Is the cruise ship industry – built and marketed on the idea of sun, sea, fun and endless adventure – about to sail off over the horizon, never to return?
Financially, the business has already taken an enormous knock as its mammoth floating palaces float mostly unfilled and unwanted at anchorages around the world.
Holidaymakers don’t need to take a cruise
Even more so than the hard-hit airline industry – which will eventually make a comeback of sorts because aviation is also a practical necessity for many people – cruising seems to be on the brink of an abyss.
You don’t, after all, need to take a cruise in order to have a holiday.
But, in many instances, you do need to fly somewhere to enjoy a vacation or to visit family and friends.
Ruby Princess still fresh in Aussie minds
Cruise ships were mostly abandoned during the early days of the pandemic as they became little more than floating self-contained COVID-19 outbreaks – as Australians will know from the coronavirus damage unleashed on the country by the mismanaged docking of the Ruby Princess cruise ship in Sydney during March.
But more recently the industry has been desperately trying to make a comeback. There are, after all, bills to pay and people on land and at sea to be kept in employment.
But it has, by and large, ended quickly in disaster as the pandemic fails to heed the desires of the cruise industry and pays scant attention to its much-publicised strict new health and safety protocols.
Cruises that re started are stopping again
A number of cruises that resumed operating in Europe and the Pacific in July have already been forced to limit or halt their cruises as outbreaks are reported.
In Norway, for example, a cruise company called Hurtigruten announced proudly in June that it was making a comeback with a raft of strict health measures in place to protect passengers and crew.
It hasn’t worked, the virus has broken out on board and operations have again been suspended.
CEO Daniel Skjeldamn explained it starkly in a media conference: “We have failed. I apologise strongly on behalf of the company.”
Many passengers and crew test positive
A Hurtigruten cruise ship, the MS Roald Amundsen, has reported at least 41 passengers and crew who were on board have so far tested positive for the coronavirus.
But those on board had already disembarked by the time this became known. Norwegian authorities are now scrambling to inform their counterparts in Germany, Denmark, Austria, Philippines and Latvia that people from the MS Roald Amundsen may be in their countries.
Is this sounding familiar to Australians?
Pacific cruise ship is in trouble too
Norway is now cracking down on cruise ships wanting to disembark in the country.
In the Pacific, a French-owned cruise ship named the Paul Gauguinhas returned to port in Tahiti after a suspected COVID-19 case was reported and all passengers were confined to their cabins.
Its owners, Ponant, had only begun cruising again in July.
And the airline industry thinks it has problems…