The CEO of one of the world's largest cruise lines has said that cruise holidays have been unfairly singled out by the media, and were a victim of their own strict health reporting standards.
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings chief executive Frank Del Rio said cruising had become the target of "cheap headlines".
The cruise line boss took fire at the media last Friday, saying ships had been singled out during the Covid-19 pandemic due to their industry's robust health reporting.
Del Rio said it was lazy sensationalist journalism, "taking advantage of the fact that our industry offers robust testing, that we track cases and that we diligently report them to the CDC and other public health administrations."
Ships docking in the US are required to report to the CDC all illness onboard for crew and passengers.
During a virtual conversation with travel advisors, Del Rio was keen to overturn perceptions that cruise travel was any less safe than other forms of travel, in the emergence of the omicron variant.
"It's something that no other industries are required to do -- not hotels, resorts, theme parks, airlines or any other part of hospitality."
In a letter to investors cruise line operators Royal Caribbean Group published its infection rates since fully vaccinated sailings were introduced: "Since cruising restarted in the US in June 2021, the Royal Caribbean Group has carried 1.1 million guests with 1,745 people testing positive—a positivity rate of 0.02 percent."
'Cruise Ban' continues in New Zealand in 2022
The year started badly for cruise companies. On 4 January the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a Level 4 warning against cruise travel.
"Even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading Covid-19 variants," the CDC warned.
This weekend the 'conditional sailing order' expired, allowing cruises to resume.
While the health agency still considers cruise travel "high risk", companies are no longer required to follow the no sail order.
While the reporting of illness is far better on cruise ships and the risk is much better known, it has not put insurers' minds at ease.
Travel involving cruise transport is still uninsurable with many providers.
For travellers who choose to go ahead with cruise travel, the CDC advises they get fully vaccinated, including a booster shot - a condition of carriage for most cruise companies - and get tested three days before and after the trip, as well as practising distancing and hygiene measures on board.
In New Zealand, the Maritime Border Order continues to freeze out international liners, although smaller, expeditionary cruises have resumed.
Even when the ban on cruise travel is lifted, the restart for New Zealand will require careful planning, says the New Zealand Cruise Association.
"The most realistic estimate is that New Zealand cruising will not begin until the last quarter of 2022," predicted Kevin O'Sullivan, CEO of NZCA.
Until then the cruise industry will continue to follow the CDC's voluntary Covid-19 measures, to "instil confidence in the sailing public that cruising is safe".