That hope is essential to Carnival’s success, because unlike most of the other cruise lines sending ships to Australia, Carnival expects to fill at least 90 percent of its vessel with Australians. “I’d say 95 percent,” said Cahill.
“Carnival is no stranger to beach vacations,” said Jim Berra, the cruise line’s chief marketing officer. “And beach vacations are near and dear to the hearts of Australians.”
That’s why the Carnival Spirit has chosen to spend much of the winter (North America’s summer) on round-trip cruises from Sydney to the beaches of the islands of New Caledonia, Vanuatu, and Fiji. The winter beach escapes from Australia will be similar to Caribbean cruises out of Miami, though with more sea time as the islands are farther away from Sydney than Caribbean islands are from Miami. In summer (North America’s winter), Carnival will include New Zealand ports on some of its itineraries.
Carnival says the Spirit will be Down Under for quite a while, and there are no plans to return anytime soon to North America. The cruise line has announced 41 Spirit cruises out of Australia for 2014.
While a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald called changes on Carnival Spirit “stripping away the American essence” from the ship, Vandekreeke said that Carnival intends to keep “the Americanness of Carnival, with high energy and entertainment,” which, she said, will fit in well with an Australian vacation style.
That vacation on Spirit will include a cruise director from Australia, entertainment by Australians and comedians with humor directed at Australians.
Bookings for Carnival Spirit will not be easy for an American on the Internet, as rates are in Australian dollars. Carnival recommends contacting a travel agent or calling Carnival at 800-764-7172. Lowest prices on the website (Carnival.com.au) are quoted as quad, which is four adults in a cabin, for $940 per person on an eight-night cruise. The rate includes tips, which will not be encouraged on Carnival Spirit.
North American cruisers will need time — at least two weeks, counting the long flights from the United States to Sydney — and a budget that includes air tickets that are about $2,000 each.
“We don’t anticipate a lot of Americans aboard the Carnival Spirit,” Vandekreeke said.
But North Americans will come. You can see chatter on the Internet forums, where some folks have reported that they already have booked vacations Down Under, anticipating with excitement not only new ports on South Pacific islands, but also English words they’ve never heard before, snags on the barbie, Australian bacon and beer, strong coffee, Aussie songs in the piano bar and a new, zippy waterslide.
David Molyneaux writes monthly about cruising. He is editor of TheTravelMavens.com.