Do cruise companies face the biggest challenge?

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Some of the fastest growth in travel over the last decades has been in cruising.

It has attracted people due to the fact that they can see a number of countries without having to pack and unpack each day, all meals and entertainment is largely included so they only have to budget for excursions and because, with some cruises, all transactions are in sterling so there are no foreign exchange costs. There are other reasons but there are downsides too.

The biggest downsides have been shown up during the coronavirus pandemic.

If here is an outbreak on board a ship, the whole ship was quarantined. Passengers are trapped on it until the all-clear is given. In the case of the Diamond Princess, passengers were quarantined on the boat, in Japan and in their home countries when they returned.

Some future passengers will recall the Ruby Princess, upon which there were over 600 people who contracted coronavirus and were allowed to land in Australia. The outcry by Australians against the ship’s passengers and crew might deter future cruise passengers and destinations from receiving the vessels.

Venice is talking of restricting cruise ships even more than they were planning before the pandemic.

The problem is that a ship is a self-contained floating hotel. Cabins are relatively small and to be confined to one for any length of time can not only be claustrophobic but can also affect mental well-being particularly if you are in an inside cabin with no windows or balcony.

Social distancing will be relatively impractical. How can each cabin and all public areas be sanitised when life on board a ship is a twenty-four hour affair?

Will future passengers have to be temperature tested before being allowed to land at each port? How long would it take to temperature test a ship carrying a couple of thousand passengers? Will sufficient time be left to sight-see at a destination? Will a ship re-board passengers who look ill after walking around a port?

Cruise companies face all these questions and more before passengers board ships again.

People I have spoken to who cruise a couple of times a year as a minimum are seemingly more hesitant at booking, particularly those who are in  their eighties and have other health problems. They also point to the attitudes of certain destinations in not allowing cruise ships to dock to take on additional food supplies and other goods or to offload passengers.

Will these people return or will cruising be for younger age groups?

Ships have been prone to outbreaks of norovirus but these seemed to be no deterrent for future passenger bookings. Cruise companies must be hoping that coronavirus has a similarly short effect.

At present cruising is as dead as the rest of the tourism and travel industry. It is estimated that 277 different ships are moored, empty and awaiting their future; the ships belonging to Fred Olsen, for example, are at anchor in the Firth of Forth in Scotland.

Some others have already been pointed towards scrap yards, ahead of their time.

Cruise companies in North America say that bookings for 2021 are ahead of expectations. If that is so, people have short memories and have forgotten that people were encased on them for a while and that close confines acted as incubators.

But maybe companies think that in there will be a vaccine and all will be light and roses again.

the cruise ship, Canberra, from thirty years ago when cruising was just becoming popular
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