Cruising in the “New Normal”

What does the future hold for the world of tourism? Travellers are wondering what will be the fate of their great love. Maybe you live in a developing country, maybe you have a medical condition, maybe you are uncomfortable with the abbreviated test protocol, your reasons are your own but not everyone can get the new Covid Vaccine. Travelers are questioning if this issue will be the end of travel for them in the event that they are unable to conform to the medical requirements from governments and cruise companies. Cruising is an interesting conundrum. In 2017, 25.3 million people cruised worldwide. What does the future hold for these millions of people?

Remember the horror that was being a passenger on the Diamond Princess out of Japan. The ship with 4,711 people aboard had one 80 year old passenger who tested positive for a novel coronavirus after a shore excursion in China. The Japanese government scrambled as the ship made its way to its home port in Yokohama, Japan. Japanese officials decreed the night before arrival that the ship would have to undergo a 14 observation period. Panic and frustration marked the onboard experience. On day Nine of the quarantine, the Japanese government made the merciful decision to allow the aged passengers who were confined in tiny inside staterooms (no windows) to be allowed to disembark. Eventually 712 passengers tested positive for the SARS-COV2 virus (although some of those did not test positive until well after disembarkation and were probably infected on shore). Thirteen people, sadly, died of coronavirus complications. Cruising would never be the same.

Weeks later a similar drama unfolded on another cruise ship, the Grand Princess out of San Francisco. That cruise would see 3,600 people exposed to the virus, 114 confirmed cases and 6 deaths. The crew and passengers were left to circle out in the Pacific Ocean while politicians scratched their head about what to do with a plague ship. Social media went viral (pun intended) with videos of those passengers stuck in their rooms for days on end.

For sure cruising has taken a hard hit from the world pandemic. People wondered if cruising could ever be safe again. Was it just foolish to sail around in a Petri dish with 1000s of other potentially diseased humans? In 2019, 519 passengers on a Royal Caribbean ship sickened with a stomach bug. The Sun Princess had Norovirus outbreaks for 18 months so bad that the plumbing backed up into passengers rooms who were already vomiting uncontrollably. Cruisers had always known this was a risk but the treatment of passengers on the Diamond and Grand Princess Ships was what might have ended the cruising life for many people. Was it justified or ethical to keep people confined for such a duration? Lack of response to passenger welfare has lead to at least one wrongful death lawsuit from the Grand Princess. Would anyone want to cruise again after seeing not just the risk of the virus but the phycological affects of confinement?

Cruising is not on the scrap heap of history yet. 85% of previous cruisers say they will come back to cruising. The CDC has given cruise companies two options, do extensive and expensive “test” cruises to prove out new Covid policies or go straight to making money by requiring all crew and passengers to show their papers to prove vaccination. Most major cruise companies have already started requiring proof of Covid Vaccination for all passengers and crew. But what about discriminating against non-western people who do not yet have access to the vaccine? Cruises have been running for months in those places with no out breaks. In fact the only Covid positive passengers have been on a the fully vaccinated Celebrity cruise in the Caribbean. It is an understandable position of corporations who are staring down their own demise, but this requirement is fraught with legal questions as they possibly violate HIPA laws, the Nuremberg Code, and now even State laws around human rights and privacy concerns. The cruise industry would do well to work out an emergency response that can humanely treat both the sick and the healthy during crisis.

For cruisers who are in the category of unable to get the jab, here is a list of cruise companies that are not compelling use of the Covid mRNA vaccine at this time. This information is in constant flux so always check with the cruise company before booking.

  1. Disney – Covid Vaccination required for UK voyages only.
  2. Royal Caribbean – Covid Vaccination required only on Alaska cruises.
  3. Cunard – On cruises after Aug. 28 will not require Covid Vaccination.
  4. Holland America – Covid Vaccination only required on Alaska cruises.
  5. Uncruise – Covid Vaccination free travelers can go on the Galapagos cruise only.
  6. Hurtigruten – No Covid Vaccination required.
  7. Quark Expeditions – No Covid Vaccination required.
  8. Poseidon Expeditions – No Covid Vaccination required.