Australia’s only traditional liner, Athena, sailed from Fremantle on Saturday, April 14, 2012, to return to Europe, ending Classic International Cruises’ longest and most successful season ever in Australia, with up to two thirds of passengers repeat customers.

Athena’s 2011/12 summer program in Australia was the eighth successive season here for Classic International Cruises – and its longest and most successful yet, with business from the six-month program from Perth and Adelaide up seven per cent on last season and an average repeat passenger rate of a high 45 per cent. The repeat passenger rate peaked at 62 per cent on Athena’s 38-night, round-trip voyage from Perth to Japan this month – the line’s longest-ever return cruise from Australia.

Releasing season figures for Athena, Classic International Cruises Managing Director for Australia, Grant Hunter, said the ship’s one-month season of cruises from Adelaide in January and February this year was the cruise line’s most successful yet since it pioneered round-trip cruises from the SA capital in 2008.

“Athena’s current voyage from Fremantle back to the UK via South Africa for the first time is also our most popular line voyage ever since we started coming to Australia in 2004,” Mr Hunter said. “Overall, revenue is up seven per cent this year and the signs for an even better 2012/13 from Perth and Adelaide next summer are very strong, with onboard surveys showing 97.4 per cent of passengers this summer intend to sail with us again, with 99 per cent of our guests rating our restaurant service as very good to excellent and 97.2 per cent rating our cuisine as very good to excellent.

“Our ninth successive season in WA and SA next summer will again confirm our ongoing commitment to these markets,” he said. “Since founding a cruise product in Perth in 2004, our vessels have visited the port of Fremantle 83 times, injecting more than $40 million into the State’s economy.

“Our unique, traditional, small-ship product is getting more popular every year, with an increasing number of Australians enjoying Athena’s small-ship friendliness, fun and traditional charm. “And while we have a lot of repeat customers, we’ve also noticed a lot more young people and families cruising with us so Athena’s appeal has certainly broadened and our customers value the commitment we have made to the Western Australian and South Australian markets.”

Mr Hunter said forward bookings for CIC’s 12/13 season in Australia were already strong, with an increasing number of east coasters flying or travelling by train to join Athena.