Princess Cruises ship with 'slightly elevated' COVID-19 cases skips Australia stop

A Princess Cruises ship with elevated COVID-19 cases on board skipped a planned stop in Australia this week, the cruise line said.

Princess canceled the Grand Princess ship's stop in Newcastle following advice from health officials in New South Wales because of uncertainty about how to move forward with activities ashore, a spokesperson told USA TODAY in an email.

"The decision was made in consultation with NSW Health as the Newcastle and greater Hunter Valley region is managing the current rise in community transmissions including the demand on its local hospitals and healthcare services," the spokesperson said.

New South Wales reported more than 31,500 COVID cases in the week ending Nov. 24, up from nearly 28,000 the week prior, according to NSW Health. The spokesperson added that Grand Princess had only "slightly elevated levels" of COVID, but did not disclose the number of cases on board.

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The ship left on a round-trip cruise from Melbourne on Nov. 17, with stops including Sydney, Brisbane and Willis Island, and will return Dec. 1. The itinerary change comes after Carnival Corporation brought mask mandates back for its cruise lines operating in the Australian region earlier this month, including Princess, Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line and others.

Another Princess ship, Majestic Princess, previously docked in Sydney on Nov. 12 with some 800 COVID cases on board.

Cruise lines ease COVID-19 requirements for other destinations

Cruise lines have further eased their pandemic health and safety requirements elsewhere in recent weeks, with brands such as Princess, Carnival, and Royal Caribbean International dropping all remaining vaccination and testing rules for many sailings.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data obtained by USA TODAY through a Freedom of Information Act request did not show a consistent pattern in new cases among major cruise lines entering and leaving from the U.S. after many dropped their vaccine requirements, among other changes, in early September.

Cruise lines began easing rules after the CDC ended its COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships in July.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Princess cruise ship with COVID cases skips stop in Australia