According to Cruise Lines International Association Australasia: ‘Before the pandemic, Australia was one of the  world’s top cruise markets. Up to 1.3 million Australians took an ocean cruise each year. Cruise tourism was worth $5.2 billion a year to the Australian economy and sustained more than 18,000 Australian jobs (CLIA Economic Impact Report, 2018-19) including travel agents, tour operators, transport workers, food and produce suppliers, farmers, entertainers, port workers and technical support providers’.

We had a chat with Marlene Watson from Strathmore Travel/Cruising Escape to find out about cruising. (Marlene says: ‘I’ve been in the travel business now for far too long to let on’).

How long have you been sending people on cruises?
My first cruise was on P & O’s Arcadia, now wait for this…..the original Arcadia. It was her second last cruise before going to scrap. Everything was real wood and I mean everything. I loved it so much I wondered why this type of holiday had been hidden from me. I was itching to book anybody and everybody but alas it wasn’t until the mid nineties that people in Australia started to think about cruising as a serious option. However cruising started to come into its own around 2002 and we haven’t looked back since.

How has cruising changed?
Cruising has changed a lot since then. It has become a holiday for all people, not just for the older generation with disposable income. The ships have become larger, although there are still many cruise lines that cater for smaller numbers. The cruise experience is not just superb cuisine and great ports of call, but there are activities available now like never before. There are ships that have ice rinks, rock climbing walls, arcades, themed cruises. There is a cruise for just about every single desire. Cruise lines will now have an all gay cruise, an eco tourism cruise, they have enrichment programs covering topics from computers to botany, from gourmet cooking with celebrity chefs to bridge playing competitions.

Have you seen an increase in people going on cruises in the past couple of years?
Cruising has caught the imagination of travellers over the last few years like never before. It has increased so much that in Australia, more and more shipping companies are positioning their ships here over the summer season and, in fact, the demand has been so great that some are staying beyond the summer season to cruise into the Pacific. The cruise industry here is complaining that we do not have enough berths for all the ships that wish to come here.

What do you think the attractions of cruising are?
Cruising is an all in one holiday. I know it has been said before, but with cruising you never have to drag your suitcase anywhere. You have it delivered to your cabin and you unpack once. Then every day you are at a new destination and have the opportunity to do guided touring or discover the area by yourself. You can choose to have breakfast in your stateroom or the buffet or the dining room or, for that matter, in all three. Who’s to know. Same for lunch. Dinner can be a casual or dressed up affair, it is all the passengers choice, even on formal nights, no one is forced to participate. Then you have the choice of copious amounts of bars to choose for that pre dinner, post dinner, pre afternoon siesta or very very late just before bed drink. There’s piano bars, cigar bars, champagne bars. Then there are the shows, opening night cabarets, comedians, jugglers, casino, movie theatre, need I say more. For the one price, you get your transportation, accommodation, food and entertainment and it’s hassle free.

Where are popular destinations?
From Australia the Pacific is always popular as is New Zealand, but Alaska, the east and west Mediterranean and of course Europe River cruising are what people are interested in. It is interesting that cruising Asia had not caught on for some time but now it is becoming increasingly popular.

How long, on average, do most people cruise for?
The average cruise is between 7 and 14 days and most people consider this length of time perfect. It has been known for people to do back to back cruises just because they love the shipboard life so much.

What are some of the things people should be aware of?
When booking a cruise, it is terribly important to select the right type of cruise. Retirees usually prefer a mostly all adult cruise and would find it challenging if they were booked on a family orientated sailing. Likewise a family with young children, need to be aware of what programs are available and from what age the children will be accepted. Some people cannot bear to be on large vessels and wish to be pampered while others do not want to dress up in a tuxedo…ever!! Selecting particular staterooms on certain ships may be for some the most important aspect, while others may be driven by cost in their choice. It is always important, for people with disabilities to be aware if a certain cruise company can cater for their needs.

People should take enough of their own medication to last their time away and should always carry the prescription with them. Even though there is always a doctor and hospital on board, they have limited supplies and perhaps not the specialised medication people may require. It is also extremely important, like all other holidays, to take adequate travel insurance. Most importantly when selecting a cruise, talk to friends who have been before and most important of all, find a cruise consultant you can trust and who understands your needs.
Any other tips?
My tip is to keep an eye out for a bargain, but once you have booked it, don’t look any more. If you have a choice of cabin, ask the consultant to pick one mid ship and not too close to the lifts, preferably a cabin not directly below the dining room. Balcony cabins at the rear of the vessel can be furthest away from the action but give you the most splendid view of the ship’s wake, but I defy you to get one. Those in the know, snaffle these first.

Marlene Watson

Strathmore Travel/Cruising Escape

Tel 61 3 9379 3886 Fax 61 3 9374 2463

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