Australians are the most avid cruise-goers in the world. On average almost 1.5 million Aussie holiday makers take a cruise every year. It’s part of an industry worth US$150 billion globally, employing over a million people catering to 32 million passengers. In Australia it contributes $5 billion to the local economy, generating more than 20,000 jobs.
That was until March this year. Now over 300 ghost ships swing on their anchors around the world with skeleton crews. The coronavirus pandemic is estimated to be costing the industry $60 million a day as cruise ships – some costing more than a billion dollars to build - lie idle.
Modern cruising has a colourful history full of romance and adventure that harks back to the glory days of ocean travel. It’s also had its disasters; from tragic sinkings to environmental scandals and mass outbreaks of norovirus, more commonly known as gastro. But the cruise industry has never faced a crisis like COVID-19.
The industry’s reputation is in tatters as “no sail” orders have been enforced around the world. Thousands of passengers contracted COVID-19 on cruises, and at least 100 died. Ships like the Diamond Princess, Grand Princess and Ruby Princess - which had the largest individual death toll of 28 - have become notorious for COVID-19 outbreaks and are now the subject of government enquiries and law suits from angry passengers. Even an expedition cruise to the Antarctic aboard the Greg Mortimer wasn’t safe from COVID-19 with 60% of passengers contracting the virus.
The cruising industry is desperate to get back on the water – and there’s no shortage of demand from cruise starved passengers. But when can cruising resume and how safe will it be? Critics warn that if the cruise lines get it wrong the whole industry could go under. The stakes are incredibly high. Cruising: The Biggest Storm investigates the massive cruise industry. It’s a story of tropical dreams, adventure and an arms race to build bigger and better ships.
Year of Production2020