Lawmakers put forward an idea to use cruise ships as floating isolation facilities – but while Hong Kong’s cruise business is in the doldrums, the global cruise business has moved on

The idea to use cruise ships as floating isolation hospitals is not feasible in Hong Kong, according to the boss of Hong Kong’s Kai Tak Cruise Terminal, who said there will be no spare ship capacity in the world.

Despite Hong Kong’s cruise business taking a hit under Covid restrictions, the cruise business worldwide is picking up, said Jeff Bent, managing director of Worldwide Cruise Terminals.

“The cruise lines are fully operational out of 86 countries – Europe, North & South America, Middle East, Singapore – and will be running at 100% of fleet capacity by summer.  They have better uses for their assets,” he told Transit Jam.

“It was considerate of the various legislators to suggest, but unlikely to happen,” he said.

Lawmakers Yang Wing-kit, Kowloon Central, and Joephy Chan Wing-yan, New Territories South West, put forward the idea in a LegCo debate this week, with Yang claiming the ships were “not in use right now” and Chan saying the cruise business should be “pitching in to help”.

Yiu Pak-leung, for the Tourism Sector, said tour firms would be happy to see cruise ship terminals being turned into quarantine facilities.

Meanwhile, interesting data from a US cruise line association shows the Omicron variant has hospitalised people at far lower rates on ships than on land.

“Most COVID-19 cases on cruise ships sailing from US ports have been asymptomatic,” said an update from the North American branch of a global association. “Notably, the hospitalisation rates on cruise ships were more than 80 times lower than on land in the United States at the height of the Omicron surge.”

The association says ships in US waters saw just five Covid hospitalisations in the first few weeks of 2022, equivalent to 34 hospitalisations per 100,000 Covid cases. “In stark contrast, during the same period, there were 269,067 new hospitalisations in the US, equivalent to 2,786 per 100,000 COVID-19 cases,” said the update.

Earlier this month, the CEO of Royal Caribbean Group, Jason Liberty, told Reuters the cruise business was “past Covid-19, in terms of the overall impact on our business”. Reuters also reports the US Centre for Disease Control this week eased its warnings against cruise vacations, seven weeks after advising Americans not to go on cruises.

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