Two cruise lines to offer ‘cruises to nowhere’ with mandatory pre-boarding COVID-19 swab test — but netizens raise concerns about asymptomatic ‘passengers’

Two cruise lines to offer ‘cruises to nowhere’ with mandatory pre-boarding COVID-19 swab test — but netizens raise concerns about asymptomatic ‘passengers’

Not long after Singapore Airlines scrapped its ‘flights to nowhere’ plan last month, two cruise lines are slated to welcome passengers aboard their holiday ships via a ‘cruises to nowhere’ programme starting November and December respectively.

The Straits Times reported on Friday (9 October) that Genting Cruise Lines’ World Dream will begin operating on 6 November, while Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas will start the following month.

The latter will be offering two- and three-night cruises, starting at $359 and $599 respectively, while the latter will offer three- and four-night cruises, starting at $374 and $509 respectively.

Genting Cruise Lines will implement an extra charge of S$60 for a nasal swab test for passengers aged 13 and above, which passengers must undergo on the day of departure at the cruise terminal.

Those who test positive will be given credit for a future journey on its cruise.

Royal Caribbean will include costs for the swab test in its ticket prices. The swab test will be conducted 48 to 72 prior to embarkation.

The group will provide coverage of up to S$25,000 per person for COVID-19-related costs, which includes onboard medical costs and any quarantine and return travel if necessary.

The initiative is part of the Singapore Tourism Board’s safe cruise pilot scheme, ST noted.

The ships will run at 50 per cent of its normal capacity, on top of other safe distancing measures and other standard operating procedures including regular disinfection of areas on the ships and upgraded air filters.

Royal Caribbean Group’s Asia-Pacific managing director Angie Stephen told ST that prices for its cruises are “right in line with, or if not even slightly” lower compared to hotel staycation packages.

Ms Stephen added that the group will utilise Bluetooth contact tracing to isolate persons the infected person has come into close contact with.

ST reported today that an online poll it conducted yesterday revealed that 51 per cent out of 1,000 of its readers are keen on ‘cruises to nowhere’, while 49 per cent are opposed to the idea.

Netizens commenting on the matter on ST’s Facebook page appear to be inclined toward the latter.

Many commenters expressed apprehension regarding potential asymptomatic COVID-19 cases despite the cruise lines’ assurance of pre-boarding testing.

Even one passenger with COVID-19 could risk spreading the virus to everyone else onboard, they said.

One commenter expressed concern about the potential lax attitudes of certain passengers who may not properly observe precautionary measures, such as wearing their masks incorrectly or talking without putting on their masks after dining.

Another commenter drew attention to the case of the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which made headlines worldwide when nearly one-fifth of its over 3,700 passengers and crew members caught the coronavirus in February, with most of the cases appearing to be asymptomatic at the start.

Ms Stephen of Royal Caribbean told ST in response to concerns on the possibility of an outbreak onboard its own cruises: “It is important for people to realise that the Diamond Princess situation happened in January and February, when the world had no idea about the impact of COVID-19, let alone how to control it.”

“When you think about it, a cruise is a very safe bubble,” she told ST.

AFP reported in February that while Tokyo claimed that quarantine measures were effective, passengers and crew members aboard the Diamond Princess cruise as well as physicians who examined the ship “reported shortcomings, such as inadequate protection for quarantine officials”.

One commenter said that it is better for people to stay in hotels onshore, given that the cruise ships will not be “going anywhere” in the first place.

A few commenters, however, appear to be in support of ‘cruises to nowhere’, primarily to assist cruise companies and their staff members in recovering from the economic impact of the pandemic.

One commenter questioned what particular activities will be permitted onboard such as live performances and sports activities requiring shared facilities such as a pool.

One commenter suggested trying out Royal Caribbean’s Healthy Sail Centre before deciding to book a ‘cruise to nowhere’.

“If the precautionary measures are ok to u then go for the real thing,” they said.

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