One of the world’s largest cruise ships will dock at Sydney’s Overseas Passenger Terminal at 6.30 am tomorrow morning, marking Royal Caribbean’s return to Australian waters after two years.
It also marks another milestone. The fact that it is predicted that there will be little noise shows how far we have come since the dark days of the pandemic and how accustomed we have become to living with the virus.
According to statements in New Zealand, her last port of call, many of her passengers and crew were isolated on Wednesday.
The line told Cruise Passenger: “Royal Caribbean can confirm that the incidence of Covid-19 among guests aboard Ovation of the Seas is well below the inaccurate numbers that have been reported in the media.
“We will comply with the mandatory health reporting required by NSW Health prior to our arrival in Sydney tomorrow.” Please note that all positive cases must be isolated in their cabins, either staying alone or moving to a separate dedicated cabin that can be provided if guests do not wish to stay with their traveling companion or family. Royal Caribbean follows our proven protocols that meet or exceed health and safety requirements in every region in which we operate.”
On the NSW government’s cruise policy website, Ovation must be listed as Level 2 (risk level 2 or 3) on the Covid-19 status. According to the classification, level 2 is a moderate impact on the vessel. The classification says: “There are many cases on board (30-99 positive cases per 1,000 people) and/or the ship’s personnel or resources are affected.” However, it can safely maintain critical services.”
She has already completed a tour of New Zealand and there, too, most cities are welcoming her despite knowing that she has cases of the virus.
Store operators in Napier welcomed the arrival of Ovation of the Seas and said they were not concerned about the spread of disease. Sally Holyer, co-owner of a souvenir shop in central Napier, told RNZ the town was buzzing when the ship arrived. And its store sales were above 2019 levels for the same boat at the same time of year.
“It was fantastic to see the city so busy, people everywhere, the weather was amazing and the box office was spinning.”
This time she was not worried about the spread of Covid.
“I’m not worried at all, we’ve all been stabbed, we’ve done everything we’ve been asked to do and we’ve got to live with it.”
In a statement, New Zealand’s National Public Health Service medical officer in Hawke’s Bay, Bridget Wilson, said authorities were told of the Covid-19 cases and were confident the requirements were being followed earlier this week.
“Before any ship coming from overseas enters a port in New Zealand, it must be given a practical [permit] by the local public health service.” This requires ship captains to notify the public health service of any suspected infectious disease such as Covid-19 on board and demonstrate that they are taking the necessary isolation and quarantine measures.
“On Sunday, October 23rd, Ovation of the Seas was given the ability to dock and disembark passengers from the cruise ship in accordance with the border control measures set forth by the Department of Health.
“After reviewing the isolation and testing protocols onboard Ovation of the Seas, we are confident that Covid-19 cases are being appropriately isolated and their contacts are being managed in accordance with our current domestic conditions.”
And New Zealand’s Minister for Covid-19 Response Ayesha Verrall told RNZ that while there is a risk of community transmission, she says the balance is right and Royal Caribbean is handling the situation well.
“There will be a risk that we have to accept while we have open borders – and air traffic, cruise ships, the works.”
“There is the transmission of Covid across the border and that’s part of opening up our borders, but we’re not in the high-risk situation across our border that we were in before because we’re a highly vaccinated population.”
“The process for managing cruise ships has been thoroughly worked out between health officials and I think they’ve come up with a process that can be put in place and alerted when there are a large number of Covid cases on board.”
Royal Caribbean said positive cases must self-isolate in their cabins for five days if they still have symptoms on days six and seven.