There’s been lots of talk of the ‘death of cruising’ following the coronavirus pandemic which saw literally tens of thousands of holidaymakers stranded at sea on ships, some of which had serious outbreaks of Covid-19 onboard.
There were 19,000 Britons stuck on cruise ships at the start of the outbreak, including on the Diamond Princess, the first of dozens of ships to suffer an outbreak of the virus. It took about a month to get them all home, a task which Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab described as “daunting”.
No-one knows exactly how many cruise passengers died of Covid-19, but USA publication The Miami Herald puts the figure at 65. At least 11 crew members are believed to have died.
Reports of passengers succumbing, one by one, to coronavirus while trapped on ships they weren’t allowed to leave as port after port refused to allow them to dock led to them being described as “Petri dishes” and “floating prisons”.
All cruises are now cancelled, at least until June, and some people are suggesting that due to the recent bad rap cruise lines will struggle to get passengers back on board even when travel restrictions are lifted.
But then again, there are people, lots and lots of people – hundreds of thousands in fact – who absolutely love cruising and I honestly don’t think that anything will prevent them from getting back onboard.
If you’ve never cruised you might think they’re crazy, but here’s a little video, made by some top cruise writers that shows just why people love cruising so much. You’re probably thinking “yeah right, they cruise for free and get paid to right about it, of course they’re going to say great things”, and that’s true…but the video is actually really inspirational, it shows all the different possibilities cruising offers – and if nothing else, if you watch it you’ll at least understand why cruising had become so popular prior to Covid-19.
So how will cruising change?
It might take a while for cruise lines to lure holidaymakers who’ve never cruised onboard their ships, and they might have to operate fewer cruises – and sail with more empty cabins – for a while. Marella Cruises, which is owned by TUI, the UK’s largest holiday company, has already retired one of its six ships, Marella Celebration, which was due to sail around the East Mediterranean from the autumn.
Cruise lines might have to make more radical changes to convince people to take a cruise, such as getting rid of or expanding the size of their inside, windowless cabins, which (in my opinion) are claustrophobic at the best of times and must have been a nightmare for passengers quarantined onboard. They might introduce more balcony cabins and make them bigger, to reassure us that if we are stuck on the ship, we’ve at least got access to some outside space and room to move around.
Cruises are already extremely hygienic. In fact, one of the things that has put me off cruising is the fact that you’re asked to sanitise your hands every time you enter a cafe or restaurant, it makes me feel like I’m in a hospital intensive care unit. Some have speculated that ships will now replace these with proper hand washing facilities.
Another thing I dislike about cruising is the ubiquitous all-day buffet. I hate any buffet. It’s possible these will be ditched to reduce the spread of infection. Hurrah for that.
The trend for ever larger ships might be reversed in favour of smaller ships, or at least ships with fewer cabins to increase the amount of personal space onboard. Again, this could reduce the spread of infection and also make the thought of being stuck onboard less daunting.
Of course, all of these measures could lead to an increase in the cost of cruising, but I don’t think anyone believes prices will go up immediately. At the moment, cruise lines are cutting prices to try to persuade people to book now for next year and I think these discounts are likely to continue for the whole of next year as holiday companies try to get us all travelling again.