There are very few indications that the Australian cruise industry can become operational soon. With little information on possible plans shared by the Australian government, there is very little hope for thousands of people dependent on cruise ships for their income and the thousands of guests eager to take a cruise.
The lack of a pathway to restarting operations and the general lack of prospects have forced P&O Australia to once again, cancel a multitude of cruises sailing from Australian ports.
New Series of Cruise Cancellations
P&O Cruises Australia has canceled cruises through May 28, 2022. The update comes as little to no progress has been made by the Australian government indicating when cruise lines could operate again in the country.
The first cruise departing Sydney is now scheduled to depart on June 1, 2022; the first cruise departing from Brisbane is expected to depart on June 4, 2022. The company said the following:
“In the absence of progress towards an agreed restart plan for cruising, P&O Cruises Australia has announced a new series of cruise cancellations in its rolling pause in operations that has been in place since cruising in Australia was suspended in March 2020.”
The latest round of cancelations includes fifteen cruises scheduled to depart from Sydney or Brisbane between April 23, 2022, and May 28, 2022. Guests who have been affected by the latest string of cancelations can either rebook their voyage to a later date, apply for a future cruise credit, or request a full refund, depending on their individual bookings.
“We acknowledge the understandable disappointment of guests whose cruises are affected and apologize for the disruption to your holiday plans,” P&O Cruises Australia said further.
Two to Three Months Needed to Return to Service
Estimates from industry insiders such as Cruise Lines International Association Australia’s managing director Joel Katz placed the timeline needed to return to service between 60 and 90 days. In the meantime, P&O Cruises expressed its disappointment with the lack of intent from the Australian government:
The pause period reflects the fact that it will take several months for a ship to return to operation once government agencies and public health authorities have worked with the industry to agree protocols. Australia is one of the last remaining major cruise markets in the world without a return to service pathway.”
The timeline is this long as no decisions have been made on what the Australian government requires from cruise lines when they start operations. This includes health protocols, operational downtime between voyages, testing and vaccination requirements, and more.
Cruise Ships Have Proven to be Safe.
The government’s lack of intent also goes against the prevailing sentiment that cruise ships are safer than most vacation spots, with stringent measures to prevent any outbreak from happening onboard the cruise ships.
“No setting is immune from COVID-19, and we are indeed seeing cases being detected on cruise ships…the difference however is that cruise ships are subject to stringent science-based measures that include testing and vaccination requirements before boarding…this isn’t true in your local shops, pubs, theatres or most other land-based settings, and it’s now clear the incidence of COVID-19 is far lower on cruise ships than it is on land,” said Joel Katz in a statement.
P&O Cruises is not the only cruise line to cancel several cruises. Carnival Cruise Line, which operates two ships down under, announced Carnival Splendor will not resume sailings until after May 31, while the Carnival Spirit will start on May 29.
The pause in operations in Australia will have been in place more than two years if cruising does resume at the end of May. The operational pause has left 18,000 people dependent on the cruise industry with no certainty over their livelihoods and has cost the country $5 billion in lost revenue.