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P&O cancels 21 NZ cruises and blames government inaction

In yet another “huge blow” to the region’s cruise industry, P&O Cruises Australia has announced the cancellation of its 2022 Auckland cruise season, citing the lack of a restart plan in New Zealand.

The cancellations affect 21 cruises, and involves the Pacific Explorer. 

P&O Cruises Australia is part of Carnival Australia,  which accounts for seven cruise lines including Carnival Cruise Line. Carnival Cruise Line recently redeployed its two Carnival Cruises ships to the US where sailings are increasing and lines are experiencing big demand. The redeployment was blamed on Australian government inaction on a cruise resumption.

The company did not respond to requests for information about the status of P&O Australia’s ships, which are currently moored in the Mediterranean.

P&O Australia’s statement says: “While we have had useful discussions with New Zealand officials and expect these to continue, uncertainty remains as to whether cruising is likely to resume there in 2022

“We look forward to returning to New Zealand next year for an Auckland cruise season beginning in June 2023. P&O Cruises and sister brands also remain hopeful of being able to cruise to New Zealand from Australia later this year.

“Guests whose bookings are affected will be notified of the pause and options available either directly or via their appointed travel agent.”

The cancellations will be a blow for New Zealand.  The sailings included themed cruises for country music and comedy fans, and were to depart from Auckland between July 5, 2022 to November 27, 2022. 

Planned itineraries included sailings to Tonga, New Zealand wilderness exploring, The Big Laugh Comedy Festival, an 80’s themed cruise and more.

Kevin O’Sullivan, CEO of the NZ Cruise Association, told Cruise Passenger: “As the press release indicated, cruise lines and NZCA have been in discussions with government for several months on the opening of the maritime border and the return of cruise.

“We are making progress but it has been too slow for P&O to continue plans to deploy ships in Auckland for winter cruising. That has been a huge loss for us and particularly for Auckland which would have benefited greatly from cruise passengers in downtown.  The plans to open the border will have to accelerate otherwise we will lose more ships and the New Zealand cruise industry cannot afford to miss another season.”

Debbie Summers, New Zealand Cruise Association chair, also said the decision to cancel the 2022 cruise season was ‘a huge loss.’

Cruise fans expressed their disappointment on Facebook at the state of cruising.

Kathy Wotherspoon wrote: “That’s a shame. I don’t understand why we can’t cruise around Australia, the government has helped Qantas (let’s face it you are still breathing in the same air as everyone else on a plane) why not help the cruising industry? Hang in there P&O. Can’t wait see you back in Australian waters.”

Linda Hurndell said: “Can’t understand why you can fly but not cruise. Millions of dollars gone out of the economy. Can’t wait to cruise again.”

Pauline Sweeneysaid: “I don’t understand why the government won’t allow an Australian cruise company to cruise Australian waters, they are allowing overseas visitors into Australia, where is the support from the Australian government in regards to this? I feel for P&O.”

Meanwhile Cruise Lines International MD Joel Katz said talks were now underway to get cruise ships sailing again.

“Very constructive dialogue continues, with multiple meetings taking place on both sides of the Tasman to work through the protocols that need to be finalised to underpin a responsible cruise restart,” he said.