The luxury cruise ship Pacific Explorer has stopped in Sydney Harbour, making it the first to return to Australian shores since a ban triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.
The $400 million luxury liner, which can accommodate nearly 2,000 passengers, arrived in Sydney on Monday morning after a 28-day voyage from Europe, where it has been anchored for most of the past two years.
The P&O Australia ship, sporting a huge banner on the bow reading ‘We’re Home’, was greeted in the harbor with a ceremonial ‘water cannon salute’ before docking surrounded by tugboats.
Marguerite Fitzgerald, chairman of P&O Cruises Australia, said the “emotional comeback” marked the start of the rebuilding of Australia’s $5 billion-a-year cruise industry.
“Pacific Explorer’s passage through Sydney Heads after two long years was a magical moment and I’m proud to say there was hardly any dry eye among our vendors, guests and staff,” he said. she declared.
Explorer’s return to full service will coincide with that of Ponant’s Le Laperouse, which will begin operations between Darwin and Broome on April 28, joining local operators in time for the Kimberley cruise season.
Federal biosecurity measures banning cruise ship entry and mandating COVID-19 testing for inbound travelers expired on Sunday.
NSW, Victoria and Queensland have set out testing and vaccination requirements for passengers and crew ahead of returning ships.
However, Tasmania is still considering whether such a move is safe for the island state.
Cruise Lines International Association Australia says lifting the ban will lead to “a carefully managed resumption of operations” in a sector that previously supported more than 18,000 jobs.
Its Australasian chief executive, Joel Katz, said that before the pandemic more than a million Australians a year cruised at sea and touted onboard safety measures to curb future outbreaks.
“While no executive is immune to COVID-19, new cruise industry protocols provide one of the highest possible levels of prevention, detection and mitigation,” he said. -he declares.
The move comes despite COVID-19 infections remaining high.
Nearly 36,000 new cases were reported across the country on Monday, along with 10 virus-related deaths.
LATEST 24-HOUR COVID-19 DATA FROM ACROSS AUSTRALIA:
NSW: 11,166 cases, four deaths, 1,576 in hospital, 67 in intensive care
Victoria: 7,918 cases, one death, 431 in hospital, 30 in intensive care
Western Australia: 5,605 cases, no deaths, 227 in hospital, six in intensive care
Queensland: 5,141 cases, four deaths, 551 in hospital, 19 in intensive care
South Australia: 3,560 cases, no deaths, 245 in hospital, 11 in intensive care
Tasmania: 1,372 cases, no deaths, 44 in hospital, one in intensive care
ACT: 734 cases, no deaths, 58 in hospital, two in intensive care
Northern Territory: 386 cases, one death, 30 in hospital, two in intensive care