Recent outbreaks of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) have been particularly noticeable when they happen on cruise ships. There tends to be a dozen or more infected individuals in one place, they aren’t allowed to disembark, and the infection seems to spread as they wait in quarantine on the ship waiting for answers. Quarters tend to be cramped, and the risk is particularly high for the elderly or in ill health, a prime demographic for cruises.
Now the CDC and Department of State have formally advised the public not to travel on any cruise ship. Not in the U.S. Not abroad. Not anywhere.
[W]e recommend that such individuals avoid situations that increase their risk of acquiring infections. This entails avoiding crowded places, avoiding non-essential travel such as long plane trips, and especially avoiding embarking on cruise ships.
In addition, The U.S. Department of State recommends against cruise ship travel. This is a dynamic situation and those traveling by ship may be impacted by travel restrictions affecting their itineraries or ability to disembark or may be subject to quarantine procedures implemented by the local authorities.
To provide context, the Diamond Princess was stuck in Yokohama, Japan, with more than 3,000 passengers on board. Ultimately over 700 were infected. More were infected on the flight home when evacuated by the U.S. government. Another cruise ship in the San Francisco Bay was recently allowed to let passengers off at the Port of Oakland, where they’ll enter quarantine at various military bases around the country. In that case, it appears one passenger on a previous journey was infected, it spread to the crew, and from there it spread to the new passengers on the next sailing.
It looks like some cruise lines are already taking action after this advisory. I visited the Princess Cruises website and found a long list of cancellations — what appears to be everything scheduled through the end of the moth. I checked a few other sites and didn’t see anything similar, but their updates were not as recent. It’s possible we will see more cancellations in the days ahead if people heed the government’s warning. (As an aside, I give Princess a lot of credit for being so up front about this stuff and making their information easy to find.)
I personally would not get on a cruise ship today. I am perfectly happy to drive around town and run errands. I’m a little hesitant about flying, but I have one flight I need to take and will just be careful to wash my hands and enjoy that HEPA-filtered air. Getting on a crowded boat with thousands of other people from around the world? No way.