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Here’s what cruising will be like when Aussie ships return

If there was any doubt about whether Australians would embrace the return of their cruise ships, it would have been dispelled this week as we celebrated news of deployments and itineraries from Carnival Australia and Royal Caribbean.

P&O Australia was so excited the line’s new boss Marguerite Fitzgerald flew to Europe to front a video of flagship Pacific Explorer’s crew cheering the news that the ship was underway. You can see the video here

And the line also produced the artwork for our lead picture depicting what Explorer will look like when she becomes the first ship to dock at Brisbane’s new port after her sailing to Queensland from Sydney on May 31.

There was even news that Carnival Cruises may add another “fun ship” to its fleet.  Carnival has been forced to continuously reshuffle its fleet, which resulted in having only Carnival Splendor set to be deployed in Australia while Spirit was on duty in America until September 2023.

Carnival Corporation President and CEO Arnold Donald said: “It would not be illogical to think at some point, once things are up and going again, that Carnival would have a stronger presence. We have no specific plans at this time.”

Princess Cruises, who are owned by Carnival Corporation, has already announce that Coral Princess will be redeployed to Australia, taking up a new home at Brisbane’s new international cruise terminal.

Royal Caribbean has also announced new itineraries for the 2023/2024 Australian season with Ovation of the Seas and  Quantum of the Seas joined by a third ship, Enchantment of the Seas which will debut Down Under.

So how will life be different on board?

The first thing you can likely expect is strict pre-departure testing requirements and another test once you’re onboard your cruise. Another current unknown is where and when masks will be required, the pattern across cruising in the rest of the world is masks will be required where social distancing is not possible. For example, in theatres or other intimate indoor venues.

A cruise classic that many Aussies would have been craving is the buffet, however, the trend shows that the buffet hasn’t gone anywhere, but does look a little different now. It’s more likely to expect a buffet with staff serving you from behind screens, rather than the free-for-all you might be used to.

Another dining change that’s been happening on post-pandemic cruises is staggered meal times, with guests being allocated times to eat in order to avoid restaurants getting too crowded. 

However, overall, those in the know say safety shouldn’t be a concern. 

Carnival spokesperson David Jones told A Current Affair: “It’ll be safer onboard a cruise ship than at your local shopping mall. If it were to happen [a positive case onboard] you’ve got all the facilities to deal with it.

“You’ve got mini hospitals on board, you’ve got medical staff, the ability to do testing, and the ability to do isolation.”

What will the vaccination policies be?

While it’s shaping up as highly likely that adults will need to be double vaccinated in order to get on a ship, there are two significant questions that remain: Will you need a booster shot, and what about younger children? 

The states have yet to issue guidelines.

Cruise lines across the globe have started instituting booster shot requirements. For example, the first cruise line set to return to our shores, Ponant, have a requirement overseas for adults who had their second dose more than six months ago to be boosted in order to sail. Similarly, P&O Cruises have instituted a booster shot requirement on certain longer sailings, including a 35-night Caribbean sailing on Ventura, meaning booster shots could also be on the cards for them.

More than 12 million Australians have received booster shots so it likely won’t be an issue for many, but it’s worth keeping in mind moving forward.

It is also currently unclear that lines vaccination policies towards families will be, currently all Australians aged five years and older can get vaccinated. However, for families with even younger children or who have not yet been able to vaccinate their children, this has yet to be cleared up.