A cruise ship holiday might not seem like everyone’s cup of tea, but as a getaway choice for Australians its popularity is increasing at a staggering pace.
Data from the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) found Australia was the fastest growing cruise market in the world.
More than one million Australians – or 4.2 per cent of the national population – went on a cruise holiday in 2014, a 20.4 per cent rise on 2013 levels.
The hike prompted the world’s biggest cruise lines to start feeding the Australian cruise market more, with mega cruise company Royal Caribbean International sending its $1 billion Ovation of the Seas to our shores earlier this month.
The Ovation of the Seas, the fourth biggest cruise ship in the world and the biggest ever to come to Australia, docked in Fremantle last week and is cruising to Adelaide, Hobart, Sydney and then onto New Zealand in the coming months.
The New Daily was on board with an additional 4,600 passengers as the boat cruised from Perth to Adelaide.
During our time at sea we spoke to cruising veterans about the best way to make the most your journey on the high seas.
Bring a book: Sea days can be long and you won’t always have the energy for activities.
Get a room with a balcony: At most, it’s around $200 more and saves you from cabin fever. Plus, the view’s better.
Clamour for the deck chair with a view: If you can’t afford the balcony upgrade, get in early for a spot on the deck. However, look for an undercover spot as the top deck can get cold at sea.
See as much of the port cities as you can: Either get out on your own or take one of the pre-organised tours.
Bring your kids: There is plenty for them to do, as long as you’re happy to take them to all the activities or put them in day care.
Consider which bells and whistles you want: Which cruise ship has the extras and activities that suit your interests best?
Plan, plan, plan: All the activities can be overwhelming, so take great care in reading the daily schedules.
Don’t do this
Pack light: There is no weight limit to what you can take on board, so load up! You’ll need to. Conditions can change quickly at sea or depending on whether you’re in port or sailing.
Automatically buy alcohol or food packages: As soon as you board the packages are thrust in your face, by admittedly polite staff, but get to know the ship and its dining and drink options first before you decide.
Treat it as a shopping spree: Cruise ships have many luxury brand outlets on board but don’t be enticed by the duty-free trap. We didn’t see anything that was much cheaper than on land.
Buy photo packages: The photos are mostly average and overly expensive.
Resort on the sea
Ovation of the Seas is 348m long, 18 decks high and weighs 168,666 tonnes. It has a 6,500 guest and crew capacity.
On it you’ll find a skydiving machine, a wave machine, dodgem cars, the North Star (an extending viewing platform), a rock climbing wall, an array of restaurants (including Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Italian) and a casino.
The choice of activities – which is considerably longer than listed – confused and overwhelmed many at first.
This included Rohan, an elderly first-time cruiser from Perth who The New Daily spoke to at lunch after boarding in Fremantle.
“I don’t understand, can we try all the restaurants?” he asked a waiter. “And how do I know which activities I can go to?”
“You can go to any restaurant you like,” the waiter said. To which Rohan responded: “Even Jamie’s Italian?”
We were similarly frazzled. But the options we wanted to pursue became clearer on the second sea day, when our sea legs (and heads and stomachs) had kicked in.
Meantime, the man tasked with feeding the thousands on the ship is executive chef David Reihana. He says his job becomes tougher when Australians hop on.
“Australians definitely eat the most,” the New Zealander said. “You guys go through incredible amounts of lamb and beer. The British, Canadians and Americans aren’t far behind you, though.”
Most of the restaurants on board are free of charge, while “Speciality Dining” options attract a $USD30 to $USD50 cover charge. Drinks are not included.
Most cruises are well priced considering the majority food is included, as is your accommodation. There is also no need to book internal flights or buses to see a number of ports.
For example, a 10-night cruise around New Zealand starts at $1,751 per person (on the Ovation of the Seas), while a 14-night Singapore to Sydney cruise starts at $2,075 per person.
Royal Caribbean International paid for the reporter’s airfares, cruise ticket and some food and activities.