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Celebrations as cruising set to resume

Fiji officially reopens its waters for international cruising this week, boosting travel routes for keen passengers after more than two years of restricted border access.

It comes six months after international air travel resumed, and cruise passengers can now join the list of inbound visitors. There are several conditions: cruise passengers and crew aged 16+ must be fully vaccinated with a locally recognised Covid-19 vaccine, RAT tests at least 24-hours prior to disembarking at Fijian ports of entry and valid medical travel insurance that includes global Covid-19 coverage.

“All onshore excursions will also be guided by health and safety protocols including the Care Fiji Commitment,” the Fijian Government outlined.

Operating and outbreak management plans are also mandated, alongside Covid-19 safety plans to reduce the risk of onboard Covid-19 transmissions.

In the gateway town of Nadi, an average of 15 to 20 cruise ships call into Port Denarau annually, with 17 scheduled into Denarau Marina in 2020, the year country borders shut.

For port operators, the return of the lucrative cruise market is a welcome turnaround.

Port Denarau in Fiji, which has reopened for international cruising from June 16. Picture: Port Denarau Marina.

“The cruise ship market for the shopping complex and marina has always been a drawcard with an average of 10,000 cruise ship passengers coming through the marina annually, contributing significantly to each of the businesses and operators within the premises,” said Cynthia Rasch, CEO of Port Denarau Marina.

“After two years of hiatus due to COVID, the resumption of cruise ship calls into Fiji is definitely a moment of celebration for everyone that relies on this market.”

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The port’s first call is expected next month, and is currently pending confirmation as entry conditions are finalised alongside a calendar of calls.

Across Fiji, a collective 106 cruise ship calls were expected in 2020 and amid a crushing travel market, Fiji launched Blue Lanes, a VIP program for private yachts and superyachts. Domestic cruising has already resumed and like other Pacific destinations, tourism has traditionally been Fiji’s largest industry with cruising providing a valuable slice.

A cruise liner from Royal Caribbean International, one of many global cruise liners that have called into Fiji. The country has officially reopened to international cruising. Picture: Royal Caribbean International

“Pre-COVID, cruise companies, their passengers, and crew spent FJ$44.2 million (US$21.4 million) annually in Fiji,” the Fijian Government confirmed.

“The 2018 study on the economic impact of cruise tourism in Fiji also reveals that each cruise ship voyage brings an average of FJ$305,000 (US$147,000) in spending per port of call and one cruise ship passenger brings FJ$90 (US$44) of spending each.

“With cruise vessels soon entering and docking in Fijian waters, that high direct spends by visitors to our shores will directly benefit handicraft sellers, which are mostly women, as well as local tour operators who regularly line up at the Lautoka Port on cruise days.”

International air travel’s own resumption has already claimed over 167,000 visitors to Fiji since December and peaked at nearly 48,000 arrivals last month.

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