Patrea and Ed Stuttard are avid cruisers, and after nearly two years of Australia’s cruise ban and no sign of a government change of heart, he government, they decided to take matters into their own hands.
The result: they’re currently in Mexico and loving life on their fourth of six cruises, and are yet to encounter Covid, 23 days into their adventure.
Ms Stuttard says cruising has been their holiday of choice for years. “We started cruising about five years ago and realised it was the perfect holiday for us. You get a taste of what’s available by visiting the ports which enables you to go back and visit the places that are super special. Plus, waking up surrounded by ocean is a wonderful way to start your day.”
Relaying their journey so far, Ms Stuttard talks through the six back-to-back cruises they booked.
“Our first cruise was three days on the Carnival Radiance to Ensenada, then we embarked on six back to back cruises on the Carnival Panorama which goes to Puerta Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. We celebrated New Years on the first of these.”
More importantly than anything, they’ve been absolutely loving it.
“We’ve had such an amazing time onboard! The Carnival crew have welcomed us so warmly. Highlights so far, would be our camel ride along the beach in Cabo San Lucas & I’m sure for Ed he could also add scuba diving across the San Andreas fault and also in Cabo.”
This comes as a welcome relief after what Ms Stuttard describes as a very difficult time from the pandemic and cruise ban.
“Initially you accept the ‘cruise pause’ but when you’re the only county (& New Zealand) that hasn’t resumed this industry it’s a tough one.”
“It definitely plays with your mental health by removing something you love so much. At our ages (65 & 61) you want to be enjoying your retirement and not have two years taken away without any road-map insight towards the resumption of cruising.”
“Plus all of our local growers and suppliers that work and rely on our Australian cruise industry are being greatly affected.”
The couple wants their story not just to tell of their cruising success but to be a demonstration of how safe cruising can be carried out and encourage the government to snap into action.
When asked if she thought the government had neglected cruising Ms Stuttard had a clear answer: “Absolutely.”
“When Greg Hunt stated he’d like to see cruises back by Christmas, we knew then he had no idea what was required to re-start the industry.”
Ms Stuttard will be putting her plans into action when she returns to Australia.
“We’re meeting with our local Federal Member for Surfers Paradise in March and just hope that she hears our story and takes us seriously. We are proof that cruising can be done and done safely.”
“We’d like to show her that this is how it’s being done in the US and this is no different to how our own cruise companies will do it at home.”
How did they do it
As far as the logistics of jetting off and hopping on cruises abroad in this climate, Ms Sullivan says it’s been nearly all smooth sailing.
The couple didn’t experience too many difficulties with restrictions and rules, but had a slightly more complicated time than usual securing insurance.
“Travel insurance was our biggest hurdle and we wouldn’t book any cruises until we had secured this.”
“There’s companies out there that will insure for contracting Covid if you’re doing a land based tour but didn’t cover you if you contract it on a ship. We obviously found a company, 1Cover. Then we started booking. Since we’ve been away, there are more companies that offer good cruise cover since we bought ours.”
“We booked our own cruises through Vacations to Go, a US based cruise agency that we’ve used before.”
As far as differences to pre-pandemic cruising, Ms Sullivan says most lie in the pre-boarding and health check-ins.
“Of course there’s differences to the pre- boarding with check in staff ensuring that every box is ticked, with all the necessary paperwork. This includes negative PCR test results and vaccine status. There are Rapid Test facilities run by medical labs at the Long Beach Port and I assume other ports.”
“There’s also the frequency of emails to request you check and re-check your online health survey. Another noticeable difference is contactless meal ordering. Almost all meals are done via QR codes through an App.”
Ms Stuttard is feeling completely safe on board and says the lines are going above and beyond to ensure this.
“There 100% mask wearing compliance, by everyone. Even little children as young as two or three years old wear a mask. It’s obvious that these little kids know no different and wearing a mask is like a part of getting dressed when you’re out and about.”
“We’re also tested every week for Covid plus we do our own in between.”
“Also knowing that every crew member is double or triple vaccinated is reassuring, which in our opinion makes a cruise ship safer than our local mall back home, safer than being in a restaurant and certainly safer than a sports event where who knows what the vaccine status is if attendees there.”
“Governments have allowed sports events to continue for most of the pandemic so why not cruises?”