There are a number of basic precautions all travellers should take before embarking on a cruise anywhere in the world. Among these is to carry out due diligence to research the state of play in the countries you are likely to set foot in during your holiday. One such resource which should always be consulted is the Australian Government’s official information, advice and travel warning platform Smartraveller.
As it does for many nations, Smartraveller has in recent days issued a bulletin for the attention of Aussie travellers currently in or due to visit New Caledonia in the short-term future. The advice was alerting readers to be aware that the country is experiencing cases of the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which has been in the mainstream news a bit lately.
The advice read: “New Caledonia is experiencing ongoing transmission of the mosquito-borne Zika virus. All travellers should protect themselves from mosquito bites. Given possible transmission of the disease to unborn babies, and taking a very cautious approach, pregnant women should consider postponing travel to New Caledonia or talk to their doctor about implications (see Health Risks). We continue to advise Australians to exercise normal safety precautions in New Caledonia”.
Such information is also pertinent to travellers visiting the destination on a cruise ship and especially so considering New Caledonia is one of the most popular nations visited on voyages from Australia and New Zealand.
Australia’s biggest cruise brands have been well aware of the alert and even before anything was officially disseminated, have been actively keeping passengers informed about Zika virus, symptoms to look out for and steps to take to minimise any risk of becoming exposed to the condition.
In response to a query from Cruise Advice, Carnival Australia (which represents Carnival Cruise Line, P&O Cruises Australia, Cunard, Holland America Line and Princess Cruises among others cruising in the South Pacific) said it was keeping an close watch on the situation and had “robust policies in place to assist passengers in relation to Zika virus”.
These policies include preventative health information for guests already onboard or soon to embark, and special consideration for pregnant women when it comes to refunding shore excursion tickets or rescheduling an upcoming cruise without an amendment penalty.
The other major player in cruising in and around New Caledonia, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, added it was also committed to the health and safety of its guests and aware of the relevant alerts issued by both Smartraveller & the US-based Centre for Disease Control.
“Royal Caribbean will assist any pregnant women who do not feel comfortable sailing to countries affected with the Zika virus by providing alternate itinerary options. This may include providing guests with a future cruise credit valid for two years so that they may reschedule their voyage for a later date, with no penalty,” the line affirmed.
New Caledonia Tourism told Cruise Advice only one case of the virus had been reported this year so far, with no hospitalisation linked to Zika. This case was reported on 29 February and was outside of the major tourist areas, however no precaution was being ignored.
Protective measures such as spraying were being employed to minimise the risk of the virus spreading. Visitors to Noumea and New Caledonia’s outer islands were being officially advised to use mosquito spray and wear protective clothing suitable to the conditions.
While isolated cases have popped up in a vast number of countries around the world, including Australia, Zika virus has been largely impacting South, Central and Latin America as well as parts of Asia and Eastern Europe. According to the Centre for Disease Control, the condition is primarily spread through the bite of a particular species of infected mosquitoes. The most common symptoms include fever, rash and red eyes and can last for up to a week.
The condition rarely causes the person infected to deteriorate to the point of needing hospital treatment and clears up on its own with plenty of rest and hydration. However, it can be particularly harmful to unborn babies and can lead to birth defects or other abnormalities, but with the right precautions, is not something warranting panic. For travellers due to cruise to New Caledonia in coming weeks, the best course of action is to contact your cruise line or local physician if you’re seeking more information or options.
Smartraveller also offers an email service whereby travellers can subscribe to receive alerts for any particular destination or region of the world.