Australian cruisers face the prospect of cruising internationally before setting foot onboard a ship in local waters.
As Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed Australians are expected to travel internationally in November and cruise lines cancelling 2021 local sailings, cruise industry experts believe that now is the time to book those international cruises.
The news rules mean states with 80 per cent fully vaccinated citizens can open their borders and vaccinated travellers can quarantine at home for seven days. NSW is expected to be first to take advantage of the border openings.
Joel Katz, the Managing Director Australasia for the Cruise Lines International Association sees the situation as a real possibility.
“With vaccination rates rising and a renewed public discussion around border openings, we’re now seeing speculation that it could be possible for Australians to travel overseas to cruise before they’re allowed to sail in their own country.”
“This would be a ridiculous scenario when we already have stringent new health protocols working successfully in other countries with much higher rates of COVID-19 in the community, and which could be applied effectively to local cruising.”
Mr Katz isn’t alone in this opinion with Travel Associates cruise agent Kathy Pavlidis saying she believes that cruising international is more likely than sailing locally.
“I have been saying for the past six months that I will most probably be on a cruise in Europe well before I step foot on a mega cruise ship in Australia.”
“We need a firm road map from the government for the cruise lines to bring their ships to our shores. With well over 50,000 emails from travel/cruise industry members directed to local members of parliament, we have yet to see a concrete plan. There has been a lot of behind the scenes lobbying, action and news stories. However, after 19 months I am yet to see the government’s plan for the resumption of cruise in Australia.”
Ms Pavlidis said until the big questions surrounding cruise can be answered, it’s tough to say when Australian cruise will be back and maybe overseas is the way to go.
“If we can have 60,000 people at a football match who aren’t fully vaccinated why can’t we have 200 fully vaccinated Aussie’s on an expedition cruise ship in our waters? This is the million-dollar question that no one can seem to answer.”
Ms Pavlidis also warns that once the go-ahead for international travel is given, things that will happen fast and some cruises may already be booked up.
“The flood gates will open the moment the government officially allows double vaccinated residents to travel overseas without obtaining approval to leave Australia. However, a lot of cruisers may find that the cruise they want to do is sold out.”
While there is currently too much uncertainty hanging over travel for Ms Pavlidis to feel she could strongly recommend an overseas cruise as the most realistic option for Australians ready to go back cruising, as a cruise lover herself she wasn’t afraid to make her own plan clear.
“All I can say is when the borders open up, I’ll be heading to Europe for a cruise as they are cruising and Australia is not.”
Another agent, Lana Kanchik was asked if she’d recommend Aussie’s who are looking to cruise to look overseas for their first cruise back.
“As we are still struggling to get our biosecurity to see the reason for us to resume cruising, so many people will prefer to go abroad to be able to enjoy it.”
Ms Kanchik said she “absolutely” thinks Australians will be able to cruise overseas before they can domestically and advised those interested to “get in earlier as with less capacity of the ships the cabins are selling very fast. Some sailings are completely sold out.”
When asked if overseas cruising could come before domestic cruising, luxury cruise line Ponant said, “It’s a very real possibility with the industry in Australia being held from anticipating a commencement of operations with the government refusing to discuss a restart timeline.”
Genting Cruise Lines who operate Star Cruises, Dream Cruises and Crystal Cruises had a similar response: “With talk of international borders opening up in December this year and access to international airfares, the opportunity and reality is there for vaccinated people to enjoy an overseas cruise holiday.”
“With the prospect of our borders opening within months, we have seen a strong surge of bookings. The demand is there, and consumer confidence is up. People are willing to commit and book.”
While Royal Caribbean remains hopeful of cruising in Australia as soon as the end of this year, a spokesperson did have encouraging words to share about the success of cruising overseas.
“We have already seen a tremendous response to the return of cruising in each major cruise market and so eager to welcome our loyal guests back onboard in Australia.”
“Since the return of cruising with the Royal Caribbean Group, 500,000 passengers have enjoyed cruise holidays across America, Europe and Asia, with bookings through 2022 continuing to soar in each market.”
“If Australians do wish to travel overseas to experience a Royal Caribbean ship such as Oasis of the Seas from New York, we advise that they follow the guidelines set out by both the Australian government, and from the government of which they are travelling to.”
Celebrity Cruises similarly remains hopeful that the cruise lines still planning to sail in Australian waters will be able to by early 2022, but if Australians do head overseas, they’re very ready to welcome them with open arms.