After two years of industry-crushing lockdowns and working on more than 1,200 cancellations, Belle Goldie, owner of iTravel Penrith (left in picture) was desperate to fight the government’s cruise ban.

She created a lobby group for agents and decided to collate their stories of hardship and heartache, and send their pleas to the Dan Tehan, the Federal Minister for Tourism.

“I collected more than 300 stories. And on a work trip to Adelaide, I read through all these stories and cried throughout the entire journey. It was heartbreaking to read how the affected them financially, emotionally and mentally. I got more than 300 stories.

Ms Goldie made sure these stories ended up right in the hands of the decision makers.

“I handed out all 300 stories to the minister, I read them the worst of the worst and they were shocked. I think at that point they realised the human impact of this ban on agents like myself.

I think it was a pivotal moment for them to realise that there was something so simple they could do that would have such a huge impact on the industry, by just turning on that green light.”

A week after lobbying with the ministers, Ms Goldie was in America and received a late night text.

It was 3am in the morning when I got the text from someone in the lobbying group and I called them right away, we looked and waited for the email, then when I got it, I just burst into tears.

“I couldn’t help but cry for the two and a half years of lost revenue, income, the effects of the ban and what it meant to everyone around the country.”

Having been running a business on false hope for so long, Ms Goldie could barely let herself believe it.

When I heard the ban was going to be lifted, I couldn’t believe it, even when I saw it in writing, I had this moment where I thought to myself  irrationally, “’hey can take it away tomorrow,’ because that’s been the constant rollercoaster for us.”

Ms Goldie said she always knew it’d be a struggle but she never thought it’d go on so long.

“We were the first industry to go down and the last to recover, we didn’t foresee it’d be two-and-a-half years later. Especially when the rest of the world had already woken up and Australia had always been seen as a world leader in cruising.

“Hearing stories, even just from the restaurateurs in and around Circular Quay, the marine engineers, the fresh producer suppliers, everyone who makes cruise work in Australia. I had an idea of how cruising works, but I didn’t really realise how many people need to tick their boxes for it to work.”

However, with the brunt of the hardship behind her and the rest of the industry and Ms Goldie says now agents are completely buzzing.

It’s euphoric, everyone is just on a high. It’s like the best drug ever. The calls, texts and emails I’ve been getting have been incredible. Everyone is so busy that we are not taking calls from each other in the best way. It’s almost like an unbelievable dream at the moment. I will never complain about being too busy again.

“From someone who worked on, at the peak of COVID, 1200 refunds and cancellations, to now having that amount in forward bookings, it feels so good to be talking cruise again with clients.”

At this point Ms Goldie says she’s just counting down the days until she can stand in Sydney Harbour and welcome back Pacific Explorer in May, soaking in everything in means for the industry.

I will be down there in Sydney Harbour when Pacific Explorer comes back, waving the Aussie flag, probably in tears like a silly school girl. I just can’t wait to the ships back in the harbour, that’s when it’ll all be real for me, when I see that ship come through the heads. 

“It will be such a symbol for the industry.”

cruise belle
Ready for the seas again.