As a young cruising market, Australasia is shaping up to be quite a prodigy. For a long time, pleasure cruising was primarily the domain of the Northern Hemisphere - Australia, New Zealand and the isles of the South Pacific featured only as destinations on a few intrepid itineraries. Recently, however, Aussies and Kiwis have taken to cruises like ducks to water, and the Australasian cruise industry is officially the fastest-growing in the world.
Although the shores of Australia and New Zealand saw plenty of ocean liners during the 20th century, the majority were transporting immigrants and visitors rather than those travelling just for leisure. While cruise holidays were becoming popular in the Caribbean from the 1960s, after the advent of long-haul flights put most passenger liners out of business, the lands Down Under did not join the party until the beginning of the current century. P&O Australia’s Pacific Sky began cruises in and around the region in the year 2000, and was joined by fleetmates Pacific Sun, Pacific Star, Pacific Dawn, Pacific Jewel and Pacific Pearl over the next decade, of which the latter three are still in service. From 2008 or thereabouts, more large-ship lines began to offer cruises from Sydney and other Australian ports - Royal Caribbean, Princess, Carnival, Celebrity and Holland America chief amongst these.
Since then, the Australasian cruise industry has been growing at unprecedented and unexpected rates, consistently beating projected numbers each year with an average of 20% annual increases in passenger numbers. Australia has established itself as the world leader in market penetration, reaching 4.2% of the population in 2014, and their neighbours across the Tasman are increasing their numbers at a rate of knots. As itineraries branch out to go beyond the classic tropical cruise to the Melanesian islands, both places are also fast becoming popular cruise destinations - with scenic New Zealand expecting visits by 127 cruises in the 2015-2016 summer season, a figure up 500% since 2005.
Whilst cruise lines are continuing to turn their attention to this flourishing cruise region in the South Pacific, P&O Australia remains the only large-ship line that is based entirely in the antipodes and caters specifically to Australasian tastes. As the market grows, they are expanding their capacity and have two new ships joining the fleet in November 2015 as well as Princess Cruises’ Dawn Princess transferring to the line in 2017.