A major air and sea search has been abandoned for a 73-year-old man reported missing from a cruise ship off the northern Australian coast.

The elderly passenger was reported missing from on board the Sun Princess by his wife at 9am (WST) on Tuesday, sparking a large search led by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).

The ship is sailing from Fremantle to Darwin, and was 40 nautical miles north of Cape Londonderry when the alarm was raised.

An AMSA spokeswoman confirmed on Wednesday morning that the search, which had involved three vessels and three aircraft, had stopped due to medical advice.

"Based on medical advice that there was no chance of survival we have concluded the search," the spokeswoman said.

She said the Sun Princess was still on its way to Darwin.

The cruise ship was on the ninth day of a 16-day cruise from Fremantle to Sydney, and is due to dock in Darwin on Wednesday.

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