By BRUCE Piper

The cruise industry has continued to be in the glare of the mainstream media spotlight over the last month.

No sooner had the beleaguered Ruby Princess sailed away from its new-found friends in the Port Kembla, NSW community than Royal Caribbean hit the headlines, via a class action over the White Island volcano tragedy last year.

As I’ve written before, in this COVID-19 situation where we feel we have lost control, society is looking for someone to blame and unfortunately cruising is a convenient whipping-boy.

However unlike the host of media armchair experts who have sprung up around the cruising crisis, a more measured response to the situation came from someone who really knows what he’s talking about.

Christopher Rynd, the highly respected and now-retired former Cunard, P&O and Princess Cruises captain, noted his pride in the vessels on which he worked and the role the cruise industry played in providing holidays, contributing to the global tourism economy — and also “helping our neighbours”.

“When Cyclone Pam devastated Vanuatu shortly after my ship’s visit in 2015, our passengers and crew mustered a huge cash donation, while another cruise ship sailed to the islands as a first responder,” Rynd wrote in an editorial in Maritime Executive magazine.

He noted that neither ship was registered in Australia, but acted as good citizens towards those they saw as their neighbours.

“Where are these ships now? Ordered out of Australian waters. One [P&O’s Pacific Explorer] based in Australia for a decade, has no COVID-19 illness onboard,” he said.

Rynd comprehensively debunked claims about foreign-flagged ships operating to lower standards, with crew conditions set by international conventions while health, safety, security and environment standards are set by the International Maritime Organization.

But cruise companies set themselves even higher standards because of their high profile and “a keen appreciation of risk,” he said.

Rynd said the common and contagious norovirus has three times the incidence ashore than on cruise ships, while the cruise sector had successfully worked over the years to counter other health threats such as SARS, MERS, H1N1 influenza and Legionnaires disease.

“All contrary to what has been seen recently in popular media — in fact life afloat has been healthier than ashore,” he said.

Attitudes to public health, practices and procedures are sure to change due to coronavirus, and the cruise industry will clearly be in the forefront, Rynd added.

“When social gathering is once again acceptable and protocols are in place, cruising will be ready,” he said — a sentiment which should be embraced by everyone in travel.