Frankie Barkhuizen has always been a bit frightened of the sea. She was apprehensive about going on a cruise, but her first experience proved to be a totally different story.
“The ship alone is amazing - I love that part of it! I love being on land going to see a country every single day. You’re in a new country, a new experience.”
Perhaps she wouldn’t have enjoyed it so much if it wasn’t for the calm waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
“We went to Europe. We went to Croatia and Italy, and it was very nice, cos you’re on the Mediterranean, you’re not on the high seas, so there’s no chance of storms or big waves - that’s why I was petrified, and when I heard that, that kind of calmed me down. But if you go to Hawaii or South Africa, you get those really big waves. I couldn't do that. I’d be scared out of my mind.”
Nigel Walliss is director of Travelrite – a family owned-travel business based in Melbourne.
The cruise industry has witnessed a strong double-digit growth of Aussies going cruising by an average of 19.4 per cent a year for the past decade.
“It is definitely a very relaxed way to travel so people do enjoy cruises because of the fact that you can unpack once not on the go all the time. There’s plenty of options available, so, dining is included, sightseeing tours and each of the ports visited.”
Walliss’ noticed more and more of his multicultural clients are choosing to cruise to their country of origin.
“A lot of people may be returning to where their heritage comes from, so it’s an opportunity to cruise and visit some ports that their relative may have come from originally.”
Overall, 90 per cent of Australians passengers prefer to cruise for two weeks or less. The most popular destinations are close to home with 42 per cent of travellers cruising around Australia, New Zealand or the South Pacific.
Standards of cruises vary depending on your budget, ranging from less than a hundred dollars a day, all the way to luxury cruises for three to four hundred dollars a day.
“Generally, the 3-star cruises, they’re still very good quality but may not have all the amenities of some of the more expensive lines, and right up to the 6-star cruising, where you've got butler service in your cabins, and luxury restaurants that you can dine in.”
Frankie Barkhuizen believes going on cruises can actually cost cheaper than independent holidays.
“It is not expensive when you work out that you get all your entertainment, all your drink, all your accommodation, everything, food 24/7 - you’re not paying a lot, and including your airfares. You do an independent holiday where you go to Italy for more than 10 days, you’re gonna spend more than $13,000 - that's what it’ll cost you for an 11-day cruise. So, that's not bad as well, then, you’ve got additions. If you’re a big alcohol drinker, you would have to pay for hard alcohol but the rest is free.”
That’s precisely what draws many mature age travellers out to sea according to mobile travel consultant Lyn Spain from Grey Nomads Travel and Cruise. She’s even had clients in their nineties venturing out to sea.
“Some people have certainly said that it’s cheaper than a nursing home for the older people, and some elderly people just do that. They just cruise - food, the accommodation, their doctors, everything’s there, you know, for them, and they travel around the world as well.” - Lyn Spain, Grey Nomads Travel and Cruise
Whilst medical professionals and facilities are stationed on ships, Barkhuizen recommends bringing your own essential medication in case of emergency.
“Make sure you take some tablet for gastro, and maybe your own tablet for headaches, or allergies that you may have, because if anything outbreaks on the ship like that, you've got 5000 people in there, and the dispensary just can’t cope with everybody. So, you gotta kind of have to wait, and you just make sure that you always clean your hands. They have these hand cleaners all over the ship, and that way, you keep pretty clear of all the diseases going around.”
Another nightmare scenario is getting the dreaded seasickness. Lyn Spain is prone to motion sickness, but with prescriptions from her doctor, she’s managed to ride the waves of almost a dozen cruises.
Whilst medical professionals and facilities are stationed on ships, it's recommended to bring your own essential medication in case of emergency.
“A lot of people usually find out in the first few days, but on board, I mean, there’s a lot of precautions that you can have. A lot of people do it naturally, like have ginger, or ginger tablet or sea sickness bands that you can put on your wrist.”
With the ship stopping at each port for a restricted duration, Frankie Barkhuizen’s final advice is to remember to get back on board in time after your day trip.
“They normally give you a day. You’re very limited. You have to be back on the boat before they depart because if you’re not, they’ll leave without you. So, the best thing is go on an organised tour because if you’re on an organised trip by the cruise ship, they will wait for you. But if you’re doing it independently, they’ll go off without you, and you’ll have to pick it up at the next port.”