Australia will allow the return of international cruise ships to its ports starting April 17, according to a joint media statement from the Ministers for Health; Home Affairs; and Trade, Tourism and Investment. The country has banned all cruise ships from operating in its waters since March 2020.
“On the basis of medical advice and with the agreement of National Cabinet, lifting the cruise ban is consistent with the reopening of Australia’s international border and shows that we have successfully navigated Australia’s emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt.
In 2019, Australia welcomed more than 600,000 cruise ship passengers, onboard almost 350 vessels.
“We are delighted that after two years we have an approved pathway to work with state governments to determine the roadmap for a safe return," said Gavin Smith, managing director Australia and New Zealand for Royal Caribbean International. "Having carried more than a million cruise holidaymakers over the past 12 months globally, we look forward to providing Australians with a world class cruise holiday experience from October 2022.”
Despite the country opening up, it may take a little longer for cruises to get going. Most cruise lines pushed back their Australian sail dates until later in 2022 and repositioned their ships to the U.S. or Europe. Carnival Corp. will return to sailing in Australia at the tail end of May with its local P&O Cruises Australia brand. Princess Cruises will return to service in June 2022, with roundtrip Brisbane itineraries onboard Coral Princess, ranging from three- to 12-days in length and calling to destinations in Queensland and New South Wales.
New measures, most of which are already familiar to anyone cruising in North America and Europe, will be rolled out to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 onboard.
They include, but are not limited to:
- Enhanced pre-arrival reporting and identification of COVID-19 risk through more questions of passengers and improved processes;
- Passengers will be required to be double vaccinated.
Cruise ships will need to meet any additionally state and territory public health requirements of the jurisdictions in which they berth.