The government’s move to continue the ban on international cruise vessels under the biosecurity act hasn’t deterred the six cruise lines determined to sail the Kimberley and other Australian itineraries this year.

This morning, Scenic announced a Kimberley cruise season for the luxury Scenic Eclipse, which will bring a completely different experience to Australia’s iconic cruise destination.

The World’s first discovery yacht will cruise in Australian waters for a limited season featuring two 11-day Kimberley Discovery voyages, operating between Darwin and Broome, with departures from 19 June to 8 August 2021.

The move comes as other luxury operators report near full bookings for vessels operating on limited cabin numbers.

Anthony Laver, Group General Manager Sales & Marketing Australasia said: “We are very proud to bring Scenic Eclipse to our waters for the first time, providing Australians with the opportunity to experience the benchmark in 6-star ultra-luxury cruising.

Scenic Eclipse’s innovative and intimate yacht design provides a wealth of world-class facilities, choice of dining, relaxation and wellness, combined with unrivalled exploration of the Kimberley’s remarkable coastline.

“Whether it’s soaring above in our two Airbus HJ130-T2 helicopters or exploring by Zodiac with an expert discovery team, our guests will have the ultimate truly all-inclusive ‘ultra-luxury meets discovery ’ experience.”

Scenic Eclipse helicopter KimberleyScenic maintain they may be able to carry up to 228 guests in 114 suites. But the line is still in talks with state and federal governments about the ship’s ability to sail Australian waters, though Mr Laver told Cruise Passenger the talks were progressing well and were positive.

Eclipse guests during the Australian season will be the first to enjoy Scenic Eclipse’s latest innovations, with the addition of new cabanas and a Panorama Bar on Deck 10, the reimagined Yacht Club, Asian fusion dining with the new Night Market @ Koko’s and culinary masterclasses at Epicure.

Scenic’s health and safety protocols will also be implemented, including Scenic Eclipse’s advanced HVAC system, which ensures 100% circulation of fresh air in each suite and in public areas.

Earlybird pricing starts from $15,475pp.

APT’s Caledonian Sky and French luxury expedition line Ponant also remain confident that talks with state governments are moving ahead – with APT particularly happy with the way things are going.

APT’s Managing Director Chris Hall told Cruise Passenger: ““We are pleased with how things are progressing with good collaboration and understanding from state and federal authorities.

“The recent extension of the travel ban has no impact on our small ship, the MS Caledonian Sky, as we have an exemption to the ban as our passenger sleeping facilities are for just 99 guests. Given this we continue to be fully engaged with Federal Departments and agencies in regards to crew visas and Australian entry requirements, and at a State level in regards to Health and Safety protocols for re-entry into Australian waters and ongoing expedition operations within each state.

“As an Australian-owned ship with itineraries that support many regions of Australia, the Federal and State Governments recognise the economic benefit the restart of this vessel will bring across many industry sectors. We remain quietly confident that our small ship will have a terrific domestic cruise season ahead.”

Sarina Bratton, Ponant’s Asia chair, told us: ” As you are aware, along with the cruise industry body CLIA, we have been working closely with the Federal Government for more than six months now to establish a framework to allow for the progressive re-start of domestic small ship cruise operations in Australian waters. These voyages would be exclusively for Australian residents and not be available for overseas citizens until or unless borders reopen.

“We strongly believe there is a manageable pathway for the phased and carefully controlled return of domestic cruising especially beneficial for regional communities and the multiple industries that directly rely on income derived from our cruise sector.

“Whereas we are disappointed that the Federal Government has extended the ban for a further three months, we are hopeful that small expedition ships will soon receive approval to recommence operations within Australian waters exclusively for Australians during that period. As such, we remain committed to continuing our work with Federal and State level agencies to obtain these approvals, with a view to the commencement of the popular Kimberley season, perhaps delayed. “
Aurora Expeditions also announced this week it is planning to base one of its two new expedition ships in Australia for a season.
Aurora Expeditions’ CEO Monique Ponfoort announced the Greg Mortimer, world’s first X-bow adventure vessel, is hopeful of sailing an extraordinarily large number of itineraries in the region, including the Kimberley.
Greg Mortimer
Greg Mortimer in Antarctica

“This extensive season brings many firsts for Aurora Expeditions and we couldn’t be more excited to take our expeditioners on these once in a lifetime voyages to explore our spectacular backyard.” she said.

The three lines are joined by Coral Expeditions, already sailing thanks to its Aussie flagged vessels and Australian crews, and Silversea, the luxury line owned by Royal Caribbean and which includes a fleet of small ship vessels.

See Aurora’s full program here: