Australia’s plans to safely resume cruising in 2021.
COVID-19 has brought the entire world to a standstill and cruising came to a sudden halt in March 2020. Since then cruise lines have, in addition to processing an extraordinary volume of refunds and credits, also reviewed and reinvented the customer journey to ensure cruising is safe for all passengers, crew and the communities they visit when it resumes. As your cruise travel agent, it is imperative that we can confidently recommend a cruise holiday to you in the new environment, which we can based on the careful phased approach the industry is taking with the local restart. Below is some further information around these plans.
Local cruising since October
Firstly some good news is that two local cruise lines are already operating successfully here in Australia. True North has been cruising from WA since 4 July and Coral Expedition cruises have been operating cruises safely since October with all-Australia crew and passengers. The cruise lines worked diligently with various regulators to gain approval to restart with many new protocols in place including compulsory testing of all crew and passengers. Cruising will take a while to recover but this is a good start.
Cruise lines are represented globally by peak body CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) which has a local chapter based in Sydney. The organisation helps equip travel agents like us with training and tools to better promote cruising, in addition to championing the significant economic benefits cruising enables.
Since all vessels were paused earlier in 2020 due to covid, CLIA and it’s member cruise lines have worked to reinvent the entire cruise journey to mitigate the risk covid presents. In the US the independent Healthy Sail Panel was established in June 2020 with a dozen leading experts from fields of public health, epidemiology, maritime operations, hospitality and more. Following 3 months of exhaustive review the panel released a report tabling over 70 recommendations for cruise lines to consider as part of the safe resumption of cruising. These have since been further localised and are in summary form below.
New Robust Covid Protocols
Cruise lines are committed to protecting the health and safety of passengers, crew and the communities they visit. The new protocols are extensive and include:
- Mandatory covid testing of ALL crew and passengers prior to departure
- Reduced passenger numbers onboard
- Social distancing and improved people flow
- Enhanced cleaning and sanitation with increased hand hygiene
- Temperature checks of passengers and crew onboard
- Improved ventilation, HVAC systems and filtration
- Improved medical facilities and contact tracing facilities onboard
- Curated shore excursions depending on locations visited
It is safe to say that when larger ships start cruising again here from Australia, it will be a very tightly managed exercise with an enormous amount of oversight from various health authorities and regulators. If you’re a regular cruiser or considering a cruise for the first time, you should take a lot of comfort from this important validation and checks and balances.
How cruising may resume in Australia
As at December 2020, Australia is yet again the lucky country with respect to how it has handled the pandemic. This provides an opportunity to progress plans for a phased resumption of cruising in collaboration with all the key stakeholders. This would follow the similar successful process we have already seen in parts of Europe, Singapore and other parts of the world, often despite much higher case numbers. Once all the new protocols are ratified by local authorities a likely sequence might look like this:
- Short intra-state cruises to nowhere, eg 4 nights departing and returning Brisbane
- Short intra-state cruises visiting local ports, eg 7 nights from Brisbane visiting Airlie Beach or Cairns
- Short Inter-state cruises, eg 3-7 nights from Sydney to Brisbane return
- Longer cruises to New Zealand and South Pacific as these travel bubbles open up
- International cruises further afield will depend on Australia’s broader restrictions on flights and how these destinations continue to manage covid.
The landscape has evolved all year and will continue to do so. We will continue to provide updates via our weekly newsletter and Travel Advisory which links to each cruise line’s respective pause dates, Book with Confidence policies and Health & Safety protocols.
Booking with Confidence for 2021 and beyond
The 2021/22 local summer season sees more than 25 ships cruising from Australia or visiting our ports from September 2021. Cruise lines have new revised booking conditions which are very flexible, and in most cases, allow for cancellation with no penalty. Likewise our own revised terms and conditions provide for cancellations in most cases with no additional charges.
With many ships expected downunder next summer, and with positive news on the vaccine front, we’re expecting a busy next few months ahead as Aussies plan their return to the seas.
As your trusted cruise specialist, we’re here to continue providing updates, qualified advice and answer any questions you may have. You can also follow us or share any feedback via Facebook or other channels found at our contact page.
The team at Clean Cruising