CruiseCruising's next challenge: Vaccinating thousands of crew before ships relaunch.

Cruise lines flex muscles for Covid jabs

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Dream Cruises also rolls out Asia's largest vaccination drive to jab more than 700 staff on Taiwan-docked Explorer Dream.
Dream Cruises also rolls out Asia's largest vaccination drive to jab more than 700 staff on Taiwan-docked Explorer Dream.

With more cruise lines poised to restart services, they are facing what is predicted to be a daunting challenge: vaccinating their tens of thousands of crew members before then.

In Asia, Dream Cruises — whose Explorer Dream became the first ship last July to resume sailing in Asia in the post-pandemic era — announced on 7 May that all crew members aboard the Taiwan-docked ship and staff in the local office will be receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine.

With more than 700 on the waitlist, this initiative also makes the cruise company the first in Asia to implement a vaccination programme of this scale. It is expected that the first dose of the vaccine will be completed in three batches at the Keelung Hospital of the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

Commenting on the heightened protection afforded to frontline staff, Kent Zhu, president of Genting Cruise Lines said: “Since the successful service resumption of Explorer Dream and World Dream in Taiwan and Singapore last year, both ships have enjoyed a stellar track record of zero Covid-19 cases, demonstrating the effectiveness of Genting Cruise Line’s preventive measures.

"With the development and uptake of vaccines, we are confident that the cruise tourism industry will receive the much-needed boost on its road to recovery in the post-pandemic era."

Over in Europe, safety and enjoyment will underpin Norwegian Cruise Lines’ comeback this summer — where guests are required to undergo double Covid testings and other extensive health protocols —so sailing onboard will become "the safest leisure activity on the planet,” said Norwegian Cruise Line president & CEO Harry Sommer.

Meanwhile, MSC Cruises has been tasked with having to vaccinate enough crew to staff 10 of its ships, more than half its fleet, slated to launch service in the continent this summer. The cruise line had earlier announced that it has started a fleetwide vaccination programme for crew, with the MSC Bellissima's captain, Giuseppe Maresca, and its crew the first to receive vaccinations on 30 April.

Viking, which is launching service from Bermuda, Iceland and the U.K. this spring and summer, reportedly vaccinated the crew of the Viking Venus, its new ship launching service May 22 in the U.K., while the ship was in Malta, according to a report from Crew Center, a website run by ex-crew from cruise ships.

Royal Caribbean International crew waiting to be vaccinated at PortMiami earlier this month, part of a partnership between the port and the line to vaccinate crew ahead of major ship relaunches.
Royal Caribbean International crew waiting to be vaccinated at PortMiami earlier this month, part of a partnership between the port and the line to vaccinate crew ahead of major ship relaunches.

Vaccinations in the US

Having committed to a mid-July cruise restart from US ports, the CDC recently decided to allow cruise lines to skip test sailings if 98% of a ship's crew is vaccinated, and it had previously recommended that all cruise ship crew have a Covid-19 vaccine, putting pressure on US brands to do so, and fast.

In response, several US cruise ports recently stepped forward to offer cruise ship crew vaccination; two have already publicly administered vaccines to crew coming off nearby vessels.

On 1 May, 900 crew from Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas and Navigator of the Seas were vaccinated at PortMiami, and Independence of the Seas crew were vaccinated on 5 May. Also, 300 crew members on two Carnival ships, the Carnival Breeze and Carnival Vista, were vaccinated during a 3 May rally to support the resumption of cruising at the Port of Galveston in Texas. MSC Cruises also scheduled to begin crew vaccinations for crew on its US based ships on 7 May at Port Miami.

The week before that, Port Canaveral said it would sponsor Covid-19 vaccine distribution to port workers and vessel crew members.

Helping cruise companies vaccinate their workers was part of the reason that nations like Greece and Israel have been able to lure so many ships to launch service and call on their ports starting this spring.

"It was a clever thought process by the Greek and Israeli tourism industry," said Mark Conroy, managing director of Silversea Cruises in the US, which will launch 10-day cruises from Athens beginning 18 June 18 on the Silver Moon, calling on two Israeli ports. "They've done an amazing job. First of all, they have inoculated a large portion of their own population and [then] the first thing they did was give us access to the vaccine."

Conroy added that Silversea is paying for the vaccines in Greece and Israel, and he does not expect them to be free in the US, either. The key, he said, will be access.

Royal Caribbean International CEO Michael Bayley would agree. "It is going to be extremely important that our crew are vaccinated," he said in a 30 April Facebook post, shortly after the CDC news about a midsummer restart.

Additional reporting from Natalie Joy Lee.

Source: Travel Weekly

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