Royal Caribbean has given a huge vote of confidence in Australia’s ability to hit its vaccine targets, promising a new season of domestic sailings on board Ovation of the Seas from Sydney starting in December.
With cruising by international big ships still banned until at least September 17, the line is banking on the vaccine roll out hitting its 70 per cent targets and the government allowing in foreign ships and crews.
The Quantum-class Ovation, which can carry 4,900 passengers, is expecting to offer a mix of two and ten night domestic sailings from December 13, visiting Eden, Hobart, Adelaide, Brisbane, Port Douglas, Kangaroo Island, Airlie Beach, Cairns and Port Douglas. The line is promising 24 sailings in all.
But because of the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the opening of international borders, Royal Caribbean has cancelled sailings of Serenade of the Seas’ from Sydney from October 24 to February 27, 2022 and Ovation of the Seas’ sailings from Sydney from October 27 2021 to April 10, 2022 inclusive. Ovation will be redeployed to a domestic only itinerary
Royal Caribbean has still to spell out what health protocols will be available on board, whether passengers will have to be fully vaccinated or how many guests will be allowed. Crew, however, will be vaccinated.
A statement said: “Royal Caribbean will continue to refine protocols, including vaccine policy, based on specific needs to Australia at the time of sailing. All Royal Caribbean crew members will be fully vaccinated.”
Royal Caribbean ships sailing out of Singapore have had passenger capacity cut to between 25 and 50 per cent, and have successfully sailed tens of thousands of passengers since last November.
Australia and New Zealand Vice President Gavin Smith said: “We are growing in confidence that the vaccine roll-out in Australia and particularly New South Wales has gained much needed momentum. If the government can achieve its vaccination targets, as well as establish a clear pathway for the return of cruising, then we will be here and ready to take eager Australians on cruise holidays once again.”
“We continue to encourage and assist federal and state governments to establish a clear pathway for the return of cruising, and hope that by December we will have guests holidaying with us once again.
“While Sydney manages its ongoing lockdown, several factors make us hopeful that domestic cruising will return this summer, from rapid advances in COVID-19 research, technology and an emphasis on swift vaccine distribution.”
The line’s summer 2022/2023 sailings remain open for bookings. It promises to be a bumper season with Quantum of the Seas, Ovation and Radiance of the Seas all returning to Australia for sail-cruise holidays across Australia, New Zealand and islands of the South Pacific.
“We are very encouraged by the great response we have had to our 2022/2023 season as guests plan ahead and remain confident and excited about a return to cruising in Australia. We’ve seen strong interest in cruises on Quantum, which will homeport at Brisbane’s new state-of-the-art cruise terminal,” said Dave Humphreys, director of sales, Australia and New Zealand, Royal Caribbean International.
The new, world-class $177 million Brisbane International Cruise Terminal was completed in mid-2020 and will play a vital role in growing Queensland’s cruise industry by helping to showcase all that south-east Queensland has to offer.
All impacted guests and travel partners affected by the cancellations have been contacted and advised of their options. Guests will be issued a Future Cruise Credit to the value of 125% of their cruise fare to use on future sailings, however, guests are able to opt for a full refund or to Lift & Shift to applicable summer 2022-2023 sailings, if preferred.
Working closely with federal and state governments as well as authorities around the world, Royal Caribbean says it has “developed multilayered measures to safeguard the well-being of all guests, crew members and the communities at each port of call. These protocols include the ships’ robust ventilation systems, enhanced cleaning and sanitisation, and cruising at reduced occupancy as ships initially return to sailing.”
Royal Caribbean is now sailing itineraries in the US, Caribbean and Europe.
The line says it is in ongoing discussions with multiple national, state and local health and government authorities around the world regarding the various requirements for all upcoming sailings. Independent of the port of departure, the cruise line will continue to follow the guidelines as recommended by health experts, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and provide updates to guests and travel partners.