The New South Wales, Victorian, and Queensland governments have quashed any hope that unvaccinated cruisers will be allowed to sail in Australia.
A heated debate among Cruise Passenger readers started the dialogue, with some asking the question directly to the state bodies.
In a poll posted to Cruise Passenger’s Facebook Group, 76% answered that unvaccinated people shouldn’t be able to cruise in Australia.
But many cruisers have maintained that they are being unfairly discriminated against, since unvaccinated passengers are already allowed on planes and in hotels and resorts.
The states how now replied to the pressure to change.
The NSW Ministry of Health wrote: “Viruses spread easily and quickly between people interacting closely together, especially in indoor areas. Going on a cruise ship increases your chance of exposure to infectious diseases such as COVID-19. COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective in preventing severe outcomes from COVID-19 infection. Ensuring that cruise passengers are vaccinated can reduce the risk of serious illness in the case of an outbreak.
“All vessels entering NSW waters are expected to comply with the Eastern Seaboard and Western Australian Cruise Protocols (the Protocols). The Protocols, which were co-designed by state governments in consultation with the Australian Government and cruise industry, outline the government’s expectations for cruise lines operating in Australia. The Protocols state that all passengers aged over 12 must be fully vaccinated (at least two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine approved or recognised by the Therapeutic Goods Administration), and highly recommend that passengers are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations prior to travel.
“As national COVID-19 settings change, state Governments will consider and advise of any changes to the Protocols.”
Another NSW Government spokesperson responded similarly.
“In 2022, the NSW Government developed the Cruise Protocols in close partnership with the Federal, Victorian and Queensland Governments and representatives from cruise industry. Each State Government approved the Cruise Protocols, and cruise lines agreed to implement them on a voluntary basis to support safe cruising. In late 2022, the NSW, Victorian, Queensland and Western Australia Governments worked with the cruise industry to update the Protocols ahead of the summer season.
“The NSW Government is currently not in a position to indicate the process or timing for reviewing the current Cruise Protocols.”
A Queensland health spokesperson wrote: “The Eastern Seaboard and Western Australia Cruise Protocols have been developed by the Queensland, New South Wales, Victorian and Western Australia Governments in close partnership with the cruise industry.
“Queensland regularly liaises with its Eastern Seaboard and Western Australian counterparts on the protocols, which are regularly reviewed.”
However, no government bodies seemed to want to accept responsibility or offer insight on when the protocols could be set to change.
The Victorian DPC, Federal Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and WA Tourism all pointed towards the Federal Health Department as the ones in charge, however, the Department of Health and Aged Care pointed the finger back at the states.
“The Eastern Seaboard and Western Australian Cruise Protocols have been developed by state and territory governments with input from public health authorities.
“Questions relating to updates to the Eastern Seaboard and Western Australian Cruise Protocols are best directed towards the relevant state/territory governments.
“The operational requirements for cruising within Australia are determined by state and territory governments and cruise operators.”
Opinions among the public continue to vary greatly. Leading cruise agent Sharon Summerhayes says: ” My personal opinion – it doesn’t matter anymore. Almost everyone has now had it after their vaccine, and it makes no difference at all if you’re jabbed or not. Almost everywhere else in the world has dropped requirements. It’s time we did too. Let everyone cruise again!”
Nicole Smith, a top contributor on a Royal Caribbean Facebook forum offers the opposite perspective: “I like the rules. We still got Covid on a February/March cruise and know that about another 150 did too. Imagine if there were no rules then and we’d run around and spread more Covid.
“Would people have liked to get it? No, they would have complained that there were no rules to try and control it. People need to stop thinking only of themselves.”