It’s that classic holiday nightmare.
You rush to the airport, heavy suitcases in tow, only to see the line to check in snaking across the terminal. Your flight has been delayed.
This kind of start to any holiday is enough to make you wish you could just go back home. But it’s not uncommon, and it could help explain why more and more holidaymakers are choosing sea travel to explore Australia.
For example, the number of tourists travelling to Tasmania by ship was up 17 per cent in the 12 months to March 2016, according to tourism industry statistics. The rate of growth in sea travel easily exceeded the increase in those travelling by plane.
So why might travellers be swapping the airport for the harbour? Here are a few factors:
Unless you’re sitting in business or first class, aeroplanes are uncomfortable. There’s just no two ways about it.
Travelling by ship allows you to get up and really stretch your legs. There are no seat belt signs to worry about and the dining cart won’t bump you as you try to grab some shut eye. Instead you’re free to wander and explore.
Take a stroll through the ship’s comfortable, welcoming indoors areas or venture out into the fresh sea breeze and take in the stunning vistas.
The food (and drink)
Despite improvements over the years, aeroplane food is more like necessary sustenance than a meal to enjoy. There’s only so much you can do without a kitchen on board. Or a chef, for that matter.
Food and drink is another area where sea travel has the edge. Take for example Spirit of Tasmania, which carries travellers from Melbourne to the coastal city of Devonport in northern Tasmania. It boasts its own restaurant, TMK (Tasmanian Market Kitchen), with a mouth-watering range of Tasmanian-inspired dishes.
And while most airlines provide a few different drink options on board, you’re spoilt for choice when travelling by sea. On Spirit of Tasmania, you can drink in three fully-fledged bars, specialising in Tasmanian wine, boutique ciders and local craft beers.
Take your car (or bike) with you
This is one of the biggest drawcards of travelling by ship. Some vessels, including Spirit of Tasmania, will allow you to take your vehicle with you. This allows you to see Tassie from the comfort of your own car, motorcycle, 4WD or campervan. And for keen cyclists and active families, you can also bring your own bike. These can be expensive to hire through travel companies.
Whether you’re heading somewhere tropical or across the Bass Strait to the natural wonders of the Apple Isle, sea travel is not merely about getting from A to B. Seeing your destination slide into view from the deck of the ship is breathtaking, especially amid the warm, orange glow of a rising or setting sun.
An aeroplane’s in-flight entertainment system is also no match for what you’ll find on a ship.
In the case of Spirit of Tasmania, we’re talking two cinemas, a video game arcade and gaming station, live acoustic music, disco bingo, trivia and Wi-Fi. And if you’re travelling with children, they’ll delight at the kids jungle gym play area. Even better, on some daytime voyages, circus performers, storytellers and face painters rove the ship, creating a fun, family-friendly environment.
Together, it all helps to ensure your holiday starts as soon as your journey does.
For more information: www.spiritoftasmania.com.au