First cruise ship to arrive in Australia for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Sydney

The first cruise ship to arrive in Australia since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold two years ago docked in Sydney this morning.

A day after the cruise ship ban was lifted, P&O’s Pacific Explorer entered Circular Quay around 10.30am.

Tugboats carrying water cannons hosed down the cruise liner as it sailed through the city’s cruise terminal, while hordes of people watched from the shore.

There were about 250 employees on board but no passengers.

The Pacific Explorer made the 18,000 kilometer journey from Cypress where the ship was anchored along with many others after the local cruise industry shut down due to COVID.

It will depart on the first voyage with passengers on May 31, when it sails to Brisbane.

Cruise ships have been absent from Sydney Harbor for two years.(ABC News: Jake Lapham )

Her arrival was a cause for celebration for cruise enthusiasts who were waiting for the return of the industry.

Corey Martin said he grew up on cruising and has already booked three trips for later this year.

“It’s absolutely brilliant to have them back and I’m extremely excited to have them back,” he said.

Mr. Martin was confident that onboard COVID protocols would keep passengers safe.

“I am completely comfortable and safe with my safety on board.”

A cruise ship arrives in Sydney Harbor
The cruise ship arrived in Sydney this morning after leaving Cyprus.(AAP: Bianca De Marchi)

Suzanne Carlisle was not as assured and said she and her husband Allan would probably wait a year before booking their next cruise.

She said they would monitor any outbreaks of COVID-19 on board before deciding to sail.

The Australian cruise industry was shut down in March 2020 when international borders were closed to prevent outbreaks of COVID-19.

The Ruby Princess cruise liner was the source of the country’s first major cluster, with onboard infections leading to hundreds of cases across the country and nearly 30 deaths.

He docked on March 19, 2020, a day before the borders closed.

Two years later, the industry says it is safe and ready to face the pandemic.

people applaud
People cheer as P&O’s Pacific Explorer enters Sydney Harbour.(AAP: Bianca De Marchi)

Joel Katz, the Cruise Line International Association’s managing director, Australasia and Asia, said cruising had already restarted in 86 countries and carried more than 10 million passengers.

Mr Katz said agencies had reported “unprecedented” sales in recent weeks and companies had used robust COVID-19 protocols.

“Obviously vaccinations will be essential before anyone boards the ship. Tests, so that no one boards without a negative COVID test,” he said.

Public health measures such as mask-wearing, social distancing and increased ventilation would also be in place on board, he said.

Mr Katz said the ships would also have improved medical facilities on board “to be able to treat any cases identified on the ship”.

People watch a cruise ship arrive
Sydneysiders celebrated the arrival of P&O’s Pacific Explorer.(AAP: Bianca De Marchi)

P&O spokesman David Jones said Australia had the highest market penetration in the world for cruises and he expected the industry to rebound quickly now that the ban has been lifted .

“It’s the start of the rebuilding, and our other cruise lines and I’m sure our competing cruise lines now have their plans for ships to return to the Australian market,” he said.

“We are now looking at the very strong possibility that the 2022-23 summer cruise season will be close to normal.”

Mr. Jones was confident that the safety protocols would minimize the spread of COVID-19 on cruise ships.

“You have to have confidence in the protocols in place,” he said.

“And you have the experience overseas of 10 million people who have sailed, the protocols have been adopted in America and have worked effectively to provide a safe cruising environment as much as possible.”

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