Major changes to cruise holidays after COVID ban lifts

Buffets will be gone and COVID-19 tests will be mandatory for passengers on cruise ships when the industry resumes, the world’s largest cruise industry association says.

The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) has revealed the proposed changes and new protocols passengers can expect if the Federal Government’s ban on cruising ends, as anticipated, on December 17.

Changes will include mandatory pre-boarding tests for passengers and crew, daily temperature checks, and a tight limit on passenger numbers.

Food buffets will not make a return to ships.

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Domestic cruises contribute around $5 billion to the Australian economy each year, but the industry has been at the centre of two infection flash points during the COVID-19 crisis, with the Diamond Princess outbreak off the coast of Japan and the Ruby Princess fiasco in NSW.

The Federal Government’s ban on cruising expires on December 17 but exactly when and how cruising will return isn’t certain.

CLIA’s managing director for Australasia, Joel Katz, told the ABC he hoped the ban would be replaced with a process that would allow a return of cruising in 2021.

The debacle surrounding the Ruby Princess, pictured at Sydney’s Circular Quay, has shaken confidence in cruising. Picture: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

“Australia’s relative success in stemming community transmission of COVID-19 – together with the Australasian cruise industry’s robust strategy – creates an opportunity for a tightly managed and phased revival of the country’s $5 billion-a-year cruise industry,” Mr Katz said.

“This would initially involve restricted local cruises for local residents only, with limited passenger numbers, 100 per cent testing of guests and crew, and extensive screening and sanitation protocols in place.”

Mr Katz told the ABC the industry was working with the Federal Government to develop a “framework for the resumption of cruising”.

Emergency workers exit the Diamond Princess cruise ship at Daikoku Pier at Japan as it is quarantined with cases on board in February. Picture: Carl Court/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Protocols proposed by the CLIA would see cruise ships initially only operating within state and national borders, and guests would be quarantined at the end of their journey.

However, cruise enthusiasts may have to wait a little longer to set sail internationally.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said the issue of cruising was a “tough one” and cruise companies had a “lot of work to do” to restore the confidence of health authorities and the public.

“The cruise industry is doing some work to try to prove to health authorities how they can manage the issues on cruise ships,” Mr Birmingham said on Today on Monday.

“We certainly won’t see international cruising for some time but whether some of the domestic elements can get back on board, we will see how it stacks up.”

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