Australians hoping to book a cruise holiday will be able to set sail from as early as next month.
The federal government has confirmed it will not renew a ban on international cruise ships brought in two years ago at the beginning of the Covid pandemic.
More than 80 countries around the world have resumed cruising, with Australia being one of the last holdouts.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said he would not extend the ban, which is set to expire on April 17.
“On the basis of medical advice and with the agreement of national cabinet, lifting the cruise ban is consistent with the reopening of Australia’s international border and shows that we have successfully navigated Australia’s emergency response to the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said in a statement.
International cruise ships will still need to meet all the health requirements of the state and territory in which they berth.
All passengers will be required to be double vaccinated.
Additional measures to help curb the spread of Covid on-board ships will also be put in place, such as enhanced pre-arrival reporting and identification of virus risk and stress testing of the emergency response system in relation to cruises.
Prior to the pandemic, Australia welcomed more than 600,00 cruise ship passengers across the border from almost 350 vessels.
Tourism Minister Dan Tehan said the announcement was “great news” for the industry.
“The resumption of cruising is another key step forward in the tourism sector’s recovery from Covid-19.”
But Cruise Lines International Association Australasia managing director Joel Katz warned it could still be some time before ships were up and running.
“We would hope to be able to see some of the smaller expedition ships returned to the Kimberley early May,” Mr Katz told ABC.
“Hopefully, by the middle of the year we’ll see some of the largest ships returned to the east coast.”
Mr Katz said cruise liners were still finalising virus protocols but said consumers could expect them to look as they would “on land”.
“The really positive thing that has come out of the cruise restart around the world … what we’re seeing is that the level of serious illness and hospitalisation on-board the ships are actually considerably lower than in similar land-based settings,” he said.