The wave of Australians heading to sea continues to surge, with a record 1,281,159 Aussies taking a cruise in 2016, a massive 21% increase on 2015.

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Australasia’s 2016 Australian Ocean Passenger Cruise Industry Source Market Report revealed one in 19 Australians took a cruise in 2016, achieving the highest per capita ratio of market penetration in the world.

The South Pacific was unveiled as Australia’s favourite cruise destination, attracting more than 42% of ocean cruise passengers, followed by domestic cruises (26%), New Zealand (8.3%) and Europe (7%).

While Alaska saw a 25.5% boost in Australians heading to the destination in 2016, other long-haul destinations generally experienced a decline, attributed to the impact of geo-political events, with Europe and the Mediterranean falling by 11.8%.

New South Wales remained the largest source of cruise passengers during the period, responsible for 40.8% of all cruisers, followed by Queensland (23.8%) and Victoria (16.8%).

CLIA Australasia’s managing director Joel Katz noted Australia’s ocean cruise passenger numbers had increased by an average of 19.4% annually since 2007.

“However, future growth of Australia’s cruising sector will be hindered by a lack of berthing options in major capital cities,” he said.

“To achieve the 11.8% annual Australian passenger growth needed to achieve the goal of two million passengers by 2020, there are significant challenges facing us as an industry here in Australia, particularly in Sydney. These must be urgently addressed.”

Katz’s comments were echoed by both Carnival Australia and RCL Cruises, who called for an infrastructure solution.

“In celebrating such stunning growth, there remains a cautionary tale,” Carnival Australia’s executive chairman Ann Sherry said.

“Future strong growth and economic performance can only be sustained if port infrastructure challenges particularly in Sydney are addressed,” she warned.

Weighing in on the issue, RCL Cruises’ managing director for Australia and New Zealand, Adam Armstrong said Australia was now at a cross roads.

“In order to continue to capitalise on the very significant economic benefits that cruising brings, the government and people of Australia, particularly NSW, now have the opportunity to review the berthing capacity for big ships in Sydney, east of the Harbour Bridge,” Armstrong said.

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