We need to have some real talk concerning COVID19 better known as coronavirus and cruising. Cruise ships have become the posterchild of this virus. And it’s easy to see why. 700 infected on one cruise ship. Another 20+ on yet another cruise ship. But we have to ask ourselves, is cruising as dangerous as it’s being presented in the media? Are there other dangers that are being completely overshadowed by cruise ships? And what is the cruise line industry doing in light of what will likely be determined a coronavirus pandemic?
Let’s start by getting the important stuff out of the way. If you are a high-risk individual that might make you susceptible to contracting coronavirus, follow the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines or the equivalent organization in your country to protect yourself. According to the CDC, those who should take particular caution are:
- Older adults
- People with serious cronic medical conditions like:
- Heart disease
- Lung disease
Some warning signs to look for regarding COVID-19 include:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or inability to arouse (CDC terminology from the website)
- Bluish lips or face
This isn’t a comprehensive list of symptoms to be alert to. But it’s a good place to start.
If you do get sick, the CDC recommends you follow these steps:
- Stay home and call your doctor
- Tell your healthcare provider your symptoms. Inform them you may have COVID19 (coronavirus)
- Know when to get emergency help
- Get medical attention immediately if the symptoms mentioned above surface
If you’re not sick enough to be hospitalized, the CDC recommends you take these steps to protect yourself at home.
Why So Much Attention on Cruise Ships?
With all that’s being talked about in the news, why is there so much discussion linking coronavirus to cruise ships? Are cruise ships ground zero for catching the virus? Believe it or not, identifying “who” is getting sick actually provides more answers than focusing on “where” there are getting sick.
Let me explain.
In every story, there needs to be an antagonist, a villain. Someone or something that poses a threat. In this case, it’s coronavirus. The problem is, COVID19 is invisible. As has been reported by news agencies, someone could be a carrier and not display any symptoms. Hence, there has to be a visible representation of the coronavirus villain.
Enter cruise ships.
Thousands of people are grouped together and interreacting with one another. It’s because of this high concentration of people that the idea of cruise ships being the absolute worst place to be begins to surface. It’s also easier to quarantine a cruise ship, making it the ideal symbol for the coronavirus villain.
Do Cruise Ship Activities Make It Easier to Catch the Virus?
What activities occur on cruise ships? Eating is a big thing. So is going to shows. These performances take place in the big theaters as well as in smaller, more intimate venues. There are shops to purchase clothing, jewelry and watches, and more. As are places to sit and rest that many people will be using.
It’s because of these things cruising is being painted as the big, evil ogre.
Now, I want you to seriously ask yourself, what is taking place on a cruise ship that doesn’t happen in every mall around the world? Are there not food courts and full restaurants in malls? In many cases, the entrance to the movie theater is from within the mall. There are way more stores in malls than on cruise ships with lots of items to touch and spread disease.
And yet, how many times have you heard reporters, medical experts, and politicians warn the public about the dangers of going to the mall?
Do you work in a high-rise office building? Is there a restaurant where everyone in the building and the public can come in and enjoy a meal? Once on a cruise, all 2,000 or 3,000 people are going to be the same individuals on that ship for the duration of the voyage. How many thousands more are entering that office building for lunch or the mall to shop and hang out?
The truth is, cruise ships pose no larger threat than going to the mall or riding on a train (more on that later). In fact, cruise ships are literally floating cities. And just like a city, there are places to move about. In fact, after embarkation, with the exception of certain venues, it’s very hard to get a feel for how many people are actually onboard. Hence, the contact and interaction with others is far less than perceived by non-cruisers or the media imply.
So Why Do Cruise Ship Have So Many Cases?
This brings us to the next question, if cruise ships are no different than the mall, why are there so many cases appearing on cruise ships?
One very big reason cruise ships get attention while malls do not is because people can come and go as they please in the mall. In fact, thousands of people do just that in hundreds of malls around the world. It’s a natural, perhaps weekly expedition. Unlike a cruise which a person might take once or twice a year. Malls are a “normal” aspect of life.
A cruise ship, on the other hand, is not a revolving door. As stated earlier, once on the ship, no new people will be coming aboard for the rest of the cruise (one exception to this is MSC Cruises in the Mediterranean). A person getting sick on a cruise poses no higher threat than a person being sick at the mall. Because even if that sick person leaves the mall, 20 more sick people can come in and infect everyone inside.
So, why are cases being detected in higher concentrations on cruise ships?
Remember what group the Centers for Disease Control said have the highest risk factors? “Older adults” – particularly those 60 years of age and older. Of those who were tested positive on those cruises, who were they? Older individuals, usually over 60.
The type of cruises that were detained were sailings that require considerable resources because of the duration of the voyage and the locations on the itinerary. That demographic tends to skew older – the 60+ crowd. This is the reason more cases tend to appear on cruise ships than other places. This is why I said earlier, identifying “who” is getting sick as opposed to “where” they’re getting sick exposes the truth about why cruise ships are painted in such a bad light.
Think about “who” has been affected by coronavirus cases in the United States. Elderly people, many in nursing homes. It’s not that “nursing homes” are a Petri dishes for coronavirus. It’s that there are a lot of elderly individuals there who have all the markers for catching coronavirus. The same is true with cruise ships. It’s not that cruise ships are a hotbed for the coronavirus; it’s simply that on those sailings, elderly people tend to enjoy the experience of cruising.
Cruise Ships Are Getting a Bad Rap
There are more things to expose to demonstrate the truth about coronavirus and cruise ships. Cruise lines have strict sanitation procedures they follow on every sailing. In fact, your average cruise ship is probably one of the cleanest places you’ll ever be.
We have an article on how not to get sick on a cruise. In that post, we discussed what steps cruise ships take to keep the ship clean. We even have a first-hand experience of what steps the cruise line implemented to address the outbreak of a virus onboard. Give that article a read. It explains why the likelihood of getting sick on a cruise ship is substantially lower than catching a bus, plane, cab or train.
The steps you see some cities taking in airports and trains of wiping down surfaces happens all the time on cruise ships. One city is going through the airport once per day to wipe down counters, handrails and the like.
Cruise ships do this multiple times, every day. They even go as far as wiping down the buttons in the elevators and even the elevator doors, inside the elevator car and outside. In the event that a virus does break out such as COVID-19, the cleaning scheduled is amplified. The buffet remains open. However, the cruise staff serves the food. Menus in the dining areas are sprayed and wiped down. (Does your favorite restaurant do that, ever?)
The only reason buses and airports are cleaning surfaces is because of the immediate threat of coronavirus (COVID19). This is cruise ship protocol ALL of the time. If you really believe cruise lines pose a greater threat than, say, public transportation that thousands upon thousands of people use every single day (more than a cruise ship), watch this video. If you still disagree with what has been said here, take to the comments below and share your opinion.
What’s Being Overlooked?
Here’s something pundits targeting the cruise industry conveniently fail to acknowledge. Cruise lines sail out of 4 general regions in the United States – Northeast, Southeast, Gulf Coast, West Coast.
So, if all these germ-laden people are crowding onto cruise ships, how did they get there? It’s true, some drove. But the truth, no one is driving from California to Florida. They’re catching a plane. If the cruise industry is being painted as the poster child for coronavirus, the airlines that bring them there should be held under the same light.
And yet, airlines are almost never mentioned in the discussion. Oh, there will be a cable news contributor who will lump it together with all the things we should be aware of. But none of them isolate airplanes as a means to spread the virus.
Is the reason for this that the individuals warning against cruising just don’t like cruise ships? Or is it more likely that their livelihood is dependent on getting on and off planes? And if on their recommendation the government curtails flying (it is a federally regulated industry in the United States), would their personal income be affected?
Put another way, do they have a vested interest in not painting the airline industry in the same light as the cruise industry, even though the airlines are shuttling the very same passengers onto the cruise ships that said passengers will contaminate?
Most Coronavirus Cases Don’t Come from Cruising
Keep in mind, of the 423 cases as of the time of this writing, only 72 are travel related according to the CDC. That means of all the forms of travel – including cruising – very few people contract it from traveling. And especially not from cruising. If so few cases are from traveling, how can cruising be such an insidious means of contracting coronavirus (COVID-19)?
What Are Cruise Lines Doing in View of Coronavirus?
Clearly, with all the negative attention being heaped upon cruise ships, the cruise industry is very concerned about allaying fears. By our own admission, many cruise line customers are in the high-risk category that shouldn’t be around groups regardless of where those groups exist.
In view of that, various cruise lines have implemented changes to their cancellation policy or made other provisions to quiet fears and make sure customers don’t lose money. As of this writing, these are the cancellation policies of specific cruise lines courtesy of Travel Agent Central as of March 9, 2020:
Holland America Line
Norwegian Cruise Line
Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line
Should You Cruise or Not?
Clearly, this is a highly subjective and polarizing question. For those that are in the “cruise ships carry the highest risk of getting infection” camp, the answer is an unequivocal “NO!” ‘If someone goes on a ship and gets infected, they run the risk of passing it on to other people,’ they might say.
On the other hand, some feel that blaming cruise ships as ground zero to catch COVID19 (coronavirus) is insane. After all, a single infected individual getting on a commuter train has single handedly infected the dozens of people on the train car. Not to mention all the people that person came into contact with on the way to the station as well as the people on the platform. And now all the newly infected people can spread it. At least on the cruise ship, the entire ship can be quarantined before anyone outside can be exposed to the virus. And most coronavirus cases don’t come from traveling.
Share your thoughts about this in the comments section below. But keep it civil. There will be strong opinions on both sides. For the record, the United States State Dept is discouraging cruising, not just to high-risk individuals, but to everyone. Obviously, not everyone agrees with this sentiment.
The purpose of writing this post wasn’t to say, “all the arguments against cruising during coronavirus are a lie”. Absolutely not. However, a friend once told me that news outlets are owned by entertainment companies. So the greater the fear and sensationalism, the better the entertainment factor. And thus, more money. Hence, all the attention on cruise ships. Because seeing a giant ship sitting in the ocean is better television than showing a crowded train packed with people coughing and sneezing.
A cruise holds a lot of people, just like a sporting event. Therefore, if the best way to reduce the chance of transmission is to limit large groups, then cruises should be on that list. But so would sporting events, concerts, political rallies and the like. Cruises are no more dangerous than these other venues. There are about the same amount of people in attendance or more. They are also much closer in proximity to all those people at any given time than a cruise ship passenger. And none of those venues are regularly cleaned like cruise ships are.
So why is the story always, ‘cruise ships are the absolute worst place to be during this outbreak’? Share your answer below in the comments section.
We aren’t saying that you should or should not cruise. That’s a personal decision. Just see the situation for what it truly is.
But like I said, we’d love to get your thoughts and reasons for them. If you like what you’ve read, consider subscribing to our exclusive newsletter for content that will not appear on the website.