WHEN it comes to holidays, Ballarat residents have a growing appetite to jump aboard and cruise.
Ballarat Travel and Cruise has topped the nation in cruising sales volume the past financial year among the Independent Travel Group, a collection of more than 400 agencies nationwide.
The five-strong crew helped send Ballarat holiday goers on more than $1 million worth of river and ocean cruises.
Travel agent Tim Hickingbotham said the cruising phenomenon was on the rise with greater access and options, particularly for families, in a seemingly fuss-free way to explore the world.
“We’ve always done river cruises but ocean cruising is becoming more popular with ships leaving out of Melbourne now, before it was just Sydney, and there are more cruises to New Zealand which have lots of points to get off and explore,” Mr Hickingbotham said.
“We’re getting a lot more families doing cruises because ships are tailoring more facilities to children. There are nightclubs on others. Honeymooners are doing more cruises compared to say just going to Fiji, they can also spend some time in Vanuatu.”
Australian cruise passenger numbers hit a record high last year with 1.34 million Australians – or almost one in 18 people – taking an ocean cruise, according to Cruise Lines International Association. The Australian ocean cruise market has more than tripled since 2010.
While the all-inclusive model and unpack once style has long appealed to cruise-goers, Mr Hickingbotham said ships were now tapping into harder to reach places. He said countries like Russia, which had complex visa requirements, were featured stops on some Scandinavian cruises that looked after all the visa requirements for their travellers while on land.
New waterways were opening up across Europe, particularly in France and into Portugal, and Asia was starting to expand river cruising. Mr Hickingbotham said this meant seasoned cruise travellers could explore more places by cruise.
Other popular tours, like the Rocky Mountaineer train in Canada, were also starting to combine more with cruises to take travellers further, like from Canada up to Alaska.
Ballarat customers are also seeking themed cruises. Mr Hickingbotham said there were themes to suit everyone from Rock the Boat cruises with performers like Jimmy Barnes aboard, to comedy cruises.
“They’re a real experience. A family might go to Disneyland in Anaheim then take a Disney cruise to continue the experience in another way,” Mr Hickingbotham said. “There are country and western ones too. It’s all about meeting likeminded people."