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With Universal Studios already open and Disney World opening in a few weeks, the question on many cruisers’ minds is: Why do theme parks get the green light to open while cruise lines are still cancelling sailings? Why is the CDC making cruise lines jump through a higher hurdle in order to reopen?
It’s a fair question. I’ve seen many bloggers, travel agents and cruising fans hint that the CDC is treating cruise lines unfairly. Cruise lines have always been subject to more rules when it comes to reporting illnesses on board. But, is the CDC biased against cruise lines due to the fact that they are incorporated outside of the U.S.A.? Or, are cruise lines inherently more risky than other forms of travel when it comes to spreading illnesses?
What the CDC Wants from Cruise Ships
In the CDC’s “No Sail” order, the government is looking for the cruise industry to provide detailed plans to the CDC and the USCG for how they will handle Covid-19 with minimal involvement from the local government. The CDC wants to see plans for passenger and crew member medical screenings, Covid-19 prevention training for crew members and plans for dealing with outbreaks on board.
A few weeks ago, Norwegian Cruise Line announced its list of changes to make cruising safer. I was excited to read about the new HEPA filters.
But are these requirements fair? I think so. Cruise ships are different animals than airplanes and theme parks. People may spend just 2 hours on a flight or 8 hours at a theme park. But once you get on a cruise ship, you’re stuck on it for a week with no escape except for an expensive one-way flight home from the tropics.
Key Differences in Cruise Lines vs. Theme Parks
Theme parks and cruise lines have quite a few things in common. But, when it comes to Covid-19 and the latest news events, there are quite a few differences.
Diamond Princess Numbers: It’s hard to ignore the Diamond Princess numbers. Over 700 of the 3700 people on board got Covid-19. The ship was quarantined for a month, and passengers were subject to additional quarantines after getting off the ship.
Sleeping Space Density: After guests visit a theme park, they spread out where they sleep. Some drive home, some stay in hotels onsite, some go offsite. On a cruise ship, the passengers all stay on the ship in tight quarters. Rooms are smaller than standard hotel rooms, and the air filtration systems currently don’t have HEPA filters like most airplanes do.
Lack of Outdoor Space: Covid-19 spreads more easily indoors. Most mega cruise ships have vast indoor spaces. You could spend an entire day on a cruise ship and be thoroughly entertained and busy without even stepping outside. Theme parks, on the other hand, have a lot of outdoor space. Many ride queues are outdoors, and the indoor rides themselves only last a minute or two.
Dining: It’s easier for people to spread out while dining at a theme park. Cruise ships have to feed thousands of people three (or more) times a day. Dining rooms and buffets are large, indoors and crowded.
Age of Guests: The majority of cruiser are over 50 years old, with many in their 60s and 70s. Those age groups are more at risk for severe complications from Covid-19. Theme park guests skew younger.
And for the record, I’m not planning on going to a theme park any time soon, either.
My family loves cruising. I am sympathetic to everyone who has a job that depends on the cruise line industry, as these jobs have suffered tremendously over the last few months. I know that cruising is a beloved escape for many people, and it sucks to have that taken away.
But at the same time, I agree with the CDC’s expectations for changes in the cruise industry that will mitigate the risk of Covid-19. If cruise lines start up too soon and have more outbreaks, the damage in the public eye could be insurmountable.
Do you think the CDC is being fair to cruise lines? Or, should cruise lines be allowed to operate with safety precautions similar to the ones at theme parks?
Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.