Carnival Australia shuns big city port over fee hike

Rachael Ward |

Princess Cruises will no longer use Port Melbourne’s Station Pier as its home port.
Princess Cruises will no longer use Port Melbourne’s Station Pier as its home port.

Two popular Carnival Australia cruise lines will stop sailing from Melbourne because the travel giant says it cannot cope with a 15 per cent jump in port fees.

In 2025-26, Princess Cruises will no longer home port at Station Pier while Cunard will bypass Melbourne entirely.

Carnival Australia’s chief strategy officer Teresa Lloyd said the decision was down to Ports Victoria “unexpectedly” raising charges by 15 per cent to pay for maintenance at Station Pier.

“Fifteen per cent doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s significant,” Ms Lloyd told reporters on Wednesday.

The Grand Princess
Princess Cruises will no longer use Port Melbourne’s Station Pier as its home port. (Will Murray/AAP PHOTOS)

“A port call in Melbourne already is one of the highest (priced) in the world, Australia is a very expensive region so any incremental cost really hurts.”

The decision impacts 23 port visits carrying a total of 70,000 passengers, with those cruises set to instead begin and end in Sydney and Brisbane.

Ports Minister Melissa Horne said the fees were raised by a “modest” amount from $28.50 per passenger to $32 to pay for maintenance at Station Pier.

“Let’s get a bit of perspective here, this is a highly profitable industry that has not had any (fee) increases in two-and-a-half years,” Ms Horne said.

She said there was a record 126 ships booked to dock at the pier this year and 105 ships had already booked in for 2025-26.

“This is Carnival making a commercial decision and other operators have well and truly filled the market,” Ms Horne said.

But Ms Lloyd said the industry was still recovering from a two-year shut down over the pandemic, with every port visit to Melbourne costing a couple of hundred thousand dollars.

Teresa Lloyd
Teresa Lloyd says Carnival Australia can’t absorb the fees increases. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

“Anyone who believes that we can bear a kind of sudden and significant increase in cost isn’t really listening to what business is saying,” she said.

Carnival Australia still hoped to find a long-term solution to the issue and was seeking a meeting with Ms Horne.

Opposition ports spokeswoman Roma Britnell said Station Pier had been in a state of disrepair for more than a decade and the government should have already fixed it.

“Attacks on cruise ships is not the answer,” Ms Britnell said.

Victorian Tourism Industry Council chief executive Felicia Mariani said the situation was disappointing and because bookings are made up to 18 months in advance cruise companies are not able to factor fee increase into prices for some time.

“Having Carnival cruises home-porting out of Melbourne is actually really important not just for our tourism industry but for broader economic returns,” Ms Mariani said.

She said the industry was worth $5.6 nationally and Victoria takes in about $400 million of that so the state should be chasing a much larger share of the market.

It comes more than a year after the Spirit of Tasmania ferry service shifted its Victorian base from Melbourne to Geelong.