Queensland tourism has been hit hard as cruise lines continue to avoid port calls and destinations that are soon to feel the full effect of Cyclone Jasper.

While currently a Category 1 cylone, it is expected to be a Category 2 by the time it hits the coast tomorrow (Thursday).

Carnival was among the last to announce cruise ship itinerary changes as the Cyclone neared Port Douglas and Cairns, plus stops including Airlie Beach and Yorkeys Knob.

Carnival Luminosa, which is departing Brisbane on Sunday Dec. 10, is unable to visit scheduled port of Airlie Beach due to unfavourable weather conditions,” a Carnival Cruise Line spokesperson said. “The ship will instead visit Sydney on Tues Dec. 12. Guests have been offered the option of $100 on-board credit per cabin or a full refund, should they decide not to travel. Guests have been advised that pre-purchased shore excursions will be automatically refunded. The safety of our guests and crew is our priority and we thank guests for their understanding.”

Given its current path Jasper is set to hit landfall early this week and may reach Category 3 strength as it moves in the direction of Cooktown. It’s still too early to predict where and when it will make landfall or how strong it will be when it does. It will be the earliest Category 4 tropical cyclone in the Australian region for 18 years. The last cyclone to reach category 4 was Severe Tropical Cyclone Bertie, in late-November 2005.

Last week, passengers aboard Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas learned the day before embarkation that their 6-night Queensland cruise had every port of call cancelled because of the approach of Cyclone Jasper then a Category 3.

“Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas departing Brisbane on 6th December has revised its itinerary and will now be calling in at Sydney for an overnight port of call, due to a cyclone impacting its original Queensland itinerary. The safety of our guests, crew and the communities we visit is our top priority, and all guests and travel partners have been informed of this change,” Royal Caribbean informed Cruise Passenger.

The 168,666-gross-ton cruise ship, with potential to carry 4900 passengers, is now anchored in Athol Bay, Sydney, until 6pm Saturday with guests informed small tender boats would be used to ferry them ashore.

RCL's Quantum of the Seas prepares for Cyclone Jasper.
Tender vessels taking passengers from Quantum in Sydney Harbour on Saturday.

Overseas Passenger Terminal Two other vessels are already scheduled for Sydney’s Overseas Passenger Terminal today (Friday) – Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas and Seabourn’s Seabourn Odyssey. On Saturday, Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Edge will be joining Quantum of the Seas. Poinant’s Le Soleal is also heading south towards Sydney. Majestic Princess is due to arrive at OPT on Sunday morning while Noordam arrives at White Bay Passenger Terminal on the same day.

Quantum of the Seas passengers were supposed to explore a variety of destinations, including Airlie Beach and Cairns with the ship also destined for South Pacific locales of Mystery Island and Port Vila, Vanuatu and Noumea, New Caledonia. 

After every scheduled port of call was cancelled, Quantum of the Seas instead had a day at sea, an overnight visit in Sydney, and two additional days at sea before it returns to Brisbane. The departure and arrival times in Brisbane are unchanged.

“We’ve been monitoring adverse weather along our intended path,” an earlier notification email to passengers explained. “To ensure a safe and comfortable sailing and after exploring all options, we’ll skip our visit to Airlie Beach, Cairns, and Willis Island and enjoy an overnight in Sydney, Australia instead.”

Another ship in the region is the 159m, 343 passenger Star Breeze, currently off Port Douglas. Further south Disney Wonder is in the Port of Brisbane.

An image of the path of Cyclone Jasper.
The path of Jasper caused problems for cruise passengers off the Queensland coast. Image: BOM.

Dent in bumper year for Quantum

But passengers were not happy with the itinerary changes.

“I really don’t want (to) spend close to $10,000 for a seven-day trip to the Coral Sea, Great Barrier Reef, Willis Island then have it changed to just to sit in Sydney for 2 days,” one Quantum passenger commented. “What a waste of money.”

While another said: “As RC (Royal Caribbean) state, the ship can handle any weather but our passengers can’t! Might as well cruise the Brisbane River.”

“We set out from Brisbane for pacific islands and spent 2 days in Airlie Beach. Didn’t get to islands due to wind not cyclone … didn’t get the option to take a credit,” said another.

Royal Caribbean’s bumper 2023-2024 season was destined to set new records, with Quantum at the top of the list. More than 115,000 holidaymakers had planned to take their summer holidays from Brisbane with the cruise line, a 15% increase from the 2022-2023 summer.

More than two-thirds (64%) of these travellers are local Queenslanders while 1 in 10 have flown in from NSW (14%) and Victoria (11%), supporting Queensland’s already buoyant tourism economy. 

  • This story last updated 9am Wednesday, December 13

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