First cruise ship visit to Sydney since 2020

Pacific Explorer will be the first cruise ship to dock in an Australian port since the pandemic-driven federal government ban in March 2020.

P&O Australia’s $400 million luxury liner, which seats nearly 2,000 passengers, is expected to arrive in Sydney on Monday morning.

Explorer’s return to full service will coincide with Le Laperouse de Ponant, which will begin operating between Darwin and Broome on April 28, joining local operators in time for the Kimberley cruise season.

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NSW, Victoria and Queensland have outlined testing and vaccination requirements for passengers and crew in preparation for the ships’ return.

However, Tasmania is still reviewing whether such a move is safe for the island state.

The Cruise Lines International Association of Australia says the lifting of the ban will be marked by “a carefully managed resumption of operations” in a sector that previously generated more than 18,000 jobs.

Cruise Lines Australasia Managing Director Joel Katz says that before the pandemic, more than a million Australians a year took an ocean cruise.

“We now have an opportunity to get back on the water and revive an industry that was worth more than $5 billion annually to the Australian economy,” he said.

“While no environment is immune from COVID-19, the new cruise industry protocols provide the highest possible levels of prevention, detection and mitigation.”

The move comes despite COVID-19 infections remaining high.

More than 32,000 new cases were reported across the country on Sunday, along with 17 virus-related deaths, though seven of the eight announced by officials in Western Australia were historic.

The ACT has not yet reported any figures for the Easter period.

There are currently more than 409,000 active cases of COVID-19 in Australia. Some 3079 patients are in hospital care, and of these 137 have been admitted to the ICU and 30 require ventilation.

Meanwhile, Labor leader Chris Bowen is isolating himself after testing positive.

“I was looking forward to a few days of campaigning in the regional regions of Queensland and Brisbane, but it didn’t happen,” he tweeted on Saturday.

Labor Home Affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally and Home Affairs Secretary Karen Andrews both contracted the virus last week.

Elsewhere, Health Victoria is monitoring the new BA.4 or BA.5 Omicron variant after samples were confirmed in a basin in Tullamarine, north of Melbourne.

The subvariant has recently been detected in a small number of cases in South Africa, Botswana, Belgium, Denmark, the United Kingdom, and Germany, but is not considered a cause for alarm.

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