Usually by this time of year, Pam and I would have already taken one or two cruises. As an example, in March, we were scheduled to be among the first to sail on Scarlet Lady, the ship from Sir Richard Branson’s new Virgin Voyages cruise line. We were disappointed, as was everyone, that the cruise had to be postponed as the reality of the coronavirus pandemic took hold.
Of course, that was just the beginning of mass cancellations as the entire cruise industry came to a dead stop all around the world. And now we wait.
When will it restart, and what changes can be expected, are all open to speculation. In the meantime, our hearts go out to our friends who have made cruising a career, the people who work with the media and our fellow writers who cover the industry. We feel their pain.
Like others who have enjoyed cruising for many years, we have forged a number of friendships. Last year, we got an invitation to visit Sedona from a wonderful couple we met on an Oceania cruise. We spent an unforgettable week discovering red rock canyons, going to wine tastings and taking a jeep into the backcountry.
For some time, we made plans to host them here Florida, and afterwards, they would be taking a cruise to Alaska. Sadly, it’s not to be.
Of course, we know cruising will be back. And when it is, what changes are likely to happen?
Some have suggested we may have seen the last of the buffets as guests will want extra assurances dining conditions will be as pristine as possible. Buffets have been such a mainstay, it’s hard to imagine they will go away all together. But it’s easy to see we may have seen the last of “self-serve.”
One likely positive change: Cruising will be safer than ever. There will no doubt be extra attention to hand sanitizing, pre-board health screenings and even requirements in some cases for guests to provide notes from their doctors. There will be hand-washing stations in all the public spaces, and onboard cleaning and sanitizing will go to another level.
Another casualty that will not only affect cruise travel, but society in general, will be handshaking and hugging. We may all have to adopt the Mr. Spock “Vulcan greeting” of spread fingers on an upraised hand. That will take some getting used to.
And what about face masks? Travelers are used to seeing these in certain parts of the world, worn as a courtesy. Now they are suddenly a necessity. And will we recoil in fear when someone sneezes or coughs? I did see recently that when someone sneezed on an airplane, it almost caused a riot.
One article speculated cruises will be shorter, foregoing the longer itineraries so ships spend less time at sea. While I’m not sure that will happen, cruise lines need to develop contingency plans for situations like we’re in now. That might include making agreements with various countries and ports to dock in an emergency, as well as have medical facilities at the ready should they be required.
Since it’s likely no one now alive has lived through a situation like this, we are all on a learning curve. When this is over, people will understand they need the escape cruise travel offers more than ever. It will be up to the cruise lines to offer assurances their vacation will be as safe and enjoyable as humanly possible.
Together, we will get through this and get back to enjoying the freedom, release and joy that comes from travel on the world’s oceans and rivers. We can’t wait.