One of two operators of Hong Kong’s “cruises to nowhere” has postponed its launch date and will not set sail until October 5, three months behind schedule, with a lawmaker calling for flexibility on terms and conditions of tickets sold.
Royal Caribbean Cruises’ Spectrum of the Seas – Asia’s largest and newest vessel – was supposed to depart at the end of July, but had to adjust its plans to allow crew members to meet vaccination and quarantine requirements set by the Hong Kong government.
“The whole cruise resumption preparation is a lengthy process, including quarantine and vaccinations for all crew members,” a spokeswoman for the operator told the Post.
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The ship arrived at Kai Tak Cruise Terminal on June 23 to allow crew members to be vaccinated against Covid-19 and will return again in three weeks for employees to get their second dose. The vessel is anchored between Lamma and Cheung Chau islands.
The spokeswoman declined to comment on the vaccination progress of its crew members expected to operate the vessel.
Under the city’s “cruises to nowhere” scheme, all vessels would only be allowed to operate at half capacity, while passengers and staff on board would have to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and must undergo testing.
The voyages, which aim to help kick-start tourism recovery, will venture into the high seas but will not be allowed to make any stops at other destinations for public health reasons.
The Hong Kong government has imposed a strict set of rules on cruise operators, according to tourism sector lawmaker Yiu Si-wing. Such measures include ensuring all sea crew members – who come from various countries – are fully vaccinated in advance of travel.
“Getting a cruise ship up and running again incurs a high costs for the operators because they have to transport sea crew members from all over the world, and have to meet the local Covid-19 restrictions as well,” Yiu said.
“The voyages will also depend on … the infection situation, that’s why cruise companies are assessing how to restart their operations in [line with public health restrictions]. It’s understandable that people who bought cruise tickets will be disappointed by the postponement,” he said, adding that operators and travel agents should have flexible terms and conditions when it came to delays and refunds.
Meanwhile, Genting Cruise Lines, the other operator, will sail its ship Genting Dream as scheduled starting on July 30.
“All crew members will be fully vaccinated prior to the first sailing on July 30. As of now, about 400 crew members that have sailed to Hong Kong with the cruise ship have received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine; they will receive the second dose on July 14,” a spokeswoman for the cruise line said.
A sea crew of about 800 people will be on board when cruises resume, and the vessel will only operate at half capacity. Genting Dream arrived in Hong Kong on June 9 and has been anchored off Lamma.
Last month, two guests on board Royal Caribbean’s seven-day Celebrity Millennium cruise from St Maarten in the Caribbean tested positive while out at sea.
The voyage operated with fully vaccinated crew and guests, and was the first major cruise welcoming North Americans since the travel industry came to a halt due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite the infections, cruise companies Royal Caribbean and Carnival Corporation said they would continue to operate voyages throughout the summer months.