If prior to Covid-19 you were an avid cruiser or were thinking about taking your first cruise, you may be once again dreaming of hitting the high seas but wondering if it is safe.
I am going to give you some views based on my experience recently on a 7-day cruise aboard the Carnival Panorama which sails out of the port of Long Beach California.
The CDC guidelines at the time of my sailing included face masks to be worn by all travelers while on public transportation including all passengers on board and all personnel operating maritime conveyances traveling into, within, or out of the United States.
Masks are also required while indoors at U.S. transportation hubs, including seaports and ferry terminals.
At this time, CDC still recommends people who are not fully vaccinated avoid any travel on cruise ships, including river cruises, worldwide, because the risk of COVID-19 on cruise ships is high.
This was my 5th cruise, and the embarkation process didn’t seem any different. Noticeable was the lack of social distancing in lines at the terminal.
I was quite surprised that the terminal was packed. I attempted to take a picture and was quickly admonished by a security guard saying NO PICS allowed.
You will no longer meet in huge groups, shoulder to shoulder to go thru this drill. I mustered with about 25 other people at an indoor lounge.
In total it lasted about 5 minutes- long, enough to go over putting on a life jacket and that was it- done.
Nothing appears to have changed about the in-cabin experience. You can still get housekeeping daily if you choose, or you can put your do not disturb (snoozing) sign up and limit the amount of contact with crew coming into your room.
Around the Ship
Signs, announcements, and literature given out all instructed on the wearing of masks when and where. However, you could occasionally see those only loosely wearing the mask.
Having it at the ready but not quite on. And I even heard one lady say “I’m on vacation” when her family member reminded her about wearing the mask.
What I can say for sure is that I didn’t see any crew members reminding guests to put the mask on or properly wear it in the spaces that they were supposed to be worn. There were no social distancing or mask police per se.
For cruisers like me, still a bit wary of close quarters, I did feel I was able to distance myself adequately.
Because the ship was nowhere near full capacity there were a lot of places and spaces I found outdoors and on decks-to relax away from others.
The new elevators are also reducing physical touches by only needing to tap one button to call the elevator, while simultaneously choosing your destination floor.
I had heard the buffet would be managed by crew members serving the food from the buffet as opposed to guests handling the utensils etc. This was not the case.
Guests were still handling the serving forks and spoons, but I did notice that ever so often they changed out all the utensils.
Masks were required unless actively eating- although you would see people occasionally forgetting when going back and forth for beverages and condiments etc.
The counters were also being frequently washed down. New hand washing stations and sanitizer dispensers were in use.
I observed crew members always wearing masks and doing so properly around the mouth and nose.
I personally skipped all venues, clubs, and the casino. There was just no way to distance at them.
The disembarkation process was explained in a meeting held at the Liquid Lounge the final sea day of the cruise.
Both floors 4 and 5 of the lounge were packed for the presentation with no distancing measures in place within the theatre seating.
By the way, the disembarkation process has also changed from assembling in groups to 1 of 2 processes revolving around whether or not you are going to carry your own luggage off or not.
If you carry your own off you no longer meet at a muster station. Instead you proceed directly to the gangway and either scan your face or show your documents.
Both procedures have eliminated the wait at the muster station.
By my own actions to distance myself, I felt safe. I had room service each morning for breakfast and ate on my private balcony.
For other meals I did occasionally eat in the Lido Marketplace dining area away from others. And I also ate on the Lido Deck away from others.
The good thing about right now, because of the ongoing pandemic, cruise passengers have not fully returned, and the ship seemed so open.
There may be a true or false sense of security (depending on your views) since all crew and passengers are vaccinated and everyone has to be Covid tested within 2 days of embarkation.
Even still I am more cautious and I generally felt safe. I didn't notice any big difference in my experience from past cruises.
It bears repeating however, at this time, CDC still recommends people who are not fully vaccinated avoid any travel on cruise ships, including river cruises, worldwide, because the risk of COVID-19 on cruise ships is high.