This coming season Royal Caribbean will see a 20 percent capacity increase in Australia, Gavin Smith, regional vice president, Asia-Pacific told Cruise Industry News. “We will have more than 90 departures,” he said. “The Explorer will replace the Rhapsody and we will sail the Voyager, Radiance, Legend and Celebrity Solstice. The Azamara Quest will also be calling in Australia over the Christmas holidays.”

The cruises are concentrated out of Sydney, except for the Legend sailing from Brisbane. Last year, the Celebrity Century was also in Australia, but she has since been deployed in China as the SkySea Golden Era.

A further bump up in capacity can be expected for the 2016–2017 season with the new Ovation sailing five cruises from Sydney. That will translate into 20,000 more passengers for Royal Caribbean.

“Our ambition is to be the most profitable brand in Australia,” said Smith. “For us it is not about having the most beds. And with 20 percent growth year-over-year, we are not shying away from a challenge, but are focused on being the strongest and most profitable.

“If you look back,” he continued, “we had a short season with the Rhapsody in 2007–2008, now we have several ships from three brands, all offering something different.

“And we have already started to plan for 2017-2018, considering a longer season here for the Ovation. The question is whether Australia can generate better returns than Singapore or Hong Kong.”

The Australian market has been growing at a rapid pace and has perhaps the highest penetration rate of any national cruise market. Smith said it is wonderful to have a million cruise passengers, but they also have to be profitable, he underscored.

“Although I think the market will continue to grow, it could be restricted by profitability and infrastructure. We have infrastructure limitations in the major homeports, and improvements seem to be moving at glacial speed. The government has registered our (industry) growth, but has not registered how much there is to lose economically if they do not provide better infrastructure.”

Smith added: “I believe northern winter markets will continue to be the Caribbean, equatorial Asia and Australia.

“Australia remains a very attractive northern winter option. And with the rise of China, you will see more ships coming here, replicating Royal Caribbean’s seasonal deployment between China and Australia.”

Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Fall 2015