I have two cruises on my agenda this winter, mainly to provide you with the best inside information on these destinations: Australia and South America.

I better get going on the Australia part as cruising continues to grow there at a rapid rate. People from the UK and Australia have really latched onto cruising. For the Aussies, who get long vacations, they are looking for cruises that will take them anywhere in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific.

The growth in one year is 30%. But keep in mind, part of that has to do with many major cruise lines’ rapidly increasing their deployment to “Down Under.”

Gavin Smith, Chairman of the International Cruise Council of Australasia, said the latest figures “cemented” cruising’s status as the “shining star” of the tourism industry, with the Australian market leading the world in growth.

“While other industries have wavered in these tough economic times, cruising has continued to expand, with its popularity in Australia growing significantly year-on-year,” he said.

So what’s the preference of Aussies?

• Local cruising around their own country or to New Zealand and the South Pacific accounted for 70 per cent of Australian cruise passengers in 2011.
• The South Pacific retained its position as the most popular destination, attracting 37 per cent of passengers (230,321).
• The number of Australians cruising to New Zealand surged by 80 per cent to 84,013, reflecting an increase in the number of trans-Tasman cruises (crossing the Tasman Sea).
• River cruising passenger numbers grew by 22 per cent to almost 35,000, accounting for 6 per cent of Australian cruisers.

On that river cruising note, remember that many of those are on Australia-based Scenic Tours. Its ships in Europe have a high proponent of Aussies and Kiwis on board, as I discovered last week.

It’s a long ride from North America but if the price is right at the other end, that trickle of North Americans should see exciting growth over the next few years.

All for now.