The image above features the Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) Getaway floating in the tranquil Caribbean. I was last on the ship just this past February and I really miss the sea. I would love to, right now, be on board a ship just about anywhere.
Well, if COVID-19 were gone.
That begs the question: Is it safe yet to book a cruise and would I get on a ship this year? Let’s dive in and see what changes my favorite cruise line, NCL, is doing to try to convince us that it is safe to get back on board.
- ALL-NEW AIR FILTRATION (i.e. HEPA air-filters)
- ENHANCED SCREENING PROTOCOLS
- INCREASED SANITATION MEASURES
- RESPONSIBLE SOCIAL DISTANCING
- ENHANCED MEDICAL RESOURCES (including a new Public Health Officer)
- EXTENDED SHIP TO SHORE SAFETY
Wow, all of that sounds really impressive. The air filtration is clearly important and we have seen Delta bragging how they have had these kinds of filters in place well before COVID-19 was spreading all over the world. I encourage you to look HERE at the expanded breakdown of all of the above before I give you my take on cruising for the foreseeable future.
Now that you are back, let’s see the problems I see on the horizon. First, you likely will fly on a jet airplane to get to the departure port city.
And stay in a hotel the night before you sail.
Think of all the nasty COVID-19 contact points you’ll encounter. And that’s before you’re on the cruise!
Then you get to the ship. I mean I will be getting very tired of the above to keep me safe as I work my way to the ship and not very vacation / relaxing.
My wife and I are the kind who like to be the first ones on board to start enjoying the ship right away (it’s why you are there, after all). That normally means waiting for a bit for them to open to allow check-in and boarding to begin.
None of this is designed to encourage social distancing.
You are PACKED in and lines are long. If seated, again you are packed in tight. How in the world will NCL fix this as space is limited at most ports? They say, in the points above, that they will use “staggered embarkation and advanced check-in procedures”. I am not holding my breath (oh wait, maybe I should – bad COVID joke I know).
Then we get on board (after more lines that are crowded) and you have the choice of a crowded elevator or walk up or down 5-15 flights of stairs? Are they going to limit capacity on elevators? Are you willing to wait maybe an hour to have fewer folks on an elevator? What about the crowd waiting to board the elevator (i.e. what choice is worse)?
On to restaurants.
I tend to book a suite when I sail and can have my butler bring me food in my room. Nice, but simply not the same as dining in the restaurants. Those restaurants tend to be crowded. Are they going to reduce the number of people in each restaurant?
If they do that, dining times could become insane. That is, dinner may have to start around 3 PM and end at 11 PM. I am not a fan of a huge steak dinner at either of those extreme times but with limited seating that may be the only way.
What about shows?
If you have never been on a ship, you will find that there are large and small venues on most ships. The popular ones tend to fill up fast and, as you can see, are packed with folks. If they pull out half the chairs there are only two solutions:
- You are unlikely to get to see the show unless you are in a suite and escorted to the venue past the lines (oh, there are those lines again!).
- They have twice as many shows so more can go on other days. But how do they police who has been and who has not been? What if you want to go more than one day. Sigh….
Even the bar entertainment areas outside dining locations for you to wait usually get packed — not to mention the bars themselves are not designed for social distancing.
The preferable option is the central open bar/entertainment areas that will give you the best (of the worst) choices to get some distance from your fellow guests.
What about shore excursions? Glad you asked!
When you get off the ship, if you are at a port with a dock, there are long lines. (You are escorted to the front of these long lines if you book a suite.) If there’s no dock, then you are PACKED into tenders. The wait for tenders is one of the most painful parts of cruising. Would you be willing to wait (with distancing) for two or three (or more) hours to get on a tender with fewer people? Ugh. Then what about your excursion?
On my last cruise, my wife and I were with some very good friends. Larry and I took a day fishing trip at one port (after a tender) and were packed in 20+ on a tiny boat. I would not do that excursion again — and even without COVID-19, there were way too many people on the tiny boat (and it was not cheap either).
Beyond this one example, I do not see all the buses that tend to take you wherever port after port doing anything needed to stop the spread of COVID-19!
Then when all is said and done, the only thing remaining is to try to avoid the bug with long lines when you disembark, again take a shuttle to the airport, and then fly home.
Does any of this sound relaxing to you?
Do you think there is a HIGH likelihood of contagion at one of these points?
Yep – I think so too!
The bottom line is simply this: I would love love love to get on a ship right now. I would love to have the simply amazing cruising experience I have enjoyed over and over for years now. But right now that is not possible.
I am not willing to do what it takes to get on a ship right now nor do I think the experience will be worth it.
What do you think? Is what NCL is doing enough? It is enough for you to book a cruise this year? If not, when do you think it will be safe (like a simple pill you can take to treat COVID-19 onboard) or what else needs to happen before you will once again risk getting on a ship? – René
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