Australia/New Zealand: The New “Hot” Cruise Destination & Market for Mainstream US Cruise Lines

Is Australia the new “Hot” destination and market in the cruise industry? If you ask the American cruise lines the answer would be a resounding “yes.” More and more mainstream American owned cruise lines who have only dipped their toe into this market previously, are now diving head first and making either year round or multi-season commitments to the Australia/New Zealand markets.

Only a few years ago this market seemed under severed. Just a few American companies would send a ship to the Australia/New Zealand area for a very short limited season. Some companies have had ships there year round for quite some time but they have tended to be more niche market aimed mostly at the local cruise goers. On one of my Mexican Riviera Cruises on Celebrity, we shared our dinner table with a couple from Australia. When inquiring about the possibility of taking an Australian cruise, he suggested that we cruise on one of the mainstream American cruise line. He wasn’t completely negative on year round Australian lines, but he just felt like we would find the level of service and the overall feeling on the ship more appealing. It almost seems like the American cruise lines were listening in on that conversation, and now, after offering a few limited sailings in Australian/New Zealand, they are now offering a variety of sailings “Down Under”.

Carnival Spirit to Relocate for Year Round Sailings

Carnival will bring the “Fun Ship” experience to Australia in Spring 2012 with the launch of year round cruising from Sydney on the 2600 plus passenger Carnival Spirit. Carnival is making a few changes to the ship to make it a bit more friendly to the Australia/New Zealand market. Perhaps the most drastic change will be the shift from a culture of tipping to a culture of no tipping. Tipping for services is simply not a tradition in Australian and New Zealand culture. To make the ship fit seamlessly into the market, Carnival has adjusted their tipping policy for this ship in this market. Carnival states that tipping is not required of passengers in this market.  Instead of adding the gratuity to the daily account, Carnival is most likely now building those charges into the cruise fare and beverage prices.

Carnival is also refitting the Spirit with a few amenities that will allow it to better serve passengers in the market such as more on tap beers, a larger fitness area, upgraded coffee service,  and, of course, a barbeque. Other changes include adding more inter connecting rooms to accommodate larger families,  and adding more typical Australian and New Zealand foods to the menus like lamb and fresh fruit. The Carnival Spirit will visit nearby Pacific islands and New Zealand. They have launched a new website for their Australian customers:

Here is a preview of their Australian advertising campaign:

Celebrity to bring American Style Modern Luxury to Australia

In contrast to the Carnival Spirit approach, Celebrity will be expanding its offering in the Australian market while still keeping their world wide “Modern Luxury” approach to their cruise offerings. After cancelling the 2009-2010 season for the Celebrity Millennium in Australia/New Zealand, Celebrity has returned to the market with extensive offerings in 2012 and 2013. Celebrity will have three ships sailing the South Pacific and Down Down under waters, with the Century cruising now through-March 2012. The Millennium will visit Australia in Nov 2012 with two repositioning cruises. The first will start in Honolulu and finish in Sydney. The second will begin in Sydney and finish in Singapore. The Solstice, Celebrity’s new S-Class Flag Ship, comences Australia/New Zealand sailings in Nov 2012 and running through April of 2013.

As for the issue of tipping when it comes to their Australian passengers, the president of Celebrity Cruises, Dan Hanrahan, has ruffled a few feathers when he stated that he thinks that Celebrity Cruise lines can “teach Australians how to tip.” This approach has been met with mixed reviews online from from Aussies with some feeling that he is being disrespectful to their no tipping traditions. Others have felt that they will comply with the tipping requirements if they are sailing on a ship that requires it.

Most of the Celebrity Sailings will center around a circumnavigation of New Zealand, however they will offer a circumnavigation of Australia in a two part cruise that can be booked separately or as a complete journey in the form of “Back to Back” cruises. Celebrity is known for its subdued sophisticated atmosphere and “modern luxury”. Here are two previews of the Solstice:

Holland America

In winter 2012 and spring 2013 two Holland America Line ships –– ms Oosterdam and ms Volendam –– will sail a series of Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific cruises, visiting more than 50 ports where guests can revel in the cosmopolitan attractions of Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland, and explore the exotic landscapes of Vanuatu and Fiji in the South Pacific. To further strengthen its presence in Australia, Holland America Line officially opened its sales office in SydneySeptember 1 2011. Focused on the Australian market, the independent sales, marketing and reservations team provides direct contact with agents and administrative support.

Here’s a look at Holland America’s promotional videos:

Royal Caribbean

Celebrity’s sister line, Royal Caribbean, will bring the largest ship ever to the Australia/New Zealand market in 2012. The cruise line has enjoyed a steady presence in the Australian/New Zealand market for several years now with 4 years of Australian Summer sailings on the Rhapsody of the Seas, and 2011-12 Australian Summer sailings on the Radiance of the Seas. The mega-ship, Voyager of the Seas, which features first of its kind amenities like an ice skating rink, mini golf and an interior promenade, will serve the Australia/New Zealand market during the 2012-2013 Australian Summer Season. Itineraries will include voyages to nearby pacific islands like Fiji and New Caledonia as well as New Zealand voyages.

Here’s a look at their promotional video for the ship:


Princess, sister line of both Holland America and Carnival, markets their product in Australia as “Upscale, American Style Cruising”. With 5 ships sailing in the Australia/New Zealand market, Princess will have a nearly year round presence in Australia/New Zealand during 2012. Princess offers passengers unique amenities like Movies Under the Stars and Any Time Dining options. Princess itineraries include visits to Pacific Islands, New Zealand and multiple port stops in Australia. They also have one way itineraries to and from Asia. Here’s look at their Australian Marketing promotional video.

In addition to these mainstream lines, luxury lines Regent and Crystal, both offer voyages to Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific.

Are Australia or New Zealand on the cruise horizon for you? We have put off our next cruise for 2 1/2 years so that we save up both money and frequent flyer miles to take one of these voyages. Do you think it will be worth the wait?