At the height of the pandemic, only those who suffered medical complaints or kids were exempted from vaccines.
Now some of those kids are tweens – and are still subject to Australia’s continuing cruise ban for those who have yet to be jabbed.
Sharon Summerhayes, owner of Deluxe Travel & Cruise, says she is seeing many families in this predicament.
“The current rules are making it very difficult for young teen families. Kids who are 12 and over are currently required to have the vaccines to cruise from Australia.
“Most kids aged 12, 13, and 14 aren’t vaccinated because there was no requirement in any setting during the height of the pandemic. Parents don’t want to vaccinate their kids just to get on a ship, though they desperately want to cruise.”
Who are the families affected?
Jasmine Tully is a devout cruiser, who loves to cruise with her 13-year-old granddaughter, who is unvaccinated. And her granddaughter has been unable to cruise since turning 13.
Ms. Tully has had to cancel two pre-booked cruises due to the ongoing rules, but she and her granddaughter would love to get back to sea.
“My granddaughter is 13 and she has cruised with me before thoroughly enjoyed it and can’t wait to go again.
“As far as cruising goes I would have no problem booking another cruise tomorrow. We are well aware of the need for extra vigilance when it comes to hygiene on cruise ships. But it’s not going to dictate our future and the enjoyment we get from cruising.
“Hopefully the people who make the rules can see just how unjustified it is to keep the current protocols around vaccination in place.”
Ms Tully says she’d love to support the economy by cruising if she was able to. But reaching out to parliament members has come to little fruition.
“It’s very frustrating as when we fly to Sydney to board the cruise. We have always gone for extra days on either side of the cruise staying in hotels and visiting the sites boosting the economy.
“I have contacted my local MLA office and whilst they were helpful and looked into it they only came back with what I already knew.”
What have the travel agents been told?
Ms. Summerhayes says she has a large client base who are eagerly waiting for the lifting of the regulations. Some face the dilemma of leaving the kids behind or not cruising.
While some still demand the unvaccinated stay off ships, Ms. Summerhayes says the general sentiment seems to have eased. Especially, with some saying the current rules as unfair.
“There will always be a portion of people that aren’t happy. But we really need to align with the rest of the world. I think the majority wo.
“I think it’s completely unfair now. There hasn’t been a requirement for any other setting for a very long time. Most cruisers had the vaccine two years ago. And the efficacy of the vaccinations isn’t anywhere near that long. It doesn’t make any sense at all.”
One of these cruisers who would love to get back at sea is John Appleton 73, and his wife.
Mr Appleton said: “My Wife and I (aged 73 and 74) are very fit and active. And we are very enthusiastic cruisers.
“Cruises departing from Australia are very appealing. It’s just a three-hour flight from New Zealand and there are numerous cruise options on offer.”
The couple are unhappy with the current rules.
“We are very disappointed that as unvaccinated people we are currently prevented from boarding a cruise ship in Australian ports.
“We fully understand that rules around vaccines were embraced by Australian Health authorities. And these were based on the belief at the time the vaccines prevented transmission of Covid 19. As well as lessening the chances of serious illness, hospitalisation or death.
“But surely it’s now time to follow the lead of European Countries, the U.S.A, and even New Zealand where there are no restrictions for unvaccinated people wishing to join cruises.”
Ms Summerhayes says the industry is feeling the strain of the ongoing uncertainty.
“Yes we are very frustrated because our cruisers can’t plan ahead. We’d like a straight answer so we can get on with it!
“I wish I knew when the rules will change because it’s a question I get every single day.”
What is the government doing?
The New South Wales Department of Premier and Cabinet confirmed there have been no updates or reviews to the current Eastern Seaboard Protocols that New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia are abiding by. The DPC also said there is no word on when the protocols will be reviewed, despite it being around two months out from wave season.
Ms Summerhayes says the industry hasn’t been briefed at all on when rules might change and remain as in the dark as the public.
The federal government currently has no legal mandates over cruise vaccination, meaning it is up to the state governments to change the rule.
Recently, leading health experts have expressed concern over potential outbreaks if cruise lines were to ditch their health and safety procedures too quickly.
But they did feel that there is a definite move towards simply living with the disease, even on a cruise ship. However, with no word from the government, there continues to be no timeline for when this may occur.