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Carnival cruise lines shun Victoria over fee hike

A popular Carnival Cruise lines Princess Cruises and Cunard will no longer sail from Melbourne from 2025 because of a jump in port fees and charges.



Two popular Carnival cruise lines will soon no longer sail from Melbourne because the cruising 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 "significantly and unexpectedly" raising charges to pay for maintenance at Station Pier.


"We appreciate the importance of maintaining our ports but to be expected to carry a 15 per cent increase with no notice is unreasonable," Ms Lloyd said.


The company says more than 100,000 Victorians went on their cruises in the last year and the cruise industry pumped $379.5 million into Victoria's economy during the 2022-23 financial year.


Ms Lloyd called on the Victorian government and Ports Victoria to find a long term solution to the issue.


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 on Wednesday.


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.


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.


"What we'll see and we're already seeing is cruise ships leave the port and go interstate such as Sydney and Brisbane, so you can't tax your way out of a problem," Ms Britnell said.


"Attacks on cruise ships is not the answer."


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 had no opportunity 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 should chase a much larger share of that.


"We'll never take over Sydney as the Queen of cruising," Ms Mariani said.


"But we could certainly be generating a larger proportion of revenue ... we're just not keeping up with the demands of what this market is looking for, nor are we keeping up with the changes that are happening to the size of the vessels."


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


Ports Victoria has been contacted for comment.


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