Pacific Explorer used to traverse Australia year-round, offering an option for thousands of Australian families to cruise from their doorstep and visit iconic Australian destinations at a great price.

All that will change, however, when Explorer leaves the Carnival fleet and Princess Cruises downsizing their operations. Most large cruise ships will be homeported in Sydney and Brisbane, meaning passengers can only board or disembark in those cities.

There are just 12 sailings scheduled by major cruise lines out of ports across Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Auckland after March next year. Almost none of these are roundtrips and those numbers are set to dwindle even further.

This leaves cruisers in Adelaide, Melbourne and as far away as New Zealand forced to fly when they wish to cruise. If, for instance, you’re from Adelaide, that means a minimum of $1,200 extra for a flight, and a night at a hotel, for example, the Marriott Circular Quay.

How much extra will your cruise holiday cost?

Below we’ve calculated the cost of two return flights in October 2024 + a night in the Mariott Circular Quay from Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Auckland. A night in the Mariott costs $599 for two, or $649 for two kids to stay as well, in the same room. These figures aren’t including many further costs like extra meals, cab fares from the airport, cruise transfers, a post-cruise hotel stay and so on.

  • Adelaide: $1200 for two cruisers, $1850 for a family of four (return flights with Jetstar, including a checked bag + Marriott Stay)
  • Melbourne: $1020 for two cruisers, $1510 for a family of four (return flights with Jetstar, including a checked bag + Marriott stay)
  • Perth: $1660 for two cruisers, $2690 for a family of four (return flights with Virgin + Marriott stay)
  • Auckland: $1700 for two cruisers, $2770 for a family of four (return flights with Virgin + Marriott stay)

The same applies – with different pricing – to Melbourne and New Zealand.

Since Cruise Passenger exclusively broke the story of the withdrawal of so many ships, there have been calls for action from Opposition MPs and a cry for relief from the industry’s peak body Cruise Lines International Association Australasia (CLIA).

There have been been petitions and calls for a summit. We have received hundreds of comments from our readers expressing sadness that at a time when demand is highest, capacity will be falling.

You can hear our podcast discussion with CLIA here.

Cruise Crises: the predicament of Melbourne, Adelaide, Auckland and Perth

  • From March 2025, when Pacific Explorer stops sailing, there are just 12 sailings scheduled by major cruise lines  out of ports across Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Auckland. 
  • These cities have a population of around 10 million between them. 
  • Even amongst these cruises remaining, almost none are roundtrips, only two sailings out of Melbourne. This means a flight will still be required for locals sailing out of the above cities.
  • Adding to this, the Princess sailings that do remain sit at a much higher price-point than P&O sailings. For example an 11-night sailing out of Perth that explores Asia on Pacific Explorer starts from $1594 per person. An 11-day Princess Cruise out of Perth, that goes not overseas to Asia but to South Australia, starts from $2814.
  • Furthermore, P&O Cruises Australia was well known for specialising in family vacations, with a host of family entertainment. Now the only major cruise line left sailing out of Melbourne, Perth or Adelaide is Princess, a cruise line not renowned for family entertainment, but rather those valuing peace and quiet at sea.

The impact: upset cruisers and job losses to come

Kelly Henderson, expert travel agent from I Love Cruising, says this problem represents a huge concern for her clients and Australian cruisers in general.

“Yes! This is absolutely a concern. This adds so much more of a cost for their holiday that hasn’t needed to be added when cruises were going from their states.  With the cost of living and luxuries such as Cruise Holidays on the rise as it is, this may become unaffordable and cruise passengers will have to forgo this luxury.

“Lack of these sorts of things, even if its only once per year / 2 years can lead to stress with clients having nothing to look forward to in the future.”
Henderson says not only will cruisers suffer, but economies and workers as well.

“I do think it’s a shame and not only for the Cruise Passengers that live in these states.  It takes away so much more than just a cruise ship.  It takes away jobs, it takes away money into their economies, it takes money out of the suppliers pockets and  it takes away happiness.

“Knowing that those that love cruising can’t just go to their local port and jump on a ship for 3 nights of fun with their friends.  Cruising is about relaxing, enjoy the company of those you are with and feeling free and taking the ships away could potentially be taking this away from them.”

Henderson believes there is absolutely still demand for at least one ship to circumnavigate like Pacific Explorer did.

“I do believe the demand is there, maybe not for the huge ships but definitely for the smaller ships, like Pacific Explorer. I believe that one year round ship could fill the void for all of these ports year round and port hop – Melbourne, onto Adelaide then onto Freemantle and repeat. 

“Embarking and disembarking in each port for a certain number of cruises then moving to the next Embarkation Port.  These cities are full and the people living there are still wanting to cruise.”

New Zealand Tourism Minister to launch investigation following cruise cuts

Minister Doocey, Minister for Tourism and Hospitality expressed his disappointment in P&O’s withdrawal of operations and revealed exclusively that the The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) will be commissioning research into the impact of cruise on New Zealand.

His statement read: “It is disappointing to hear that Carnival Australia have made the decision to withdraw P&O and Curnard branded cruises from New Zealand. I know many businesses and customers will be disappointed too. We have received no indication from other cruise lines that they are considering removing New Zealand from their itineraries.

“The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is commissioning research that will deepen insight into the impacts and opportunities that the cruise industry poses for the New Zealand economy and environment. I look forward to the findings from this research becoming available towards the end of 2024.

“Creating a strong economy is a key focus for the next three years, and the wider tourism and hospitality sector has an important role to play in that. My priorities as the Tourism and Hospitality Minister are Growing the value of international tourism and hospitality, focusing on increasing off-peak tourism, while maintaining social licence. Supporting regions to maximise the value of tourism and hospitality. Supporting the people who make up the tourism and hospitality workforce.Making it easier to do business in the tourism and hospitality industries.”

The final line particularly strikes a chord with many cruise lines facing difficulties towards their operations in New Zealand, with tight environmental restrictions turning away many ships over the previous two seasons.”

Fremantle port wants more ships

A spokesperson for the Fremantle Port out of Perth also revealed to Cruise Passenger it wants to see more homeported ships out of Fremantle.

“Fremantle Ports would like to see more vessels homeporting out of Fremantle to give the opportunity for West Australians to be able to cruise out of Fremantle than fly interstate.

“Fremantle have traditionally been “seasonal turn arounds/home porting” there are still challenges such as fuel accessibility and of course the lower population source market than Sydney and Brisbane.”

Cruisers worried for destination cuts

Many cruisers who have enjoyed P&O cruises out of ports such as Melbourne, Cairns and Adelaide and Auckland have expressed their concern that they’ll no longer be seeing cruises out of those ports. Confirmation of new itineraries is yet to arrive, but it speculated there will be two Carnival ships out of Sydney and two out of Brisbane.

Belina Williams-Paul wrote: “They better sail from Melbourne then!! I didn’t think Carnival did?! P&O does!

“It’s about time Melbourne port was considered a priority. So many people would sail if they didn’t have to fly to Sydney first.”

Debbie Hughes wrote: “Just checked Carnival Cruises, NO cruises out of Fremantle next year. We won’t be cruising as much if we have to fly over east every time.”

Ozzie Oswald wrote: “As a Fremantle based cruiser, I’m not holding my breath for new cruises from Freo to be announced even though most round-trip cruise itineraries from here were sold out months in advance in the past (on both P & O and Princess).

“It’s not the lack of demand, it’s the port fees and other operating costs that eat into the cruise lines’ profits which is keeping them away.”

Simone Nguyen wrote: “I’m from Melbourne. Have enjoyed cruising out of Station Pier for NZ & Tassie cruises. Losing P&O & Dora (Pacific Explorer) is very sad news as I enjoyed cruising out of home port.

“Definitely cheaper & much more relaxing, rocking up to embarkation at Station.”

Elise Farrow wrote: “it is very disappointing. P&O had great itineraries the others don’t offer. I had a Kangaroo Island trip booked for next year that is cancelled. A 4 night from Melb. Princess offer a trip there but also stops at Phillip Island, Adelaide and Port Lincoln, which costs 3 times as much. Most Melbournians don’t want to stop at Phillip Island.

“Definitely can’t afford to always sail from Sydney and Brisbane, isn’t worth it for a short cruise.”

Sue Harness wrote: “I rang today as my cruise is cancelled and I don’t know what to do, get a refund or get more money in future cruise credit. FCC is no good if they aren’t leaving from Adelaide.”

Chris Hughes wrote: “Sucks that none will come to Adelaide at least Explorer was handy for a few days away and no interstate travel costs.”

Sharon Allen wrote: “So sad that there will be no Cruise Ships leaving from and returning to Adelaide . Clearly there are a lot of people who love cruising from Adelaide. Especially disabled people who love cruising. It’s so easy when embarking or disembarking in Adelaide.

“So disheartening to see it not happening after Feb/March 2022.”

NSW remains tight-lipped on port charges

According to the cruise industry, the problem is over-regulation and costs like port charges. Our port fees are among the highest in the world.

This week, Cruise Passenger asked why. We didn’t get a sensible answer. Here’s what NSW Ports Minister Jo Halen’s spokesperson said:

“Port charges in NSW for cruise ship visits are based on the number of passengers on the cruise ship. NSW has the highest number of cruise ships passing through its ports so revenues are higher than other ports as a direct result of receiving more passengers.

“Port Charges help provide facilities that support our State as Australia’s premier cruising destination. Sydney is one of the most popular destinations in the world and attracts thousands of cruise passengers every year.”

“NSW has built two state-of-the-art cruise facilities over the past ten years and has expanded cruising into our regional ports, investing millions to ensure NSW retains market share of the Australian cruise market.

“Sydney terminals have not reached capacity for cruise bookings and there is still excess capacity at this point in time.”

NSW Ports added: “All commercial vessels visiting NSW are subject to port charges and these cover the associated costs of facilitating safe and efficient shipping movements and berthing from pilotage, navigation and site occupancy.

“Over the last 10 years Port Authority has hosted well over 2,000 cruise ship visits to NSW, contributing up to $3.5 billion annually to the State’s economy and supporting an ecosystem of suppliers, hospitality businesses and tourism.

“Port Authority has built two new state-of-the- art cruise facilities with further investment underway to expand cruising opportunities in regional NSW.”