P&O Cruises Australia Shuts Down: Implications and Future Alternatives for Cruisers

Carnival Corporation’s recent decision to cease operations of P&O Cruises Australia after 92 years significantly affects the Australian cruising landscape.

This unexpected move involves reducing P&O’s three-ship fleet to two, integrating these ships into the Carnival Cruise Line (CCL) roster by March 2025, leaving industry experts and passengers alike in shock.

As a result of this shift, the company will discontinue P&O Cruises, leading to the phase-out of the Pacific Explorer, a ship offering 2,000 berths, while rebranding the Pacific Adventure and Pacific Encounter as Carnival Adventure and Carnival Encounter.

The discontinuation will terminate seasonal cruises departing from Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne, and Auckland, which were serviced by Pacific Explorer. The ship is expected to be sold off after its final voyage in March to another cruise line.

The 27-year-old ship, previously known as Dawn Princess, is slated to set sail from Fremantle on February 7, 2025, on its ultimate route to Singapore. Consequently, all Pacific Explorer cruises planned from March 2025 till early 2026 are cancelled, affecting numerous departures from multiple cities, with full refunds or credits with additional onboard spending money being offered to passengers.

A Carnival Australia spokesperson confirmed that there are no plans to reinstall these departing ports as CCL will operate exclusively out of Sydney and Brisbane.

What Will the New Ships Look Like?

Beyond aesthetic alterations like new paint and improved technological features including the HubApp for passenger communications and bookings, no significant changes are expected aboard the Carnival Adventure and Carnival Encounter. These ships will retain their original dining facilities, public spaces, and attractions, according to schedule.

Technological upgrades necessitate the temporary decommissioning of both ships in mid-March next year. This adjustment will result in the cancellation of several itineraries out of Sydney and Brisbane. Passengers affected by these cancellations are being notified by P&O, with options for Future Cruise Credits available until June 2024; otherwise, full refunds are processed automatically.

“A Rush of Bookings” Following Announcement

The announcement of P&O Australia’s closure has stirred considerable media attention and passenger feedback, notably on P&O Facebook groups and Cruise Critic Message Boards. There’s a noticeable disappointment among passengers, particularly regarding how the closure news was communicated by a Miami-based representative. Additionally, the brand’s shutting has led to a surge in bookings, details of which haven’t been disclosed.

The closure rationale, presented in a positive spin by Josh Weinstein, CEO and president of Miami-based Carnival Corp, highlights this move as a part of strategic decisions intended to boost Carnival Cruise Line’s guest capacity, reflecting similar previous actions with Costa Cruises’ ships.

High operational costs in the South Pacific, particularly across Australia and New Zealand’s smaller markets, alongside established operations by CCL since 2012, have influenced this consolidation. This strategic choice promises efficiency but results in job cuts at the Chatswood headquarters in Sydney and transfers for crew members of the departing Explorer to other ships within the Carnival network.

While this transition may keep ticket prices stable, longtime P&O customers express concerns about losing the unique ‘Australian flavor’ P&O offered and fear the more ‘Americanized’ approach of CCL might not resonate as well.

“Outpourings of Nostalgia” Following P&O Cruises Australia Closure

David Jones, ex-Carnival Australia corporate communications manager, reflects on the significant emotional and historical footprint of P&O in Australia, emphasizing its pivotal role spanning from colonial times, making it more than just a cruise brand to many Australians. He notes the substantial void this closure will leave in both market dynamics and public sentiment. Strategic economic factors necessitate such closures, but they inevitably stir deep emotional responses, underscoring the brand’s cherished status.

As regional implications are assessed, including potential impacts on Adelaide’s cruise seasons, Carnival Cruise Line faces the significant challenge of maintaining the loyalty of P&O’s devoted clientele.

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