The Sun class Pacific Explorer of P&O Cruises is the second cruise ship sailing in Australia to be reported to have a significant outbreak of COVID-19 on board, following the recently reported cases aboard Princess Cruises princess coral.
The ship has recorded up to 100 cases on board. Mitigation and quarantine measures are proceeding as planned for this type of eventuality.
Case on board Pacific Explorer
According to International business timearound 100 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded on board Pacific Explorer, with guests on board being briefed on the outbreak on Friday, July 15, as passenger isolations began. Guests who tested positive for the disease were moved to quarantine cabins or asked to self-isolate in their assigned cabins, which were then clearly marked to facilitate elevated health protocols.
About 2,800 passengers were on board the ship when the cases were first noted, along with 900 crew. At the time, Pacific Explorer was sailing a 9-night round-trip Barrier Reef Discovery itinerary from Sydney, with visits to Airlie Beach, Cairns, Willis Island and Moreton Island.
Passengers on board were urged to continue to follow health and safety protocols, including frequent hand washing and use of sanitizer, wearing masks at all indoor venues and limiting occupancy of lifts.
Guests aboard the ship were unsurprised by the incident and were impressed with the quick responses to minimize onward transmission.
“P&O handled the situation extremely well, I expected nothing less,” said passenger Leanne Mayer. “It’s just an unfortunate situation, but not unexpected.”
However, not all passengers took the situation seriously, which may have contributed to the high number of positive test results.
“It was quite well controlled at the beginning” Ms Pauline, a nurse at Cowra Hospital, told NCA NewsWire.
“From the start, P&O was amazing, it was the individual passengers who played”, Pauline saidnoting that some passengers ignored protective guidelines regarding masks and the use of elevators.
The 77,441 gross ton vessel returned to Sydney as scheduled on Monday July 18, with no expected delays to her departure for her next sailing, a short 4-night cruise that will only visit Moreton Island.
Post-cruise assistance and refunds offered
For guests who tested positive and were quarantined during travel, P&O Cruises is offering cruise fare refunds.
The cruise line is also helping with post-cruise travel plans for those still in quarantine, including arrangements to bring travelers home if they live nearby. P&O Cruises is paying for hotel accommodation if travelers are still required to remain in isolation and cannot return home at this time.
Pacific Explorer was the first ship to return to Australia after the pandemic lockdown. The boat sailed into Sydney Harbor on April 18, 2022with great fanfare which included a water cannon salute from three escort tugs to mark the cruise’s return to Australia.
The ship’s first passenger departed on May 31, 2022, after the ship was able to board additional crew and supplies in preparation for restarting passenger operations.
Pacific Explorer currently offer a range of Australian itineraries from 3 to 14 nights, all round trip from Sydney and visiting a variety of ports of call in Eastern Australia, Vanuatu, Tonga and Fiji, depending on the date of navigation and route duration.
At the end of October, the ship will reposition first to Adelaide for a short series of cruises from this southern home port, then in mid-November Pacific Explorer will move to Melbourne until mid-February.