Cruise industry left out as international boarders reopen

Cruise industry left out as international boarders reopen

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International boarders have come down, with the travel ban and the exemption requirement to go overseas finally ditched on November 1st.  

Aussies desperate to go on holidays are already selling out flights to Europe, America and Asia.

Despite flights being back on track, cruise companies are still unable to restart their Australian tours.

However, there will be nothing stopping Aussies flying to places Miami, Florida and Nadi, Fiji, and enjoying a cruise overseas before flying home – making the Australian cruise ruling more farcical.

The cruise industry was brought to a standstill early last year when the coronavirus pandemic hit Australia, with one of Australia’s first Covid outbreaks came from a cruise ship, when the Ruby Princess docked in Sydney last March.

More than 900 infections and at least 28 deaths were eventually linked to the outbreak.

The outbreak triggered a biosecurity ban on all foreign flagged vessels, with the cruise ban in place until December 17th.

Despite hints from NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet, who has acknowledged the irony of Aussies being able to cruise overseas but not at home, the industry will still take months to restart.

Speaking to news.com.au, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) managing director Australasia Joel Katz blasted the “ridiculous” and “disappointing” double standard.

“We need the federal and state governments to come to the party,” Mr Katz said.

“Just in the last couple of days, we’ve had a number of travel agents reach out to us with comments from a number of avid cruise passengers, asking us what the rules are about cruising overseas.

“They’re planning to fly overseas to cruise because they can’t cruise at home and that’s really disappointing for the thousands of Aussies who rely on the cruise industry locally for their livelihoods.”

Mr Katz said the cruise industry had been asking the Government “for a long time” to forge a way forward together.

Despite some promising words from senior federal ministers and a number of premiers, Mr Katz said it was “time to convert words into action”.

The Australian cruise industry has submitted robust Covid protocols that have already been tried and tested on more than three million passengers overseas, since cruising restarted in Europe and the US.

Despite that, Mr Katz said the industry was still waiting on formal responses in Australia from the Government and health authorities.

Even if those formal responses and approvals came tomorrow, the cruise industry is not one that can get things up and running quickly.

“There are long lead times to get ships up and running. It’s very difficult for cruise companies to know when to push the start button with no certainty,” Mr Katz said.

“The crew needs to be recruited and vaccinated, then they have to be flown out to wherever the ship is, go through a quarantine process, get trained on whatever new protocols are needed.

“And, most of the ships are in the northern hemisphere, so they need to make their way down. All that needs to happen before they can even start the process of taking customers again.”

Mr Katz predicted a restart of Australia’s cruise industry in January (in 10-12 weeks’ time), a prediction he quickly revised when P&O announced it had been forced to again push its first cruises to February.

P&O Cruises Australia President Sture Myrmell said the voluntary pause had been extended due to the lack of a clear pathway towards restarting the industry.

“We are naturally disappointed for our guests and our many suppliers to have to extend the pause in operations by a further month,” Mr Myrmell said this morning.

“With society rapidly reopening including social gatherings and travel just weeks away, there is a vital need for a pathway for the staged resumption of domestic cruising.

“Our guests have made it clear they want to cruise again, and we look forward to welcoming them on board as soon as possible supported by comprehensive protocols based on the world’s best public health practice and standards.”