Who should pay for the medical expenses incurred to check passengers during the global pandemic? As cruising begins to open up in Asia, it could well become an important question for those booking their favourite lines.
Recently, sister site Cruise Passenger asked readers what they thought. Over 80 per cent believe cruise lines should be responsible for the costs of testing for COVID-19 and for treatment on board.
Only just under 5 per cent of 600 passengers who answered our survey question thought passengers themselves should pay for the tests and treatment.
Cruise Lines International Association, the industry representative group, pledged members back mandatory tests before passengers are allowed to board when cruise resumes.
Sailings in Europe by lines like MSC and Costa are already underway, with free passenger testing.
Medical bills may also become a debating point, as they are known to be steep on board ships and getting insurance against the effects of the pandemic is currently difficult.
“All guests are required to undergo a SARS-CoV-2 test within 48 to 72 hours prior to boarding and obtain a negative result. The cost of your SARS-CoV-2 test is included in your cruise fare for sailings departing on or before January 30, 2021,” says the blog.
In Singapore, Royal Caribbean told Cruise Passenger it would go further, paying for up to $25,000 of medical bills.
Said a spokesperson: “For even greater peace of mind, included in the cost of the cruise are COVID-19 Protections which include a 100% credit towards a future cruise should a guest or any member of their travel party test positive for COVID-19 during the three weeks prior to their booked cruise; or a full refund if a guest, or any member of their travel party, tests positive during their voyage.
“Royal Caribbean will cover COVID-19 related costs up to SGD$25,000 per person in the travel party for onboard medical costs, any required quarantine and travel home.”
A spokesperson said the offer only applies to the Singapore cruises at present. It was not clear how Australians and New Zealanders might be covered once sailing resumed here.
Carnival, which represents Princess, P&O, Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America and Cunard in Australia, declined to say who would pay.
“The proposed health protocols including testing are a CLIA initiative on behalf of member cruise lines. On this basis I’m not going to respond independently of CLIA,” said the spokesperson.
The travel insurance industry has all but stopped issuing policies covering the consequences of the pandemic.