APT today claimed it had made a breakthrough in getting the Caledonian Sky sailing June dates in the Kimberley agreed – the first foreign-flagged vessel to be permitted to operate in Australian waters.

But the company declined to add detail until later as it completed the complex arrangements.

If the cruises go ahead, the Bahamas-based vessel will sail with just 99 passengers and crew – getting it under the cap set by Australia’s bio-security laws, which has kept other fleets out of Australian waters since the pandemic struck in March last year.

Managing Director of APT’s parent company Australian Pacific Holdings, Chris Hall said: “Over the past 12-months, the APT Travel Group and the travel industry have been navigating an extraordinary environment, unlike anything seen before. Over the last few months we have operated touring programmes across the country and now we are pleased to commence our expedition season in the Kimberley.

“Australians are keen to travel and we have exceptional experiences ready and waiting for them to enjoy.The return to operating our touring and expedition holidays is a tremendous outcome for our guests, travel agency partners, staff and crew, the wider industry and all involved in our delivering our programmes.”

The Caledonian Sky is excluded from the Federal Government’s ban on larger cruise ships, maintained the company, and updated COVID Safe policies have been developed with leading experts from around the world,  including Respond Global founder Dr Ian Norton, a former World Health Authority physician, and Cruise Lines International Association Australasia.

It was not clear how crew would be quarantined or whether passengers or crew would need to be vaccinated. The company said all such questions would need to wait until mid-May.

At least four other lines are offering Kimberley itineraries, but they are waiting for Federal government guidelines and negotiations with the WA and NT governments.

Mr Hall said: “We will operate the APT 2021 Kimberley season within Western Australia, travelling between Wyndham and Broome. Many of these are coupled with 4WD touring throughout the Kimberley staying in our exclusive lodges.”

APT will operate their Kimberley cruising season from June to September 2021 with high demand and very limited availability across the season.

Further itineraries beyond the Kimberley as well as the 2022 Kimberley departure dates are also now on sale, with some availability in after October.

The move means APT will join Coral Expeditions as the only lines sailing in Australian waters.

For more, see: aptouring.com.au