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Intl cruises return to NSW after 932 days

NSW expects cruising to thrive as the company behind the COVID-riddled Ruby Princess docks a ship in Sydney Harbour.

September 30, 2022
By Neve Brissenden
30 September 2022

The first international passenger cruise ship in two-and-a-half years has docked in Sydney Harbour as the industry tries to rebrand cruising as a safe vacation option.

The Carnival Splendor entered the harbour at 4am on Friday morning – 932 days after the departure of the company’s notorious Ruby Princess in March 2020, which left 28 COVID-related deaths and more than 600 infections in its wake.

A Special Commission established to investigate the Ruby Princess COVID outbreak found NSW Health made “serious” and “inexplicable” mistakes in their handling of the outbreak.

The Australian cruising industry lost $5 billion over the pandemic but now, with mandated crew-member vaccinations and so-called “special Covid protocols”, Carnival is keen to set sail again.

“We went from literally zero, to having to rebuild back to full strength,” Carnival Australia President Marguerite Fitzgerald told reporters at Circular Quay on Friday.

“I don’t know of any other travel industry that has gone back to full capacity in such a short space of time

“The protocols really vary on where the ships are, but what we’re seeing is (they) are doing what they need to do to keep people safe and healthy on our ships.”

Before the pandemic, the international cruise industry injected $3 billion into the NSW economy and created more than 11,000 jobs.

Despite being responsible for Australia’s worst coronavirus cluster in early 2020, cruise companies say they expect the market to bounce back.

“From a demand perspective, we expect it to go higher. Australia pre-pandemic was the most successful cruise market in the world, and we think we’re just scratching the surface,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

NSW Tourism Minister Ben Franklin said the premier is looking at a post-Covid world that would see an end to harsh restrictions – including on cruises.

“I’m working very closely with Carnival and the cruise industry to do what we need to do to make cruising as accessible and as exciting as it can be,” the minister said.

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