Dozens of Australia’s most popular cruises have been cancelled, with keen travellers unable to set sail until at least December due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fifty cruises have been scrapped across companies including Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Carnival and P&O, despite hopes they could sail later this year.
This means the highly anticipated P&O Melbourne Cup Voyage set to kick off on October 31 from Brisbane will also be left at a standstill, the company announced on Thursday.
Thousands of travellers will now have their holiday plans thrown out the window due to the cruise cancellations, with the industry shutdown costing the economy an estimated $5.2billion.
P&O announced on Thursday cruises wouldn’t resume until December 2 and the embattled Princess Cruises said its services would be halted until December 12.
Carnival will also not run any cruises until December 2 and Royal Caribbean is hoping to start services from November 1.
Princess Cruises have cancelled 19 services, P&O canned 20 cruises, Royal Caribbean suspended eight and Carnival three.
Passengers can expect to get a full refund or credit for another cruise with some operators offering additional perks.
Carnival are offering either a full refund or a full credit with an additionally $900 to spend on board for trips over six days booked before December 31 this year.
For trips less than six days, passengers can receive an additional $450 with their 100 per cent credit.
Royal Caribbean are also offering a 125 per cent credit of the total price of the original booking for cruises booked before April 2020.
P&O Cruises President Sture Myrmell said the company was anxiously awaiting a return to the high seas.
‘It is clear that society is not yet ready to return to sailing and we will continue to liaise with governments and public health experts as all align on how people should gather and holiday,’ he said.
‘Like our loyal guests, we remain hopeful that the start of summer will bring new opportunities for the entire travel and tourism industry, which contributes so much to many regional economies around Australia.’
The Cruise Lines International Association of Australasia speculated in June that the cost of suspensions in cruises would set the Australian economy back by $1.4billion and threaten 4,800 jobs by mid September.
The busiest season for cruises is over the summer, and with ships still docked in ports the economy could see a further hit of $3.8billion.
CLIA Managing Director Australasia Joel Katz warned the fallout from the suspended cruises would affect more than just the companies who own them.
‘Cruise tourism is worth $5.2 billion a year to the Australian economy and supports more than 18,000 jobs,’ Mr Katz said.
‘These jobs are spread across almost 50 destinations and every state, including many regional communities and remote locations that have suffered enormously in the tourism shutdown.’
Australia banned cruise ships from entering into the country’s waters on March 27.
The ban is set to be lifted on September 17, but this will likely be extended as coronavirus cases continue to surge around the world.
The fateful Ruby Princess cruise ship arrived in Sydney on March 19 as more than 2,700 disembarked the vessel with no health checks.
The ship then led to an outbreak infecting more than 1,000 people and tragically killing 28.
But remarkably, one cruise has set sail since the pandemic began.
On August 16 from Genoa in Italy, a ship set off for a luxurious seven-night trip through the Mediterranean.
All passengers and crew had to return a negative test before boarding the MSC Grandiosa and anybody showing symptoms was not allowed to embark the ship.
Earlier this month, the Italian government allowed cruise ships to leave from Italy but they would be restricted to 70 per cent capacity.