Australia’s cruise ban has today taken another scalp – Carnival Spirit is being redeployed to Jacksonville, Florida after spending a decade in Australia and the South Pacific region.

The vessel was to have been sailing from Brisbane’s new cruise terminal as a drawcard to turn Queensland into a  major new cruising hub. The news was greeted with dismay by cruise agents.

But with cruising in Australia banned since March 2020, Carnival had to make the decision to move Carnival Spirit on.

Carnival’s press release read: “Due to the overwhelming success of the resumption of cruising in the US and the continued uncertainty in Australia with operations still on pause, Carnival Spirit will be deployed to Jacksonville, Florida to commence cruising from March 7, 2022.”

“Carnival Cruise Line looks forward to resuming guest operations in Australia when government officials can provide clarity.”

After recent cancellation, Spirit’s next scheduled sailing was on May 29. Carnival Splendor is still scheduled to sail in Australia until cruise operations resume.

Carnival Spirit has been cruising from Sydney to the South Pacific, Fiji and New Zealand since October 20, 2012. It was originally meant to be a temporary deployment, but the Australian market proved so strong and reliable that it has remained in Australian waters for nearly 10 years. The vessel has a capacity of 2124 passengers, coming in 88,500 tonnes. 

Both Carnival vessels are currently in the Persian Gulf.

The decision reflects the dilemma of Australian cruise lines, as sailings resume around the world and lines try and claw back as much of the revenue they have lost over the past two years.

Having ships sit idle while the Australian government dithers over when to restart cruising and refuses to conduct sensible talks over a pathway to begin is not tenable for lines which have been forced take out loans to stay afloat.

Carnival Australia, which runs Carnival and P&O,  has recently changed management, with President Sture Myrmell leaving for a top post in the UK while his place has been taken by Marguerite Fitzgerald, who served as the lead for Boston Consulting Group’s global lodging and leisure practice.

There is yet to be any official confirmation or word on when Australia’s cruise ban will end.

Dan Russell, general manager of Brisbane based family-owned Clean Cruising, a specialist cruise holiday business, said he was bitterly disappointed that Carnival Spirit is now to be based in Jacksonville Florida instead of its planned homeporting in Brisbane.

“It is beyond doubt that the Carnival Spirit deployment away from Australia is a direct result of the indecision on the part of federal and state governments over the restart of cruising in Australia,” he said. “Cruise lines are obviously getting frustrated with the lack of progress or clarity in Australia and at the end of the day they operate mobile assets, which can be deployed as and where needed.

“The Carnival Spirit deployment is particularly disappointing because it was to have been based full time in Brisbane at the still unused international cruise terminal.  Hundreds of travel agents around Australia depend on cruising in full or in part and it is very worrying to see opportunity sailing away because of government inaction here.

“This is precisely why travel agents fanned out across Australia last week in a national day of action calling on MPs for the lifting of travel and cruise bans, allowing travel businesses to trade without restriction and calling for support for the travel industry recovery package put forward by the Australian Federation of Travel Agents.”