P&O recently made an announcement that vaccinations will be a requirement for their Australian cruises – with even kids over 12, who are now eligible for vaccines in Australia, requiring a double jab to get on board.
With policies around the world suggesting that most cruise lines will be employing similar rules of mandatory vaccinations to their Australian cruising, the big unanswered question is what will happen to the kids younger than 12?
It only takes one photo of a Royal Caribbean water slide to remind us that cruising is a family affair, and a cruise ship is as much a haven of fun and relaxation for kids as it is for everyone else.
The doubt over whether children will be allowed to be a part of Australia’s return to cruise is taking a toll on cruise loving families.
Take 71-year-old Wayne Nuske and his family. Mr Nuske and his wife are the full time carers of their 11 year-old granddaughter Mia, the three of them are booked with Princess Cruises for a January cruise to Tasmania.
Mr Nuske reached out to Cruise Passenger having had trouble getting an answer from the cruise line as to whether Mia, who is not eligible for a vaccine, will be allowed on board.
We contacted Princess Cruises, one of Australia’s favourite and biggest cruise lines for kids.
Their formal answer was: “We will formalise our position on vaccination when the framework for cruising’s restart is released. Our intention would be for family groups to be able to travel including children who might not be eligible for vaccination under the government’s national vaccination program. We would therefore be guided by government policies in relation to eligibility for vaccination.”
But really, what they meant to say was: “We’d love to host Mia – providing the government allows us to.”
Carnival Cruise Line was also contacted for a comment and a spokesperson said: “Families are a significant and valued component of the many guests who cruise with Carnival Cruise Line. Our intention is that family groups will be able to travel. We will formalise our policy regarding the vaccination status of guests who are eligible for COVID-19 immunisation once a framework for the resumption of cruising in Australia has been agreed by government agencies.”
Royal Caribbean, a line that plays host to tens of thousands of children every year, is working hard on a policy towards kids.
MD for Australia and NZ Gavin Smith told Cruise Passenger: “What do you do in the kids club. Are you going to send your eight year old to the kids club with 300 kids? What is the rule with ten year olds? I just think: ‘Are we able to discriminate on the 10 year old who is ineligible?'”
Mr Smith believes the government won’t make the call. So cruise lines will have to evolve a policy.
Mr Nuske and his family are regular cruisers and Tasmania will be young Mia’s third cruise if all goes well.
Mr Nuske says Mia loves time on the open seas: “It’s great with the other kids on board, she enjoys herself, makes friends and plays plenty in the kids club.”
He sees cruising as a really positive experience for her.
“It’s getting her to see different countries and places, not just doing the ‘go up to the Gold Coast and see movie world’ but seeing other cultures.”
“When we stayed in Tokyo, she loved eating the food and doing different things than she’s used to.”
Mia has been eagerly looking forward to the next cruise.
“She’s been excited for the Tasmania cruise. We were actually booked on one in December to New Zealand but that’s been cancelled and put off to late 2022.”
“We love getting away and doing something a bit different from what we’re used to everyday.”
However, as full time carers, if Mia isn’t allowed to take part, the whole family will miss out.
“She lives with us. Unfortunately, if she can’t go, we’ll probably have to postpone any cruises until she can go. It’s just the way it has to be, unfortunately.”
The continuing doubt is making it hard for Mr Nuske to plan.
“Sooner or later it gets to the stage where you’ve got to start thinking about organising flights and accommodation down to Brisbane where the cruise leaves from, we need a bit of clarity on exactly what’s happening so we can start doing that.”
“It’s not like we live in Brisbane where we can just jump on the ship and get off and go home, we’ve got more to organise.”
However, Mr Nuske understands the difficult circumstances.
“My personal feeling is the cruise lines are doing the best they can, until the government comes up with a definite timeframe for when they can start doing things.”
What lies in the future for Mr Nuske and his 11 year-old cruise superfan?
“While we’re sticking to local for now, soon we want to jump on a plane to Europe and do Norway and all sorts of places there as well.”