What seemed to be a sure thing back in May of this year has fallen prey to the uncertain times we live in. Spectrum of the Seas sailings from Hong Kong has now been pushed back to October of this year.
Hong Kong had previously granted permission to Royal Caribbean to start sailings to nowhere from July 30 onwards, but in a message sent to guests booked onboard, these sailings have now been canceled.
Hong Kong Seacation Postponed to October 5
Spectrum of the Seas has been in Hong Kong for some time now, preparing for the 2-3- and 4-night sailings that would see vaccinated guests take a break onboard a Royal Caribbean ship. These would be similar to the sailings the cruise line is undertaking in Singapore with Quantum of the Seas.
In a message to guests booked onboard the scheduled sailings, the cruise line says it has been forced to cancel the voyages to meet the stringent conditions set by the Hong Kong government. The line says it is fully committed to ensuring that the full complement of entertainment, venues, and attractions are available to guests.
The move is surprising given that the cruise line had already received permission from the Hong Kong government in May of this year to commence sailings. One reason why the cruises have been postponed could be that Royal Caribbean has been unable to secure quarantine hotel rooms for the crew sailing onboard.
Fear of Crew Importing COVID-Related Illnesses
According to a news release by Malaysia-based newspaper The Star and Hong Kong-based SCMP, a lack of suitable hotel rooms for the crew to quarantine is at the base of the measures Royal Caribbean has taken.
Respiratory medicine specialist Dr. Leung Chi-chiu said:
“The main concern is making sure there are no imported cases among seamen operating the vessel for the trips, while passengers also need to follow social-distancing rules,”
Hong Kong is experiencing an influx of overseas students’ that plan to return to the city; all these students need to comply with Hong Kong’s strict quarantine rules upon returning to the city.
At the same time, the crew members are required to go through a 21-day mandatory quarantine at a designated hotel upon arrival in Hong Kong and cannot fly to the city without a valid hotel booking.
Royal Caribbean needs 800 rooms for incoming crew, according to the news reports. Although cruise line has been lobbying to open up more hotel space for crew members, it seems this has now come to nothing.
Royal Caribbean is not the only one struggling with the measures the Hong Kong government has implemented. Genting Cruises, the owner and operator of Asian cruise giant Dream Cruises, is experiencing the same problem. Christine Li, a Genting spokeswoman, said: “We are struggling to find enough rooms for our crew.”
The issues Royal Caribbean and Genting are experiencing highlight the problems that many cruise lines are experiencing when crewing the ships. Although many countries recognize the importance of seafarers to the world economy, not many countries are willing to relax the quarantine rules, which have been a thorn in the side of the cruise lines.
For now, Spectrum of the Seas is scheduled to resume her sailings on October 5. Whether Royal Caribbean is happy to wait this long with the ship sitting idle remains to be seen, it could very well be that the cruise line decides to pull the ship to other areas before that time, as it did with Odyssey of the Seas.