Cruising the Pacific: More Aussies are getting aboard, should you?

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Cruising the Pacific: More Aussies are getting aboard, should you?

More Australians than ever are anchoring their holiday around a berth on a luxury cruise liner, and the Pacific islands are the most popular destination by far. We look at this trend to help you decide if you should head up the gangplank for your next vacation.

According to cruise industry group CLIA, Australia is the world's fastest-growing cruise market, with over a million Australians setting sail in 2014i.

Of those million voyagers, 392,549 visited the South Pacific, more than double the number of cruise ship passengers who chose to remain in Australian waters, which was the second most popular destination for Australiansi.

The Silver Shadow cruising out of Sydney. Source: Roderick Eime, Flickr user: rodeime,, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (,

New Zealand fell just behind Europe to be the fourth most popular cruising destination among Australians with an 8.8 per cent market share. In total, Oceanic destinations dominated 66.8 per cent of the Australian cruise ship market, suggesting that Australians preferred to stay close to homei.

Industry experts have pinned the rise of Australian cruise ship holidays on the growing range of local options that target various budgets and lifestylesii.

Some 34 cruise ships currently visit the South Pacific from Australia, as part of voyages ranging from around seven to 75 nights in lengthiii.

The industry will this year add another 6.1 per cent cruise capacity in the Oceanic region , with P&O introducing the Pacific Aria to its regional fleet last November .

Other cruise lines that visit the South Pacific from Australia include Carnival, Celebrity, Cunard, Holland America, and Princessiii.

Beautiful beaches and diversity close to home

The Pacific Islands are known for their relaxed beaches, crystal clear waters, and diverse cultures that blend indigenous traditions with European and Asian influences.

Australians enjoy cruising to idyllic destinations in the Pacific. Source: Phillip Capper, Flickr user: flissphil,, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (,

The area comprises three sub-regions: Melanesia, which includes the volcanic islands of New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Fiji; Polynesia, which includes the islands of Samoa, Tonga, the Cook Islands, Hawaii, French Polynesia and Tahiti; and Micronesiaiii.

In New Caledonia, Tahiti and French Polynesia, for example, people speak French and tourists indulge in water sports like surfing and divingvi. Fijians speak English and favour food like curry and roti thanks to a large Indo-Fijian populationvii.

The English-speaking Kingdom of Tonga, meanwhile, is staunchly Christian, while the Cook Islands are known for relaxed beaches and "umukai": Polynesian feasts of food cooked in a traditional earthen oven ("umu food") and raw fish marinated with coconut sauce ("ika mata") .

According to CLIA research, cruise ship passengers typically choose cruising over other holidays because they value the chance to visit several locations, they want to relax and "get away from it all", and they enjoy the variety of activities on offerix.

Popular activities among Pacific Island cruisers are market shopping and water sportsiii, with cruise lines typically offering shore excursions such as snorkelling, hiking, temple visits and city toursx.

i CLIA 2015, Cruise Industry Source Market Report: Australia 2014, 16 May, viewed 14 January 2016,

ii Ting I 2015, 'Australia named world’s fastest-growing cruise market in CLIA report', 27 May, viewed 14 January 2016,

iii Clean Cruising, South Pacific cruises, viewed 8 February 2016,

iv CLIA 2016, 2016 'Cruise Industry Outlook', 1 December, viewed 12 February 2016,

v Ham L 2016, 'On board Australia’s newest cruise ship: Pacific Aria', 14 January, viewed 14 January 2016,

vi Brash C 2013, 'How to choose a South Pacific island', 18 March, viewed 8 February 2016,

vii Fogleman J 2008, 'Fiji’s relationship with India: the answer to or the source of Fiji’s problems?' SIT Digital Collections: SIT Study Abroad, 1 October, viewed 8 February 2016,

viii, 'Food in the Cook Islands', viewed 8 February 2016,

ix CLIA 2015, 2015 Cruise Industry Outlook: Cruising to New Horizons and Offering Travelers More, 9 February, viewed 14 January 2016,

x Shore Excursions Magazine 2015, 'Australia & South Pacific',, viewed 8 February 2016,