Australia’s cruise ship ban is ready to run out – but it surely will not all be clean crusing | Cruises
On December 17th, the Australian government’s ban on cruise ships expires. Cruises in Australia have been suspended since the Ruby Princess debacle, in which 28 people died and at least 854 passengers got Covid-19.
Cruise companies are optimistic that there will be little broadcast of the community and fewer restrictions mean they can restart in Australia soon. But many – including epidemiologists and the operators themselves – advise caution.
There is still a lot in the air. Here’s what we know about the industry and what can happen on restart.
Where are these cruises going?
A number of cruises are already planned for March 2021. Tickets can currently be purchased.
Royal Caribbean is selling tickets for a two-day cruise on March 13, 2021 that departs and returns to Brisbane.
Company Princess, which operated the unfortunate Ruby Princess, is offering a two-day cruise on October 23, 2021 on the Sapphire Princess with a capacity of 2,670, which sails from Sydney to Melbourne.
There is also a three day cruise scheduled to depart on October 29th on the Coral Princess from Sydney to Newcastle to Brisbane.
More dates are planned in later months, and Princess recently made a sale for cruises in December 2021.
Even earlier, the operator Viking is selling tickets for a cruise from Sydney to Bali, which is scheduled to start on March 3rd.
If it continues, it will take 14 days and the cheapest is $ 7,995.
However, there is currently a foreign travel ban for all Australians (with some exceptions for necessity, humanitarian and employment reasons).
This means that there is currently a ban on recreational cruises overseas and cruises like Viking’s can be canceled. A spokeswoman for Viking told Guardian Australia that the company “is currently reviewing all Q1 trips and updating all booked passengers accordingly”.
The executive director of the Australian branch of the Cruise Lines International Association, Joel Katz, told Guardian Australia that the industry will initially focus on domestic routes.
Katz described 2021 as a “carefully controlled, gradual resumption”.
“Initially, this would only include domestic cruises for Australians while international borders are closed,” he said.
“Depending on travel restrictions, this may include domestic cruises only for residents within the state’s borders. In due course this could be extended to any trans-Tasmanian or regional “bubbles”. “
What precautions will you take?
Katz has promised that all cruises will require Covid-19 testing of all passengers and crew before boarding.
The association has put in place a number of other new cruise precautions, including:
Ships, passengers and crew will be quarantined for 14 days upon their return to Australia.
Passengers are required to complete health declarations and undergo a contact history review.
Daily temperature controls on board for passengers and crew.
Limited number of passengers on board.
Venue restrictions and social distancing on board.
No self-service buffets.
Ventilation strategies to increase fresh air.
Relocated embarkation and disembarkation processes to reduce the crowd.
Australians are currently not allowed to vacation overseas. However, a cruise line operator is selling tickets for a cruise from Sydney to Bali in March 2021. Photo: James D. Morgan / Getty Images
Will they actually restart?
It depends on whether or not. Domestic cruises can technically start from December 17th, when the ban ends.
That by itself isn’t guaranteed, and cruise lines say they don’t know if it will be canceled for sure. The ban was supposed to expire on September 17, but on September 3, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced an extension.
And even if the ban is lifted, the ships are currently stationed overseas, mostly in the Philippines, and it will be some time before they are brought back to Australia.
Cruise companies plan, but their cruises are “flexible” and can be canceled or postponed.
Katz told Guardian Australia, “The industry will need further clarification from governments and health authorities before exact resumption times can be confirmed. So we’re looking for an agreed way to resume so operators can plan ahead.
“Cruises can be booked from 2021 and most cruise lines have introduced flexible booking options to give their customers confidence in the current uncertainty.”
A spokesman for Carnival, which operates Princess Cruises and Carnival Cruises, said: “The first Princess Cruises cruises are not planned until spring 2021, but depending on developments, other cruise lines may resume earlier.”
Who will be on board?
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, cruise ships had a predominantly international crew – many passengers also came from all over the world to board at different ports.
For example, the passengers on the Ruby Princess came from the USA and Great Britain, although the ship only sailed from Australia to New Zealand.
Katz said cruises in 2021 would still include international crew members but they would be tested and quarantined before cruises in Australia began.
“Cruise lines are proposing pre-testing and quarantine arrangements so crew and ships can return to Australia,” he said.
Is it safe?
The clinical epidemiologist Dr. Fiona Stanaway of the University of Sydney told Guardian Australia that the security measures “reduce the risk” but “do not eliminate it completely”.
“Screening tests for Covid can sometimes give negative results in people with the virus, especially in the early stages of infection,” she said. “People can also miss temperature tests because not everyone with Covid gets a fever and there will be people without Covid who could have an elevated temperature.”
According to Stanaway, cruise lines always remained “high risk” compared to other activities.
“You have large numbers of people in an enclosed environment so they are at high risk for transmission,” she said. “Having 1,000 people together, for example for a few hours in an outdoor venue for a sporting event, is very different from having 1,000 people together in a fairly closed environment for a week.”
She said international cruises are currently “an extremely high risk, given the high Covid-19 rates in other countries.”
“The risk would be less for cruises that only carry Australian passengers, employ Australian (or previously quarantined international) crew members, and stop in Australia – but it’s still not zero.”