P&O Cruises Australia has criticised the federal government’s decision to extend the cruise ban alongside its announcement today that it will elongate its pause until mid-April 2022, marking a full two years suspension of its operations.
The extended pause cancels cruises scheduled to depart from 3 March 2022 until 16 April 2022 from Sydney and Brisbane.
This marks the twenty-third cruise cancellation announcement since P&O Cruises Australia’s rolling pause began in March 2020 in response to the pandemic.
President of P&O Cruises Australia Sture Myrmell commended guests for displaying incredible patience and loyalty to P&O and cruising over the past two years.
“However, as we approach the two-year mark in our rolling pause in operations, it is understandable that our guests will be very disappointed and frustrated that there is still no agreed restart plan for cruising in Australia,” Myrmell said.
“Federal and state governments are yet to outline their requirements for restart despite the nation’s high vaccination rate, the cruise industry’s comprehensive health protocols, vaccination policies for guests and crew and the successful resumption of cruising in other international markets.
“Our loyal guests, travel agents and many suppliers whose businesses depend on cruising along with thousands of jobs are simply looking for certainty so that they can plan for the future. Reaching this two-year anniversary is discouraging for so many of them,” Myrmell said.
Last Friday, the federal government extended Australia’s cruise ban by another two months to next February in what Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), described as a ‘devastating blow’ to cruise tourism workers.
However, it could take several months to prepare for a return even after a resumption plan and operating requirements are understood and agreed with governments.
“After an absence of two years, it will take us several months and significant cost to manage the complex logistics necessary to return a ship to service before sailing back to Australian waters,” Myrmell said.
“This includes engaging our crew and re-training them to meet new operating protocols when they are known as well as re-stocking the ship with local fresh produce and refreshing onboard guest service operations that have also been on-hold for such a long time.
“It is a big task and we need to understand the operating environment before we begin the process of returning. To date, no government authority, federal or state, has provided feedback on the industry’s proposed operational guidelines to enable an informed decision on bringing our ships back to Australia,” Myrmell said.
P&O said that guests whose bookings are affected by the pause announcement will be notified of the pause and options available, either directly or via their appointed travel agent.