Cruise holidays are set to return to Australia after a year-long hiatus – with voyages from Sydney to Queensland expected in late April.
The world’s biggest cruise line, Carnival, has experienced a 400 per cent increase in demand for Queensland cruises after international voyages remain delayed into late 2021.
The cruise industry was all but shut down in early 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic and quarantine breaches such as the infamous Ruby Princess debacle in March, in which infected passengers streamed into Sydney Harbour.
Carnival cruises have announced cruises from Sydney in late April and from Brisbane in mid-2021 with those dates available to be booked on their website.
The Carnival Spirit cruise ship (pictured in Sydney Harbour) is expected to be based in Queensland from June where it will allow Australian passengers to visit tourist spots such as Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef
Cairns in Queensland’s tropical north (pictured) is a popular tourist spot with cruise ships frequently visiting the city’s port before travel restrictions
Australia closed its borders to international travel on March 20, 2020 to halt the spread of coronavirus into the country.
A day earlier on March 19, about 2,700 passengers from the Ruby Princess were allowed to disembark in Sydney before adequate COVID-19 testing had been completed – with at least 440 passengers later confirmed to have caught the virus.
The incident threw the spotlight on cruise ships as a source of infections with subsequent vessels subject to extreme restrictions when attempting to land at Australian ports.
In Western Australia in the days following the Ruby Princess case another cruise liner, the MSC Magnifica was outright refused permission to dock at Fremantle after reports surfaced that people on board had symptoms.
Another liner the Artania refused to leave Fremantle after being ordered to set sail by the WA government in late March with 450 crew on board – some experiencing symptoms.
Foreign-flagged cruise ships were officially banned from entering Australian waters on March 27, 2020.
The ban expired on December 17, however, cruise lines have suspended their international voyages to Australia for longer – Royal Caribbean, for example has said trips to Australia won’t be made until at least April 30, 2020.
The MSC Magnifica cruise ship has been banned from disembarking in WA after more than 250 people on board reported a ‘respiratory illness’
If Carnival cruise lines resumed operations in Queensland, it would create $16.7million in revenue for the Sunshine State – much needed after border closures heavily affected the tourism dependent region’s economy.
The company’s Carnival Spirit ship will be based in Queensland from June – allowing passengers already in Queensland to voyage to the Great Barrier Reef, Cape York, and Moreton Island.
In Sydney, emerging Covid clusters could affect the late April schedule to resume voyages, but Carnival executives have flagged ships departing the city for destinations such as Cairns, Airlie beach and Port Douglas as a priority.
States and territories slammed their borders shut to residents of greater Sydney as the clusters were discovered in the lead-up to peak Christmas travel days.
These border closures would continue to affect cruise ship passengers from Covid hotspots who wish to disembark at ports in closed border regions.
For example, a Greater Sydney resident would not be able to disembark at a Queensland port under the current border restrictions.
The Queensland government has as of early January not given an indication of when border rules for Sydney residents would be eased.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has flagged, however, a number of zero local cases for 28 days before she would re-open borders to hotspots.
Queensland slammed the border shut to Sydney residents again before Christmas after Covid clusters emerged in the city (pictured is a border checkpoint at Cooloangatta on the Gold Coast on December 22
CRUISE INDUSTRY RULES FOR RESUMING VOYAGES
The Australian branch of Cruise Lines International Association has outlined Covid safety procedures for the resumption of cruising in Australia:
Ships, passengers and crew will quarantine for 14 days after they return to Australia.
Passengers will have to fill out health declarations and undergo contact history screening.
Daily temperature checks on board for passengers and crew.
Limited passenger numbers on board.
Venue restrictions and social distancing on board.
No self-service buffets.
Ventilation strategies to increase fresh air.
Staggered embarkation and disembarkation processes to reduce crowding.
Coronavirus clusters in the Croydon, Northern Beaches and Woolongong areas of Greater Sydney have emerged over the last month and have been linked to one another, and believed to have broken out of hotel quarantine.
A new cluster has also appeared in the last week linked to a BWS bottle shop in Berala – exposed after a Covid-19 patient transport worker and a colleague unknowingly visited the store while infectious before Christmas.
A BWS worker is believed to have then caught the virus without knowing and served thousands of customers over the festive season.
Officials have presumed the virus leaked to the bottle shop from hotel quarantine via the transport worker.
Some areas of regional NSW has also been placed on alert after a young man travelled thousands of kilometres on a camping trip – visiting Orange and Broken Hill – before testing positive.
The Great Barrier Reef (pictured) is a world famous icon of the Queensland coast that is set to be a focus of domestic travel while international borders remain closed
COVID TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS FOR NEW SOUTH WALES:
- Western Australia – All NSW residents are banned from entering WA. Anyone who enters the state will be ‘sent back’, according to Premier Mark McGowan.
- Victoria – A hard border has been put up, with the entire state of NSW declared a red zone. If people cross into Victoria before 11.59pm on New Year’s Eve, they must self- isolate until they test negative. If they enter before 11.59pm on New Year’s Day, they must self-isolate for 14 days regardless of test results. If they cross into the state after January 1, they must spend two weeks in mandatory hotel quarantine.
- Northern Territory – The state has declared greater metropolitan Sydney as a Covid-19 hotspot, and travellers will need to undergo 14 days of supervised quarantine.
- South Australia – Harder border closure to all NSW residents from midnight on New Year’s Eve. Returning South Australians must quarantine for 14 days. A 100km border buffer zone, including Broken Hill and Wentworth, will be exempt.
- Queensland – Queensland has shut its borders to Greater Sydney, Wollongong and the Central Coast. Locals returning to the Sunshine State from a hotspot must isolate.
- ACT – Anyone travelling to the ACT from a Covid-19 hotspot in NSW will now require an exemption. People from Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Greater Sydney, the Central Coast and Wollongong will not be legally permitted to enter the ACT without a valid pass from midday on Saturday January 2.
- Tasmania – Northern Beaches residents banned. All people from Greater Sydney must also quarantine upon entry.