Admitting that a cruise restart was still “several months away”, the NSW government met with the cruise industry this week to make good on its premier’s promise to help restart the cruise industry in NSW and Australia.
With Australia’s wave season due to start in September, the meeting marks the beginning of a race against the clock to get cruising back in time for the 2022 season to go ahead.
It was agreed that NSW would begin working on a comprehensive framework for a return to cruising. Cruise Lines International Association Australia Joel Katz described it as as extremely positive step – but admitted it won’t be an instant process.
“Last week’s announcements by the major eastern states and federal government mean we have an opportunity to talk in more detail about exactly how cruising can resume in Australia. The NSW Government has taken a lead role and Premier Dominic Perrottet has given very clear support for a cruise resumption with extensive health protocols in place.
“Our initial discussions have been very positive and constructive, and we’ll now focus on the detailed work that needs to be done with health authorities and other government agencies to finalise a framework for cruising’s resumption.”
Mr Katz said that are two levels of approval required for cruising to resume: operational and health protocols from the states, and the lifting of the ban by the federal government.
“Working together, we will pursue the two approvals needed for ships to return – to gain approval from the states for health protocols and detailed operational plans, and to lift the cruise ban at the federal level. There’s still much work to be done, but we’re hopeful the most recent extension of Australia’s cruise ban will be the last and that cruising can resume at some stage in the months ahead.”
Now that New South Wales and the eastern states are working together, the stumbling block appears to be the national health body the NSPCC headed by Professor Paul Kelly.
Several states have previously told Cruise Passenger that they are waiting for federal approval or a lifting of the cruise ban, which ultimately lies with the Australia Health Protection Principal Committee, which is chaired by the Chief Medical Officer.
Prof Kelly’s office has been contacted for comment but at the time of publication has not responded.
Positive news came out of the Northern Territory who increased their cap on expedition cruising to 350 people and have confirmed to Cruise Passenger that they have a framework for the restart of cruise, that includes unrestricted cruising once allowed by the federal government.
Despite the lack of hard restart dates, Royal Caribbean remains extremely positive of a 2022 wave season.
A Royal Caribbean spokesperson told Cruise Passenger: “Yes, we do feel optimistic as we work with state governments to determine the roadmap for a safe return. We have every confidence ahead of 2022’s wave season with our first sailing from Sydney in October and Brisbane in November.
“We have missed out on two years of sailings in Australia, however we have every confidence that the no sail order will be lifted well ahead of our return to Australia in October.”
Health Minister Greg Hunt has suggested that once the states are ready to cruise, the government will allow them to.
“Work has advanced significantly with states and territories.”
“It will be up to them to ensure that they are ready, that they feel that they are in a position to do this. But there are many jurisdictions overseas that have been able to recommence cruising safely.”