The Centers for Disease Control asked folks to comment on whether they feel ready to once again board cruise ships despite America’s still out-of-control pandemic. If the public comments are to be believed, the answer is a resounding yes.
The cruise industry is currently under a No Sail Order by the CDC after the ships became floating COVID-19 incubators in the early days of the epidemic. That order is set to expire on September 30.
There are over 1,500 comments published on the website as of this writing. Mercifully for us, Business Insider combed through and found some good ones:
“I think it would be fine to open the cruise lines back up with proper cleaning and sanitation,” one anonymous commenter wrote. “There’s no difference and going to a grocery store or mall or going out to eat with hundreds of people. I would get on a cruise tomorrow if they were reopened.”
Others downplayed the risks of catching COVID-19 at sea and accused the CDC of unfairly imposing its will on cruise-goers and cruise operators, when other forms of transportation have been allowed to continue operating. That’s despite cruises being a form of transportation people take for fun rather than necessity, and the fact that from March 1 to July 10, nearly 3,000 US cruise passengers fell ill with COVID-19 and 34 died.
“Please restart cruising,” one respondent wrote. “No matter what we try to prevent people will get Covid and most will be fine. It makes no economic sense to keep ruining our country.”
“STOP FEAR MONGERING!” another person wrote. “LET US GET BACK TO LIFE AND CRUISING.”
What enthusiasm! Unfortunately, cruise fans may want to think twice about how safe their cruises really are, given those thousands of infections and dozens of deaths earlier this year. That’s not counting cases from before March 1: The Diamond Princess cruise, which started with 10 cases of COVID-19, ended up with more than 700 passengers infected by the virus while docked in Japan.
Last month, BI reported that only 40 percent of cruise ships operating in US waters regularly tested crew for COVID-19. These ships were able to continue operating after the April 10 no-sail ban in order to repatriate crew members.
Even if you love cruises, just reading the questions that the CDC is currently struggling over should give any traveler pause. Here is just one of the 26 posed by the center:
16. What steps should cruise ship operators take to prevent the introduction of COVID-19 onto ships after resuming passenger operations?
a. Should cruise ship operators deny boarding to passengers with COVID-like illness or confirmed infection with COVID-19?
b. Should cruise ship operators deny boarding to passengers with known exposure to a person with COVID-19 during the previous 14 days?
c. What methods should cruise ship operators use to screen for exposures and detect COVID-like illness in passengers seeking to board the ship?
d. Should cruise ship operators deny boarding to passengers coming from COVID-19 high-incidence geographic areas?
e. How should cruise ship operators manage embarking crew with COVID-like illness, known exposure, or coming from high-incidence geographic areas after resuming passenger operations?
f. Should cruise ship operators test passengers and crew pre-boarding? If yes, what should the testing protocol be?
g. Should cruise ship operators transport and house passengers and crew denied boarding at the seaport to avoid exposing the public?
This question alone sounds like a nightmare of constant screenings and legal woes. Cruises are all about disembarking and wandering new places while relaxing. Is there a way to do that safely right now? Probably not, especially now that we know more about how infectious COVID-19 can be in enclosed and communal spaces. It doesn’t help that cruises are already breeding grounds for gastrointestinal illnesses known as noroviruses.
It would be one thing if travelers were posing a risk only to themselves, but that’s not the case. Another CDC question asks if the cruise company would be liable if disembarking travelers carry COVID-19 into port communities. Now, what was once a mundane vacation turns into an international incident.
Many of the comments from cruise enthusiasts refer to how well the staff cleans the ship, but it is now strongly suspected that COVID-19 is at its most infectious when spreading person-to-person via tiny droplets of saliva called aerosols, according to Nature magazine. I can’t imagine ships enforcing a mask rule on passengers, which would logically need to be worn at all times in common areas and in ports of call. Cruisers also tend to be older: About a third of cruise passengers are older than 59, according to The New York Times, and therefore more at risk for serious complications should they be infected with COVID-19.
Honestly, right now it just sounds like a lot of hassle and danger for not really all that much fun.