Down Under cruisers, rejoice: Australia to reopen to cruise ships in April
Australia will allow its cruise ban to expire, and it will not instate a new one, the country's Department of Health announced on Tuesday.
"On the basis of medical advice, the Australian Government will not renew the ban on international cruise ships arriving and departing from Australian ports, when the current determination expires on April 17," the agency said in a statement on its website.
The government, which has been notoriously strict with COVID-19 protocols, is one of the last to end its cruise ban, which will have been in place for more than two years by the time it expires.
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Under the terms of the ban's expiration, Australia has laid out requirements for cruises when they resume. They include mandatory passenger vaccination, the completion of health questionnaires by cruisers, reporting of onboard cases before ships arrive in Australian ports and testing of vessels' protocols for dealing with cases of COVID-19.
"This is great news for the cruise industry, tourism, the broader economy and the Australians who love to take a cruise holiday," said Dan Tehan, Australia's minister for trade, tourism and investment, in a statement. "The resumption of cruising is another key step forward in the tourism sector's recovery from COVID-19."
According to the press release, more than 94% of Australians 16 and older have had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, and more than 12 million have received boosters.
As for international passengers, Australia is eager to welcome them back, too.
"I can’t wait to see our cruise terminals once again filled with arriving international passengers, getting this important industry ship-shape and back out on the water once more," said Karen Andrews, minister for home affairs, noting that, in 2019, Australia saw more than 600,000 cruise passengers from nearly 350 different ships.
The decision comes after several cruise lines temporarily pulled out of the region.
In early February, Carnival Cruise Line decided to bring Australia-based Carnival Spirit and Carnival Splendor back to North America. The former, which was based Down Under for a decade, will sail from Jacksonville into April before relocating from Florida to Seattle via the Panama Canal for a series of Alaska sailings through summer 2022. The latter is slated to join Carnival Spirit in Alaska before redeploying back to Australia at the end of the summer.
After previously pulling out of Australia, Princess Cruises said Tuesday it will resume sailings there with Coral Princess in June 2022. Pending approval from the Australian government, the ship is scheduled to homeport in Brisbane, featuring three- to 12-night voyages calling on ports in Queensland and New South Wales. In August, the ship will reposition to Sydney for the 2022/23 cruise season. Majestic Princess will also begin sailing from Sydney in February 2023.
As a result of the new deployments, Princess will cancel select voyages on Diamond Princess, Royal Princess, Ruby Princess and Majestic Princess that were to include Australia. The line is in the process of notifying affected passengers.
Finally, P&O Australia, a Carnival Corp. brand dedicated to the Australia market, said Tuesday on its website that it has canceled additional sailings on Pacific Adventure and Pacific Encounter as far out as October 2022 but that it will also bring back some sailings as early as May 2022 on Pacific Explorer. (The line had previously canceled voyages through late November.)