P&O Cruises sets sail into sunset after 90-year voyage

Passengers who hoped to carry on cruising have had their holidays cancelled as popular leisure travel operator P&O Cruises Australia announces after 90 years, the fleet is sailing to its final berth.

The Australian travel brand announced it will fold operations into parent company Carnival Cruise Line, the most popular cruise line in the world, in March 2025.

The changes are part of a corporate strategy to increase guests on the highest-returning brand in the portfolio and to optimise the company’s operations in the region.

It’s the end of an era for the popular brand which first sailed from Sydney on December 23, 1932, on a seven-day itinerary calling at Brisbane and Norfolk Island.

The company’s first permanent ship in Australia, the Fairstar, heavily promoted as ‘the fun ship’, was part of the fleet for nine years until 1997.

P&O Cruises Australia issued its surprise notice to customers on Tuesday, indicating the brand will sail into the sunset in early 2025.

“As a result, all itineraries on Pacific Explorer scheduled to sail after 2nd March 2025 are being cancelled,” it said.

“If you are booked on one of these itineraries you will be contacted by guest services in the coming days with refund details.

“We are all immensely proud of P&O Cruises Australia’s 90-year heritage of dedicated operations in the region and Carnival Cruise Line are honoured to carry forward its storied legacy and continue to deliver the same onboard experiences and itineraries.”

Passengers set to cruise in 2024 will not be affected while impacted guests will have the option for a full refund or they can choose credit with bonus onboard spending money.

P&O’s Pacific Encounter and Pacific Adventure ships and workforce will be rebranded and transferred to the Carnival Cruise Line fleet while the Pacific Explorer will be retired.

Crews on the Pacific Explorer are expected to be redeployed to other ships but a small number of workers in the P&O Australia head office will lose their jobs, a spokeswoman said.

Acting P&O Cruises Australia and Carnival Australia lead Peter Little will be retained under the new title of country manager.

Carnival Cruise chief executive Josh Weinstein hailed P&O Cruises as a storied brand with an amazing team and its accomplishments in Australia and the broader region.

“However, given the strategic reality of the South Pacific’s small population and significantly higher operating and regulatory costs, we’re adjusting our approach,” he said.

The Carnival brand will see its fleet boosted by eight ships after also acquiring vessels from sister line Costa Cruises and ordering new ships to come into operation in 2027 and 2028.

Under the changes, Carnival will continue to be the largest cruise operator in the region with 19 ships, representing almost 60 per cent of the market.

The P&O ships will have technology upgrades, including an ordering app and loyalty program, but will retain the “familiar feel and much of the same experiences” for Australian guests, Carnival Cruise Line president Christine Duffy said.


William Ton
(Australian Associated Press)


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