Retirees ‘ready to go’ on cruising holidays demand government lifts ban on vessels in Australian waters

Some Queensland retirees have declared they are ready to start cruising holidays again, demanding the federal government lift a ban on vessels in Australian waters.

Mick Wright is one of those who is counting down the days until he and his wife Robyn can cruise the open ocean again.

“You throw your port in the cabin, and go straight to the bar. I mean, what a wonderful life you lead.”

The couple, aged in their 70s, were cruising regulars before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr Wright has written to his local MP requesting that the cruise industry return to Australia.(ABC Sunshine Coast: Amy Sheehan)

They have booked a two-week cruise from Sydney to New Zealand in August.

“My wife and I will thoroughly relax and enjoy and take in all the shows and all the restaurants whilst we still have a chance on this earth,” he said.

“Admittedly cruising is going to get dearer because fewer people travel at the moment.

Cruise restrictions to be reviewed

The federal government still has the industry anchored, banning cruise vessels in Australian waters at the height of the pandemic due to health risks.

A ship in the sea.
The federal government has banned cruise ships from Australian waters.(Supplied: Brad Harkup – Pro Drone Solutions)

A spokesperson for Mr Hunt said support from the states and territories, as well as their capacity to respond to outbreaks, would be key when the federal government considered a time frame for cruise operations to resume in Australia.

Mr Wright said he had written to his local MP, asking for the industry to be reinstated immediately.

“We can’t see any reason at all for it to prevent us from hopping on a ship and cruising.”

Demand for cruising as strong as ever

The industry was worth $5 billion dollars a year to the Australian economy.

But it’s been set back by COVID-19 outbreaks like the Ruby Princess tragedy in New South Wales, which saw 663 passengers test positive and 28 people die in early 2020.

A man in a pink shirt standing in front of travel agents at their desks
Neil Playford says cruise holidays would sell out if they were on offer to Queenslanders.(ABC Sunshine Coast: Amy Sheehan)

Despite that, Sunshine Coast travel agency director Neil Playford says demand for cruising is still as strong as ever, now vaccines are available.

“They’ve done what’s asked of them, they’ve been vaccinated, they’ve had the boosters, they feel confident to be on a cruise ship.”

Mr Playford said he would sell out the holidays within days if they were available to his clients.

“They don’t see why going on a cruise ship in Australia is any different or [presents] bigger risks than going to watch a sporting event with ten, twenty, thirty thousand people, or spending the day in a shopping mall,” he said.

He said it was crucial the industry had some certainty soon, to ensure it had a future in Australia.

“Another major cruise liner actually just pulled a ship that was supposed to be sailing round trip down to Brisbane,” he said.

Aussies can cruise overseas but not at home

Adrian Prince and Margaret Mourik have canceled five cruises in the past two years.

A man and woman reading a cruising brochure
Adrian Prince and Margaret Mourik have canceled five cruises in the past two years.(ABC Sunshine Coast: Amy Sheehan)

The Sunshine Coast couple said they found it frustrating that they could fly internationally and go on a cruise holiday, but they couldn’t in Australia.

“But that’s so complicated, it’s not what we want to do; we want to be based at least one end in Australia.”

Cruise Lines International Association managing director Australasia Joel Katz said Australia was the only major cruise market in the world without an agreed plan to resume cruising.

He said the suspension had been devastating for the 18,000 Australians who depended on cruise tourism, including travel agents, tour operators, food and produce providers, entertainers, port workers and many other industry suppliers.

“We still have the opportunity to salvage some of the season for those exhibition ships,” he said.

“So, let’s enable those ships to return to deliver some of that economic benefit to those communities that rely on them.”

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