Ocean cruising is on the rise Down Under

Princess Cruises and Carnival Australia have been powering ahead to grow the Antipodean market. Sandra Speares asks president Jan Swartz about the latest developments

Ocean cruising is on the rise Down Under
Pacific Princess sails in Sydney Harbour in Australia

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of Spring/Summer 2019 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

Australia and New Zealand are at the heart of a great success story in international cruising, according to Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruises and Carnival Australia.

“Following a decade of double-digit annual passenger growth, 1.34 million Australians took an ocean cruise in 2017 – 4.4% more than in the previous year,” she says. “New Zealand is also experiencing strong growth with nearly 100,000 passengers taking a cruise in 2017 – an increase of 8.7%.”

Such strong growth in Australia and New Zealand is the result of a significant expansion of the product offering and wide choice of cruise lines, ships and itineraries that offer something for everyone. “Cruising has developed an enviable reputation as a good value holiday choice, particularly when it comes to travelling to spectacular destinations in the South Pacific and elsewhere in the region,” says Swartz. “Plus, most Australians and New Zealanders live near the sea and spend their leisure time on, or near, water so they have an affinity for the ocean.

“Rapid growth in the Australian cruise market has highlighted infrastructure challenges, but there are solutions on the way. “The construction of the new International Cruise Terminal in Brisbane near the mouth of the Brisbane River is a welcome improvement in port facilities that will enable larger cruise ships to berth providing further impetus to the growth of cruising in the Queensland market,” says Swartz. “Port infrastructure challenges remain in Sydney where port congestion during the peak cruise season has become a constraint to growth. Sydney’s infrastructure challenges are under active consideration, but a clear-cut solution is yet to be settled on.”

As Australia’s largest cruise operator with around 70% of the local market, Carnival Australia is ideally positioned to meet growing demand. “Our experience confirms that cruising is a powerful ‘word of mouth’ business, with satisfied guests encouraging families and friends to holiday at sea,” comments Swartz. “Three Carnival Australia brands – P&O Cruises Australia, Princess Cruises and Carnival Cruise Line – all homeport ships year-round in Australia, so there is ample opportunity for people to cruise, either as first-time cruisers or for repeated voyages.”

Carnival Australia’s game plan was to develop business in Australia, New Zealand and the wider area and the company has now been at the forefront of the exponential growth of cruising in the region over the past decade. One of the company’s goals was to get one million Australians cruising by 2020, which the industry achieved five years ahead of target. “Australia has recorded world leading market penetration of 5.7% of the population,” says Swartz. “However, this also confirms that most Australians are yet to cruise, representing golden potential for further market growth. Future growth is linked to wide choice, a quality product and experiences, both onboard and at an ever-growing number of destinations in Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific, Papua New Guinea, Southeast Asia and elsewhere.”

Having three cruise lines with ships based in Australia year-round, plus ships homeported seasonally or international ships visiting on world voyages, adds to the wide level of choice Carnival Australia and its brands offer to local cruisers. Exceptional passenger experiences are also a key part of the growth strategy. “We’re working with island communities in the South Pacific to share the economic value of cruising by developing shore excursion enterprises that take passengers away from well-worn tourist paths to enjoy unique experiences of local cultures and locations,” says Swartz.

According to Swartz, the inherent strength of Carnival Australia’s business is that each of the three homeporting brands offers a different product that addresses the travel aspirations of different market demographics. Each of the brands will continue to focus on their individual strengths, which range from providing family-friendly action-packed attractions, to longer voyages for passengers who want to discover destinations near or far and more formal cruising.

P&O Cruises Australia is currently transforming its fleet. Pacific Jewel and Pacific Eden will depart this year, but Pacific Adventure will join in 2020 and will be followed by a second Grand Class ship in 2021. Meanwhile, Princess Cruises has plans to further expand its footprint in Asia and Australasia.

“Princess Cruises has had a long-term focus on the region – we’ve been cruising in Australia for more than 40 years and Asia for 30 years,” explains Swartz. “Within the past 10 years, we have designed itineraries to appeal to passengers from many different Asian countries and have found the Princess brand is universally enjoyed by all. We now have year-round deployment from Japan, significant deployments in China and Taiwan, and we’ve expanded the number of itineraries from Singapore including Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia. With more than 10 offices in the region, we’re making considerable investments to grow these markets and introduce many new guests to Princess and vacationing at sea.”

With five ships being built over the next six years, Princess is also expanding its fleet. Three new Royal-class ships are currently on order with the next new ship, Sky Princess, scheduled for delivery in October 2019. Princess recently ordered two new LNG ships, which will be the largest vessels in the Princess fleet and accommodate around 4,300 guests. Deliveries are expected in 2023 and 2025.

The brand is also enhancing the onboard guest experience by introducing the Ocean Medallion wearable device, which will be provided free to passengers sailing on Medallion-activated ships. Princess MedallionClass will be available onboard five ships by the end of 2019 and will then be rolled out to the entire fleet. “Ocean Medallion is considered a breakthrough in the vacation industry and recently received a CES 2019 Innovation Award,” says Swartz. “It features leading-edge technology that delivers personalised service through enhanced guest-crew interactions, eliminates friction points and enables interactive entertainment.”

Sky Princess will be the first vessel built from the ground up to deliver and debut the innovative Princess Medallion Class, offering passengers the enjoyment of a hassle-free, personalised cruise vacation if they are wearing, or carrying, an Ocean Medallion. Meanwhile, a new MedallionNet wi-fi will allow passengers to also experience land-like connectivity for streaming sports, movies, music and videos, as well as for communicating via video phone calls from anywhere on the ship. They will also be able to share their vacation experiences in real time with friends and family back home on social media platforms.

“We want to give our guests the best possible cruise experiences to encourage them to keep sailing with, thereby helping our brand to grow further,” concludes Swartz.

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Thursday, May 16, 2019