After more than a year in port, experts are calling for cruise ships to set sail as soon as mid-year, saying cruise liners have a stellar history of dealing with viruses on board and there is no need to wait for the majority of the country to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
Dr Ian Norton, one of Australia’s leading infectious disease experts, told The Australian the industry shouldn’t be punished for what happened in the early days of the pandemic when “we didn’t understand how it [Covid-19] was transmitted” and that cruise ships should be given the same benefits as airlines, which have already started flights to New Zealand as part of the trans-Tasman travel bubble.
Dr Norton, who led the World Health Organisation’s medical team in Geneva for six years and is now a health and safety adviser to several cruise lines, said gastroenteritis can be a common ailment on board a cruise ship, and because of this, cruise companies have become “experts” in dealing with infection control.
“It is inappropriate to look back at those experiences of the Ruby Princess or Diamond Princess and reflect that into the present day,” he said. “We didn’t understand Covid, it was very new to us all, we didn’t understand how it was transmitted. If we knew then what we know now, our approach would be very different.”
His comments are echoed by Travel at 60 Chief Commercial Officer Wendy Harch, who says cruise lovers are itching to get back out to sea.
“The cruise industry deserves the opportunity to get back to work and Aussie travellers are ready and waiting,” she said.
“We’re taking bookings for cruises towards the end of the year that are selling out fast, but we need the government to knuckle down and give the industry an official start date. Aussies deserve that. It’s not just about holidaymakers who want to travel again either, there are thousands of people currently out of a job who’ll benefit from cruises starting up again.
“So many of our over-60s have had such a rough year and we just want to give them the chance to have a little fun again.”
Some cruises have already resumed expeditions around the Coral Sea, but companies like Carnival, Cunard, Princess Cruises and P&O are looking to sail further afield as soon as it’s safe to do so.
The federal government health biosecurity emergency is in place until June 17, which includes restrictions on cruise vessels entering the country.
Check out Travel at 60’s available cruises here.