Princess Cruises and P&O Australia have both announced further suspensions in Australia. Both Carnival-owned cruise lines had multiple ships operating in the area and plans to resume with fully vaccinated Australian guests and crew members soon. However, uncertainty regarding protocols, government guidance, and public health requirements has put the cruise lines in a spot where further cancellations are the only option.
Australia is now one of the very few countries worldwide where cruise ships are still banned from operating, bringing the time since a cruise ship last sailed with paying guests onboard from an Australian port to 22 months.
P&O Cruises and Princess Cruises follow Carnival Cruise Line, which means all three have now decided to postpone cruises to January of next year, casting a dark shadow over the ever-popular Christmas and New Year’s cruises.
P&O Australia Cancels Sailings
The Australian government has still not managed to give cruise lines a clear pathway to go back to operating in the country. Reason enough for P&O cruises to further postpone cruises to January of next year; previously, the cruise line had already postponed operations until December.
Cruises that have been affected include cruises scheduled to depart from December 18, 2021, through to January 14, 2022, for cruises sailing from Brisbane and January 18, 2022, for cruises sailing out of Sydney. The cruise line has also canceled Melbourne’s summer cruise season, the latest extension making it no longer feasible to operate.
P&O Cruises Australia President Sture Myrmell has been outspoken and disappointed with the lack of action from the government:
“Governments have made it very clear that vaccination thresholds are the key to ending lockdowns, border restrictions and, ultimately, re-opening Australia. And part of returning to normal society is ensuring that the more than one million Australians who choose a cruise holiday each year have the opportunity to do so again. Unfortunately, we are not yet clear on the requirements from governments and public health authorities for a phased return of domestic cruising but we remain hopeful these conversations will gather pace now there is real momentum around society re-opening.”
Guests that the latest postponements have impacted will be contacted by their travel partners or the cruise line directly and presented with the options available to them.
Princess Cruises Cancels Sailings
Princess Cruises has cancelled all voyages until January 27, citing the uncertainty of cruises returning to the region as the main reason. The chance from the Princess Cruises has affected three vessels in total.
Voyages on board Coral Princess through January 17 have been canceled, and cruises onboard Royal Princess and Sapphire Princess through March 2022 are being cancelled.
“It became apparent we would not be able to deliver planned deployment of Royal Princess and Sapphire Princess in Australia before they were due to start their published northern hemisphere voyages,” said Deanna Austin, Princess Cruises Chief Commercial Officer. “We recognize that guests planning cruises over the popular summer and new year holiday period will be particularly disappointed with the changes, however, we wanted to give guests as much notice as possible so they could plan their holidays with certainty.”
If guests booked a cruise that has been canceled, they do have the option to move the voyage to a similar one at a later date with protected fares. Guests can also avail of an FCC of 100% of the paid amount plus an additional non-refundable bonus FCC equal to 10% of the cruise fare.
CLIA is Pushing to Get Cruises Open
Cruise Lines are having a complex time planning and scheduling cruises Down Under. Last year the Australian government made positive noises to the industry lobby group Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), yet concrete plans failed to emerge at that point. Now CLIA says the requests for detailed talks are falling on deaf ears, saying the public health authorities have ignored them:
“Our discussions with government agencies have gone nowhere, and our letters to the most senior levels of government have gone unanswered,” said CLIA Managing Director Australasia Joel Katz. “Other countries have not only created detailed plans to uphold safety on cruise ships in response to the pandemic but have already resumed cruising responsibly.
Although the Australian government recently implemented a long-awaited COVID exit plan, even this plan does not bode well for the tourism industries in the country, placing a 6-month cap on international travel, while cruise travel remains a silent issue.