LAURIE BARATTI NOVEMBER 20, 2022
Just when cruising seemed to have returned to pre-pandemic normalcy, a new spike in COVID-19 case numbers Down Under has caused one major cruise company to take a step backward.
With a portfolio of nine cruise brands, the world’s largest cruise operator, Carnival Corporation, has just reinstated mask mandates aboard all of its ships sailing in and around Australia, due to a fourth Omicron wave that will likely peak over the next few weeks, as the nation’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly told The Daily Mail this week.
Australia’s seven-day average for new daily COVID-19 cases shot up from about 9,000 on November 10 to over 14,000 the following week, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center data.
Carnival Corp.’s mask mandates were reactivated shortly after the Majestic Princess, returning from New Zealand carrying around 4,000 people, arrived in Sydney last weekend with at least 800 passengers testing positive for the virus.
As a result, passengers and crew are required to wear face masks at all times in indoor public spaces, unless they’re actively eating and drinking, as well as when occupying outdoor spaces whenever proper social distancing isn’t feasible. Mask-wearing is also mandatory, “during the entire embarkation and debarkation process, when on buses or water shuttles (where applicable), and while indoors on any shore excursion,” according to the public notice issued by Carnival Australia.
This latest policy change applies to, “all Carnival Corporation brand ships operating in Australia and the region as an additional safeguard in light of the current rate of Covid-19 in the general community,” Carnival Australia wrote in an emailed statement Friday given to USA Today. Carnival Corp.’s brands with sailings around the continent include Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Cunard, and P&O Australia.
As part of the company’s ‘Have Fun. Be Safe.’ COVID-19 protocols, all guests ages 12 and over are also required to be fully vaccinated in order to sail on cruises in the Australia region, having received their final dose of an approved vaccine at least 14 days prior to their embarkation date. Unlike in some other regions, prior COVID-19 infection does not constitute proper immunization according to the Aussie government’s standards.
Other health and safety measures for passengers cruising in and around Australia include pre-embarkation health screenings, and the requirement to provide a negative Rapid-Antigen Test (RAT) taken within the 24 hours prior to boarding or a PCR test performed within 48 hours of the same.
It was only in mid-April that Australia lifted its ban on international cruises after they’d been barred from operating in the country for more than two years, due to COVID-19. In general, the Land of Oz had maintained some of the most rigorous travel restrictions and border policies in the world for the first 24 months of the pandemic.