Marguerite Fitzgerald, the new president of Carnival Australia and P&O Cruises Australia, said she was confident the return of cruising was imminent – and even announced a celebration in Sydney Harbour.
Ms Fitzgerald said she expected lines that sailed to Australia would be involved in a phased return from June or July. The two ships from P&O Australia and Princess Cruises, which at one point had up to five ships registered to sail from ports including South Australia, Melbourne, NSW and Queensland.
She could not reveal what health protocols, vaccines, masks or crew quarantine requirements might be in place until talks with federal and state governments are complete, but added that federal health officials were studying overseas examples of health protocols like those in place at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in America.
Cruise ships are sailing in 86 countries and Australia was investigating how it was done safely, without large numbers of COVID cases.
Ms Fitzgerald said the flurry of activity in recent weeks came after the government realized how many jobs and businesses depended on the cruise industry for their livelihoods. Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) maintains up to 18,000 jobs and $5 billion stands to be lost due to the banning of foreign-flag ships.
She said cruising had a “very bright future” in Australia and she was confident regular passengers and newcomers to cruises would say with her lines once cruising resumes.
“The P&O ships are all Australian ships and they will be returning home. But I will also say that Carnival continues to be a very important part of the Australian market. All brands will therefore be back.
“We are canceled until the end of May. It takes a while to reassemble the ships, when you think of having to bring in the crew and the suppliers have a deadline to be ready to supply the ships. So a mid-year comeback, assuming we continue to make good progress, is what we’re aiming for.
And she added: “Once the ban is lifted, we expect there will be a lot of excitement and demand, and we want to be ready for that.”
She also revealed that carnival lines have been busy for the past two years and guests can expect to see new food, entertainment and other offerings.
And she clarified that the lines intended to continue sailing to the regions and, once the pandemic was under control, to the Pacific.
Ms Fitzgerald said the planned welcome party would have a distinctive Australian flavor paying tribute to suppliers, guests, travel agents, crew and shore-based employees.
“The restart of cruises to and from Australia is important for all of Carnival Australia’s seven brands, but it is particularly important for P&O Cruises, which this year marks its ninetieth anniversary of cruising since Australia and is recognized as the national cruise line.
“P&O Cruises is the only cruise line with its operational base in Australia and when its ships return, it will certainly be their homecoming.”
Ms Fitzgerald began her new role as chairman of Carnival Australia and P&O Cruises Australia on January 10, succeeding Sture Myrmell, who is now chairman of Carnival UK.
Prior to her return to Australia, Ms Fitzgerald worked in the United States for 10 years as a senior travel and tourism industry consultant with the Boston Consulting Group, during which time she worked closely with a number of number of Carnival Corporation cruise lines.