Passengers and crew on ships carrying more than 250 people will have to test negative for coronavirus before being allowed to embark in an industry first aimed at reigniting the ailing cruise industry.
Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Global President Kelly Craighead said testing would take place before embarkation and was just one example of how determined cruise ship companies were to be COVID-safe.
The cruise industry has been gutted because of the pandemic, with the Ruby Princess debacle which led to 28 deaths and more than 660 cases highlighting how quickly the deadly virus can spread on a cruise ship.
Ms Craighead said coronavirus testing was one of the many changes cruise ship passengers would notice when ships returned to the oceans around the world.
“CLIA ocean cruise line members worldwide have agreed to conduct 100 per cent testing of passengers and crew on all ships with a capacity to carry 250 or more persons — with a negative test required for any embarkation,” she said in a statement.
“This is a travel industry first and an example of the cruise industry leading the way.
“We see testing as an important initial step to a multi-layered approach that we believe validates the industry’s commitment to making health, safety, and the wellbeing of the passengers, the crew, and the communities we visit our top priority.”
She said that for several months cruise lines have worked with health experts worldwide to develop unprecedented public health protocols and are optimistic these measures will “allow for gradual, phased resumption” of cruising.
The cruising industry is still waiting for the green light to return to Australian waters with intrastate cruises the most likely option in the interim.
From an Australian perspective, the cruise industry has been working with government and health authorities to work towards the phased resumption of cruising, said CLIA’s Managing Director Australasia Joel Katz.
The commitment to improved hygiene and protocols was a major steps towards reopening and supporting more than 18,000 jobs that rely on cruising in Australia and the $5 billion a year cruising generates for the national economy, he said.
“While cruise operations have been suspended, cruise lines have been using this time to develop extensive new health measures for when the time is right to sail again,” Mr Katz said.
“This process…has resulted in industry-wide commitments covering the specific screening, sanitisation and medical protocols that will operate in response to COVID-19.”
Queensland, with 14 cruise stops, has more ports than any other state or territory in Australia, which makes it the most ideal departure point for intrastate travel, he said.
“You can operate a cruise out of Brisbane that is carrying only Queenslanders and stay within the state…stopping at regional destinations,” Mr Katz had previously told NCA NewsWire.
Brisbane’s new cruise terminal at Luggage Point, which was due to open on Saturday, October 3, has been put on ice waiting for the pandemic to pass.
At least 180 cruises were planned to depart the new terminal in the first season of operation with the Carnival-owned Pacific Dawn scheduled as the first to set sail at 6am on October 3.
The Pacific Dawn itself became a ‘casualty’ of the pandemic and will never set sail again after being retired early.
Carnival is now offering a 10-day Christmas cruise and a 12-day New Year’s cruise, both through the South Pacific and includes stops at Noumea, Isle of Pines, Lifou and Norfolk Island.
Mr Katz said cruise lines needed a couple of months notice for a return to operations to allow time to prepare a passenger ship, which included collecting provisions, food and beverages and rostering a crew.
Asia appears likely to return to cruising although they may only be sea-bound excursions.
Singapore Tourism Board is looking to approve cruises to ‘nowhere’ similar to Qantas flying round-trips from Sydney that fly over land and past some of Australia’s major tourist sights before returning to Sydney.
It is unclear when these Singapore cruises will set sail or what cruise lines will participate.