Reminder: Covid cruise ship rules have changed. Here’s what you need to know

The return of cruise ship visits to New Zealand this week shows how much the country’s relationship with Covid-19 has changed since the virus began spreading in early 2020.

P and O’s Pacific Explorer will moor in Auckland for eight hours on Friday – the first cruise ship to do so since Covid put the industry on hold more than two years ago.

This time around, if anyone on board has Covid, it won’t be an obstacle for most other passengers disembarking.

Here’s what you need to know.

* “We’re back, we’re stronger”: The return of cruise ships to New Zealand
* Cheat Sheet: What will an almost fully reopened New Zealand look like?
* New Zealand is fully reopening to the world, but how prepared are we?

What was the cruise situation like before?

In January 2020, an outbreak on the Diamond Princess off the coast of Japan triggered what would become a three-week quarantine on board.

The Ruby Princess called at several New Zealand ports in early March 2020 with unreported cases of Covid-19 on board. After returning to Sydney, 22 deaths and 700 infections were linked to passengers and crew who disembarked.

In March 2020, New Zealand effectively closed its borders except for residents and returning citizens. As the country tried to stay Covid-free, cruise ships were banned.

What changed ?

With the Omicron variant well established, the possibility of a few more cases sitting on a cruise ship at a downtown dock is no longer the public health risk it once was.

As of Thursday, there were 4,818 new community cases of Covid-19 announced in New Zealand.

Cruise lines and their ships are now shouldering most of the responsibility for monitoring and managing Covid-19 cases on board and keeping the sick on board, while the rest of the passengers head for shore.

Pacific Explorer enters Sydney Harbor on April 18.

James D. Morgan/Getty Images

Pacific Explorer enters Sydney Harbor on April 18.

What should the Pacific Explorer do before arriving in New Zealand?

Shortly after the Pacific Explorer departs Sydney, New Zealand protocols require the shipping company to file an Extended Arrival Notice (ENA).

Between 12 and 24 hours, he must file a notice of arrival (ANA).

Any illness detected, including Covid-19, must be reported and will be reviewed by health officials.

All passengers and crew members must be vaccinated against Covid-19 and be able to present proof if required by border or health authorities.

What happens if there are cases on board?

It will be the ship’s responsibility to manage any emerging cases of Covid-19.

Positive cases, along with anyone they share a cabin with, must self-isolate for seven days. They must also pass a test on the third and seventh day.

There is no requirement for passengers and crew without symptoms to test negative before disembarking in Auckland.

Those not sharing a cabin with a positive case are free to come and go if they wish.

The Majestic Princess cruise ship in Auckland before Covid-19 closed Aotearoa's borders.


The Majestic Princess cruise ship in Auckland before Covid-19 closed Aotearoa’s borders.

What’s the risk ?

On the day of her departure from Sydney on August 8, en route to Auckland, Pacific Explorer’s Covid-19 status was listed as ‘green’ on the New South Wales state government website.

Green – risk level 1 out of 4 – means there were no or few cases on that date.

Two other cruise liners appeared as “yellow” or level 2, defined as having a low to moderate impact.

This meant there were between three and 29 cases per 1,000 people on board.