Australia’s 2021 cruise season looks increasingly unlikely after two of Carnival’s biggest operators, P&O Australia and Princess, announced they would not be sailing until at least December 17.
The news that the two biggest homeported lines see no hope of cruising before Christmas is a blow to the industry.
The extension to P&O’s voluntary pause applies to cruises scheduled to depart from 17 September to on or before the new date of 17 December, 2021.
Princess is also cancelling all cruises in and out of Australia through to 19 December 2021 “due to continued uncertainty regarding the timing for the resumption of cruise holidays in the region.”
Passengers booked on a cancelled cruise will be rebooked on an “equivalent cruise” in 2022.
The cruise industry has been discussing a framework for the re-start of domestic-only cruising with government and public health authorities since last October, but has yet to come to a conclusion with the state and federal governments.
Other major lines are also believed to be poised to concede there will be no cruising before the back end of the year.
P&O Cruises Australia President Sture Myrmell said: “These discussions have been underway for some time and we look forward to the opportunity to agree a pathway for starting cruises that carry Australian residents on Australian itineraries.
“This is about the livelihoods of the thousands of individuals and small businesses, many family-owned businesses, who rely on the cruise sector. These businesses cover a range of activities such as the supply of fresh food, entertainment, shore tours, coach operators and marine engineering services.
“They are like every business in Australia – they need certainty, and I am concerned they may find it increasingly difficult to hang on without a clear pathway forward.”
Joel Katz, the head of the Cruise Lines International Association said: “The suspension of cruising has already cost the Australian economy an estimated $6 billion and put more than 18,000 jobs at risk. We need governments to progress a firm plan for the future, so we can implement new health measures and work towards recovery.
“Extensive new health protocols have already been implemented by cruise lines in many countries around the world, with 100% testing of all guests and crew before boarding. Almost 600,000 passengers have successfully sailed under these measures since cruising resumed in other countries last year. Australia is now the only major cruise market in the world where there has been no progress towards implementing these measures.
“We believe Australia has an opportunity to bring cruising into our domestic bubble, offering local itineraries for Australians only with extensive health measures in place, and we’re calling on governments to help achieve this as soon as health conditions allow.”
Guests who rebook their replacement Princess cruises will maintain 2021 prices, or they can choose a Future Cruise Credit (FCC) equivalent to 100 per cent of their cruise fare paid including an additional non-refundable bonus FCC equal to 10 per cent of the cruise fare paid (minimum $25) or a full refund.
Guests can track the progress of their future cruise credit or refund request via the tracking tool found on P&O’s website at www.pocruises.com.au.