NSW is set to welcome the first international cruise ships back to the state’s waters in more than two years after working with Victoria and Queensland to clear the way for a resumption of sailings.

The state is the second to allow foreign flagged vessels back – Western Australia has said it will allow big ship sailings from October and small ships to sail in the Kimberley from this month.

To celebrate the occasion, three Sydney Harbour water cannon tugs will be saluting in spectacular fashion as P&O Cruises Australia’s Pacific Explorer sails into Sydney Harbour on Easter Monday, April 18.

The NSW government statement spelled out the protocols cruise lines would need to meet:

  • All passengers over the age of 12 and crew will need to be fully vaccinated to board domestic and international cruises (as defined by the Commonwealth for international border entry requirements);
  • All passengers and crew will be required to have a negative COVID test before embarkation and will require the wearing of masks at embarkation and disembarkation;
  • Covid safe plans will be developed for all shore excursions, which will consider the specific needs of local communities, particularly regional communities;
  • Covid safe plans have also been developed for disembarkation of any COVID positive cases and close contacts;
  • Cruise operators will provide for a range of enhanced on board public health measures to reduce the risk of transmission, including information to travellers about covid safe practices including social-distancing, enhanced cleaning, and the availability for on board Covid-19 testing.

Minister for Enterprise, Investment and Trade, Minister for Tourism and Sport and Minister for Western Sydney Stuart Ayres said the return of cruise ships to NSW would be done safely, with important safeguards in place to mitigate the risk of COVID-19.

“The cruise industry is a significant contributor to the New South Wales economy, an important part of our tourism industry and a major employer,” Mr Ayres said. “I cannot wait to see cruise ships safely re-enter our state’s harbours and our local businesses welcome back those seafaring travellers.

“For the most part, a cruise experience will be a lot like it was before the pandemic, but we have put important protocols in place to ensure everyone’s safety, both those on board and on shore.

“Not only is this announcement important to industry and their passengers, cruising supports our tourism operators, hospitality industry and all those local suppliers who help with the enormous task of re-supplying ships,” Mr Ayres said.

Before the pandemic, the cruise industry contributed an estimated $3.3 billion total expenditure to the NSW economy and contributed more than 11,000 jobs to the whole of NSW in 2018-19.

In 2017-18, 1.6 million cruise passengers visited Sydney, with the industry contributing around $1.54 billion to the Sydney economy that year.

P&O Cruises Australia’s flagship Pacific Explorer will lead the return, sailing into Sydney Harbour on Easter Monday, April 18.

The line is inviting the city’s ‘boaties’ to escort Pacific Explorer as the ship makes its way up the harbour to the Overseas Passenger Terminal.

President of Carnival Australia and P&O Cruises Australia Marguerite Fitzgerald said Pacific Explorer’s return marked the start of rebuilding cruise tourism in Australia.

“Seeing Pacific Explorer sail into Sydney Harbour will be an emotional moment for our employees, many thousands of guests and our numerous cruise suppliers, travel agents and entertainers,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

“For our suppliers and for so many others, our flagship’s arrival is a symbol of the resurgence of their businesses and livelihoods as hope and optimism replaces uncertainty.

“Our supply chain team is already gearing up to deliver hundreds of pallets to Pacific Explorer containing locally supplied fresh produce, wine and other products necessary for cruise operations. This is just the beginning of the revitalisation of the wide and varied cruising ecosystem.”

The approximate schedule for Pacific Explorer’s arrival on April 18 is as follows:

9.30am – Pacific Explorer enters Sydney Heads
10.10am – Passing Fort Denison
10.20am – Passing the Sydney Opera House
10.30am – Alongside at the OPT