More than 500 industry members from across Australia and New Zealand joined Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Australasia in marking a record year of cruising at the 16th Annual Cruise Industry Awardsin Sydney on Saturday night.
A total of 19 awards were handed out across nine categories with the top Australian gong once again going to Western Australia's Bicton Travel. In addition to winning an unprecedented sixth Gold Agency of the Year award, Bicton founder Carole Smethurst was inducted into the CLIA Hall of Fame, acknowledging her tireless efforts and achievements across the cruise sector.
An emotional Ms Smethurst recalled that she had sold her first cruise package in 1993, moving on to specialise in cruising as the industry grew.
"Thank you to everyone who's voted for Bicton Travel to be Cruise Agent of the Year over all these years and thank you from the bottom of my heart for this award," Ms Smethurst said.
Phil Hoffmann Travel Glenelg took out the Silver Award, marking the agency's seventh appearance in the top three since 2008, while Cruiseabout Kew won Bronze.
Across the ditch, Pukekohe Travel won the Gold Agency of the Year award for the second time in three years, while Manager Gail Littin also claimed the mantle of Cruise Consultant of the Year - the first time a New Zealand agency and one of its team has taken home both top awards.
House of Travel Orewa was awarded Silver and Cruiseabout Parnell was named New Zealand's Bronze Agency of the Year.
The awards night, now dubbed 'The CLIAs', also saw the inaugural Australasian Plan a Cruise Month Agency promotion award handed out to New Zealand's Bon Voyage Cruises & Travel.
CLIA Australasia Chairman Steve Odell presented a special posthumous award to the late James Patrick from Wiltrans International for his Contribution to the Australasian Cruise Industry. The award was accepted by James' wife, Wiltrans Managing Director Diane Patrick.
Mr Odell said the 2016 awards night was a fitting celebration following a massive year for the cruise industry in both Australia and New Zealand.
"The Cruise Industry Awards bring together the industry's brightest stars from across Australia and New Zealand in a fantastic celebration that recognises their outstanding achievements. Each year, the event continues to grow in stature in line with the impressive expansion of the industry, cementing the CLIAs as the cruise industry's 'night of nights'," Mr Odell said.
Held at The Star Event Centre, Saturday's sell-out gala event featured an exclusive preview of award-winning musical The Bodyguard with Paulini Curuenavuli performing some of Whitney Houston's best known songs, while popular Channel 7 personality Larry Emdur was MC.
2016 CRUISE INDUSTRY AWARD WINNERS
Cruise Agency of the Year - Australia
GOLD: Bicton Travel, Perth WA
SILVER: Phil Hoffmann Travel, Glenelg SA
BRONZE: Cruiseabout, Kew VIC
Cruise Agency of the Year - New Zealand
GOLD: Pukekohe Travel
SILVER: House of Travel Orewa
BRONZE: Cruiseabout Parnell
Online Agency of the Year - Australia
Online Agency of the Year – New Zealand
Home Based/Mobile Agent of the Year - Australia
Derek Harwood – TravelManagers
Broker of the Year – New Zealand
Debbie Bradford - NZ Travel Brokers
Cruise Consultant of the Year - Australia
Helen McMullen, Cruise Holidays QLD
Cruise Consultant of the Year - New Zealand
Gail Littin, Pukekohe Travel
Rising Star Award - Australia
Hayley Osborne, Cruise Republic VIC
Rising Star Award - New Zealand
Melanie Morrison, HOOT Cruises
Agency Promotion of the Year - Australasia
Meridian Travel & The Cruise Gallery VIC – "Rockin' the Mekong with Elvis"
Network Promotion of the Year - Australasia
Phil Hoffmann Travel (Australia) – "River Cruise Launch Events with APT"
Plan a Cruise Month Agency Promotion Award - Australasia
Bon Voyage Cruises & Travel - New Zealand
Brian Johnston, "Sail of the Centuries" (The Age/SMH Traveller, Fairfax)
Hall of Fame
Carole Smethurst - Bicton Travel
Contribution to the Cruise Industry (Posthumous Award)
James Patrick – Wiltrans International