Australian-based cruise lines have spelt out exciting new options for 2021 as the expectation of a resumption reaches new heights.

Princess, Carnival, P&O and Royal Caribbean have all announced their plans for 2021, as Cruise Lines International Association Australasia launched a campaign to press the government to lift the cruise ban.

Australia’s hard-pressed travel agents – and cruisers – are being urged to write to their MPs to convince that the time is right for a resumption. And cruisers are welcome to join the campaign.

All this happened in the week when Coral Expeditions completed its first journey from Cairns without incident.

Caution continues. But armed with new health protocols and the examples of Europe and Asia, where ships have started sailing with minimal disruption, there is a new air of optimism that ships may return by the middle of next year and our wave season may resume in September.

Carnival Cruise Lines’ President Sture Myrmell  was even more bullish.  While admitting no-one knows when the government will lift its international ship cruise ban, currently due to expire on December 17, he said ships could be deployed by January and two new P&O vessels would be dry-docked and ready to sail out of Sydney and Brisbane in April and May.

Brisbane Cruise TerminalThe raft of announcements predict more homeported ships, with Brisbane’s new Luggage Point facility – which boasts great itineraries around the Whitsundays and beyond to PNG – coming on stream and attracting many new vessels next year.

The facility will make Queensland a major fly-cruise destination. Royal Caribbean plans to base Quantum of the Seas, a ship with almost 5000-passenger capacity and special isolation wards with ventilators to combat COVID, at Luggage Point.

P&O will base the new Pacific Encounter there, Princess will have the Coral Princess at the port and Carnival Cruise Lines will have the Spirit.

What sparked the renewed optimism was a surge in bookings last week for Princess Cruises 2021 season, which features five ships – two of them equipped with the latest Ocean Medallion technology, which allows for touchless payments and the ability to check in and out without human contact.

Princess also announced the Coral Princess’ first roundtrip world cruise from Australia in 2022, and the arrival of the Royal Princess as well as the return of Emerald Princess and Sapphire Princess.

P&O’s fleet has undergone a major fleet refresh, with the Dawn and the Aria gone and the Adventure and Encounter joining the fleet earlier than expected. The arrival of the Pacific Encounter has been brought forward six months.

Royal Caribbean is also sailing the Serenade of the Seas out of Sydney alongside favourite Ovation of the Seas.

Quantum of the Seas Royal Promise

The optimistic news will be welcomed by suppliers who have been lobbying for a cruise resumption for months – the industry injects some $5 billion into the economy each year, and carries 25,000 jobs.

The industry has launched a fight-back campaign featuring videos highlighting the plight of agents and suppliers, left stranded since cruise was halted.

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Managing Director Australasia Joel Katz said: “CLIA is working closely with governments at many levels, but we welcome the help of our wider cruise community and encourage people to contact their local Member of Parliament.

“We’ve put the word out to thousands of CLIA’s travel agent members and the wider industry – many of the 25,000 people in our region whose jobs rely on cruise tourism – and have asked them to voice their support for a carefully planned revival.”

He added: “The important message we want to convey is that that cruise industry has a huge local presence and supports 25,000 jobs across Australasia. It’s worth $5 billion a year to our economy and needs a well-planned pathway to revival.”

Mr Myrmell said: “This investment in our fleet is a demonstration that P&O Cruises Australia is ready to lead the industry in bouncing back when government and public health authorities agree it is appropriate to begin sailing again with protocols in place.

“It is also a mark of respect for our many loyal guests as well as crew, fresh food suppliers, entertainers and musicians, shore tour operators and port logistics partners who are looking to be a part of the resurgence of the Australian cruise sector over time.”