There’s no doubt that Omicron is spreading much more rapidly than other Covid variants. Just look at the thousands of flights airlines have had to cancel because flight crew are out sick and they don’t have enough employees on reserve.
Most people I know have either caught it or have a close family member or friend who has. Seven of my neighbors here in Los Angeles have tested positive for Covid this week but fortunately, they’ve all been vaccinated and have had mild cases.
One segment of the travel industry that’s gaining worldwide attention right now is cruise ships. According to TIME: “The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Protection identified 89 cruise ships with COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, nearly all of which have met the threshold for a formal investigation. Of the 86 cruise ships under investigation by the CDC, Carnival operates 32, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. operates 25 and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. operates 15. Four ships operated by Walt Disney Co.’s Disney Cruise Line are now also under watch, according to the CDC website. The list is rapidly changing and the next stage for ships with outbreaks could involve taking additional public health measures.”
This has garnered the attention of Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal, who just tweeted a similar story from The Washington Post, with the statement: “Our warnings have proved sadly prescient & continuously compelling. Time for CDC & cruise lines to protect consumers & again pause—docking their ships. Cruises are repeating recent history as petri dishes of COVID infection.”
That caught the attention of Carnival’s spokesperson Roger Frizzell, who is quoted in MarketWatch as saying: “Our enhanced health and safety protocols have proven to be effective in our sailings over the past year since we restarted guest operations. These include vaccinations, extensive testing, masks and much more.”
I’ve been on dozens of cruises and love them but haven’t been on any in the past two years. I turned down multiple invitations since I have two little ones and didn’t want to risk being stuck at sea or confined to a small cabin. However, I have plenty of friends who say they feel safer cruising than they do going to a grocery store, restaurant or airport because they know everyone has been vaccinated or is tested. Also, cruise ships have HEPA filters and of course fresh air while out on the decks.
Others coming to the defense of cruise lines are David Swanson (@DavidHSwanson), veteran travel writer and past-president of SATW, Society of American Travel Writers. David has a compelling argument: “Why single out cruise lines, where protocols for testing and quarantine are established? If you really want to minimize travel-related outbreaks, start with airports, casino resorts, theme parks, shopping malls — places where the unvaccinated wander unmasked and testing is rare.”
Why single out cruise lines, where protocols for testing and quarantine are established?
If you really want to minimize travel-related outbreaks, start with airports, casino resorts, theme parks, shopping malls — places where the unvaccinated wander unmasked and testing is rare. https://t.co/sQRPuCx79j
— David Swanson (@DavidHSwanson) December 28, 2021
Another prolific cruise writer, Aaron Saunders, who tweets from the handle @deckchairblog says: “To those slagging off cruise ships: ships have vaccine requirements. Testing protocols. Masking rules and HEPA-filtered HVAC systems. US domestic travel is the Wild West by comparison. Your flight crew may now even be able to return to work only five days after having COVID. ?♂️”
I totally understand both sides of the argument. I think the problem with cruising is that passengers are so confined to small places and while Omicron tears through, it might be smart to pause cruises for a couple of weeks since according to data from South Africa, this variant goes as fast as it comes and who wants to be aimlessly sailing at sea when ports or countries don’t want to let you in. Not me. You?