Richard Butler | Exclusive Report by Daily Post VU | SEPT 16th, 2022

The Vanuatu Government, through the National Cruise Tourism Management Committee (NCTMC) yesterday announced the official return of international cruises to Vanuatu, commencing on Wednesday, 9th of November 2022.

The National Cruise Tourism Management Committee (NCTMC), led by the Department of Tourism (DoT), endorsed on Monday, 12th of September 2022 a “trial” return of the cruise ships in Vanuatu waters commencing on November 9, after more than two years of border closure and subsequent suspension of the international passenger vessels into the country.

“We are thrilled to see our first international cruise ships returning to our shores, as it represents a lot for our communities and domestic tourism business sector, which rely heavily on the cruise supply chain,” James Bule, caretaker Minister for Tourism, Trade, Industry, Commerce and Ni- Vanuatu Business after being briefed on this decision stated.

Our taxi, buses, tour operators, transfer companies, handicraft, Vanuatu made items shops, tour activities and many more benefit from the cruise market and this return of the cruise industry is injecting money directly into the pockets of these businesses to recover. The Government welcomes the first trial commencing on November 9 for a month, leading onto the official resumption of cruise tourism on 1st of December, 2022.”

“We welcome back our cruising industry into Vanuatu waters. Planning and adherence to maritime safety protocols is paramount in this sector, therefore, we have been in direct consultation with both the Carnival Cruises and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines since July to agree and develop a safe pathway for a slow restart of the cruising industry as more and more tourism operators prepare their businesses for recovery. It is not an easy road, but we need to start somewhere and this will help contribute to the recovery of our tourism and hospitality sector,” says Geraldine Tari, Acting Director of the DoT and Chair of the NCTMC.

Noting preparatory work on safe cruise travel undertaken in late July with Carnival & P&O Cruises, the Government considered the endorsement of the plan to launch a progressive return of international cruising with the first ship, the Pacific Encounter, scheduled to depart from Brisbane to Port Vila on November 9.

The second itinerary will see the Pacific Adventure sailing from Sydney to Mystery Island on 18th of November, followed by Port Vila and Luganville on these consecutive days.

“Our guests love Vanuatu and its people and have looked forward to the day when they could return to a country that makes the South Pacific such an attractive region for cruise tourism,” said President of Carnival Australia and P&O Cruises Australia Marguerite Fitzgerald.

“We thank the Vanuatu Government for placing their confidence in P&O Cruises Australia to help pave the way for the careful reintroduction of cruising in their country.

“Our ships returning to Vanuatu will initially operate below capacity in terms of their passenger numbers to help Vanuatu authorities test protocols and procedures. In the meantime, we reaffirm our commitment to Vanuatu’s island communities who have always made our guests feel so welcome.”

During the 30 days trial, Carnival Cruises will dispatch vessels to Vanuatu with cap imposed on passenger numbers, in order to allow sufficient resources to manage the incoming numbers.

The NCTMC composed of various Government agencies’ representations from the DoT, Department of Local Authorities, Department of Ports & Harbour, Department of Customs and Inland Revenue, the Department of Finance and Treasury, Department of Environment and the Vanuatu Maritime Safety Authority is preparing all efforts to ensure the safe return of cruise ships into Vanuatu.

Preparatory discussions are also in the works with the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line (RCCL) to finalize the itinerary for the remainder of 2022 and early 2023. A team from RCCL will be dispatched to Vanuatu next month to review the product readiness, health protocols and ports SOPs for their trial resumption also.

Consultations with business stakeholders, tourism industry operators and communities will now focus efforts on preparations preparing for the cruise trial in November.

The DoT will continue rolling-out its government approved business support programs towards identified businesses for preparations, training and certification of readiness for the cruise resumption.