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Norwegian Jewel
The Norwegian Jewel entering Sydney Harbour

NSW Treasurer says cruise should return once borders open as ship owners launch new campaign

NSW Treasurer, Dominic Perrottet has called for the restart of cruise in Australia when international borders reopen – expected before Christmas.

The treasurer told an industry forum this week: “It doesn’t make sense when we open our international borders for people to fly overseas to go cruising without being able to do so here.”

And he promised: “I’ll work closely with the Federal Government to ensure that as part of our plan to reopen borders, cruising can steam ahead alongside all aspects of the tourism industry.”

It is understood that Mr Perrottet has had several conversations with the Federal Government on the restart of cruise locally, particularly in NSW.

And he told Cruise Passenger: “The return of the cruise industry would obviously need to meet a range of health and safety criteria and also be approved by the Commonwealth before operations can begin.

“The cruise industry is a very important segment of the travel market and we look forward to the greatest harbour in the world being able to welcome ships from around the world once again when it is safe to do so.”

His statements came as a new Cruise Lines International Association Australasia campaign calling on past passengers and travel agents to send messages to MPs and ministers calling for talks on the way forward for cruising holidays in Australia.

Describing it as a  “a new phase of its Ready, Set, Sail campaign in response to ongoing government inaction over the future of Australian cruising”,  the cruise industry is keen to pursue Canberra’s refusal to discuss a framework for cruising’s resumption.

The campaign directs supporters to an online tool at www.ReadySetSail.com.au where they can message politicians quickly and easily. Users can generate instant emails to local MPs and key Ministers or personalise a message to tell of their own story and circumstances.

CLIA Managing Director Australasia Joel Katz said an initial Ready, Set, Sail campaign launched in May had resulted in more than 40,000 emails to MPs around Australia and helped to change the political conversation around cruising.

“Australia is the only major cruise destination in the world where governments have made no progress towards a responsible resumption of cruising, despite months of discussions and the availability of stringent new health protocols in response to Covid-19,” Mr Katz said. “With our supporters’ help, we want to send a clear message that Australians deserve a detailed plan for our industry’s revival.”

Mr Perrottet is not the only senior Liberal calling for the cruise industry to be given a fair hearing.

Tourism Minister Dan Tehan said earlier in the week he is “very keen to see cruising up and running again.”

Speaking at a webinar convened by Dave Sharma, Member of Parliament for Wentworth, Mr Tehan said: “We keep pressing the case as to why now, with the knowledge of COVID and the COVID-safe environment that you can put in place, and particularly with regard to vaccination certification, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be looking and planning for the resumption of international cruising once we hit that 80% vaccination rate.”

He added: “I can’t give you a firm date, but my hope would be once we hit that 80% vaccination rate across the nation then we should be in a position to look very seriously at getting international cruising happening again here .”

With vaccine rates soaring and the NSW Premier promising a loosening of restrictions once the state hits 80 per cent, cruise lines believe there is a chance that plans for localised itineraries from Sydney could be a reality for vaccinated passengers.

P&O Australia and Royal Caribbean both have ships due in Sydney in December.

It increasingly looks like NSW will lead the way in easing lockdown restrictions and paving the way for the reopening of international borders as soon as vaccination rates in NSW reach the 80 per cent target expected in November.

The big question: will the NSW Government be the first to allow local cruising to restart?

If Mr Perrottet has his way they will.

A spokesperson told us: “He hopes one day to be able to leave spreadsheets and budget papers behind and spending time on the lido deck with a cold beer is an appealing idea.”