Carnival Corporation’s P&O Cruises Australia has announced that it is once again extending the cancellation of its cruises following Australia’s recent announcement that it will extend the country’s “biosecurity emergency period” until ‘in February 2022 in the face of the threat of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. The cruise line stressed that Australia is one of the few major markets that has not resumed operations and that the latest expansion will go through two years of cruise operations from Australia.
Australian Minister of Health and Care for the Elderly Greg Hunt announced last Friday that the country would expand health regulations first put in place in March 2020 as “the government continues to reopen Australia and to act decisively to respond to the emergence of the Omicron variant â. The efforts include restrictions on international travel ranging from testing and mask requirements for flights to limits for unvaccinated Australians and restrictions on the entry of cruise ships into Australian territory.
P&O said the extension of the suspension of operations until mid-April 2022 “marks the twenty-third cruise cancellation announcement since the start of P&O Cruises Australia’s continuous hiatus in March 2020 in response to the pandemic “. The latest extension of restrictions has effectively ended hopes for Australia’s summer cruise season this year. As late as November, the cruise industry was optimistic the Australian government was ready to ease restrictions.
“As we approach the two year mark of our gradual hiatus in operations, it is understandable that our customers are very disappointed and frustrated that there is still no agreed restart plan for cruising in Australia.” said Sture Myrmell, president of P&O Cruises. Australia. âFederal and state governments have yet to define their restart requirements despite the country’s high vaccination rate. ”
Myrmell reiterated that the cruise industry has developed protocols indicating that it is ready to work with the government. He said, âReaching that two-year anniversary is dishearteningâ for loyal customers, travel agents and many suppliers whose businesses depend on the cruise.
The Australian business group Cruise Lines International Association has also described the government’s actions as a “devastating blow” to the 18,000 Australians whose livelihoods depend on cruise tourism. The group has started scrambling to work with the government to expand the current exemption for expedition cruises to the Kimberley region. They are asking the government to increase the passenger limit to 200 for these cruises which usually start in May and run for a six-month season.
P&O Cruises Australia has been one of the brands most affected by Carnival’s strategy to remove older ships from the fleet during the pandemic. The line has abandoned all but one of its ships, but has recently started to prepare for the expected recovery with overhauls of larger cruise ships transferred from the American brand Princess Cruises. Myrmell warned in the latest announcement that it will take the company “several months and significant costs” to resume operations. It foresees considerable efforts to hire and retrain the crew in addition to preparing the ships.
While most of the world’s major cruise markets have cleared the resumption of cruises, Australia, New Zealand and China are among the largest markets that remain closed. Other countries in Asia, including Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong, have allowed the resumption of domestic cruises under strict restrictions, and Taiwan and Malaysia are also set to restore operations with similar limits. China has also cleared some domestic cruise operations.