(Updated 3:16 a.m. AEST) -- Australia will extend the ban on international cruises until at least June 17, 2021, citing the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic that "continues to pose an unacceptable public health risk to Australia, including the emergence of more highly transmissible variants."
The extension of the human biosecurity emergency period through June 17 will mark 15 months without meaningful international travel, cruise or otherwise, within Australia's borders.
A statement issued by the Department of Health notes all existing measures currently in place will be extended for the next three months, including pre-departure testing and mask wearing for international flights; restrictions on the entry of cruise vessels within Australian waters; restrictions on outbound international travel for Australians; and restrictions on retail outlets at international airports.
The Australian government's orders were first issued on March 17, 2020.
“CLIA is continuing to advocate strongly for a phased and controlled return of domestic cruising in Australia following the Federal Government’s decision to extend its current suspension," notes Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Managing Director Australasia, Joel Katz. "We estimate up to A$5 billion has been lost to the Australian economy over the past 12 months since the industry stopped operations in March last year. The cruise industry supports more than 18,000 jobs across a range of sectors including thousands of Australian travel agents, farmers, entertainers, tour operators, ports, and marine and logistics services.
"We believe there’s still a good opportunity to open the way for small-ship itineraries and expedition cruises in Australia as an early first step, and that permission for domestic operations for larger lines can be achieved with testing and extensive health protocols in place.”
Most international cruise lines have already written off most of this year and are planning for a restart at the end of 2021 and into 2022.
Advocates for cruise in Australia had been asking since last year for a travel bubble with New Zealand that would have allowed at least some operations to resume, but that has not materialised.
While this means that international travel and cruises will continue to be restricted within Australia, the orders do not -- at this time -- affect local cruises marketed exclusively towards Australian citizens.
Australia-based Coral Expeditions recently restarted operations within Australian waters on voyages designed exclusively for domestic residents.
Luxury cruise and river operator Scenic, which was founded in Australia, announced this week it intends to send its Scenic Eclipse to the region to embark on domestic cruises through Australia's remote Kimberley region for local Australians beginning on May 30, 2021.
Upscale French expedition line Ponant has also indicated it will start voyages in Australia, for Australians, later this year, with the first domestic cruises due to set sail in September.