Despite being the only cruise line sailing in Australia through the COVID era, Coral Expeditions is still learning to adapt and make changes.
The line has notched up 93 voyages since October, 2020, and has accumulated significant expertise in operating in this environment.
But earlier this month around 60 passengers and 30 crew aboard Coral Discoverer were considered close contacts of two COVID-positive passengers who had to be taken off. No further cases were reported and Tasmanian Health worked closely with the line and was completely satisfied with its health protocols.
But Jeff Gillies, the line’s experienced commercial director, told Cruise Passenger the case highlighted a problem: those sailing on board were, of course, PCR tested some three days before boarding the Discoverer. But they didn’t heed the message that they should self isolate after the test.
So the line will amp up the warnings and make adjustments to RAT testing. It is also asking passengers to get booster shots.
Coral has had to cancel four cruises in January, including an itinerary ‘Across the Top of Australia,’ which was due to depart Cairns on January 20. There were concerns the itinerary and aboriginal communities might be impacted. Otherwise, the three-vessel fleet has managed to successfully navigate 18 months of sailings and can be proud of its record.
The Tasmanian incident was “inevitable” says Mr Gillies, given so many other lines have been hit far harder. And he understood the concerns of Tasmanian health about local transmission. But working with passengers, crew and the health authorities quickly turned the situation around.
Mr Gillies is confident the season will now continue – and there is strong demand for future sailings.
“People are starting to see the benefit of getting on with their lives and with travel,” he says. “Some people are anxious but a lot are ready to go.”
The cancelled voyages are:
Circumnavigation of Tasmania (departure Hobart 1 January 2022)
Coastal Treks of Tasmania (departure Hobart 17 January 2022)
Outer Adventures on the Great Barrier Reef (departure Cairns 4 and 11 January 2022)
Across the Top of Australia (departure Cairns 20 January 2022)