The main story line of the cruise industry lately has been centered around one thing: coronavirus. Quarantines and cancellations are some of the biggest stories today, and for good reason. Still, it’s beginning to create negative perception around cruises themselves, even those that aren’t visiting areas that coronavirus is known to be strong in. For cruise lines, this can mean a big hit in bookings and even some drops in their shares. For travelers, it means missing out on the great fun that is going on a cruise! So, all of this begs the question: are cruises the perfect environment for coronavirus to exist?
It’s a complicated question, and the answer itself is equally complicated. In one way, you could argue that being on a boat during a disease outbreak could be good. You can theoretically quarantine yourself from everyone else and float around in a safe space in the ocean. Obviously, this starts to fall apart if anyone on the ship has the disease, because it can then spread pretty fast. But, are the odds of getting a disease on a cruise ship any worse than on land?
Interestingly, coronavirus isn’t the first disease outbreak that has hurt the cruise industry. Back in 2014 it was norovirus, and we saw very similar things happening. A microbiologist spoke to National Geographic about the issue, pointing to the fact that “there are a great number of people who are in confined space” and that they are “very susceptible to infection because it is so easily spread.” It’s easily spread because of a few factors, but the main culprits are “ship railings, bathroom doors, and especially buffet food.”
So, have we learned anything from norovirus? Well, we’re trying to quarantine better. During the recent outbreak on the Diamond Princess, sick and healthy guests were confined to their staterooms to prevent further spread of the disease. Unfortunately, this doesn’t help as much as we might want. The way vents are set up in cruises make it hard to be safe from airborne viruses. The ventilation is nowhere near the quality of hospital rooms. This leads to more cases being possible, even in quarantine situations.
The bottom line is: cruise ships aren’t the best place to be during virus outbreaks. However, it should be noted that they aren’t the absolute worst place to be. In many ways, they aren’t a lot worse than anywhere else that is indoors without excellent ventilation systems. The main factors that contribute to the spread of diseases are found in plenty of other places, such as schools or airplanes.
Are we saying that you should never go on a cruise, or that you should never leave your house again? Of course not! What we are saying, though, is that cruise ships should be treated with healthy caution, just as any other public, shared space should be. Basic hygiene is key here: avoid touching public spots, and wash your hands and sanitize yourself. Otherwise, practice healthy living with lots of water, good food and sleep. Boosting your immune system can help a ton in avoiding disease.
If you have a cruise planned, don’t feel the need to write it off completely. Instead, take the situation seriously without falling into a panic. Know the risks, evaluate for yourself and, most importantly, take steps to avoid infection and stay healthy!