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Cruising from Australia is back: First Sydney cruise ship returns since 2020

This morning, Pacific Explorer pulled into Sydney Harbour, making it the first ship to return to Australian shores since the ban triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

This morning, Pacific Explorer pulled into Sydney Harbour, making it the first ship to return to Australian shores since the ban triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

P&O Australia’s $400 million luxury liner, which has capacity for almost 2000 passengers, arrived in Sydney on Monday morning to great fanfare, particularly from the travel industry.

Donning a huge banner at the bow reading “We’re Home”, Pacific Explorer arrived at Sydney Heads at 9.30 am on Easter Monday before making her way to the Overseas Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay.

Port Authority of NSW fire tug, Shirley Smith, took the lead joining two water cannon tugs operated by Engage Towage — Martinique and Fitzroy — with all three sending up huge plumes of water to salute Pacific Explorer’s arrival.

The Explorer’s return to full service will coincide with that of Ponant’s Le Laperouse, which will begin operations between Darwin and Broome on April 28, joining local operators in time for the Kimberley cruise season.

Federal biosecurity measures barring entry of cruise ships and mandating COVID-19 tests for inbound travellers lapsed on Sunday.

NSW, Victoria and Queensland have outlined testing and vaccination requirements for passengers and crew in preparation for the ships to return.

However, Tasmania is still reviewing whether such a move is safe for the island state.

Cruise Lines International Association Australia says the lifting of the ban will see “a carefully managed resumption of operations” in a sector that previously supported more than 18,000 jobs.

Cruise Lines’ Australasian managing director Joel Katz said that more than a million Australians a year took an ocean cruise before the pandemic.

“We now have an opportunity to return to sailing and revive an industry that was worth more than $5 billion annually to the Australian economy,” he said.

“While no setting is immune from COVID-19, the cruise industry’s new protocols provide among the highest possible levels of prevention, detection and mitigation.”

President of Carnival Australia and P&O Cruises Australia Marguerite Fitzgerald had previously said Pacific Explorer’s return marked the start of rebuilding cruise tourism in Australia, which, prior to the pandemic, contributed more than $5 billion a year to the national economy. 

“Seeing Pacific Explorer sail into Sydney Harbour will be an emotional moment for our employees, many thousands of guests and our numerous cruise suppliers, travel agents and entertainers,” Ms Fitzgerald said. 

“For our suppliers and for so many others, our flagship’s arrival is a symbol of the resurgence of their businesses and livelihoods as hope and optimism replace uncertainty.

Pacific Explorer’s first guest cruise will be a four-night round trip from Sydney to Brisbane departing on May 31. 

“We will use the coming weeks to prepare Pacific Explorer to be cruise ready to lead the resurgence of cruising,” concluded Ms Fitzgerald.

For more information, head to www.pocruises.com.au