Since the pandemic, the Australian cruise market has exploded, with cruise tourism business generating a record $5.6 billion for the Australian economy last year alone - and it just keeps growing. In 2022-23 there were some 1,300 ship visits to Australian ports, around 1.5 million Australians take an ocean cruise each year, and in 2024 over 70 cruise ships will visit Australia.
When it comes to cruising, we are spoilt for choice. In the year ahead around 930 cruises will depart from Australian ports. So, which one do you choose? Well, that depends on what you are looking for. Is it budget? A small ship? A themed cruise? Or a singles or younger passenger cruise? The choices are endless. This last year has seen the Disney Cruise Line enter the Australian market, perfect if you want to treat the kids and grandkids. Also joining the lineup in 2024 is Virgin Voyages with their brand-new Resilient Lady ship. Like all things Virgin - it’s party time.
One of the things to consider, apart from price and inclusions, is the size of the ship on which you are cruising. Are you comfortable cruising with thousands of people and want everything from dozens of dining venues, water parks, bowling alleys, discos, casinos, shopping centres, Disney characters and live shows? Or are you more inclined to a leisurely and luxurious small ship experience?
This month saw the launch of the world’s biggest cruise ship in the form of Royal Caribbean’s Icon Of The Seas. On this monster you will have the joy of travelling with 5,610 passengers across 18 decks, featuring everything from eight pools, one of which is an infinity pool, and thrill rides that allow guests to swing 154 feet above the ocean. It’s kind of like Las Vegas on the water.
For me I would rather save for a bit longer and go for a luxurious small ship experience, and the leader of this field in Australia is Silversea. Originally founded in Monaco in 1994 it pioneered all-inclusive small ship cruising and since 2020 has been owned by the Royal Caribbean Group. Passenger numbers on Silversea cruises from Australia over the next year range from 392 on the Silver Whisper to 596 on the recently launched Silver Muse and 728 on the brand new sustainable cruiser, the Silver Nova, which will be debuting in Australia in late 2024. All Silversea cruises have a staff to passenger ratio of 1:1 which adds up to amazing attentive ’butler’ service all the way.
Silver Nova is an industry game changer with its innovative asymmetrical design leading to one of the most spacious cruise ships ever built. Like all Silversea ships, each room is a suite, starting at 33 sqm up to 77 sqm - all with large balconies. The vessel’s unique architecture leads to some new accommodation experiences including aft suites that deliver 270-degree views from sea to sky. This unbalanced approach also creates a pool deck that includes a deep pool and large lounging areas which are complimented by small intimate private spaces. It has the style of a roof top pool in a luxury 5-star hotel. Nicely done. Inside, the design creates a three deck atrium with sweeping views across giant windows.
The new ship features nine different dinning venues including their new S.A.L.T. Kitchen which offers recipes and flavours specific to each port that the Silver Nova visits.
Silver Nova cruises departing Australia start from $10,250 per person port to port for 14 days. Her inaugural journey ex Australia departs 18 November on a Cairns to Auckland cruise or you can join in Sydney from 22 November.
If you can’t wait until the end of the year, there are a number of other cruises throughout the year sailing from Sydney, Melbourne, Cairns and Darwin aboard the Silver Whisper and the also brand-new Silver Muse.
No matter which ship you sail with, on Silversea you really do get to enjoy small ship luxury cruising where most everything is included - sensational food, top notch beverages, butler service, shore excursions, gratuities, and if travelling on a ‘door to door’ fare, private executive transfers to and from home, airport transfers and international business flights.
A few years back my wife and I had the experience of cruising with Silversea in The Caribbean and it still today rates as one, if not the, best vacations I have ever had. It’s the personal touches on Silversea that I loved.
Within 24 hours all the main crew knew our names. When you board you have your photo taken. I am told all the crew who will be looking after you then have to memorise your face and name in the next 24 hours. It’s pretty impressive as you leave your cabin on the first morning for breakfast and you are greeted multiple times by multiple staff with, ‘Good Morning Mr and Mrs Barlow’. Love it! I remember another moment when I went to move a deck chair by the pool just a few inches when one of the crew rushed up to me with a horrified and concerned look on his face and said, ‘Mr. Barlow…your job is to relax and my job is to provide you a great vacation.’ At this point the chair was immediately taken from me, moved the extra couple of inches and fresh towels were brought along with our favourite drink requests which the crew had also remembered.
This is the hallmark of small ship cruising but it is in the DNA of Silversea that, whilst now owned by the Americans, is still very firmly entrenched in its original Italian heritage. You kind of expect George and Amal Clooney to stroll past at any time.
For more information on Silversea go to: silversea.com