P&O Cruises is replacing all international itineraries with domestic cruises in the last quarter of 2021 because of the “continued uncertainty” over the opening of borders.

As small ship operators continue to battle to get a Kimberley season started, Australia’s best known homeported brand announced it is switching its fleet to Aussie only routes – but won’t say if it is complying with rules that say hospitality workers on board must be Australian.

Cruise Passenger revealed last week that Australian Border Force and Home Affairs are insisting that Australian workers be employed.  APT recently moved the Caledonian Sky into Cairns ready for its first cruises in the Kimberley after employing 30 Australian workers.

The rule state: “We will only consider exemptions for crew required to safely operate the vessel. Entry of the vessel should also provide economic benefit to Australia. Other roles, such as service or hospitality roles, should be filled by workers in Australia.”

The new P&O move means seven cruises are affected by the change to Australian itineraries: four from Brisbane and three from Sydney. Instead of calling at international ports, the seven cruises will only cruise domestically.

“In view of the constantly changing landscape due to the pandemic, P&O Cruises Australia has decided that its remaining cruises in 2021 that have an international component will be replaced with domestic port content,” confirmed a P&O spokesperson.

All passengers affected by this change have been notified directly by the line. Passengers who are booked on these international voyages can remain booked on the same departure dates with new local itineraries or they can receive a full refund.

P&O Australia,  which has suspending all sailings until 17 September this year, says that it will switch from international itineraries to domestic cruises from 18 September to 31 December this year.

On its website, the line said: “As we continue to take guidance from international and local government authorities, public health experts and the broader community, we have implemented a temporary pause in operations for all departures on and before 17 September 2021.

“We are also cancelling a selection of additional cruises between 18 September and 31 December 2021.”

P&O said it remains optimistic that a pathway can be established to support the resumption of domestic cruising later this year.

“While these discussions continue with government agencies, we are not going to speculate on the details that the pathway to resumption might take,” the line said.

P&O continues to support Cruise Lines International Association as it works with government authorities to develop protocols and policies to enable the resumption of cruising beginning with domestic itineraries.