Carnival drops popular Australia cruise brand after more than 90 years

Pacific Explorer will be retired from the fleet next February  (Getty Images)
Pacific Explorer will be retired from the fleet next February (Getty Images)

P&O Cruises Australia will cease operations in early 2025 after over 90 years of voyages in the South Pacific.

Plans to integrate the popular cruise line into its sister line, Carnival Cruise Line, were announced on Tuesday 4 June due to “higher operating costs”.

Carnival Corporation, P&O Cruises’ parent company, said in a statement that the move will “strategically align” its global portfolio and “increase guest capacity”.

P&O Cruises Australia is a storied brand with an amazing team, and we are extremely proud of everything we have accomplished together in Australia and the broader region,” said Josh Weinstein, CEO of Carnival Corporation.

“However, given the strategic reality of the South Pacific’s small population and significantly higher operating and regulatory costs, we’re adjusting our approach to give us the efficiencies we need to continue delivering an incredible cruise experience year-round to our guests in the region.”

Ships Pacific Encounter and Pacific Adventure are set to be rebranded for operation within the Carnival Cruise Line in March next year.

Once merged, the pair will join Carnival Splendor in Sydney and Brisbane-based Carnival Luminosa for the line’s South Pacific sailings.

Pacific Explorer will exit the P&O Australia fleet entirely in February 2025.

All current voyages are departing as scheduled however, a notice on the P&O Australia website announced that “all itineraries on Pacific Explorer scheduled to sail after 2 March 2025 are being cancelled”.

Carnival says future guests will be notified this week of amendments to bookings with refund information.

Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line, said: “While we plan to make some technology upgrades and other small changes to the two P&O Cruises Australia ships, they will continue to be geared to the unique Australian market with a familiar feel and much of the same experiences for P&O Cruises Australia guests.

“The most notable change will be the availability of our popular HubApp, enabling guests to make online dining and excursion reservations, request food and beverage delivery, and chat with other guests, among other features.”

The changes come amid a string of moves to expand the Carnival fleet – three vessels from sister brand Costa Cruises have been transferred since 2021, and two new Excel-class cruise ships will join the line in 2027 and 2028.

With a fleet of 27 ships on the water worldwide, Carnival will remain the largest cruise operator in the region.

In February 2023, Virgin Voyages announced that Resilient Lady itineraries via the Suez Canal were cancelled following attacks on shipping, and sailings in Australia would not go ahead for the 2024/25 cruising season – only the second departing Virgin’s Pacific ports.

Virgin Voyages statement said: “As the safety of our passengers and crew is our number one priority, Virgin Voyages recently shared a change of course for our early 2024 repositioning voyage from Australia to the Med. On the heels of these recent changes and based on the regional and government advice we have received, we remain very concerned about potential escalations in the Red Sea over the next 12 months.”