With 10,598 cruise passengers arriving in Sydney in every bed was taken on Celebrity Eclipse, Quantum of the Seas, Pacific Adventure and Viking Orion, today should have been cause for celebration.  The number of ships underscore that cruise is back.

However, false news reports once again made it a day of confusion for the cruise community, trying to point out that transmission on board is no worse than that on shore. Several news outlets reported that the Celebrity Eclipse arrived in Sydney with a suspected 1500 COVID cases on board. However, both Celebrity Cruises and the NSW government quickly confirmed these numbers were hugely exagerated.

Celebrity Cruises told Cruise Passenger that there are only around 100 COVID cases onboard, a number the cruise line feels shows the strength of its health regime given the spiking rates in community. The ship was even praised by the port’s biosecurity team for its protective measures.

The New South Wales Department of Premier and Cabinet said: “The Celebrity Eclipse arrived in Sydney on 9 December 2022. The number of positive COVID cases on board meant the ship was identified as Tier 2.

“A Tier 2 identification means there are between 30-99 positive COVID-19 cases per 1,000 people on board, and/or the vessel’s staffing or resources are moderately impacted but the ship can safely maintain critical services.”

While news outlets are now reporting more accurate numbers, there is still significant coverage of Celebrity Eclipse’s arrival, although few stories are sharing that the case numbers are as low as 100 cases and that passengers onboard are unbothered by the speculation.

Kerrie Gillard wrote on Cruise Passengers Facebook page: “We are on Celebrity Eclipse waiting to disembark. Only 100 have Covid not 1500 as reported on Channel Nine.”

Veronica McDonald wrote: “Typical tv station always exaggerating the numbers, they just want a big story. This happened on the 12th November when majestic princess was in dock in Sydney the number was exaggerated then too.”

Narelle McLachlan wrote: “Yes we just disembarked too. We didn’t know the final numbers but were told it was tier 2…bloody media beat up again!”

But Celebrity isn’t the only cruise line suffering from confusion.

Princess Cruises passengers on Majestic Princess were this week given a notice from the Senior Doctor onboard that they will need to take a rapid COVID test within 48 hours of disembarkation. The ship arrived in Sydney on Thursday.

The notice read: “We have been informed by the New South Wales Health Authorities that all passengers are required to be tested for COVID-19 within 48 hours of disembarkation. If you are currently in isolation or have tested positive during this cruise, it is not necessary for you to take a self-administered Rapid Antigen Test.

“Complimentary self-tests will be delivered to your stateroom in the morning when testing is required, which you must self-administer. We kindly ask that guests pay close attention to when the test must be completed.”

“If the test is negative you are able to disembark as normal once the result has been shown to your Stateroom Steward, if it is positive you need to contact Guest Services and you plus the other guests in your room must isolate until further instructions are given.

Princess Cruises would not reveal what was said in their communications with health authorities but supplied the following statement: “Ahead of our arrival to Sydney, all guests onboard the Majestic Princess will undergo Rapid Antigen Testing. This is part of our strict and robust health and safety measures that are in place on all Princess Cruises ships for the safety of our guests, crew and the communities in which we visit.

“We continue to work closely with the state government and respective health department ahead of her arrival.”

Majestic Princess is currently listed as a Tier 2 ship, which is described as COVID cases with a “moderate impact to vessel”, meaning 30-99 positive cases. It is unclear if the Tier 2 status of the ship is why the new testing policy was required.

Royal Caribbean confirmed Ovation of the Seas, which also arrived in Sydney earlier this week as a Tier 2 were not given the instructions to test all passengers before disembarkation. Celebrity had also not been asked to carry out RAT tests.

NSW Health has been contacted for comment.

Majestic Princess arrives in Sydney Dec 2022
Majestic Princess – Sydney Webcam

Comments on a cruise forum regarding the new requirements are divisive.

One user Jim Schottel wrote: “As long as they keep testing everyone, they will keep getting positive results and negative publicity. The general population is not being tested frequently so there is no comparison to reality in the general population, but it sure makes the news media have a field day.”

Sue Cochrane wrote: “It seems that anyone can fly into this country and our states without having to test. Numbers are not reported. No masks and definitely no social distancing on a plane. Why are cruise lines treated differently. There are plenty of places to avoid crowds and if you can’t, put a mask on. Covid is here to stay and we must be able to get on with our lives. Do the right thing for everyone.”

However, the mostly highly voted comment simply read: “If it means cruising can continue I’m all for COVID testing.”