By Peter Lynch, Editor-in-Chief
Welcome to our last newsletter of the year. The team at Cruise Passenger has charted another extraordinary 12 months when the world has resumed cruising…but Australia has remained shut to all but our small-ship lines.
We’ve following the talks that so nearly produced a restart date – Omicron put paid to that, but it was oh so close – and reported on how the rest of the world has seized back the seas. An astonishing five million passengers have been carried almost without incident on every type of vessel in every destination…except one. Australia.
Throughout it all, our readers have continued to be amazingly optimistic and loyal. Our site has had 1.6 million visits, and our newsletters are read by 145,000 loyal cruise passengers.
We’re incredibly humbled by those numbers. Thank you for supporting us.
This week has been no different to so many: dashed dreams but rekindled hopes.
In America, Princess Cruises launched another ship. A video of the naming of the Enchanted Princess is a must-watch – you’ll feel you are back on board. It was a real celebration.
Across the world, fleets are back on the water sailing in safety. Sure, there have been a few cases. But, as Richard Fain of Royal Caribbean says, at least on a cruise ship you know who you are sailing with. In a Hilton or a Hyatt you have no idea if the person next to you is vaccinated or not.
Just a few hours later, however, P&O Australia was forced to announce the cancellation of another raft of sailings – this time until mid-April.
But in all honesty, P&O hasn’t got a clue when their vessels will be sailing Australian waters then. And nor has anyone else.
‘This marks the 23rd cruise cancellation announcement since the pandemic. President of P&O Cruises Australia Sture Myrmell, now in the UK running P&O and Cunard fleets there, said: “As we approach the two-year mark in our rolling pause in operations, it is understandable that our guests will be very disappointed and frustrated that there is still no agreed restart plan for cruising in Australia.”
He continued: “Federal and state governments are yet to outline their requirements for restart despite the nation’s high vaccination rate, the cruise industry’s comprehensive health protocols, vaccination policies for guests and crew and the successful resumption of cruising in other international markets…reaching this two-year anniversary is discouraging for so many of them.”
And he added: “To date, no government authority, federal or state, has provided feedback on the industry’s proposed operational guidelines to enable an informed decision on bringing our ships back to Australia.”
We feel his pain. We reported exclusively the disrespect shown to the cruise industry by the government back in September under the headline: “Ignored And Disrespected – Why The Cruise Industry Is Angry As Wave Season Hopes Are All But Dashed.”
But today, despite the set backs, we are optimistic. We’ve spoken to federal and state governments on the cusp of a federal election, and we understand that real politic means it’s hard to restart cruising until the threat from Omicron is assessed and understood. The feeling is that it is likely to produce a lot of new cases, but that they won’t be serious. And that bodes well for cruise.
Joe Katz, who has been leading the charge for Cruise lines International Association Australasia, told us: “The Federal Government says they are waiting for national guidelines from the AHPPC, which is made up of the state CHOs. At the same time, the states say they are waiting for the national guidelines in order to continue planning for a cruise restart. The industry has presented detailed protocols on a number of occasions to both states and federal governments, and responded to questions, but without any feedback.
“The PM says he is keen to see progress, so we need governments to come together, and engage genuinely with industry to finalise the national guidelines so that we can move forward.”
While the chances are we won’t see a big restart until September, once back cruise will be huge.
And that’s thanks to you – our loyal readers.
We’ll be watching and reporting throughout the holidays, and next year will, we feel, be a breakthrough.
We’ve reported on how Coral Expeditions and APT have managed to cruise incident free. And we know that the model in Asia and Europe, where Australians are cruising right now, will be torch bearers.
We know that NSW, Queensland and Victoria are keen to see the ships sail and again. And they will.
We wish you a very Merry Christmas and we’ll see you again in the New Year.