The cruise ban is ending – hurray! But when can Australians cruise again? This is a question Australian cruise fans are asking. Our expert cruise lawyer Victoria Roy shares her insights.
Australia’s cruise ban will end on 17 April 2022
The law that has been stopping Australians from cruising is the Biosecurity (Human Biosecurity Emergency) (Human Coronavirus with Pandemic Potential) Variation (Extension No. 3) Instrument 2021.
Under this law, the Federal Health Minister declared an emergency period by using the powers granted to him by the Biosecurity Act 2015.
A main feature of the emergency period has been the ban on international cruise ships in Australian waters.
The ban on foreign cruise ships started in March 2020. It expires on 17 April 2022. Fortunately on 15 March 2022 the government announced that it will not be extending the ban again.
The government ban on international cruise ships using Australia’s ports will therefore end on 17 April 2022.
The industry and passengers have been waiting for this announcement for two years. It is therefore welcome news to everyone desperate to set sail again.
So can Australians cruise on 17 April?
The ban on foreign cruise ships entering Australian ports ends on 17 April 2022. However other things need to happen before Australians can cruise again.
What else needs to happen before Australians can cruise again?
The States and Territories are in charge of their own public health measures. They therefore have to decide how and when cruise ships can use their ports.
For cruising to resume, there therefore has to be a ‘double green light’ at a Federal and State / Territory level (see When Will The Cruise Ban Be Lifted)
State and Territory officials have been involved in talks with the cruise industry for sometime. For example NSW Premier Dominic Perrotet has been supportive of cruising to return to NSW for months.
In late 2021 he was quoted as saying:
“It has made no sense to me that we can have a situation right now where people can fly overseas, jump on a cruise and come home, but we can’t go cruising from our own country”
At last common sense has prevailed. However we need to wait for the State and Territory health departments to finalise their requirements before ships can return and Australians jump on board.
P&O Cruises are advertising a resumption from May 2022 onwards. This hopefully indicates there will not be a big delay between the ban ending and ships returning.
What about ship entry rules?
A cruise ship’s authorisation to enter a port and disembark passengers is called pratique.
The Ruby Princess disaster highlighted weaknesses with Australia’s system of pratique. As I have written previously (Australia’s Cruise Ban: Crisis Continues) the Australian government therefore drafted a Bill enhancing entry rules which it intended would become law before cruise ships could return.
This Bill has not made any progress through Parliament since December 2021. In my view it is unfeasible that it will become law anytime soon.
However, although the government did not intend to pass transition measures, it brought in other entry rules on 3 March 2022. These are found in the Biosecurity (Negative Pratique) Instrument 2016.
Under these new rules, ships have enhanced pre-arrival reporting requirements.
More importantly, operators of cruise vessels have to satisfy a biosecurity officer that the level of human health risk onboard is acceptable before passengers can disembark.
This addresses a particular Special Commission of Inquiry into the Ruby Princess criticism. The Special Commission found that NSW Health regarded allowing ships to enter NSW and disembark passengers as the default position. NSW Health at the time only withheld permission where there was a compelling reason.
Under the new rules, the burden has clearly shifted so that ship operators have to satisfy authorities that it is safe for passengers to disembark.
When will ships arrive?
The cruise industry has quickly updated their itineraries now that the ban is ending.
Here’s what we know so far:
- Ponant have two vessels close by in Noumea, and aim to commence Kimberly cruises on 28 April 2022
- P&O Cruises is looking to restart operations on 31 May 2022 with Pacific Explorer
- Princess Cruises is planning to resume Australian cruises on Coral Princess in June 2022
- Royal Caribbean have committed their vessels to the Alaska season, and aim to return the Radiance and Ovation of the Seas to our shores in October 2022
- Celebrity Cruises are due to bring Celebrity Eclipse to Australia for sailings starting October 2022
- Carnival Cruise Lines also plan to restart Australian cruises in October 2022
Norwegian Cruise Lines, Holland America Line, Cunard, Seabourn, Viking Cruises, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas are all due to return in November and December.
I know after two years, you can’t wait to cruise again. When you finally get on board again, please remember to cruise safely.
Travel insurance is a must, especially in our post-covid world. For more tips about cruising and insurance, click here.
Finally here’s an essential item to pack that won’t take up any room in your luggage! Download my free Cruise Ship Accident Checklist so if the worst happens to you or a loved one and you have an accident on a cruise, you know what to do.
Save it your phone and hopefully you will never need to open it. However if an accident does happen, it will come in handy.
This article does not comprise legal advice and neither Victory Travel & Cruise Lawyers nor the author accepts any responsibility for it. For advice on your specific circumstances, book an appointment with a lawyer.