Surprising reality about cruise bookings
More than one in four people who have booked a cruise for 2021 will be a first-time passenger, the General Manager of Carnival Cruise Lines Australia has revealed.
"There was an assumption that only past cruisers were going to book cruises [in 2021] because of some of the coverage that happened. That's not what's happening," General Manager Jennifer Vanderkreeke told News Corp Australia.
"It's less than half, but we are still getting people who have never cruised before booking on our ships,"
Speaking the day after Health Minister Greg Hunt extended the cruising ban for another three months, Ms Vandekreeke said the ultimate return date for the industry was up to the government, but Carnival had bookings open for a cruise departing Sydney on March 25.
While Carnival is currently offering bookings for both international and domestic voyages out of both Sydney and Brisbane on its website, Ms Vanderkreeke said demand for domestic cruises was running at about four times the rate of international trips.
Mr Hunt's announcement of the extension of the cruising ban explicitly referred to a "staged resumption of cruise ships in a manner that is proportionate to the public health risk".
Asked about the resumption of the industry recently, Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said international cruises would not return "for quite some time", and domestic cruises would be a matter of seeing "how the evidence stacks up".
Ms Vanderkreeke said the industry had agreed with the government to initially offer just domestic cruises.
"Our cruises will start as domestic, and we're going to make sure we stay within the bubble and we get this right, and then we'll start to go out to international cruises," she said.
'Getting it right' will involve an extensive series of health protocols devised by the Cruise Line Industry of Australia, including COVID-19 testing for all passengers and crew prior to boarding, daily temperature checks on board, reduced occupancy rates and the quarantining of ships and crew upon return to Australian ports.
Long term cruise enthusiast Matthew Chennall said he and partner Janyne, 49, and daughters Holly, 15 and Amelia, 13, were "definitely looking forward to getting on a cruise as soon as we can, just to have a decent holiday".
While the quarantine debacles surrounding the Diamond Princess in Japan and the Ruby Princess in Sydney may have put some people off cruising for life, Mr Chennall said he had no concerns.
"The hygiene standards on the ships we've been on have all been very high. They're always cleaning and sanitising," he said.
While increased health protocols will be a simple reality of cruising when it returns, travel in a COVID world has taken another step forward with Medibank Travel Insurance set to launch coronavirus-related cover.
In what is believed to be a first for the Australian market, Medibank Travel Insurance will issue policies offering compensation for domestic travellers if they or their travelling companions acquire COVID-19.
A spokeswoman said this meant if policy holders contracted the virus prior to or while travelling domestically, the company would provide cover for non-refundable trip expenses, such as tickets to theme parks, shows and attractions.
The policies would also be available for those planning holidays to New Zealand, with hospital coverage included, the spokeswoman said.
Originally published as Surprising reality about cruise bookings