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Cruising is starting to resume in Australia -- but there's a catch

Sept. 26, 2020
5 min read
Coral Discoverer
Cruising is starting to resume in Australia -- but there's a catch
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Cruising finally is getting going again in Australia -- at least in a small way.

Australian expedition cruise specialist Coral Expeditions this week said it planned to restart nature-focused sailings out of Cairns, Australia, on Oct. 14 -- just 18 days from now.

The trips will take place on the 72-passenger Coral Discoverer, which will become the biggest vessel to resume sailings in Australia since cruise lines around the world halted departures in March. The halt came amidst a sharp upturn in coronavirus cases.

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Only one other small cruise vessel, the 36-passenger True North, has resumed operations in Australia. The yacht-like vessel has been running trips to Australia's famed Kimberly coast since July out of Broome, Australia.

The new Coral Expeditions sailings will take small groups of passengers to the outer reefs and lesser-known islands of Australia's Great Barrier Reef. The focus of the trips will be on the marine life of the area as well as the natural and cultural history of Far North Queensland.

Related: How to book a cruise with points and miles

Coral Discoverer
The 72-passenger Coral Discoverer is an expedition-style vessel that carries Zodiac boats for landings in remote locations. (Photo courtesy of Coral Expeditions)

Alas, if you're thinking about booking one of the trips, there's a catch. For now, due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions, they're only bookable by residents of Australia. The country remains closed to outside visitors including Americans.

Based in Australia with ships that are registered in the country and operated by Australian crew, Coral Expeditions and True North are some of the only cruise operators currently allowed to restart operations in Australian waters.

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In addition to banning foreign tourist arrivals since early this year, the Australian government has banned the arrival of all but the tiniest foreign-flagged cruise ships. That has prevented nearly all cruise vessels that normally operate around the country from restarting operations.

The biggest lines with regular operations in Australia, including Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises and P&O Cruises Australia, all operate ships flagged outside of Australia.

Earlier this month, Australian health minister Greg Hunt announced an extension of the ban on such cruise ship arrivals through at least Dec. 17.

Related: The best credit cards for booking cruises

Coral Expeditions said its soon-to-start Great Barrier Reef trips would include diving and snorkeling at such well-known spots as Osprey Reef, Escape Reef and the Ribbon Reefs; birdwatching; a stop at historic Cooktown; and visits to the beaches of isolated Sudbury Cay and Hope Island. Visits to the Great Barrier Reef Research Station also are planned as well as stops for snorkeling over the giant clam gardens of Lizard Island.

Coral Discoverer is an expedition-style vessel with a shallow draft to allow for access to remote locations. It carries small Zodiac boats for landings in hard-to-reach areas.

Coral Expeditions operates four small vessels that carry 120 or fewer passengers apiece, with a fifth vessel on the way.

In announcing its restart to operations, the company said it hoped to resume cruises in more parts of Australia in the coming months, including trips around Tasmania and in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia regions.

Related: When will cruising resume? A line-by-line guide

“We are planning a staged restart across the next six months which will be in collaboration with authorities from Australian states and territories," Jeff Gillies, Coral Expeditions commercial director, said in a statement accompanying the announcement.

Australia is just the latest region of the world to see the beginnings of a cruising comeback. In recent months, limited ocean cruising has resumed in the Mediterranean and a handful of other regions including French Polynesia. There also has been a resurgence of river cruising in Europe.

But, as will be the new sailings in Australia, most of the voyages restarting in Europe and elsewhere only are open to local travelers for now. One notable exception: cruises that have resumed in French Polynesia, which are open to many nationalities including Americans.

Cruises out of U.S. ports remain on hold for now due to a “no-sail” order by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the order is set to expire next week. It's unclear for now whether it will be extended.

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

Featured image by The 72-passenger Coral Discoverer. (Photo courtesy of Coral Expeditions)

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Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
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    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
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Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

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Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees