P&O Cruises to retire its brand in Australia, fold operations into Carnival Cruise Line

P&O Cruises to retire its brand in Australia, fold operations into Carnival Cruise Line
  • PublishedJune 4, 2024

P&O Cruises Australia has announced its fleet will soon be sailing to its final berth, ceasing its operations in 2025 after more than 90 years on the water.

The Australian travel brand will fold its operations into parent company Carnival Cruise Line from March 2025.

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, previously known as the Dawn Princess, will be retired.

Passengers set to cruise in 2024 will not be affected, while customers who had cruises booked on the Pacific Explorer after March 2, 2025 will have the option of a refund or credit for Carnival with extra onboard spending money.

It is 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.

“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.”

Crews on the Pacific Explorer were expected to be redeployed to other ships, but a small number of workers in the P&O Australia head office would 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.

The side of a large white cruise ship with a skyscraper in the background.
The Pacific Explorer will be retired as part of the move.(AAP Image: Dean Lewins)

Carnival Cruise chief executive Josh Weinstein hailed P&O Cruises as a storied brand with an amazing team and lauded 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.


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