Cruises stopped early in 2022 after the government tried to stem the spread of the Omicron variant, forcing cruise vacations and tourism as a whole to halt. Authorities have yet to launch any relaxed measures for the industry so far.
Royal Caribbean International sent a representative in order to present its plan at the Legislative Council on August 15, detailing protocols/healthcare facilities in a bid to show how it would deal with potential COVID outbreaks on ships.
Jeff Bent, managing director of Worldwide Cruise Terminals which manages the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal said that the proposal outlined the high sanitation standards, contact tracing, social-distancing measures, and medical facilities onboard. Bent provided data showing low hospital admission rates of cruise passengers in the U.S. during the height of the Omicron outbreak. He said that was some basic information they had to share with the health department because not everyone was familiar with cruise ship operations. He added that Royal Caribbean needed a 3 to 6 months notice at a minimum as preparation for returning but he noted that it was the only cruise company to request service resumption in the port city so far.
The move dealt a blow to Hong Kong’s underused Kai Tak terminal, and the city’s ambition to become an Asian cruise hub.
A spokeswoman for RCI said that all 26 of its international cruise ships had restarted operations. While the line currently didn't have a specific liner available for Hong Kong, she reiterated Royal Caribbean needed to “explore the next available opportunity to deliver enjoyable cruise vacations” for Hongkongers.
She said that sending a cruise ship back to Hong Kong involved a “multi-step procedure”, and in addition to redeploying the ship and crew, the line had to cancel existing bookings for passengers.
The Hong Kong Tourism Board is planning to launch a spend-to-redeem program for the trips, using HK$20 million (US$2.55 million) set aside under the 6th round of an anti-epidemic fund.