APT’s MS Caledonian Sky has been forced to cancel all sailings to Tasmania this year and in 2022 after the local health authorities enforced a new ruling that they obtain “pre-approval from the Deputy State Controller” to enter Tasmania.

This effectively bans the 99-passenger MS Caledonian Sky from cruising to Tasmania. Only Australian-flagged Coral Expeditions is allowed – and they recently also cancelled because of the complexities of dealing with border closures.

Tasmania has had a love-hate relationship with cruising – the lines are keen to send more ships as passengers like the shore excursions, food and wine. But conservationists are keen to limit capacity as big ships can create problems for locals and damage the islands unspoilt, natural image.

“A disembarking cruise ship passenger is assessed as high risk and is not permitted to enter Tasmania unless approved as an Authorised Person by the Deputy State Controller. If approved to enter Tasmania, the passenger must quarantine for 14 days in a government-designated accommodation facility.

“For the purposes of Tasmania’s directions, cruise vessel includes any size and any origin,” said a spokesperson from the Tasmanian Department of Police, Fire and Emergency Management.

APT which has been promoting a variety of itineraries to the Apple Isle is now no longer operating in Tasmania for the rest of this year and next year, confirmed APT.

“Yes, we have regrettably cancelled our APT Tasmania sailings on MS Caledonia Sky for November/December 2021 and January/February for 2022.

“We have cruises available for 2023 as part of our recently launched APT Tasmania program, departing February 2023,” said an APT spokesperson.

APT will launch a new eight-day Tasmania Wilderness Coast cruise aboard the 99-passenger expedition small ship, the MS Caledonian Sky in February 2023.

“We always keep our guests well informed of any changes to their holiday plans. Of course, in the current environment adjusting schedules and unfortunately, at times cancelling departures to rebook guests has become something we have had to become well versed in and we are grateful our loyal customer base is very understanding,” the spokesperson added.

Australian-flagged Coral Expeditions which regularly sails its 72-passenger Coral Discoverer to Tasmania has also decided to cancel its six-night Sydney to Hobart cruise which departs Sydney on December 26 this year.

“We have been sailing to Tasmania for seven years offering a variety of itineraries during our January to March Tasmanian season. As Coral Expeditions are an Australian-flagged line, we are classified as a domestic commercial vessel.

“Because of recent cross border travel restrictions and with Tasmania closed to NSW residents, we decided on our own accord to cancel this year’s Sydney to Hobart cruise on Boxing Day.

“About 70 per cent of the cruise had been sold, so we have offered the 50 passengers the choice to rebook an alternative cruise, the same cruise in 2022, a refund or Future Cruise Credit,” Jeff Gillies, Coral Expeditions’ commercial director told Cruise Passenger.

Each passenger paid $4000 for the six-night cruise. Prices for a similar Sydney to Hobart itinerary in 2022 start from $4800 per person. But passengers who are rebooking the itinerary are protected against any price increase, Mr Gillies explained.

French luxury line Ponant, which has been promoting various Tasmanian itineraries this year, has also cancelled its sailings because of “the biosecurity act and the closure of borders which does not allow foreign ships to enter Australia.

“Once we are allowed to enter Australian waters again, we will work with individual state governments to ensure we are complying with their requirements,” said a spokesperson. Ponant passengers on cancelled Tasmanian itineraries can rebook their cruises or receive 100 per cent FCC.

For sometime, APT has been advertising various itineraries to Hobart, Launceston to Adelaide and Hobart return journeys in 2021 with prices starting from $6495 pp for a classic, six-day Hobart to Hobart itinerary in November this year. In its Tasmania 2021/2022 brochure, APT offered an early bird saving of $2000 per couple if bookings were made before 31 May.

Coral Expeditions are pushing ahead with its Tasmanian January to March season next year with the first Hobart sailing departing on January 1, 2022. Two of the six itineraries have been sold out.

As Mr Gillies said: “Coral Expeditions has been operating and sailing in Tasmania for seven year. APT has never cruised in Tasmania.”

Meanwhile, the Tasmanian Government is working on plans to relax border restrictions for a safe return of domestic cruising in the Apple Isle.

“At this early stage of working of transitioning from a zero case state to a state living with COVID-19 in the community, the Tasmanian Government is keenly aware that any steps to ease border measures may likewise require enhanced public health measure so that the Tasmanian community is protected.

“The Tasmanian government is actively considering its border policies in the context of cruise vessels and intends to work positively with the sector towards safely resuming domestic cruise tourism, particularly as Tasmania continues to develop its own transition plan for living with COVID-19,” the spokesperson added.