The Cruise Industry and COVID

How the Cruise Industry is Affected By Covid-19 Part III

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As amazing as cruises are, if the cruise lines are not doing anything to prevent the spread of COVID, then they are not doing their part to make the world a better place. The good news is that they are. Cruise lines are making great strides to ensure that you and your family are safe as you explore the seas with them. In this article, we look at four areas: Food, Common Areas, Rooms, and Boarding, and how cruise lines are making an effort to ensure your safety during the crisis.

What Cruise Lines are Doing to Be Safe: Food

Food is one of the guilty pleasures of cruising. If you are on a good cruise line, then you can get food at any hour of the day. Most of the time this food is five-star quality. Cruise lines have faced two of the same problems that land-based food-service establishments have faced during the time of COVID, social distancing, and buffet problems. Regardless of where the food is being served, these two issues can create headaches for companies.
In a private call with Norwegian cruise lines, it was explained that buffets were a big issue in ensuring guest safety.

The contact, who asked not to be named, stated “people love to eat on cruises, and the buffet is one of their favorite places to eat.” She noted the cruise line knew buffets were going to have to change to ensure guests are safe on the cruise. While she could not disclose the entire plan, she did say on the record that we can expect to see something of a “cafeteria-style” buffet, where people point at what they want and employees give them the food. This will avoid people touching utensils to get food, and help prevent the spread of the disease. She also noted the company will be cleaning food areas much more regularly during the crisis (as you know they already clean them quite quickly already).

A contact at Royal Caribbean (who also asked not to be named) stated social distancing was a challenge, but something they were looking into. He noted many of the cruise lines would be sailing at 75% or 50% capacity during the months after the crisis to allow for fewer people and more space. He said the final plans were not in place, but guests could expect to see bar stools, tables, and chairs all spaced out further apart to ensure safe distancing. This would be true for the main dining rooms and buffets.

Common Areas

With thousands of people moving around the ships, common areas of the ship need to be cleaned to ensure people do not spread the disease during even the best of times. With the alleged infectivity of COVID, this cleanliness has become more of a necessity. Luckily, practices for keeping these areas clean have been in effect since the Norovirus outbreak and are readily visible on most ships.

If you have ever been on a cruise ship, at least over the last 10 years, you always see people polishing rails and cleaning common areas. The polishing is not vanity, it is keeping passengers safe. People do not realize how often they touch handrails and other parts of the ship (watch a person walk down a hallway). The crew is always cleaning the ship to ensure passengers are safe.

However, the crew can only do so much to keep you safe; you have to take some responsibility for your safety. Always wash your hands when you have the opportunity- even if you are not using the facilities. The more you wash, the better you are at keeping clean. There are also sanitizer stations around the ship for you to use. I hate hand sanitizers, but I still use them. If you keep your hands clean, then there is less likelihood of you spreading disease through touching your face.


Rooms on a cruise ship are where you sleep and where you get away from the party. Cruise lines do their best to respect your space, but also to keep it clean. This is a tough line to walk because people want so much privacy, even when they are not in their room. Cruise lines have traditionally done well in keeping your room safe, but they can do so much more if you help them.

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First of all, stewards clean your room twice a day. A contact at Carnival stated that this may be increased to three times a day during the COVID crisis. This is an important cleaning service as they are now changing sheets and cleaning your room more often. Remember, your room is where you sleep- the cleaner it is the less transferability you have for the disease. Also, they noted, some ships have ultraviolet lights in the vents to reduce the spread of airborne pathogens.

You can help your steward in several ways that will not affect your trip. First, only use the do not disturb sign when you are in the room. Let them do their job and keep your room clean. As with any establishment, keep your valuables locked up. Next, make sure that you allow them to clean your towels. While we all want the environment to be protected, cleaning your towels each day allows the ship to reduce damp areas where diseases like to breed. Finally, make sure that you wash your hands when you are in your room, it seems like common sense, but do it anyway.


The best way to prevent the spread of a disease on a ship is to prevent the disease from getting on a ship. Cruise lines are implementing what many people will see as “invasive” measures for getting on the ship. This is a moment where people need to suck it up. When cruise lines are checking people before they get on the ship, or asking for doctors’ notes, they are doing this for the protection of everyone. Do not argue with them, and try to help them to make the trip better for everyone.

One thing to expect on cruise ships over the next few months, according to sources at Norwegian cruises, is to have your temperature scanned several times on the cruise. Using a touch-free system, many lines are planning on checking your temp before you get on the ship. This may be extended to random checks during your cruise (once again touch-free). Some lines, according to Carnival, may be asking for doctors’ notes to say you have not been infected or are not being treated for COVID. The source did not say if Carnival was taking this precaution.

When you are boarding, there are some things you can do to make this go faster. When they ask you to get scanned, do not fight it. If you are negative, then it is a 2-second test. If you are positive, then you need to know about it. Think of it as a freebie for the cruise. The more we work together on this, the more we can get back to enjoying ourselves and putting this crisis in the rear view mirror.

Christopher W Smithmyer
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