And we’re cruising! Pacific Explorer has completed Australia’s first big-ship cruise itinerary this week – christened the Brisbane International Cruise Terminal as the first vessel to dock.
The combination of these two events most definitely signals the official return of cruising for Australia and what was a $5 billion per year industry for the country when in its tourism dollar prime. And while it may take some time (predictions are roughly two years) before the industry can climb its way back to these healthy tourism dollar figures, this week’s events have been the cause for major celebration.
VIDEO: Our trip aboard the Pacific Explorer
For the passengers and crew onboard Pacific Explorer, it literally meant dancing the Macarena as the ship sailed at sunset under the Sydney Harbour Bridge on Tuesday evening, with sailors’ costumes and conga lines forming right around the top deck.
For the crew it meant a return to their vocations and livelihoods as they arrived from more than 30 different countries across the globe to resume their posts. The Captain, Lorenzo Paoletti spoke with emotion over the ship’s loud speaker with his thick Italian accent about how happy he was to be back at the helm “after two years, two months and fifteen days on hold.”
But the ricochet of this return to cruising keeps going. Celebrity Chef Luke Mangan is onboard to help herald the return of “Luke’s” restaurant on deck 14. He says “It’s fantastic to be back…we’ve got all our staff back. Our producers and suppliers, who have been through so much with droughts and bushfires and Covid as everyone has. But just getting back onboard and slicing and dicing and working with the team is great.”
And the joy doesn’t stop there. As the ship pulled into the Brisbane International Cruise Passenger Terminal and guests disembarked for a day of exploring around the Sunshine State capital, shore tour operators were on standby to welcome their first cruise customers.
Andy Date, Tour Operator for Southern Cross Tours described it as “the first return since the world stopped.” He says the impact on the industry has been dire and that within his company there were massive staff losses.
“We went from a total of fifteen drivers down to just four of us. So, seeing the cruise come back today has been so great to see. Hopefully this is the beginning of things returning to normal for us with shore excursions and being able to meet and connect with cruise passengers and do what we love.”
As for the undeniable impact of cruises returning for passengers onboard, their smiles have said it all.
Passionate cruise enthusiasts Yvonne and her son Liam say the moment has been too long a wait.
“I’ve got a Melbourne Cup cruise coming up already for the end of this year and then I want to do a trivia and cooking one next March,” Yvonne says.
And if that’s any indication then it certainly seems cruise companies are also going to be delighted with seeing sales return with gusto. The Pacific Explorer is due to return into White Bay Cruise Terminal in Sydney tomorrow morning.