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Health minister hints that cruising could be on the cards by Christmas

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has hinted that cruising could return to Australian waters by Christmas, thanks to the country's high vaccination rates

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has hinted that cruising could return to Australian waters by Christmas, thanks to the country’s high vaccination rates

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt is optimistic for cruising to return to Australia before the end of the year.

On Sunday, the Health Minister said that health officials are reviewing the order under the Biosecurity Act that has stopped international cruise ships travelling in Australian waters, now the country has hit 83 per cent fully vaccinated.

“I expect to be able to make a decision on cruise ships in the coming weeks once we’ve got the medical information, but it will require at least one state or territory to partner on that,” he said.

“We’re working with a number of states and territories, we’ll let them make their own considerations. But, we would like to see cruising back on before Christmas.”

Mr Hunt also confirmed that airport duty-free sales were back, after revoking the Biosecurity Act that prevents retail in international airports.

Celebrity Cruises
Guests on a Celebrity Cruise

CLIA Australasia Managing Director Joel Katz welcomed the cruise news, by saying Hunt’s words were “very encouraging”.

However, he seemed a little cautious.

“We still need the states and territories to sit down with industry to finalise our Covid-Safe protocols, before we will see cruise ships return,” Katz said.

He said it’ll take 8 to 12 weeks to physically move ships back to Australia, so discussions would have to begin now if they were to return by the end of summer.

CLIA Australasia managing director Joel Katz
CLIA Australasia managing director Joel Katz

Last week, CLIA announced that cruising had now resumed in 52 countries worldwide and that Australasia remained one of the only major cruise regions where governments had not progressed plans for resumption.

“Worldwide, more than 70% of CLIA cruise line ocean-going ships are back in operation and we expect that figure to reach 80% in December,” Mr Katz said.

“Although we’ve made enormous progress in other countries, in Australia and New Zealand international cruise operations are still suspended and tens of thousands of jobs are in doubt while we have no clear indication from governments on a path to revival,” he said.

The Australian cruise ban was implemented in March 2020, after the Ruby Princess was linked to a major outbreak at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 28 passengers dying from the virus.