Skip to comments.Why I’m not sure a ‘coronavirus-safe’ cruise sounds like a fun time
Posted on 02/09/2021 12:46:02 PM PST by Capt. Tom
It may be safe. But will it be fun?
That’s the big question frequent cruisers are asking about upcoming cruises as they look ahead to the resumption of sailings in more parts of the world. And the answer for a lot of them — including me, I think — might be, “Not as much as before.”
Cruise lines in recent months have announced all sorts of new, coronavirus-related rules and restrictions they plan to implement when cruising resumes in earnest around the globe — everything from mask-wearing requirements to limitations on touring in ports. And some of them could have a major effect on the cruising experience.
Will it still be fun to cruise if you can’t get off a ship in a port unless you’re part of a ship-organized tour? Will the cruising experience be the same if you can’t socialize with fellow passengers due to new social-distancing rules?
Judging from the conversations I’ve seen on cruise fan sites in recent weeks, there are many cruising regulars who aren’t so sure. And I might be in that camp, too.
That’s not to say that I’m done with cruising. I can’t wait to get back out to sea. But I might wait to book my next personal cruise vacation until after some of the coronavirus-related restrictions are lifted.
Plans for safer cruising
The world’s biggest cruise lines have assembled some of the world’s top experts to help them design new protocols to make ships safer when cruising resumes. They’re also getting guidance and mandates from government health authorities such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The efforts have resulted in a range of new rules and restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 that cruisers are likely to see when cruising starts up again, including:
A mask-wearing requirement on ships Limits on social gathering on ships Limits on the use of some spaces on ships Limits on touring in ports Regular health screenings on ships A COVID-19 testing requirement At least a few lines also will require passengers to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination before sailing.
Cruise lines plan to implement new health screening requirements on ships such as regular temperature checks for passengers and crew. (Photo courtesy of MSC Cruises) Many of these new rules and requirements already have been implemented on the handful of cruise ships that have restarted operations around the world in recent months.
Just to be clear, I think all of the above things make sense. I am 100% on board with all the safety precautions that cruise lines have proposed and have been implementing.
The disastrous outbreaks of COVID-19 on cruise ships in 2020 point to the need for rigorous new measures if ships are to sail without incident while the illness remains prominent.
In short, it needs to be done. It just might not make for the most enjoyable cruise experience.
What you might expect from the new cruise experience It’s one thing to talk about the new safety measures in the abstract. But what will it really be like on cruise ships when they start sailing again? Many cruise lines still are working out the details of their new rules and restrictions. And even those that already have announced specific protocols still could change them before they restart voyages.
But I got a taste of at least some of what we can expect in November when I sailed on the first cruise vessel to resume voyages in the Caribbean — and it left me with mixed feelings.
As regular readers know, the sailing (on a small SeaDream Yacht Club vessel) did not go well, to put it mildly. It ended with a COVID-19 outbreak and a quarantine for passengers. But before the outbreak occurred, the ship was operating with many of the same protocols listed above, including daily health screenings, social distancing rules and restrictions on touring during calls.
As I wrote about at the time, there was much about the onboard experience on the SeaDream vessel, SeaDream 1, that felt surprisingly normal. But over time, my feelings on the experience shifted a bit.
The new rule that, after a few days, struck me as the most onerous was a rule about interacting socially with other passengers. At the start of the trip, the cruise director asked that, for social distancing reasons, each of us only mingle on board with our traveling companions.
Some seating in restaurants and other venues on cruise ships will likely be blocked off when cruising resumes to allow for social distancing. The idea was that nobody would come within a safe distance of 6 feet or more of anyone else who was not part of their traveling party.
This may seem innocuous enough. But cruising is a very social experience. A big part of why people go on cruises is to meet and interact with other people.
I, myself, love to meet new people on ships and often invite strangers to dine with me or join me in a lounge for a drink. For someone like me, being told to keep away from others on a ship amounts to a significant change to the way I cruise.
That said, for a couple or family who likes to keep to themselves while on vacation, such a rule isn’t nearly as a big deal.
I will say, too, that many passengers ignored the social distancing rule and interacted quite a bit with their fellow passengers at closer-than-6-feet distances. Social distancing rules are, by nature, hard for a cruise line to enforce as it’s not always clear to crew who is and isn’t traveling together.
Loss of spontaneity Taking away the ability for cruisers to socialize closely with each other takes away some of the spontaneity of cruising. So do rules about touring in ports.
Many lines are considering a rule that would forbid passengers from touring on their own in ports. Passengers only would be allowed off ships if they had signed up for a ship-organized tour. The idea is that this would keep passengers from interacting with locals in a way where they might be exposed to COVID-19.
MSC Cruises already has implemented such a rule for the cruises it has restarted in Europe.
On the SeaDream cruise I took in November, which featured calls in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the line went even further by canceling stops in any place where passengers might interact with locals. Instead, the ship only visited uninhabited beaches and small islands.
Operating very small, yacht-like vessels, SeaDream is known for Caribbean trips that revolve around landings by Zodiac at remote beaches or other uncrowded locales, so the effort to avoid locals entirely didn’t drastically change the experience. But it still was a disappointment to not get to visit any of the towns of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The thought of taking a more traditional, port-heavy cruise on a big ship where I wasn’t able to walk around in the ports on my own just seems like a “Bridge Too Far” to me.
One of the things I love about cruising is the spontaneity that’s possible when pulling into a port. The ship delivers you someplace wonderful for the day, and you can explore it as you like. If you want to just pop out for a coffee in a square, you can. If you want to head to a museum, you can. If you want to climb the bell tower of a cathedral, you can.
If the only way off the ship is on a very structured, ship-sponsored tour, I’m not sure cruising has the same appeal for many travelers.
I’m also not crazy about the idea of some venues on cruise ships being closed or limited in their use. On the SeaDream trip I took, the gym, for instance, was open by appointment only, and the number of users who could visit at any one time was limited. There was no popping down for a quick bike ride on a whim. Again, this is a blow to the idea of spontaneity on cruises.
Big cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line in recent years have marketed heavily around the idea that you can do what you want when you want on cruise ships. In the coming months, when cruising resumes in earnest, that might not be the case.
The good news Still, if you’re a diehard cruise fan worried about the new coronavirus-era rules, all is not lost. The good news is that many of the new rules and restrictions are unlikely to remain in force for long.
Cruise lines haven’t said anything official about how long they will keep these new protocols in place. But they have suggested it only will be as long as necessary.
It is likely that as soon as a large percentage of the population is vaccinated for COVID-19 and case counts have come down that many of these rules and restrictions will begin to fade away.
The last paragraph in the article says;"It is likely that as soon as a large percentage of the population is vaccinated for COVID-19 and case counts have come down that many of these rules and restrictions will begin to fade away."
Tom here-Unfortunately the CDC seems to be ignoring the vaccine hope that the Cruise Lines are relying on. Time will tell. -Tom
“Covid safe” anything blows. Hotels are no longer any fun and I used to love going to hotels. Bars, restaurants and lobby are usually off limits. Everybody masked. We do VRBO now.
Since 2014, Mrs. pdunkin and I have traveled on The Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise in January and October. It is her favorite two weeks out of the year. If the new protocols being proposed are put in place, the cruise we took last January will be our last. It really saddens me to say that but I just can’t see how anything resembling fun could happen under those rules.
I’ve never been on a cruise and haven’t ever thought about it. However, with all the lockdown idiocy, there ain’t no way.
Like going to the prom wearing a chastity belt.
“It is likely that as soon as a large percentage of the population is vaccinated for COVID-19 and case counts have come down that many of these rules and restrictions will begin to fade away.”
Not very likely. CDC objective is to minimize infections, illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths. The CDC objectives do not include having a good time. Doubt that and listen to what Fauci, et al, have to say about watching the superbowl, Christmas, etc.
The amazing thing is the number of posters I encountered on Cruise Critic that are perfectly fine with these restrictions as long as they get to cruise. Even the management there is cracking down on those who dissent from these restrictions.
The vaccines are not working, people still get COVID. The ONLY thing that will solve this is getting politics out of medicine. There is nothing to be so fearful of, but the polidiots are using this as a means of control.
“It really saddens me to say that but I just can’t see how anything resembling fun could happen under those rules.”
I suspect that’s the whole point.... absolutely, positively no fun for the peons just because TPTB decree such. After all, the rules are for thee and not for me.
The cruise only excursions requirement is just another way for the cruise line to make more money.
When I went on cruises, we usually hired our own guide or toured on our own. After you’ve travelled a while, you want the flexibility of your own guide or doing you’re own thing.
But I don’t see things going to back to where they used to be anyways.
Just in general, travel and vacationing will be more restrictive.
Just about anything you can imagine on a vacation, will be more restrictive and less fun, frankly.
Imagine a beach vacation where you are expected to social distance, mask up, perhaps wait in line for your turn to get down there. The same can happen at theme parks, museums, restaurants, just any public place you might go when traveling.
Personally I want to stay home until all this blows over. Assuming it does blow over.
The Cruise Lines won't be able to fill the Cruise ships as long as those onerous requirements are in place. Remember you have to pay to go on a cruise. - Tom
> with all the lockdown idiocy, there ain’t no way <
Yep. Let’s say everyone on board is vaccinated. So the ship sails. And then there’s a Covid outbreak. That’s not unlikely.
Then what? Then that ship gets quarantined, and I hope you like your stateroom. Because nobody’s getting off that ship until some bureaucrat says so.
Where the cruise lines once again shoot themselves in the foot is with the ship only -no contact with the locals approach.
The reason ports welcome cruise ships is the money spent ashore in bars, restaurants, shops, excursions etc.
When you forbid those ship/shoreside interactions the ports have no problems saying go somewhere else, you are not helping us out financially. This is happening in a lot of ports.
The cruise lines don't seem to know how to handle this. -Tom
Got my email from Norwegian today. Didn’t read in depth but looks like any $ they’re holding will be able to push into Dec 2022 as opposed to expiring Dec 2021. Looks like they’re giving up on 2021
My apartment complex locked down the swimming pool for the better part of the summer last year (from March through July). It has remained unlocked ever since. Still no non-resident guests are permitted although that doesn’t seem to stop the non-residents who sneak in and use it with NO residents present.
I’ve been to a bar since the somewhat lockdown has been slightly lifted. You’d better bring someone there or be prepared to drink alone because you can’t mingle or do anything.
The breweries that are open and have beer gardens can be a bit more open atmosphere.
I find that liberal business owners have conceded a need to be open and get some money to pay rent and retain employees but most still take it out on their customers. Other places are a bit more adult about it.
Reminds me of the people who vacationed in Hawaii and had to stay locked in their rooms for 2 weeks.
Point out that H1N1 still exists and circulates.
>>Personally I want to stay home until all this blows over. Assuming it does blow over.
If you are a liberal worth a billion dollars it already has blown over. Just ask John F. Kerry.
I've spent the last year 99% mask free. I only wear it in businesses out of respect for those who own them. I don't want to cause any trouble with the state for the business owners - the people who truly make America great. I don't want to cause these people any trouble.
Soon as I leave the place of business, the mask comes right off.
Was one of the 500,000 or so who crowded DC on Jan 6 (come and get me) with no mask worn on Metro or on the Washington Mall. Still healthy as an ox.
Where is the big outbreak from those half million plus maskless and non-social distancing Trump supporters who filled up DC on Jan 6?
I rest my case.
The real question is, is it government safe?
When the ship turns into a prison/petri dish because no one allows you to make port or disembark - that’s actually the bigger threat.
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