Cruise ships seemed like the canary in the coal mine for COVID, with many Australians hearing about the virus for the first time thanks to widely publicized outbreaks on huge ships.
But perhaps because they were the first tourists to be hit by the disease that stopped the world, the cruise industry has also been one of the most proactive and forward-thinking in developing a strict set of protocols to ensure the safe return of this much-loved vacation. guarantee choice.
According to Joel Katz, general manager of the Cruise Lines International Association Australasian, the Australian cruise industry used the lockdown period to fully evaluate their operations from bow to stern and to consult medical and scientific experts on how best to operate operations safely. to resume.
“From the outset, cruise lines knew the only possible response to the pandemic was to get the best medical advice from the experts and to ensure health and safety remained the top priority,” he said.
“To gain travellers’ trust, we needed to demonstrate that we had taken measures that would not only reduce the risks of COVID-19, but also provide detailed response plans to address any cases.”
That means measures that exceed many current protocols on land.
Australian cruise lines have testing and vaccination requirements for both crew and passengers, plus measures to ensure social distancing, ventilation and sanitation.
Many local cruise operators have upgraded their onboard medical facilities and all have isolation facilities ready to be activated in the event of an infection in a passenger or crew member.
Marcus Dudley, director of operations at Coral Expeditions, said the company has developed its industry-leading Sailsafe program in response to Covid. It includes mandatory vaccination of staff and passengers, pre-cruise testing and social distancing.
“Our ships are designed for small numbers of guests and with a lot of space. The small community on board means we can monitor changes in health and respond quickly when cases arise. Our customers are very responsible and the remote natural areas we visit mean we have little exposure to Covid from shore excursions and communities,” said Mr Dudley.
Cruising on small ships was especially in demand, he said.
“Our style of small vessel expeditions to remote nature reserves is more relevant than ever and certainly in high demand. We have just completed a completely sold-out Kimberley season with over 4,000 passengers on board and guests are delighted to be back on board,” he added.
Passengers’ concerns today are less about the health risks of Covid, but more about the prospect of having to cancel a trip due to a Covid infection.
Coral Expeditions offers a 100 percent credit towards a future cruise (subject to availability) to eliminate this concern.
The Cruise Lines International Association estimated that the sector was worth $5 billion to the Australian economy before the corona crisis, and said the recovery was well underway, with 46 ships sailing in local waters next summer.