It’s been a while since cruises have been allowed to visit Australia. It’s been one of the few constants throughout the entire pandemic. While other countries have waffled between being opened and closed since the world changed in 2020, Australia has remained staunchly shut down to tourism. Some were speculating about the nation reopening at the end of last year, but the Omicron wave dashed all hopes of that happening. However, things may be changing for the better. Cruises may be returning to Australia sooner than we think!
On February 11th, a statement about Australia’s travel ban was released by Greg Hunt, the country’s Minister for Health and Aged Care. Multiple aspects of the ban were addressed, but the most important was that the emergency period in response to COVID-19 had been extended until April 17th, 2022. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as Australia has continually pushed back the end of their travel ban since it was first initiated on March 18th, 2020.
This means that, until April 17th, 2022, the current restrictions will remain. These include testing requirements for international flights, rules for unvaccinated Australians, and “restrictions on the entry of cruise vessels into and within Australian territory.” So, in essence, nothing is going to change for the cruise industry before April 17th.
The announcement did offer some optimism, however. For one, it was noted that these requirements could be eased up if the Omicron wave of infections continued to fall. Specifically, Hunt said that, “[the restrictions] may be revoked beforehand if the health advice changes noting the peak of the Omicron wave appears to have passed whilst there are still areas of concern and planning is occurring to manage any increase during winter.” There’s some hope for cruises to be allowed back to Australia even before April, which would be a massive step in the right direction.
There was also a portion of the announcement that was specifically dedicated to cruising. They stated that Australia “agreed to work with the [cruise] industry to implement new protocols to enable the resumption of cruising over coming months. The Commonwealth can remove the restrictions on cruising as soon as it is advised that it is safe to do so and the Minister will regularly review this advice.”
In other words: cruises might be allowed back to Australia even before the other restrictions are removed. Seeing the cruise industry treated like this is certainly a surprise, but we would definitely love it if ships were evaluated fairly. We won’t blame you if you still feel pessimistic, though – we have seen travel restrictions pushed back again and again throughout the pandemic. Still, this is the most positive news we have had about Australian cruises in a while!