The largest cruise lines are engaged in a battle to save their industry, which like other travel sectors is reeling from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Airlines, hotels, resorts and even the travel agents who sell them have been devastated by leisure travels coronavirus-driven collapse.
Yet cruise lines appear particularly vulnerable, with the popular view that cruise ships are coronavirus hotspots waiting to sail. U.S. government authorities have clearly linked cruise ships with the spread of coronavirus, with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) stating current scientific evidence suggests cruise ships pose a greater risk of COVID-19 transmission than other settings because of the high population density onboard ships.
That view seemed to receive confirmation earlier this month when four ships that were among the earliest to re-start service following cruisings global shutdown ended their voyages early after COVID-19 cases were reported onboard.
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Yet scientists have since pointed out this is expected. There will be cases as operators resume operations, even with strict protocols in place. It is the very observation and study of those cases, and the measures utilized to fight them, that provide critical knowledge to help develop more effective preventative practices.
Furthermore, it pays to recognize the Hurtigruten and SeaDream cruise ships involved in August COVID-19 incidents had sailed since June without any reported cases. Hurtigrutens CEO attributed the outbreak to weaknesses in several of our internal procedures.
Like other travel operators, cruise lines are working to formulate standard practices to allow cruising to resume. The World Travel & Tourism Council has launched a Safe Travels stamp designed to establish standardized COVID-19 health and hygiene protocols across the travel spectrum, including cruise lines. Arnold Donald, Carnival Corp.s president and CEO, said recently cruise lines are working with Caribbean destinations to establish a model for the resumption of service in the region.
Im no scientist, but after personally having taken more than 100 cruises, I know this: there is no cleaner travel environment than a modern cruise ship.
Even before the pandemic, cruise ships Ive sailed aboard were singularly more sanitary than many of the far more than 100 hotel and resort rooms in which Ive dwelled as part of my journeys.
Ive stayed in hotel and resort rooms that have ranged from sparse to unkempt to downright shameful. Ill spare you the details, but Ill never forget one room I likened to a medium-security jail cell.
Thats never been the case on any cruise ship Ive sailed aboard. Cleaning is a fetish aboard cruise ships, and you wont fail to see some crewmember cleaning something aboard your ship on every single day of your voyage.
Cruise ships calling at U.S. ports are subject to unannounced health and cleanliness checks by the U.S. Public Health Service (ironically a division of CDC) and ranked according to cleanliness. If only that were the case for some of the hotels in which Ive stayed.
Millions of people take cruises every year, or at least they did prior to the pandemic, and often come back for more. Donald has said there is currently demand, and if CDC allowed it, there would be more cruises sailing with guests now.
While theres no question health authorities should ensure guests can embark in the safest possible environment, Im one of those folks who thinks cruise ships will develop the right environment to safely accommodate guests again soon.
Theyve already got the cleanliness part down. While theres no cause to rush, Ill be pleased to walk up the gangway again for my next seagoing voyage.
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