(Updated 7:14 a.m. AEST) -- P&O Cruises Australia has further extended its pause in operations, scrapping all voyages until at least April 16, 2022.
The news comes just two weeks after P&O Cruises Australia had extended its operational pause to March 3, 2022. With this latest extension, over two years will have elapsed since the line cancelled passenger operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The line was scheduled to resume cruising on February 14, but "continued uncertainty" about the resumption of cruising -- combined with yet another delay in the re-opening of the country -- means all cruises scheduled to depart from Sydney and Brisbane are cancelled until at least April 16, 2022.
In November 2021, P&O Cruises Australia cancelled next year's scheduled seasons for Adelaide, Fremantle and Cairns.
P&O Cruises Australia President Sture Myrmell said today's decision was being announced to give passengers as much clarity as possible in the current environment.
"Recent speculation about the lifting of the ban on cruise ships has been encouraging but uncertainty continues around the resumption of cruising in Australia," Mr Myrmell said. "As we approach the two-year mark in our rolling pause in operations, it is understandable that our guests will be very disappointed and frustrated that there is still no agreed restart plan for cruising in Australia."
"Once a return to service and accompanying protocols become clear, it will take us several months to manage the complex logistics necessary to return a ship into operation and sail to Australian waters."
Myrmell cited engaging and retraining crew on the new protocols, as well as re-stocking the ship with local fresh produce, and finalising the entertainment line-up as reasons for the long lead-in time.
"At a time when optimism for a cruising restart in Australia is growing, it is incredibly disappointing to again have to extend our pause in operations. "
He gave special thanks to "guests who have remained incredibly loyal during the 20 months our ships have been out of service."
P&O Cruises Australia has already announced its intention to restart domestic operations with vaccination only cruises for eligible guests and crew.
Passengers whose bookings have been affected will be notified of the pause and options available either directly or via their appointed travel agent.
Australia's National Security Committee has announced it will delay the planned partial border reopening by at least two weeks due to the emergence of the Omicron variant. There was speculation earlier this month that Australia's sweeping ban on most cruise activities within its territorial waters could be coming to an end in December, in line with the country's reopening on December 17.