Years ago, the Commonwealth countries of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa were known as "the Dominions" – indeed Canada called itself the Dominion of Canada until the 1950s.
The Dominions, which had been served by lines such as Canadian Pacific, Cunard, White Star, P&O, Shaw Savill and New Zealand Shipping, came to the aid of the UK in two world wars, long before the United States entered either.
To-day, however, very few people realize that these four countries contribute about 1.3 million passengers to the world cruise market. This is more passengers than Germany, Italy or Spain and almost as many as the UK. So let’s have a look at the cruising market in these Commonwealth countries to-day
Canada: 775,000 "Invisible" Canadians
Earlier this month CLIA acknowledged the importance of Canadians to the cruising market, in announcing that the next Cruise 360 travel agents’ conference would be held in Vancouver on June 2-6, 2010. CLIA estimates the size of the Canadian market travelling in its ships at 775,000, or triple the size of a decade ago. This is larger than all European countries except the UK and Germany.
The Canadian market has always been easy to miss as most Canadians travel across the longest undefended border in the world, that with the United States, to join ships that are already full of Americans. Thus, unlike Australia, which is geographically distinct from other countries, Canadian cruisers have become a sort of "invisible minority."
One interesting thing that unites Canada and Australia, however, is that RMS Queen Mary 2 visits both during the course of the year, visiting Quebec in the summer or autumn and Sydney as part of her world cruise, thus being the largest ship to call at each country.
At one time, Eastern Canada did have its own small cruise market, with ships from Cunard Line and later the Soviet Alexandr Pushkin and the Polish Stefan Batory, operating round trip cruises from Montreal. But over the years Montreal and Quebec became part of a one-way Canada/New England cruise rotation whereby ships shuttled back and forth between Montreal and increasingly Quebec in the north and New York or Boston in the south.
Meanwhile, Vancouver, at least up until the past two or three years, had acted as the base for the Alaska fleet.
However, history was made at the Port of Québec this October as more than 13,000 cruise passengers embarked or disembarked in one 48-hour period, with three ships, Crown Princess, Norwegian Spirit and Costa Atlantica, also making inaugural calls. And inward visits into the St Lawrence in 2009 totalled 166,000 passengers on 21 ships.
On the west coast, however, Vancouver, with close to500,000 passengers, 80% of them American, embarking there, remains the cruise capital of Canada, despite the loss of half its Alaska business to Seattle and a general reduction in the Alaska cruise trade because of the Alaska head tax.
Australia: 330,000 Cruisers With a Geographical Base
Unlike Canada, Australia is so far removed from the rest of the world that it has always had its own ships cruising from Australian ports full of mainly Australian (and of course New Zealand) passengers. Starting with P&O ships and a number of ships from Sitmar, which was later taken over by P&O Princess, the two largest carriers to-day are both branches of Carnival, in P&O Cruises Australia and Princess Cruises. Carryings in the Australian market were about 330,000 in 2008.
P&O Cruises has expanded from two ships to four in a fairly short time, with the delivery this month of Pacific Jewel, ex-Ocean Village 2, and in 2010 its fourth ship, Pacific Pearl, now Ocean Village. Having already acquired Regal Princess, now Pacific Dawn, this means that the flagships of the P&O Cruises fleet in Australia are now the last of the Sitmar ships.
The once Crown Princess and Regal Princess were introduced in 1990-91, while the old Fair Princess was still cruising from Australia.
Last Thursday, December 10, proved to be a big day for Sydney, with Diamond Princess arriving first, followed by Pacific Jewel, fresh from her makeover in Singapore, and then Sun Princess. Nearly 10,000 passengers were handled in Sydney that day.
With Diamond, Sun and Dawn Princess, Pacific Dawn, Sun and Jewel all based in Sydney either full time or for the summer, the Australian market has finally shown it can support not just one or two ships but two fleets of ships with P&O Cruises and Princess Cruises each having its own fleet of Australia-based ships now. And in the west, Classic International Cruises has its Athena now based in Fremantle on a seasonal basis.
New Zealand: 119,000, Mostly Foreigners
In the 2008/09 season, 118,987 cruisers were reported to have left New Zealand ports, of whom almost 90% were visitors, mainly American, Canadian and Australian. About 25,000 were actually New Zealanders. This total of almost 119,000 was up from 40,000 in 2004/05 so the market has almost tripled in just four years.
The local New Zealand market is strong enough, however, that P&O Cruises will lengthen its 2010 Auckland season for Pacific Sun from two months to twenty-four, after the 2009 season sold out with 12,000 Kiwis cruising in her over just two months.
South Africa: 70,000 in MSC Sinfonia Alone
South Africa this year has its largest cruise ship yet in the 2,100-passenger MSC Sinfonia, now based at Durban for the 2009/10 winter season and working for South Africa-based Starlight Cruises. MSC Sinfonia is expected to carry some 70,000 cruisers this season and replaces MSC Melody and MSC Symphony/Rhapsody before her.
Spring will also see Holland America Line’s Noordam and Westerdam in Durban and Port Elizabeth, not as cruise ships but as accommodation ships for the 2010 World Cup in Cape Town
Other than that, there is no indigenous South African cruise market other than those operated by Starlight Cruises, although other ships calling in South Africa this season will be Queen Mary 2, Balmoral, Discovery, Seven Seas Voyager, Silver Wind, Crystal Serenity and Columbus, all making calls on world cruises or longer voyages.
For those who like statistics, here are the estimated non-US markets by rank, in number of cruise passengers, with Commonwealth countries shown in red:
UK – 1,500,000
Germany – 907,000
Canada – 775,000
Italy – 682,000
Spain – 497,000
Australia – 330,000
France – 310,000
Scandinavia – 123,000
New Zealand – 119,000
Benelux – 92,000
South Africa – 75,000
Switzerland – 62,000
Commonwealth – 2,799,000
Continent – 2,673.000
The Commonwealth countries thus total 2,799,000 cruisers while Continental European countries total 2,673,000 – a very different way of looking at things, but one that is no longer current since the UK joined the European Union.
(Source: By Mark Tré – Cybercruises.com)