P&O Cruises Australia has extended the cancellation of sailings by flagship Pacific Explorer until January.

This follows the Carnival Corporation brand announcing the early departure of Pacific Dawn and Pacific Aria as part of a fleet transformation.

They will be replaced by sister ships Pacific Adventure and Pacific Encounter – former Princess Cruises vessels Golden Princess and Star Princess – in the first half of 2021.

P&O Cruises Australia president Sture Myrmell said: “While the current pause in cruise operations is until 17 December in Australia, the pathway to re-start remains unclear.

“We felt the best approach was to cancel Pacific Explorer’s remaining 2020 cruises to allow families to plan with certainty for their Christmas and new year activities.

“It was a difficult decision but in the end it was an effort to do the right thing by our guests on both Pacific Explorer and Pacific Adventure, which is also affected over the holiday period.”

Pacific Adventure is to begin sailing from Sydney on April 30, 2021 instead of next month as originally planned.

However, the delivery of Pacific Encounter is being brought forward by at least six months to operate from Brisbane in early May.

Additional sailings may be added even earlier, depending on the timing of the return of cruising in Australia, according to the company.

Myrmell added: “The arrival of these much-anticipated ships, Pacific Adventure and Pacific Encounter, in the first half of next year represents a step-change for the fleet and a sign of confidence in the market.

“This investment in our fleet is a demonstration that P&O Cruises Australia is ready to lead the industry in bouncing back when government and public health authorities agree it is appropriate to begin sailing again with protocols in place.

“It is also a mark of respect for our many loyal guests as well as crew, fresh food suppliers, entertainers and musicians, shore tour operators and port logistics partners who are looking to be a part of the resurgence of the Australian cruise sector over time.

“These have been challenging times for the entire community and, for our part, we have sought to use this operational pause to fast-track our planned fleet refresh.

“Our pathway to a return to cruising may be unclear but we wanted to give our guests confidence about our future fleet and our commitment to Australia and New Zealand.”

Princess Cruises president Jan Swartz said: “Golden Princess and Star Princess have sailed all over the world, creating lifelong memories for the millions of guests who sailed upon these beloved cruise ships.

“We know their wonderful legacy will continue under sister brand P&O Cruises Australia, which has become so well-known for delivering unforgettable cruise holidays for Aussies and Kiwis to some of the most idyllic destinations in the South Pacific.”