Australia Will Permit Cruises to Resume in April After Two Year Pause

Australia to permit cruises to restart
P&O cruise ship arriving in Sydney prior to the pause that began in March 2020 (P&O Cruises)

Published Mar 15, 2022 4:29 PM by The Maritime Executive

Australia announced it will become the last major international destination other than China to restart international cruising. Almost two years to the day since it first banned cruises and later expelled international cruise ships from its waters, Australia’s federal government announced that it would permit the ban to end and with new restrictions similar to other destinations would permit cruise ships to resume operations. 

“On the basis of medical advice and with the agreement of National Cabinet, lifting the cruise ban is consistent with the reopening of Australia’s international border and shows that we have successfully navigated Australia’s emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said are, Greg Hunt, Australia’s Minister for Health and Aged care announcing that the current bad would be permitted to expire on April 17. According to a joint ministerial statement, international cruise ships will still need to meet all state and territory public health requirements of the jurisdiction of the ports. State and territories will have the ability to advise their readiness to receive cruise ships.

Australia, like most areas of the world, required cruising to cease in March 2020 as the virus began to spread and much of the science was not yet understood. There were several high-profile cases of cruise ships with COVID cases and at the time reports contended that up to 20 percent of Australia’s cases of COVID-19 could be traced to cruise ships and travelers. In addition to the cruise ships homeported in Australia, many international ships on world cruises also elected to use Australia to cease their cruises and transport passengers home. Weeks after the initial ban, Australia ordered all international cruise ships which at the time only had crew aboard to leave its domestic waters.

While other international destinations moved to restore cruise operations, Australia had consistently refused, extending its “human biosecurity emergency” declaration citing potential spread and the new variants of the virus. Efforts to launch a domestic cruise bubble or cruises between Australia and New Zealand were also declined with the industry forced to cancel cruises through the popular summer season in 2022. The timing of the decision means that cruising will resume in the off-season.

“This is a major breakthrough for our industry after two years of suspension and it provides hope for the thousands of Australians who depend on cruising for their livelihoods,” said Joel Katz Managing Director for the trade association Cruise Lines International Association Australasia. “The suspension of cruising over the past two years has cost the Australian economy more than A$10 billion and we now have an opportunity to work on a revival.”

Australia, however like most global destinations, will introduce strict protocols for cruising. They are requiring all passengers to be vaccinated and that the cruise lines implement operating and outbreak management plans, as well as safety protocols to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission aboard cruise ships. Stress testing of the emergency response system in relation to cruises will also be required before they resume sailing.

P&O Cruises Australia, part of Carnival Corporation and the country’s large domestic cruise line welcomed the news. The line announced that it was targeting May 31 to restart operations with agreements of the states and would launch a new 2022 program of sailings from Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Melbourne. During the pause in operations, Carnival sold all but one of the cruise ships planning to introduce new ships from its North American Princess Cruises fleet to Australia while they also repositioned Carnival Cruise Line ships from Australia to North America due to the pause.