Royal Caribbean Group, one of the largest cruise companies operating in Australia, has cancelled all its remaining cruises in the region for this year, with plans to restart in 2021.
The move comes after the Federal Government recently extended its ban on cruise ships in Australia waters to December 17. The ban was previously scheduled to end on September 17.
The ban came into force on March 27 and was extended by three months in May in the wake of several COVID-19 outbreaks on board cruise ships, including the Ruby Princess docked in Sydney.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced the extension of the "human biosecurity emergency period under the Biosecurity Act 2015" on September 3, which included the ban on cruise ships entering Australian waters.
Royal Caribbean and sister company Celebrity Cruises previously planned to resume cruising from October 31, after all major cruise companies announced further suspensions last month, with the resulting cancellation of 50 scheduled cruises.
In a statement, the cruise line said: "The health and safety of our guests, crew, and the communities we visit is our top priority and we are working closely with local health and government authorities towards this shared goal. Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises have extended our suspension of sailings, beyond that of the Australian Government's, to include sailings departing Australia and New Zealand on or before 31 December, 2020. This is to allow guests booked on Christmas and New Year sailings to make alternative holiday arrangements."
The first Royal Caribbean cruises in 2021 will be a nine-night cruise to New Zealand from Sydney and an 11-night Pacific island cruise departing from Brisbane, both scheduled to depart on January 4.
P&O plans to resume cruising once the government ban lifts on December 17. Princess Cruises has a cruise from Melbourne to New Zealand now listed for departure for December 20 on board the Sapphire Princess.
Princess Cruises released a new schedule of itineraries starting in September 2021, but said in a statement the company would "resume our operations when we have been given the green light to do so by the local authorities. We remain optimistic that we will be able to return to cruising from Australia before this new schedule of itineraries that starts in September 2021."
Most cruise lines have introduced flexible bookings, with some conditions, allowing passengers to cancel without penalty and get a full refund, or receive a credit for a future cruise with bonus value.
The Cruise Lines International Association warned earlier this year that suspension of cruising into the summer peak season could cost thousands of jobs and billions to the economy.
It says cruise tourism is worth $5.2 billion a year to the Australian economy and supports more than 18,000 jobs.
Several cruise lines have resumed cruises in different parts of the world, including Norway, Taiwan and in the Mediterranean, where one of the largest ships in the world resumed cruising last month.