Monday, November 3, 2014


It has been more than 2 years since Urban Excursions last explored the cruising sector, and with the start of the peak cruising season in Australia, the imminent launch of Quantum of the Seas the world’s largest cruise ship, not to mention the ongoing debate about the Gold Coast cruise ship terminal, our attention once again turns wistfully seaward!
Grand Cayman Is Caribbean Cruise

The Australian cruise sector represents approximately 3.6% of the global cruise market, and is the fastest growing cruising market, with considerable capacity for growth in market penetration. During 2013, approximately 760,000 Australian passengers took a cruise, equivalent to a market penetration of some 3.3%. Deloitte estimated that the cruise ship industry in Australia contributed some $828million (value added) to the Australian economy in 2010/11. In Brisbane alone, it is estimated that the contribution of the cruise industry would double between 2010/11 and 2019/20 (Deloitte), although this is very much dependent on the availability of infrastructure to service the cruise industry.

Worldwide, the cruise industry is in the midst of a renaissance of sorts, with companies competing to build ever grander, larger, more experiential ships, exploring an increasingly exotic array of destinations, and attracting a more diverse market of passengers. Launching in less than one month, the Royal Caribbean’s latest offer, Quantum of the Seas, will have a capacity of almost 5,000 passengers, and will debut a range of new features including Jamie’s Italian restaurant by Jamie Oliver. The emphasis is on new products and experiences designed to “wow!” passengers, creating floating urban oases, complete with health and wellbeing centres, theatres and cinema, recreation and leisure activities, choice in restaurants and dining venues, retail, bars and nightclubs, library etc.

But these floating cities are not only targeting cruise tourists, with a number of studies comparing the costs of living on board as a permanent cruise passenger with the costs of living in a retirement complex. Typically these studies have factored in the cost of the accommodation and access to leisure facilities only and exclude meals, entertainment, and the more esoteric values of travel experiences, your meals cooked for you, etc. Factoring both quantitative and qualitative measures, there may be little difference between cruise retirement and independent retirement living, but would you mind the ongoing influx of new, excitable holiday makers heading straight for the bar and the buffet?

In saying this, there is a range of emerging resident focused cruise ships that seek to remove the insidious holiday hell-raisers, in creating that idyllic cruise-living lifestyle. The most famous of these, The World, was launched in 2002 offering only 165 residences ranging from studio rooms to three bedroom apartments, and worldwide itineraries. Cruise Retirement is also proposing to launch its first vessel in April 2015, particularly aimed at retirees seeking to live permanently or for long periods on board, an alternative to independent living or assisted living retirement, and has visions for a fleet of these cruise retirement lifestyles.

So back to cruise holidays, I have been lucky to have embarked on cruises from epic ports such as Barcelona and Fort Lauderdale, an experience in themselves, in efficiently dealing with thousands of arriving and departing passengers on any one day, unlike the Sydney traffic bottlenecks and long lines of embarking passengers stretching along Darling Harbour waiting, check-in or the often laughed at docking of larger cruise ships and luxury liners at Luggage Point in Brisbane – what a welcome! Certainly, the terminals themselves at Barcelona and Fort Lauderdale are not inducements to spend, and are essentially check in and waiting facilities only – no wasting money before boarding the ship, but they are significant economic and employment generators for their local and regional economies.

It is an accepted rule of thumb in the industry that on average, passengers will spend $100 per person in a port of call on a cruise holiday, in addition to expenditure by crew and direct expenses by the cruise ship on supplies, port taxes and berthing fees etc.

Infrastructure is fundamentally critical to the future growth of Australia’s cruise industry and the economic benefits and opportunities to be enjoyed by Australian ports. In particular, there are considerable opportunities for Brisbane in its proximity to the South Pacific Islands and emerging markets such as Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, relative to Sydney and Melbourne, to continue to enjoy strong growth and attract larger ships homeporting out of Brisbane or including Brisbane on their itineraries.

So as I await the arrival of Legend of the Seas, the largest cruise ship to be homeporting out of Brisbane from December 2015, I look forward to Brisbane emerging as a truly worldclass cruise port with infrastructure to match. Maybe. One Day.

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