In a move that will exacerbate the debate on Australia’s vaccination policies for cruise ships, New Zealand has relaxed its rules to allow unvaccinated citizens to sail.

Both Australia and New Zealand have no federal requirement for those on cruise ships.  But while most of the world has now relented and allowed those who haven’t had jabs on ships as case numbers on board have slowed,  the Australian Eastern Seaboard states haves refused to change their stance.  Their position binds any cruises that visits New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria or Western Australia.

The inconsistencies are creating frustrations amongst cruise passengers, unsure why they must be vaccinated on one cruise but not the next. 

Cruise Passenger reader Sharelle wrote saying those sailing just next-door in New Zealand can do so without all the regulations that exist in Australia.

“I see that P&O cruises have now dropped vaccination requirements on specific cruises that sail out of New Zealand. As long as the cruise doesn’t head to Australia or Norfolk Island, the unvaccinated can travel. 

“These cruises would include three or four nighters from Auckland and eight to 10 nighters to the islands. So if P&O can do this in New Zealand, it can do it in Australia.”

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Closeup of doctor hand are vaccinations to patients using the syringe.

P&O confirmed the validity of this statement, and it makes sense, with New Zealand laws not requiring vaccination for those on cruise ships since September 2022. Notably, most cruises that visit New Zealand come from, or end up in Australia, P&O could remove these requirements as the sailings were for roundtrips out of New Zealand. 

A New Zealand health spokesperson said: “Travellers and crew do not need pre-departure tests or proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter New Zealand. However individual airlines or cruise providers may have their own policies regarding vaccination status of those on board.

“From 31 July 2022, travellers (passengers and crew) to New Zealand via the maritime border, on cruise and recreational vessels, were required to be vaccinated, but this requirement was revoked when the Maritime Border Order was revoked on 12 Sept 2022.”

There are also no testing requirements for ships coming into New Zealand, however, there are still requirements that those found positive must isolate onboard for seven-days. 

P&O’s actions do suggest the continuation of the pattern shown across the globe, that once no longer required by law, cruise lines will quickly shed Covid requirements. For example, major cruise lines across the USA have removed nearly all Covid practices since President Joe Biden declared Covid to no longer be a public health emergency. 

This leaves it in the hands of the state and federal governments to determine whether the jab will still be a necessity to cruise in Australia next season, however, they are seemingly holding firm on the vaccination requirement.

A NSW government spokesperson said: “In 2022, the NSW Government developed the Cruise Protocols in close partnership with the Federal, Victorian and Queensland Governments and representatives from the cruise industry.

“The NSW Government is currently not in a position to indicate the process or timing for reviewing the current Cruise Protocols.”

The USA’s relaxation of Covid rules and the subsequent changes in cruise lines policies means that Australia is one of the last places in the world to have a vaccination requirement or stringent Covid policies onboard, with most of the others remaining restrictions coming from Central and South American nations.

The federal and state governments appear to share the view of health experts that told Cruise Passenger there are still many risks associated with large numbers of people at sea. 

In a poll to Cruise Passenger’s Facebook group, 78% of people said they believe the unvaccinated should not be allowed to cruise in Australia. 

Over 95% of Australians aged 12 and over are fully vaccinated. 

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