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The playground expands for cruising

Like Samoa and Vanuatu, international ports in Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands have reopened to international maritime travellers and extended the Pacific playground for cruising.

Major brands like P&O have already made post-COVID maiden voyages to Fiji, Papua New Guinea and New Caledonia.

In PNG – Australia’s closest neighbour – some 2,400 passengers from Cairns were traditionally welcomed by war canoes last month in Alotau along Milne Bay, where P&O’s Pacific Encounter docked for eight hours.

With COVID restrictions last year, there were zero cruise holiday arrivals in PNG and its resumption last month has been more than welcome.

The Pacific Explorer cruise ship is traditionally welcomed by war canoes in Alotau, Papua New Guinea. Picture: P&O Cruises Australia.

“The sight of cruise tourists in town brought back relief, but mostly excitement amongst the local people as this gave them hope and confidence in the restart and continuity of cruise tourism,” the PNG Tourism Promotion Authority reported.

Of the travellers, 600 went ashore for excursions before the ship sailed onto Kiriwina Island, Rabaul and the Conflict Islands. They spent a week in PNG before returning to Australia.

PNG offers about ten ports of call to international ocean passengers, and boasts convenient proximity to Australia, where via the Torres Strait, the two countries are only about four kilometres apart and a flight from Cairns to PNG’s capital, Port Moresby, is an hour.

Passengers come ashore in the Conflict Islands, Papua New Guinea. Picture: P&O Cruises Australia.

Similarly, a flight from Australia’s Brisbane City to New Caledonia is just over two hours, while cruise ship passengers from both Australia and New Zealand don’t need a visa to come ashore, as long as they depart on board the ship.

P&O’s Pacific Explorer also called in and as New Caledonia’s Minister for International Tourism, Mickaël Forrest explained, authorities are trying to strike a balance between economic urgency and sustainable development.

“Remember that before the crisis in 2019, more than 340,000 passengers stopped over in New Caledonia, generating significant economic benefits for the country.”

A cultural Kanaki welcome for cruise passengers in New Caledonia. Picture: P&O Cruises Australia.

Cruise tourism had been halted for over two years and the capital city Noumea is the only authorised stopover for the time being, while popular destinations like the Isle of Pines, remain off limits.

“The fact remains that this forced halt also allowed New Caledonians to take the time to consider the sustainable and sensible model of cruise ship tourism that they wanted to develop in the future. The local authorities are thus working together to strike a balance between the economic urgency of recovery, the challenges of sustainable development and the need to consult the population.”

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Under New Caledonia law, visa exemptions also apply to holders of a valid residence permit from a European Union members country, the European Economic Area or Switzerland.

Likewise, you can visit visa-free with a valid residence permit from Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, Canada, Japan, and the United States of America authorising readmission to these States.

Travellers with a valid issued by a French authority for another part of the territory of France can also visit New Caledonia without applying for a visa.

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