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Cunard Cruise Ship Skips Call in Bali Due to COVID Cases On Board

queen elizabeth
Cruise ship Queen Elizabeth (File image courtesy Pjotr Mahhonin / CC BY SA 3.0)

Published Nov 28, 2022 3:47 PM by The Maritime Executive

The cruise industry has recovered from the toughest challenges of the COVID-19 era, but in Australia - where rates of community transmission remain high - onboard outbreaks of the Omicron variant are a continued concern. The cruise ship Majestic Princess returned to Sydney with 800 cases of COVID-19 in mid-November, and over the weekend, authorities in Bali declined to allow another cruise ship to enter port because of the "elevated" level of transmission on board. 

The Cunard Lines cruise ship Queen Elizabeth departed Sydney on November 15 on an extended two-week cruise. She was scheduled to call in Bali on Monday, but an onboard outbreak put those plans on hold. After conversations between the cruise line and Indonesian officials, Queen Elizabeth diverted from her planned itinerary and is under way for the Australian port of Fremantle instead. Fremantle was her final destination, so the voyage will have an early arrival. 

"Unfortunately, due to the ongoing rise in community transmission across Australia and this being reflected on various cruise lines, we're unable to visit Indonesia at this time," Cunard told Australian media. "This has followed ongoing conversations with the respective authorities in Bali, and we understand and respect the current circumstances we're operating in."

It is believed that about 10 percent of the vessel's passengers and crew have tested positive. The ship has a maximum capacity of about 2,000 passengers and 1,000 crewmembers.

Earlier in the month, the Majestic Princess (operated by sister Carnival brand Princess Cruises) caused a stir in Sydney when she returned from a cruise to New Zealand with 800 positive cases. These passengers were kept separate from others and were instructed to avoid public transportation, according to New South Wales Health. The case drew comparisons to the well-known outbreak aboard Ruby Princess in 2020, which resulted in community spread on shore.

The rise of new Omicron subvariants is driving up transmission rates in Australia, and the cruise sector has been affected by the overall trend. Carnival Australia President Marguerite Fitzgerald said in a statement in mid-November that the firm has seen higher rates of COVID-19 positives on recent voyages, though it maintains precautionary policies like pre-embarkation testing. 

While there has been an uptick in infection rates, COVID-related fatalities in Australia have plummeted in recent months, thanks in part to vaccination and to immunity from prior exposure. The average fatality rate in August was about 80 people per day, but it has now declined to less than 10 per day, according to Australia's Department of Health. 

Top image: Cruise ship Queen Elizabeth (File image courtesy Pjotr Mahhonin / CC BY SA 3.0