*Update (5 January 2020): Vasco da Gama continued on its cruise in the afternoon after the Country Fire Service advised that SeaLink Ferries were able to handle the evacuations. Two residents died in the Kangaroo Island bushfires.*
(9:56 a.m. AEDT) -- Cruise & Maritime Voyages' Vasco da Gama has cancelled today's call to Kangaroo Island due to catastrophic bushfires. However, the ship will remain anchored near the port of Penneshaw in case it is required to evacuate people from the burning island.
Cruise Critic's Australia editor was among passengers onboard the ship this morning when the Captain made an announcement at 7.30 a.m. about the "escalating and uncontrolled bushfires" after discussions with the Country Fire Service, South Australian Tourism Commission and the local port agent.
Dean Brazier, managing director of Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV) Australia, said the line's operations team liaised overnight with the relevant authorities before making the safest decision to cancel the major highlight of the itinerary.
"We have, however, offered to provide evacuation assistance if required for the locals and tourists who remain on the island. As a result, the ship has proceeded to Penneshaw and is anchored a safe distance from the coast to be on standby this morning to assist with a possible evacuation plan to the mainland."
If conditions improve and the ship's services are not required, Vasco da Gama will sail to Port Lincoln for tomorrow's scheduled visit.
The cruise director also announced an expanded range of activities for the 1,267 passengers onboard Vasco da Gama, which is currently midway through a four-night South Australian Icons cruise that departed on 2 January.
"We imagine our guests will be in support of assisting the bushfire effort and those on Kangaroo Island. We would like to thank them for their patience and understanding during this unprecedented time," Brazier said.
"The safety of our guests and crew will still be at the forefront of any operational decision made today."
On 2 January another cruise ship cancelled its call at Eden, New South Wales, due to the bushfires consuming much of the state as well as East Gippsland, in the neighbouring state of Victoria. Holland America Line's Noordam instead visited Burnie, Tasmania, as there were no other ports with an available berth on Australia's east coast.
Meanwhile, the massive fire on Kangaroo Island, Australia's third-largest island, is tearing through 150,000 hectares -- around half of its land. Residents are understood to be safe but large losses of animals and property are expected. Victoria and New South Wales residents are also braced for further catastrophic conditions to hit this weekend.
Since December, CMV guests have contributed more than $10,000 to the Australian Red Cross' Bushfire Relief. CMV has also pledged to donate $10 for every cruise booking made in January.