The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended in March 2020 that “all people avoid travel on cruise ships, including river cruises, worldwide” due to the high risk of COVID-19 exposure. The order ended October 2020.
The CDC announced the framework for a phased resumption of cruise ship passenger operations. The CDC order stated, “Considering the continued spread of COVID-19 worldwide and the increased risk of COVID-19 on cruise ships, a careful approach is needed to safely resume cruise ship passenger operations. CDC is establishing requirements to mitigate the COVID-19 risk to passengers and crew, prevent the further spread of COVID-19 from cruise ships into U.S. communities, and protect public health and safety. After expiration of CDC’s No Sail Order (NSO) on Oct. 31, 2020, CDC will take a phased approach to resuming cruise ship passenger operations in U.S. waters.” The first cruise line to set sail since the ban was lifted, SeaDream, canceled its operations for the remainder of 2020 season after several guests and crew members tested positive for the virus. Cruise ships that only have 250 combined passengers and crew are not subject to CDC requirements under the current ban.
Even before COVID-19 the cruise ship industry had problems with viruses on their ships. COVID-19 put the danger of “cruise ship virus” in the news. Every year a “cruise ship virus” sickens 19 to 21 million Americans according to the CDC. This is about one in 15 American cruise travelers get sick on a cruise. Before COVID-19, 800 Americans died because they traveled on a cruise ship.
The cruise ship industry has been working on a vaccine that would prevent “cruise ship virus” infections. More research is needed before this type of vaccine can be used to insure that cruise ship travelers don’t get sick. Currently there is no known vaccine for the many viruses that has caused a cruise ship traveler to get sick.
There is no way to be 100% infection free. If you still have a cruise on your mind you should consider a few things:
1. Bring copies of your key medical records. Most large cruise ships have good quality doctors and well-equipped medical facilities. What they won’t have is fast access to your medical records. Your records should include copies of prescriptions, paperwork related to any recent or ongoing medical condition and your doctor’s contact information. You should make sure you have enough of any medication you are currently taking. Check with your insurance company to see if you are covered on a cruise ship. Medical care and prescription services could be triple what you normally pay.
2. Control your eating and drinking. It may be included but you don’t have to eat and drink it all. Overeating and drinking can lead to gastrointestinal distress. It can also lead to a heart attack.
3. You should choose a large ship if you are prone to seasickness. Pick a ship that can handle 3,000 or more passengers. The larger the ship the less your body will feel the movement of the ship. Larger ships also have a larger medical staff. If seasickness is a worry of yours, the best way to avoid that is getting a room in the center of the ship
4. You should purchase travel health insurance especially if you are traveling outside of the United States. Check with your health insurance to see if you are covered on a cruise ship and any ports out side of the country.
5. Talk to your doctor about any vaccines you may need if your cruise goes out of the country.
6. Get enough sleep. Getting enough sleep will help your body’s immune system.
7. Keep your hands away from your nose, ears, mouth and eyes.
8. Wash your hands often.
9. Stop smoking. Smoking lowers your immune system.
10. Disinfect your room.
11. Stay away from sick people. If you see a passenger that appears to be ill, steer clear and tell a crewmember.
12. Drink bottled water. Always bring bottled water with you when visit any ports of call.
13. Wear your mask.
14. You should stick to well-cooked foods because high cooking temperatures kill bacteria and virus.
15. Buddy-up partner. You’ll be less of a target if you have a partner. Don’t advertise you’re traveling alone. Make sure you have a buddy system in place.
16. Pay attention to all safety drills.
You should see the ship’s doctor if you develop any of the following symptoms:
Develop a fever of 104 or higher that doesn’t go away after over-the-counter treatment in a couple of hours.
Develop a fever of 101 with shaking, chills and a productive cough. A productive cough is a cough that produces mucus.
Have a persistent fever (102 or higher for two days, 101 or higher for three days, 100 or higher for four days).
Labored, shallow or rapid breathing with shortness of breath.
Coughing up mucus that is yellow, green, rust colored or bloody.
Develop facial pain.
Nasal discharge that changes from clear to yellow or green.
A cough that last longer than 7 to 10 days.
Lack of appetite.
The cruise ship industry is probably doing the best to keep people safe in their bubble on the ship. Remember, nothing is 100% safe.