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Int'l cruise ships returning to Australia's ports

The Ruby Princess cruise ship

Sydney, April 12 (UiTV/IANS) - For the first time in more than two years, an ocean liner will berth in Sydney Harbor next week as the multi-billion-dollar cruise industry resumes business in Australia's state of New South Wales (NSW).

When P&O Cruises' Australian flagship, the Pacific Explorer, sails through the harbor headlands on the morning of Easter Monday (April 18), it is expected to be greeted by a flotilla of small boats which will escort it to the Overseas Passenger Terminal (OPT) which has been largely idle since March 2020.

The ban, caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, instantly scuppered the thriving cruise industry, which contributed 3.3 billion Australian dollars (about $2.45 billion) to the NSW economy in 2018-19 and generating more than 11,000 jobs, according to the state government, Xinhua news agency reported.

In welcoming the return of cruise ships to Sydney, Executive Manager of NSW Tourism Industry Council Greg Binskin confirmed the recent years had taken a heavy toll.

"It's not just the Sydney CBD accommodation sector that was impacted. It's the travel agents, the transport services, the retailers, the entertainment industry, restaurants and cafes. All those local suppliers that have been unable to service the cruise industry," he said.

"I'm sure the travel agents will be popping corks and re-engaging staff to handle the demand for bookings once departure dates are locked in," Binskin added.

NSW Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres said Monday's arrival would be an important event for tourism operators "and all those local suppliers who help with the enormous task of re-supplying ships".

P&O Cruises Australia President Marguerite Fitzgerald said the return of the flagship was a "symbol of the resurgence of their businesses and livelihoods".

"Our supply chain team is already gearing up to deliver hundreds of pallets to Pacific Explorer containing locally supplied fresh produce, wine and other products necessary for cruise operations," Fitzgerald added.

Ayres, meanwhile, predicts tourists will find the "cruise experience will be a lot like it was before the pandemic, but we have put important protocols in place to ensure everyone's safety, both those on board and on shore".

Those changes will include proof of full vaccinations for everyone on board over the age of 12 years, a negative Covid-19 test before boarding, and the mandatory wearing of masks when boarding or leaving the vessel.