The COVID-19 pandemic continues with social distancing recommendations still firmly in place and increased hygiene measures across the board, however in Australia at least, local and domestic travel is beginning to see a much-needed revival.
Domestic flight sales have kicked off from all major airlines and road trip itineraries have never been so popular as Australians are encouraged to Holiday Here This Year, as per Tourism Australia’s ongoing campaign — which initially kicked off after the bushfire season as a means to get Aussies exploring bushfire-affected towns.
One major travel branch, however, is yet to see its resurrection. Despite summer being the most popular season, cruise ships are only now preparing to re-enter the travel landscape with updated health and safety measures that will protect passengers, staff and the cities in which the ships are docked.
The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) has announced new changes and restrictions that passengers can expect from cruises, should the Federal Government lift its current ban on cruising, which could occur on December 17.
These new restrictions, outlined below, have been set in place in response to the current health advice, and in preparation against a repeat of the Ruby Princess incident.
For those who need a refresher course: In the height of the pandemic in Australia, at least 28 deaths and 662 coronavirus cases were linked to the Ruby Princess cruise ship.
Here’s how cruising is expected to change in a post-pandemic Australia.
What are the new cruise ship restrictions?
Mandatory COVID-19 tests for passengers and crew
Both cruise ship staff and passengers can expect to undergo mandatory pre-boarding tests for COVID-19. It’s not confirmed yet as to whether testing will take place only once or multiple times across a period of days in the lead-up to embarking, and whether a pre-cruising quarantine period will be required. We do know, however, that “extensive screening’ will take place.
Limited passenger numbers
Even the more modest cruise ships can accommodate between 2,000 and 3,000 guests, but in a post-pandemic industry, it’s unlikely cruises will be able to host such a large number of passengers. The exact number of passengers cruise ships will be able to host when the ban is lifted is yet to be confirmed.
Increased hygiene measures
Temperature checks, hand sanitizer at every corner, and increased cleaning and sanitation measures. Guests can expect new cleaning and hygiene measures from all areas of the ship’s operations, from the kitchen to the guest suites.
No more buffets
Guests will not be able to dine in a communal buffet area. Sharing high-touch utensils is a no-no. Obviously.
Cruising within state and national borders
According to the ABC, cruise ships will initially look to operate within Australian state or national borders while travel restrictions remain in place. Additionally, passengers will be required to quarantine upon their return to Australian shores.