Australia has banned international cruise ships for 30 days, while the New Zealand government has banned cruise vessels from its territorial waters for more than three months in a weekend of tough moves to halt the global coronavirus pandemic.
Australia’s move came Sunday after a cabinet meeting which also agreed all international travellers to Australia will be forced to self-isolate for 14 days.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the new measure will be in place from midnight (AEDT).
The Australian stance came one day after New Zealand announced even tougher measures, including a cruise ship port call ban for three months. The surprise move immediately affected Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas itinerary to Milford Sound.
Two other Royal Caribbean ships, Azamara Journey and Celebrity Solstice, are believed to be in the Milford Sound vicinity.
The move came on an extraordinary day which saw almost every cruise line sailing Australian waters announce a pause in itineraries, varying from eight weeks to one month.
The New Zealand decision follows a difficult few weeks in which many Pacific nations have unilaterally refused to allow vessels to dock, making normal services for cruise passengers almost impossible.
NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also announced that all travellers arriving in New Zealand except from Pacific nations will be forced to quarantine for 14 days, starting at midnight Sunday.
Cruise Lines International Association Australasia, the industry’s representative body, issued a statement saying it was working with both federal and state governments as the industry got its vessels back to port.
“As always, the health and safety of passengers and crew is the highest priority,” said the statement. “As the Australian Government has announced, all international arrivals by cruise ships to Australian ports will be suspended for 30 days, with provisions for vessels currently in operation.
“As many cruise lines had previously announced voluntary suspensions of their operations, the industry is already well advanced in returning ships to port. CLIA has been working closely with the government in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, and has been consulting with state and national health departments over the extensive measures enacted by the cruise industry globally.”
The statement went on: “This is an unprecedented situation and we are conscious not only of the impact upon on guests, but also on the destinations that cruise lines visit and the many businesses that depend upon cruise tourism. Despite challenging times, we are confident our industry has the resilience to overcome this situation in the longer term.”
The New Zealand Cruise Association put out a statement saying the move would affect 45 voyages and 141 ship visits to ports, costing New Zealand’s tourism industry huge sums and severely impacting industry members.
The Association said it would be lobbying to change the restrictions or at least ensure they are not extended. “We are deeply saddened for our industry,” said chair Debi Summers.
As well as the cruise industry, the restrictions will impact many sporting and other events, and bring tourism to a virtual halt.