The Australian government has extended the cruise ban for an additional two months to February 17, 2022. It comes due to growing concerns of the new variant that is spreading globally. The Cruise Lines International Association responds to the huge disappointment and cruise lines have already started cancelling additional sailings.
All the major cruise lines that usually operate in Australia, including Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Line, P&O Australia, Princess Cruises, and more, will be happy there is clarity on an issue that has been ongoing for months. They will not be happy with the message Greg Hunt, the Minister for Health, had for them.
Cruise Ships Now Unlikely to Return Until May 2022
If any cruise lines held out any hope that cruising would return to Australia shortly, they would be reassessing their options now. With lead times to start up ships coming up to 60 days, cruising is unlikely to return to Australia before May 2022, a time when winter is setting in and cruising traditionally slows down considerably.
The announcement from health minister Greg Hunt said, “The extension of these arrangements made by the Governor-General was informed by specialist medical and epidemiological advice provided by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) and the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer. Continuation of these arrangements will allow the important measures currently in place to continue as the Government continues to reopen Australia and act decisively to respond to the emergence of the Omicron variant.”
It’s another heavy blow to an industry that has been at a standstill since March of last year. Where the rest of the world seems to be returning to normal operations, any thoughts of this have been dashed Down Under.
As soon as the announcement came out, the Cruise Lines International Association for Australia and Asia (CLIA) responded:
“Today’s announcement that Australia’s cruise ban has been extended by 2 months has dealt another devastating blow to the 18,000 Australians whose livelihoods depend on cruise tourism, including travel agents, tour operators, food and produce providers, entertainers, port workers and many other industry suppliers.“
Many cruise lines voiced their concerns in recent weeks that the Australian Government seemed to have reached an impasse on when cruises would be able to resume. Even now, there seems to be little discussion between the Government and the industry:
The organization which represents most cruise lines around the world continued to state, “In other countries close to five million people have already sailed successfully under the cruise industry’s extensive new health protocols. We need federal and state governments to use the 8 weeks for genuine discussions with the cruise industry so we can plan a similar revival in Australia.”
Several cruise lines traditionally operate in Australia. The major ones are Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Line, P&O Australia, Princess Cruises, while several smaller cruise lines operate expedition ships and luxury cruise ships around the continent.
Carnival Cruise Line announced that Carnival Splendor would not be sailing through April 8, 2022. Carnival Spirit cruises have been cancelled through April 10, 2022. In the same week, P&O Cruises Australia cancelled sailings until March 3, 2022, citing uncertainty over when the Australian governments will allow the cruise industry to resume.
Another Carnival Corporation Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, has cruises scheduled for March of next year, but it remains uncertain whether this will be possible. Royal Caribbean International has recently cancelled all cruises in Australia for Ovation of the Seas and is not set to return until October of next year.
Norwegian Spirit, sailing for Norwegian Cruise Line, is scheduled for a 13-day cruise from Sydney in March of this year; perhaps this could be the ship that brings cruises back Down Under, given the strict health measures Norwegian has implemented on its ships.
If none of these companies take the risk of crewing a ship without a specific restart date from the Australian Government, cruising could be even further away for Australians.