TORONTO — While the travel industry ramps up its push for long-overdue updates to the federal government’s advisory against all non-essential travel, one travel agent wants to make sure there’s also pressure to revisit the cruise advisory.
“With all the protocols the cruise lines have put into place in order to follow the CDC guidelines, cruising has to be one of the safest vacations a client can take,” says B.C.-based Expedia Cruises travel advisor, Jacqui Bradley.
“Sure, there will be guests still testing positive for COVID-19 but the cruise lines have put a lot of time and money into managing these possible outbreaks,” she adds.
While the travel industry has long rallied for a more risk-based approach to Canada’s travel advisory and cruise advisory amid the pandemic, calls for revised advisories have increased in recent weeks as Canada’s vaccination rate hit 80%.
Many of Canada’s other restrictions, including quarantine and day 8 testing, were lifted months ago for returning Canadians who are fully vaccinated.
The U.S. plans to reopen its side of the Canada-U.S. land border to fully vaccinated Canadians starting Nov. 8, as announced last week. The U.S. is among the countries that has moved to a risk-based country-by-country travel advisory system. It made the change back in August 2020.
And yet despite all the good news in recent weeks about borders reopening, plus the 80% threshold vaccination rate and other eased restrictions, Canada’s advisory against all non-essential travel outside of Canada remains unchanged for more than a year and a half. And that includes the advisory against all cruise travel.
The vast majority of Canadians – up to 92%, according to Travelweek’s 2021 Consumer Survey from this past June – say they will not travel outside of Canada as long as the advisory against non-essential travel is in effect.
Concerns and confusion about travel insurance with the advisory still in place are key for many would-be travellers.
The advisory is the last major obstacle for the travel industry’s recovery, and the winter travel season looms. Even Prime Minister Trudeau made reference to the importance of getting vaccinated for winter travel during a briefing earlier this month. While Canada’s charms for winter getaways are legion, many listeners might reasonably assume he was talking about sun getaways.
‘AVOID ALL CRUISE SHIP TRAVEL OUTSIDE CANADA’
Canada’s cruise advisory, with its ‘Avoid all cruise ship travel outside Canada until further notice’ wording, is tantamount to a Level 4 advisory, says Bradley.
And getting travel insurance amid the advisories, especially a Level 4, is difficult if not impossible.
“This has had a huge impact on whether clients will cruise, or would have considered booking a cruise, for 2021,” says Bradley. “Unless it is changed, I can only see many more cancellations or deposit transfers having to be done.”
More Canadians are now more likely to look at booking a cruise thanks for news released late Friday afternoon that the U.S. will recognize mixed dose vaccinations as fully vaccinated. The CDC says international travellers with “any combination” of two vaccine doses approved by either the FDA or WHO are considered fully vaccinated. Many cruise lines will no doubt update their mixed dose policies in the wake of the CDC’s Oct. 15 announcement.
MANY CANADIANS ALREADY CRUISING
“Many Canadians are sailing with us,” says Allan Brooks, National Director – Market Sales, Canada, for Celebrity Cruises. “Many have chosen to sail out of Greece, but there is a good mix of guests and agents sailing from Canada on all of our ships.”
One of the travel industry’s most intrepid cruisers, Cruise Strategies Ltd. president and CEO Vanessa Lee, is sailing too. Lee just wrapped up a 10-day sailing out of Lisbon on Windstar’s Star Legend. “So this Canadian is cruising, anyway!” said Lee from the ship.
Says Lee: “It is hard to tell if any Canadians are cruising – I believe a few are – but I suspect it is still a small number overall.”
Lee’s sailing onboard the Star Legend was her second cruise since July. Earlier she cruised on Silversea’s Silver Moon, also in the Med/Aegean.
“We feel as if we are in a bubble and very safe,” adds Lee, echoing many who say that with all the precautions in place, and the CDC’s scrutiny, cruise ships are more safe than most places these days. “I would recommend Canadians can start cruising. Ideally in Europe right now and on lines that require a fully vaccinated complement of crew and guests.”