CRUISE-INDUSTRY recovery hopes are being buoyed by the official return of the first passenger liner to a major Asia Pacific port in two years.
P&O Cruises Australia’s flagship, Pacific Explorer, received a spectacular welcome home to Sydney this week with a ceremonial “water cannon salute” to mark the start of the rebuild of the country’s cruise industry, which is worth an estimated A$5 billion a year.
Pacific Explorer became the first cruise ship to return to Australia in more than two years, passing through Sydney Heads at about 9.30am on Monday before gliding into Circular Quay mid-morning with an escort of official vessels and Sydney “boaties”.
The arrival marked a 28-day voyage from Europe where the ship has been paused for much of the past two years waiting to come home to Australia.
Before the onset of Covid in early 2020 crippled the global travel industry, the cruise industry was establishing business event packages for organisers seeking an alternative to land-based conferences and incentives. The Australian government this month lifted a ban on cruise liners operating in territorial, which was imposed two years ago.
“It was always going to be an emotional homecoming for Pacific Explorer and her crew and this morning was a fitting celebration for her return to Sydney,” P&O Cruises Australia president Marguerite Fitzgerald said.
“Pacific Explorer coming through Sydney Heads after two long years was a magic moment and I am proud to say there was hardly a dry eye among our suppliers, guests and staff.
“Pacific Explorer’s arrival has replaced uncertainty with optimism and marks the rebound of cruising, on the way to re-establishing Australia as the world’s most successful cruise market, previously contributing more than $5 billion annually to the national, state and regional economies, and supporting 18,000 jobs.”
Fitzgerald said the first cruise carrying fare-paying guests would be on May 31 with a four-night round trip from Sydney to Brisbane.
It would operate with comprehensive health and safety protocols developed in collaboration with eastern seaboard governments.
New South Wales transport minister David Elliott said: “The day has finally arrived for Sydney Harbour to once again reclaim its rightful place as the epicentre of local and international cruising in Australia. Our maritime workforce has been working hard to put new protocols in place and is ready to welcome local cruisers and visitors with open arms.”