Australia’s cruise ban is likely to be lifted in the coming weeks, according to the federal government, but only if states and territories step up to the plate.
Health Minister Greg Hunt has revealed he is working to scrap the Biosecurity Act order that has stopped international cruise ships from entering Aussie waters for more than a year.
“I expect to be able to make a decision on cruise ships in the coming weeks once we’ve got the medical information, but it will require at least one state or territory to partner on that,” Hunt said on Sunday.
“We’re working with a number of states and territories, we’ll let them make their own considerations.
“But, we would like to see cruising back on before Christmas.”
Considering NSW and Victoria were the first two states to open up to quarantine-free international travel once the national border ban was lifted, it’s likely they will again lead the charge.
In response to the Health Minister’s announcement, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said the cruise industry would need to meet a range of health and safety requirements before ships can return.
“The cruise industry is a very important segment of the travel market, and we look forward to the greatest harbour in the world being able to welcome ships from around the world once again when it is safe to do so,” he told The Sydney Morning Herald.
SMH also noted Perrottet’s October announcement that he was already discussing “getting cruise back on track” with the federal government, and said he was “very on board” for the ban to be lifted.
Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) managing director Joel Katz told Sunrise that when ships do set sail, there will be strict COVID-safe rules in place.
He said the cruise industry was “very encouraged” by Hunt’s announcement.
“We need the federal government to lift the ban and then we need to be able to work with the states and territories to finalise the protocols,” he said.
In August, CLIA released a four-phase pathway towards the return of cruising, suggesting a gradual resumption of cruising to coincide with key vaccination targets.
Katz said the plan would also allow the implementation of extensive health protocols developed by cruise lines globally in response to COVID-19, which are already operating where cruising has restarted overseas.
However, many cruise lines have already cancelled their 2022 seasons and scrapped plans for Australian home ports.
Most recently, P&O Australia axed its 2022 homeporting seasons for Adelaide, Fremantle and Cairns.
Tradewind Voyages has also cancelled Golden Horizon 2022-23 summer season in Australian waters, which would have been been the world’s largest sailing ship’s first time Down Under.
Princess Cruises and P&O have both extended their Aussie cruise pauses until 14 March 2022 and 14 February 2022 respectively.
Flight Centre managing director Graham Turner told The Australian that clients are opting to fly overseas to board international cruises instead, with bookings going “through the roof” since the international travel ban lifted.
Helloworld chief executive Andrew Burnes said people need certainty before cruising can return to Aussie waters.
“Right now, as far as cruising goes, there isn’t any certainty other than the local cruise operators in Australia,” Burnes told The Australian.
“You can jump on a plane and fly to the US and head to wherever – the Caribbean, Florida. You can fly to Europe and get on a Mediterranean cruise. People are booking for next year in droves.
“People are scratching their heads wondering why they can buy a cruise overseas and not one here.”
Featured image source: Facebook/greg.hunt.mp