The cruise industry is all set to return to Aussie waters after months of successful COVID-safe voyages in Asia. Major cruise lines are hoping to convince the federal government to allow them to sail again in Australian waters based on the success of recent COVID-safe voyages in Asia.
Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Australasian spokesman Joel Katz highlighted that Royal Caribbean and Dream Cruises had been cruising with Singaporean waters for the past few months without a recorded case of COVID-19. Furthermore, Dream Cruises have also been conducting intercountry cruises within Taiwan’s territory since July.
The cruise liners are operating at 50% of their capacity with no buffets, casino, or spas open. The liners have also included measures like social distancing for arrivals and departures, isolation cabins, and extensive COVID testing for crew members in the lead-up to, and just before, a cruise. Moreover, passengers must also return a negative test result before boarding.
Mr. Katz stated that the Asian voyages were proof that the cruise industry had world-class health protocols. He added that the liners could be trusted to implement a COVID-safe environment.
The CLIA Australasia managing director stated that there had been no positive cases on-board ships out of Singapore. He highlighted that some of the major cruise lines, such as MSC operated out of France, Italy, and Germany in 2020 before the second wave of COVID-19 struck Europe. He added that the lessons learned from Europe and Asia are examples of how cruising could resume safely.
He also hopes the successful cruises in Asia may help restore confidence in the cruise industry after copping a battering in 2020 following the Ruby Princess fiasco. Around 2700 passengers were allowed to disembark from the Ruby Princess, and many tested positive for the virus after using public transport or commercial flights to get home. Subsequently, cruise ships, capable of carrying 100 or more passengers were banned from entering Australian waters in mid-March 2020.
Mr. Katz stated that the industry had been in regular contact with federal and state governments about a possible resumption, although there is no indication when that is likely. He added that the cruise industry had yet to commit to the requirement of vaccination of passengers before they could board.
He stated that a gradual return to Australian waters had been planned with intrastate cruises before moving into intercountry voyages and then trans-Tasman crossings. He said that they had been surveying past cruise passengers and was encouraged by the response, where they were prepared to comply with health protocols so that they could cruise again.