First cruise ship returns to Sydney after more than two years

The first cruise ship for more than two years will sail into Sydney Harbour this morning.

P&O Australia’s Pacific Explorer is set to be given a special welcome after returning to Australia from Limassol in Cyprus, via Singapore.

Two tugs with water cannons are set to perform a special “ballet” to welcome the ship, which was empty except for crew.

It can carry 1998 passengers and 924 crew.

P&O Australia’s Pacific Explorer in Sydney. (SMH)

Marguerite Fitzgerald, president Carnival Australia and P&O Cruises Australia, and David Elliott, NSW Minister for Transport, will welcome the ship.

However it won’t leave on its first cruise with passengers until May 31, to make the first call at the new Brisbane International Cruise Terminal on June 2.

The return of cruise ships will bring a much-needed cash injection back into the $5 billion industry that supports 18,000 Aussie jobs.

Plus they will allow cruise addicts to indulge in the holidays they love. A total of 1.35 million Australians took a cruise in 2018.

More ships will gradually return to Australia in the coming months, though some firms have cancelled cruises months ahead because the resumption was uncertain.

Pacific Explorer is set to enter Sydney Heads at 9.30am, pass the Opera House at 10.20am and dock alongside the Overseas Passenger Terminal at 10.30am.

Cruise fans have been invited to welcome it by gathering around the harbour.

Almost 30 passengers on the Ruby Princess ship died after the coronavirus spread on board at the start of the pandemic, with NSW Health blamed after it then tore through the country when passengers disembarked.
The Ruby Princess cruise ship, which was the source of hundreds of Australia’s Coronavirus cases, departs Port Kembla, NSW, with its remaining crew, in April 2020.. (Janie Barrett)

Cruise Lines International Association managing director of Australasia Joel Katz said extensive new health rules would allow a phased revival.

“The end of the cruise suspension is huge landmark and will be celebrated by many thousands of Australians whose livelihoods depend on cruising,” he said.

Victoria was the first state to outline its rules for cruises.

Cruise ship passengers aged over 12 must be at least double-vaccinated and all crew members triple-vaccinated under new protocols.

Unvaccinated children under 12 or anyone with a valid medical exemption can travel but they must not make up more than five per cent of the ship’s passengers.

Passengers will also need to test negative for COVID-19 before embarking and if boarding with symptoms, must return another negative PCR test that day.

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