The cruise industry has defended its record in tackling the coronavirus crisis in the wake of a critical ITV documentary screened on Thursday.

The hour-long ‘Billion Pound Cruises: All at Sea’ focused on the plight of various Princess Cruises ships and Holland America Line vessel Zaandam which were caught up in the pandemic.

It highlighted the impact on passengers and crew and detailed the number of deaths involved.

The documentary featured passenger footage taken on board Diamond Princess, which was thrust into the spotlight as the virus became a pandemic due to an outbreak on the ship as it was docked in Japan which led to guests and crew being quarantined.

However, global cruise industry body Clia said: “While the tragic reality of the pandemic has meant that its impact has been felt across all walks of life, Clia believes that the industry’s rapid response is one reason why the number of cases linked to ships was a small fraction of the global total.

The association stressed that health and safety is “integral” to the cruise industry, which is currently at standstill across most of the world due to government restrictions.

A Clia spokesperson said: “No other form of travel provides such high transparency in public health reporting, or requires such stringent cleaning and hygiene protocols.

“Within 48 hours of the WHO [World Health Organisation]  announcing an international emergency, Clia ocean cruise lines introduced enhanced screening protocols worldwide, including health and travel history checks prior to embarkation of every passenger and crew member. 

“Upon declaration by the WHO of a pandemic, Clia ocean cruise lines voluntarily suspended operations worldwide, making the cruise industry one of the first to do so.

“Some ships had to travel thousands of miles to return to port, and repatriation was complicated by international air travel and border restrictions; Clia cruise lines have also successfully repatriated many thousands of crew members, and have been working non-stop with governments and health authorities to secure the safe return of crew members to their homes.”