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First ship steams towards Sydney as passengers rush to book out the best

The Pacific Explorer is steaming towards Singapore before arriving in Australia for the first trial cruises from Sydney to Brisbane next month, while cruise fans are booking the best deals they can find as fast as they come up.

While state governments have still to finalise the exact protocols in talks with Cruise Lines International Association Australasia, delighted cruise fans are picking the best sailings from the start of the season in September, when the world’s lines will arrive in force.

Jodie Paulin took her first cruise seven years ago and hasn’t looked back since. She fell instantly in love with the cruising lifestyle and has ticked off 19 cruises so far.

The Jamisontown resident told Western Weekender that she’s not willing to wait one extra second for a cruise and has booked herself in to be on the first cruise sailing out of Sydney this May.

“I have had three cruises cancelled over the last two years and just kept automatically rebooking them as I figured one of them had to sail eventually. I have used my cruise credits and rebooked seven cruises over the next year and a bit to January 2024.”

Ms Paulin says she loves the way cruising puts all her favourite activities in one place.

“I have cruised with girlfriends, with my family and even on my own because there is something for everybody and it is all included in one spot.”

When asked about the risk of COVID on board, Ms Paulin wasn’t overly concerned, trusting in the cruise lines ability to keep a safe environment.

“Even before the pandemic the frequency of cleaning on board the ships was great, and I know there will be a range of new procedures in place to protect both the crew and guests.”

Reputable cruise agent and owner of iTravel Penrith, Bella Goldie says it’s exciting to cruise back on the up after the industry was continually battered by the extending of the cruise ban over the past two years.

“I have seen the financial pressure first-hand of what the ban meant to so many who work in this incredible industry, so I am over the moon that the ships are on the move back to Australia.

I have been in my office until midnight the last few nights booking cruises with a lot of people using their future cruise credits.”

Ms Goldie says demand is no issue for cruise at the moment and her advice to potential customers is simply to get booking.

“Seeing the current booking numbers not only through my door but lots of agents’ doors the past week I think it will be extremely popular.

My advice is to book early and don’t wait as so many sailings are already sold out.”

  Dan Russell, general manager of family-owned specialist travel agency, Clean Cruising, said cruise bookings increased dramatically after the restart was announced.

“I can confirm we have been steadily busy every day since the cruise resumption was announced and we are actively seeking up to five cruise consultants and a consultant support role to keep up with the current demand,” Mr Russell said.

“It is the best thing to be creating jobs again. For the first time in two years, we can forecast income that we know won’t be cancelled, which lets us finally do some proper business planning.”

Jay McKenzie, CEO and owner of the Bob Wood Cruise Group, which represents hundreds of tour operators around the country, said business optimism had now returned.

“It’s an amazing feeling but also a little nerve-wracking trying to work out if I should staff up now, still with no income, or wait until we start getting our cash flow growing but we have managed to navigate through covid and now it’s time to shake it off and see what the future brings,” Ms McKenzie said.

Owner of adventure company Riverlife Brisbane, John Sharpe, is about to start hiring 16 staff to run the P&OEdge adventure activities on board P&O Cruises Australia’s ships, and marine engineering specialist Graeme Blackman of Inter Marine Pty Ltd is seeing promising signs.

Steven Biviano of Select Fresh Providores is planning to rehire staff to help replenish ships with big quantities of fresh produce.

“It is excellent to hear these success stories and to know that the restart of cruising is making such a positive contribution in turning around the fortunes of some wonderful Australian businesses,” said Marguerite Fitzgerald, President of Carnival Australia and P&O Cruises Australia.