Australia’s cruise season could be extended to accommodate ships with cancelled Asian itineraries.

Such a move will help pump desperately needed funds into ports and tourism business hit by the recent fires.

Talks are being held to test the waters for the move, which is expected to be widely welcomed by cruise lines and Australians tourism operators. In particular, cruise ships with Pacific sailings where destinations have banned cruise ships are looking for new stop overs.

For cruise passengers, such a move may mean new choices at great prices, allowing them to take advantage of itineraries at smaller ports like Eden and others on the NSW and Queensland coast.

And for tourism operators close to ports, it will be a welcome chance to make up for some of the losses in takings brought about by the Christmas bush fires.

Cruise lines could also be winners.  They have spare capacity in Asia. where 10 ships are currently virtually mothballed.

Australia’s cruise season – known as the “wave season” – usually runs from October to March. Adding extra weeks could boost local coffers and help cash in on any reluctance to fly-cruise because of fears of the coronavirus.

The talks were revealed by Jill Abel, CEO, Australian Cruise Association, which represents the nation’s ports, who told ABC radio Australia’s cruise industry had been very vigilant over health issues.

She told the ABC: “I do know there are some ongoing discussions and we may see the season extended and we would welcome more port calls.”

Speaking to Cruise Passenger, she added that some Pacific countries were no longer welcoming cruise ships, so lines were looking at local small ports at substitutes on their itineraries.

She agreed that Australia’s record, with 15 cases five of whom have recovered and none on cruise ships, means it is in a strong position to help the region “though no-one wants to claim benefit from this”.

Ms Abel pointed out the cruise sector had sent ships to Kangaroo Island and Eden after the fires to help pump much needed tourism dollars into local businesses, and would continue to do so.

“The cruise sector has been amazing in its ability to help  – and we are working in a positive manner,” she said. “Australian regions love cruise for the economic benefit it brings.  We have a lot of members who would normally not get foreign visitors who may now get them.”

Cunard’s Queen Mary has already been diverted from Asia to Fremantle. More are expected to follow where they have not touched areas which are currently battling the virus.

Ports said they would welcome a cruise season extension.

Victorian Ports Corporation (Melbourne) said: “If any lines do approach us with a request to extend we would like to support them as they work their way through these exceptional circumstances.

Asia cancellations

Meanwhile, Asia has been paralysed by coronavirus with 10 ships out of action and a plethora of changed itineraries and cancellations, Rebecca Rachel Wong reports from Singapore.

All cruise ships are skipping ports in China, while some are also avoiding Singapore and Japan.

Cunard changed the itinerary for the both the Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Elizabeth. The Queen Mary 2 will skip its call in Singapore next week and will instead divert to Western Australia, docking in the city of Fremantle on Feb. 18. The ship will then sail to Darwin and Yorkeys Knob, Australia, before resuming its originally scheduled itinerary from Airlie Beach.

The Queen Elizabeth is no longer calling at Hong Kong on March 31 or Shanghai on April 4. Cunard said details of the ship’s revised itineraries are forthcoming.

Seabourn said the Seabourn Ovation will change its Feb. 29 disembarkation and departure from Hong Kong to Singapore. The ship will skip all calls in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau through March 14. The Seabourn Sojourn will no longer call at Hong Kong on April 3 and itinerary revisions are being worked out.

The Feb. 15 departure of Silversea’s Silver Spirit was changed from Hong Kong to Manila. The rest of the itinerary remains the same.

Princess Cruises canceled all Diamond Princess departures through March 12.

Royal Caribbean canceled two sailings on the Quantum of the Seas that were due to depart Singapore this month, one on Feb. 15 and the other leaving Feb. 24.

Regent Seven seas said it will replace the Seven Seas Voyager’s scheduled stop in Hong Kong on Feb. 28 with another port, yet to be determined.

Costa Cruises’ three ships that were offering cruises from China — the Costa AtlanticaCosta Venezia and Costa Serena — have suspended operations through March.

The Celebrity Millenium has cancelled her 14-night Southeast Asia Cruise departing Hong Kong on February 15. The ship is scheduled to sail in Asia till late April.

Celebrity Cruises have also modified Celebrity Constellation’s itineraries up to March 17 to avoid Singapore and Thailand. The ship will instead embark and disembark from Dubai for their ‘Best of India & Sri Lanka’ cruise.