CruiseAfter the two-year cruise ban, Sydney welcomes the return of international cruising with the arrival of P&O Australia's Pacific Explorer.

One ship buoys hope for Australia’s cruise comeback

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P&O's Pacific Explorer sails past the Sydney Opera House as she heralds the return of cruising.
P&O's Pacific Explorer sails past the Sydney Opera House as she heralds the return of cruising. Photo Credit: James Morgan Photographic Consultancy

The first international cruise ship to enter Sydney Harbour for more than two years arrived at the city’s International Cruise Ship Terminal on Monday, 18 April, raising hopes that Australia's cruise industry will make a strong comeback over the subsequent months.

The arrival of P&O Australia's Pacific Explorer, in preparation for her return to service on 31 May, was well received by the local travel industry that is estimated to have taken a A$10 billion (US$7 billion) economic hit because of the two-year ban on cruise ships entering Australian waters.

However, Cruise Lines International Association's managing director of Australasia, Joel Katz, said the cruise ban should have been lifted earlier, as it was in other markets.

"Before Covid, the industry was contributing more than A$5 billion to the economy each year, and that's the travel agents, the tour operators, the food and beverage suppliers, the hotel and accommodation sector, transport providers and, of course, the thousands of businesses in ports and destinations right around the country that rely on the cruise industry," Katz added.

The warm reception for Pacific Explorer — harbour tugs showered her bows with water cannon — was in sharp contrast to her departure from Sydney in April 2020 when authorities ordered the ship to leave its homeport of White Bay Cruise Terminal due to Covid restrictions.

So far, three Australian states — New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland — have agreed on establishing testing and vaccination requirements for passengers and crew in preparation for the return of ships. Other states are expected to greenlight cruise operations soon.

Marguerite Fitzgerald, president of Carnival Australia and P&O Cruises, said watching Pacific Explorer sail into Sydney Harbour was an emotional moment “for our employees, many thousands of guests and our numerous cruise suppliers, travel agents and entertainers”.

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