Small ship expedition cruising is set to make a massive comeback with a number of cruise lines announcing this week, their plans to bring their ships Down Under. Minister for Health Greg Hunt, also this week, announced the extension of the international border closures until 17 June, but small ship cruise providers are still hopeful that they will be able to sail before the ban is lifted.
Brands with ships that carry less than 100 cruisers are being considered outside the international cruise ban.
Currently, the only cruise line sailing is the Australia owned and operated Coral Expeditions, which has done several successful trips in Tasmania, Queensland and Western Australia.
Luxury touring group, Scenic announced a Kimberley cruise season for the luxury Scenic Eclipse which will bring a different experience for the yacht which was designed to sail the polar regions.
The Eclipse will be in Australian waters for a limited season featuring two 11-day Kimberley Discovery voyages operated between Darwin and Broome with departures from 19 June to 8 August 2021.
Anthony Laver, Group General Manager Sales & Marketing Australasia said: “We are very proud to bring Scenic Eclipse to our waters for the first time, providing Australians with the opportunity to experience the benchmark in 6-star ultra-luxury cruising.
“Scenic Eclipse’s innovative and intimate yacht design provides a wealth of world-class facilities, choice of dining, relaxation and wellness, combined with unrivalled exploration of the Kimberley’s remarkable coastline.
“Whether it’s soaring above in our two Airbus HJ130-T2 helicopters or exploring by Zodiac with an expert discovery team, our guests will have the ultimate truly all-inclusive ‘ultra-luxury meets discovery’ experience.”
APT also this week announced the Caledonian Sky would also be heading to the Kimberley.
“We are pleased with how things are progressing with good collaboration and understanding from state and federal authorities,” said Chris Hall, APT’s Managing Director.
“The recent extension of the travel ban has no impact on our small ship, the MS Caledonian Sky as we have an exemption to the ban as our passenger sleeping facilities are for just 99 guests. Given this we continue to be fully engaged with Federal Departments and agencies in regard to crew visas and Australian entry requirements, and at a State level in regards to Health and Safety protocols for re-entry into Australian waters and ongoing expedition operations within each state.”
Aurora Expeditions said they were planning to base on of its two new expeditions ships in Australia for a season.
The line’s CEO Monique Ponfoort announced world’s first X-bow adventure vessel, is hopeful of sailing an extraordinarily large number of itineraries in the region, including the Kimberley.
“This extensive season brings many firsts for Aurora Expeditions and we couldn’t be more excited to take our expeditioners on these once in a lifetime voyages to explore our spectacular backyard,” she said.
Sarina Bratton, Ponant’s Asia chair who attempted to start sailing its luxury expedition vessel, Le Laperouse in New Zealand said she was hopeful that the small ships would soon get the green light to sail in Australian waters.
“Whereas we are disappointed that the Federal Government has extended the ban for a further three months, we are hopeful that small expedition ships will soon receive approval to recommence operations within Australian waters exclusively for Australians during that period,” she said.
“As such, we remain committed to continuing our work with Federal and State level agencies to obtain these approvals, with a view to the commencement of the popular Kimberley season, perhaps delayed.”