Marguerite Fitzgerald, the newly appointed President of Carnival Australia and P&O Cruises Australia, has spoken of her confidence the return of cruise is imminent – and even announced a celebration on Sydney harbour.

Ms Fitzgerald said she anticipated the lines that had been sailing in Australia would be involved in a a phased return from June or July.  P&O Australia’s two ships and Princess Cruises, which at one stage had as many as five ships rostered to sail from ports including South Australia, Melbourne, NSW and Queensland.

She could not reveal what health protocols, vaccine, mask or crew quarantine requirements might be in place until the talks with federal and state governments concluded, but added that the federal health authorities were studying overseas examples for health protocols like those in place from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in America.

Cruise ships are sailing in 86 countries and Australia was studying how that had ben done safely, without large numbers of cases of COVID.

Ms Fitzgerald revealed the flurry of activity in recent weeks had come about once the government realised just how many jobs and companies relied on the cruise industry for their livelihoods. Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) maintains as many as 18,000 jobs and $5 billion dollars are in danger of being lost because of the ban on foreign flagged ships.

She said cruise had a “very bright future” in Australia and she was confident both regular passengers and new to cruise would said with her lines once cruising resumed.

“The P&O ships are all Australian ships and they will be coming home. But I will also say Carnival continues to be an very important part of the Australian market.  So all the brands will be returning.

“We are cancelled through to the end of May.  It takes a while to ramp ships back up, when you think about having to bring crew over and suppliers have a lead time to be ready to supply the ships.  So a middle of the year return, assuming we continue to make good progress that’s what we are aiming for.”

And she added: “Once the ban is lifted, we expect there will be a lot of excitement and demand, and we want to be ready for that.”

PACIFIC ENCOUNTER NOW PART OF PO FLEETShe also revealed the Carnival lines had been busy during the past two years, and that guests could expect to see new food, entertainment and other offerings.

And she said the lines intended to continue to sail to the regions and, once the pandemic was under control, to the Pacific.

Ms Fitzgerald said the planned welcome party would have a distinctive Australian flavour paying tribute to suppliers, guests, travel agents, crew and shoreside employees.

“The restart of cruising to and from Australia is important to all of Carnival Australia’s seven brands but it is particularly significant for P&O Cruises, which this year marks its ninetieth anniversary of cruising from Australia and is renowned as the nation’s homegrown cruise line.

“P&O Cruises is the only cruise line that has its operational base located in Australia and, when its ships return, it certainly will be a case of them coming home.”

Ms Fitzgerald began her new role as President of Carnival Australia and P&O Cruises Australia on January 10, taking over from Sture Myrmell, who is now President of Carnival UK.

Prior to her return to Australia, Ms Fitzgerald worked in the US for 10 years as a senior travel and tourism industry consultant with Boston Consulting Group during which she worked closely with a number of Carnival Corporation cruise lines.