like special restaurants by celebrity chefs, some beverages, shore excursions, spa treatments and gratuities.
However, if you consider all the inclusions like accommodation, transport, food (all day every day!) in the main dining venues, activities, children’s programs and entertainment, coupled with cheap cruise deals offered throughout the year, it actually makes for a great value holiday.
Depending on your flexibility, the time of year and where you’d like to go; book early for the early bird specials – make sure you have travel insurance that covers you for unexpected cancellations, or book late, to take advantage of any empty cabins the cruise companies may want to fill; and you may be able to get on a cruise for under $100* a day…the bonus is that while you’re enjoying these resort-like offerings, you’re also on your way to a new destination, so you save on travelling time too!
Potential Cruiser Concern Number 2: I don’t want to get sick
It’s not fun getting sick, especially when you’re away from the comforts of home.
And being in such a contained environment there certainly is a risk of viruses spreading around the ship.
Having said that, there’s also a risk of getting sick when you travel on land too.
However, you can avoid getting sick on the ship by making sure that you’re up to date with the required vaccines, see your doctor to discuss any concerns you may have, and whilst on the cruise, wash your hands often (hand sanitisers are usually offered throughout the ship for passengers).
Getting seasick is also no fun at all, even if the cruise is only for a few days. Most large cruise ships have stabilisers and special equipment to help minimise the effects of rough waters.
If you normally get sea sick on smaller boats, you may find that the larger ones are almost (almost!) like you’re on stable land, and the rocking motion is usually more noticeable when the ship is going from port to port.
Try to either stick to a low and central location on the ship or stay up on deck as the fresh air will help.
However, if you’re still queasy, there are many options to alleviate the effects, like taking sea sickness tablets (usually available free on board), or see your doctor before you leave for other remedies.
Some travellers recommend having ginger tablets or wearing an acupressure wristband.
Of course, sometimes you will get sick, and will have to make that trip to the ship’s doctor (another benefit of cruising, the doctor’s on board!), and that’s where the importance of having travel insurance comes in.
Unless there’s a Medicare registered doctor on the ship, Medicare doesn’t cover you whilst you’re on the sea or ocean, even if you’re in Australia waters.
According to the government website www.smarttraveller.gov.au, the costs of evacuation from a ship to the nearest port could exceed $100 000!
So make sure you have travel insurance that adequately covers you for on-board medical expenses.
Potential Cruiser Concern Number 3: What if I don’t like what’s on the cruise?
Want to brush up on your line dancing skills?
Need to neutralise those calories gained at the buffet bars?
Want to show people (outside your family) your very special rendition of ABBA’s Mama-Mia?
Always wanted to learn how to paint?
Or just simply want to laze around and eat?
Then there’s a cruise out there waiting for you!
To entice customers to come back, cruise companies work hard to keep up with the times (and each other) so you’ll find they’re continually offering new activities and options for their customers – there’s always a daily on board newsletter detailing the activities available for passengers to partake in…
P.S. all the activities are already organised for you, just turn up!
Potential Cruiser Concern Number 4: What if there’s no one my age?
More and more multi-generational families are taking cruises together, and naturally, the large cruise ships cater for that (they want to please!).
You can enjoy the sedate activities of reading in the library, watching a movie or Broadway quality show.
Or you can participate in the more active ones like slipping down the water slides, rock climbing up the side of the ship, driving bumper cars and roller skating.
Most cruises have formal dinner nights so you can dress up if you want, or there are always casual dining options should you have the kids or choose not to go formal at all during the cruise.
Potential Cruiser Concern Number 5: I don’t want to be stuck with the same people all the time
Not keen on hanging out with the family 24 hours a day?
Even though large cruise ships can fit between 500 to over 5000 passengers, they’re also large enough (some as large as 3 football fields) to cater to that requirement, and rest assured, you wouldn’t be the first one with the need!
A young couple were recently coaxed into going on a cruise with the wife’s parents, with the promise that they wouldn’t have to dine with them at all (which was the preferred option for the couple).
However when they boarded, they realised that her parents had actually (kindly) pre-booked them into the early sitting on the same table with them every night of the cruise!
They made the best of the circumstances, and ended up having the time of their lives (before and after dinner) frequenting the art auctions, competing in table tennis competitions, karaoke and late evening jazz and comedy shows – everything that her parents weren’t into and sometimes even what they normally wouldn’t have done if they weren’t evading the parents.
They have fantastic artwork displayed in their home now, had confirmation that they both can’t sing or play table tennis and found great views of the ship and ocean as seen from the broom closets of the ship!
So if you’re looking for some alone time, there’s bound to be some activity or nook or cranny where you can have your own thoughts…at least until dinner time!
Potential Cruiser Concern Number 6: With that many people on the boat, I’ll have to queue to get into things and I hate queuing!
In the past, that used to be an issue, where you had to scramble the minute you got on board to book for the activities you liked at a time that you wanted.
Now you can do pretty much all of your bookings online, not only for the main dining room, but also the spa, shore excursions, special restaurants and other activities as soon as your booking is confirmed with the cruise line.
So then you can embark and enjoy!
Potential Cruiser Concern Number 7: Internet access is woeful
Internet access on ships is not only costly, it’s also unreliable because the satellite coverage depends entirely on the weather and any obstructions.
The connection speed is also slower than back on dry land.
Add into the mix the large number of passengers trying to surf the net at the same time, and you have a very frustrating situation if you’re used to being connected whenever you want.
But in this day and age, it’s probably a good thing!
Because then you can get away from the real world for a while and enjoy all that the ship and destinations have to offer without the usual web distractions.
If you really must surf the net, you can always try a time when the least number of passengers are also trying to connect, or ask the staff members where the best spot is on the ship to get a reasonable connection.
Of course, as with all good or bad (depending on how you view it) things, the demand for internet access is obviously high, so cruise companies are definitely looking into improving connectivity for its passengers.
With any type of holiday, there’s bound to be pros and cons.
But with 36 ships making a total of 650 port visits around the country this cruise season, and a little bit of research, we doubt you’ll have any trouble finding the right cruise.
*at time of writing
Statistics source: CLIA 2013 Cruise Industry Source Market Report (published 12 June 2014)