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Carnival Cruise Line to absorb P&O Cruises Australia

Pacific Explorer will exit the fleet in February 2025
Carnival Corp. & plc will sunset the P&O Cruises Australia brand in March 2025 and fold the Australia operations into Carnival Cruise Line.

This change is the latest in a series of strategic moves aimed at boosting the capacity for the company's flagship brand and its highest-returning line.

This will result in the addition of eight new ships to Carnival Cruise Line's fleet since 2021, including the shift of three vessels from sister brand Costa Cruises. In addition, the company recently placed its first new ship order in half a decade for two Excel-class ships to join the Fun Ship brand in 2027 and 2028.

'Incredibly strong demand' for Carnival Cruise Line

'Despite increasing Carnival Cruise Line's capacity by almost 25% since 2019 including transferring three ships from Costa Cruises, guest demand remains incredibly strong so we're leveraging our scale in an even more meaningful way by absorbing an entire brand into the world's most popular cruise line,' Carnival Corp. CEO Josh Weinstein said.

In 2019, Carnival Cruise Line comprised 29% of the company's total capacity, and when the P&O ships join it, that will grow to 35%.

Weinstein said that while the company's compound annual growth rate between 2019 and 2028 is projected to be less than 2%, Carnival Cruise Line will grow by approximately 50% over that period.

The realignment will also strengthen Carnival Corp.'s South Pacific operations thanks to numerous efficiencies.

Still committed to Australia

'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,' Weinstein said. '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.'

Weinstein said Carnival Corp. remains committed to Australia and will continue to be the largest cruise operator in the region with 19 ships calling on 78 destinations and representing almost 60% of the market.

Pacific Explorer to exit

As the P&O Cruises Australia brand retires early next year, Pacific Encounter and Pacific Adventure will be rebranded and operated by Carnival Cruise Line.

Pacific Explorer will exit the fleet in February.

Current itineraries will operate as usual, and customers will be notified in the coming days of any changes to future bookings as a result of this announcement.

When the transition is complete next year, Carnival Cruise Line — which has served the South Pacific since 2013 — will have four ships in the market, including Sydney-based Carnival Splendor and Carnival Luminosa sailing seasonally from Brisbane, in addition to their new sisters, Encounter and Adventure.

Carnival President Christine Duffy said the company looks forward to building on the history and heritage of P&O Cruises Australia by taking some of its innovations to more travelers in the region.

Pacific Encounter and Adventure will remain geared to Aussies

'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,' she said.

The most notable change she identified will be the availability of the HubApp, enabling cruisers to make online dining and excursion reservations, request food and beverage delivery and chat with other travelers. P&O Cruises Australia passengers will also be invited to participate in Carnival's loyalty program and promotional offerings specific to Carnival ships sailing in the region.

'Over the coming months, we will find ways to celebrate and honor P&O Cruises Australia, a valued part of our legacy and an important contributor to the tourism industry in the South Pacific,' Weinstein said. 'We value the connection our P&O Cruises Australia guests, employees, travel advisor partners, public officials and destinations have with our company and are committed to building on this association moving forward as Carnival.'