Cruising is again in Australia after a two-year suspension, however the specter of COVID-19 stays. So what does this imply for cruise passengers as Australia enters the colder months and COVID-19 reinfections and flu instances spike across the nation?
On Tuesday, P&O’s Pacific Explorer launched the primary Australian passenger cruise because the federal authorities lifted its ban in April, with a variety of strict new COVID-safe rules.
The cruise trade’s highly-publicised restart has triggered a wave of curiosity from shoppers, amongst them Sydney mum Natalie Hawke, who says she is not deterred by the chance of COVID.
“COVID is just a part of life now, along with any other illness or virus, and I’m confident the cruise industry has put the very best practices in place to ensure the safety of passengers,” says Hawke, who went on 4 cruises along with her household previous to the pandemic.
“I believe many people are over the hype of COVID and just want to enjoy their lives and take precautions like they would otherwise.”
Flight Centre marketing consultant Katrina Van Der Merwe says that since cruising’s resumption was introduced, they have been inundated with buyer queries.
“There has been a huge spike in cruise questions. We’re flat out – and loving every minute of it,” says Van Der Merwe.
“There have been concerns and questions about COVID and protocols. We’ve been in constant contact with our specialists and companies regarding up-to-date policies and procedures.”
Joel Katz, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) managing director, says the well being protocols cruise strains have adopted globally are among the many most stringent within the tourism trade.
“They have been developed with the help of leading medical experts internationally,” says Katz.
He says Australia’s delay in resuming cruising has additionally given native operators perception into the efficacy of cruising protocols.
“The cruise industry’s measures have been shown to be effective in more than 90 other countries where cruising is already operating,” says Katz.
“Millions of people have sailed successfully in countries where these measures are in place since operations began resuming in late 2020.
“Importantly, these measures have resulted in considerably decrease ranges of great sickness and hospitalisation than on land.”
The Australian government’s cruise ban in March 2020 followed an outbreak on board the Ruby Princess, where the vessel docked in Sydney and authorities allowed thousands of passengers to disembark before going through COVID-19 checks. It was one of several high-profile COVID-19 outbreaks on cruise ships around the world.
Among the new procedures the cruise industry has since introduced are testing and vaccination requirements, health screenings, mask wearing requirements, and extensive distancing, sanitation, ventilation protocols and response procedures.
In the event a passenger, or passengers, do contract the virus, cruise operators are ready to act, according to Katz.
“Ships have enhanced on board medical services and medical staffing, with capabilities for testing, isolating and treating potential COVID-19 instances,” says Katz.
“They embody detailed response plans, contact tracing and devoted isolation cabins. Any instances might be managed in step with response plans agreed upfront with state governments, and might be cared for and disembarked in accordance with well being authority route.”
Another top concern among travellers is the cost of a COVID-19 diagnosis.
Canstar finance expert Steve Mickenbecker says cruise insurance cover is generally offered as an optional extra, and the level of COVID cover varies between policies.
“There’s an actual hierarchy in ranges of canopy, from no cowl in any respect, to medical solely, to medical and cancellation. So travellers needs to be cautious and skim the coverage rigorously to make sure they’re getting what they need,” Mickenbecker says.
It’s worth noting too that if a ship does experience an outbreak and you don’t feel comfortable remaining on the cruise, it’s unlikely you’ll be covered for any early-departure or cancellation costs incurred.
“The virus has acquired to be contracted by you or your journey companion earlier than it’ll set off a declare. So you possibly can’t simply be nervous that another person has it,” says Mickenbecker.