WA on Thursday reported a record 17,105 new cases and had 88,781 “active” cases statewide.
Dealing with COVID-19 in WA is a new experience for True North, which unlike many large ships resumed operations in mid-2020 as the state kept COVID-19 at bay, in part by closing down controversially its borders until March 3 this year.
A True North spokesperson declined to comment.
Joel Katz, general manager Australasia of the Cruise Lines International Association, said that despite the possibility of catching COVID-19 and spending vacations self-isolating, cruise ship sentiment was “back to pre-Czech levels. covid”.
“Cruise lines are experiencing strong forward bookings, in many cases exceeding pre-COVID levels, with record booking levels,” he said. “Sentiment among cruise newcomers is also strong and is reflected in feedback from cruise lines and travel agents on the strong demand for domestic and international cruises.”
Ponant’s small expedition vessel, Le Lapérouse, arrived in Darwin last month to operate between Darwin and Broome as the company said it was nearly full for the Kimberley cruising season. It is also sending an additional small luxury ship, Le Soléal, to operate from the end of this month “due to high demand”.
It’s a sharp turnaround, with few industries globally having a tougher pandemic than cruising, including in Australia. In March 2020, the federal government banned large international cruise ships from entering the country.
The cruise bounces back
The ban was lifted on April 17 and Mr Katz said the industry was rebounding around the world, with cruises resuming in more than 100 countries and more than 10 million guests having sailed.
Internationally, some 12 million people have cruised since the end of 2020, with cases of COVID-19 on board generally isolated in their cabins unless they require intensive medical treatment ashore or if the number is increasing dramatically.
Early last month, the WA government announced plans to allow the largest cruise ships to return to WA ports in October.
Until October, interstate vessels carrying up to 350 people can operate in WA waters and must have a COVID-19 “management plan”. All crew members and passengers must also be vaccinated with double and triple doses if eligible.
The WA Health spokesperson said ships can dock at regional ports to allow positive cases to disembark and move to accommodation to complete their isolation, which lasts seven days in the state.
“There are strict guidelines in place that outline the infection prevention and control measures that must be followed during disembarkation and transport,” the spokesperson said, adding that vessel operators, like all businesses, “were now independently managing COVID-19 cases.”
Mr Katz said “the incidence of serious illness is much lower on cruise ships than on land thanks to the robust protocols agreed with health authorities.”
He said the industry contributes more than $5 billion a year to the Australian economy and supports thousands of direct and indirect jobs as businesses “finally see the light at the end of the tunnel” after two difficult years.