When the World Reopens, Should the Cruise Industry Recover?
Tourists and adventurers have viewed cruises as the end-all of travel for quite some time. We usually associate them with older travelers and "rich" people, but since 2016, millennials have made up about 32% of cruisers, and their interest in luxury cruising continues to rise — at least that was true until the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Now everyone is asking questions about the safety of cruises. Some of these monsters of the sea were stuck out on the open water for weeks, with outbreaks growing on board and resulting in numerous illnesses and deaths. In the end, the pandemic has raised awareness with the general public about the health and safety issues passengers face on board these mega-ships.
What are the hazards of sailing away on cruise vacations, and can anything be done to save the industry at this point? Perhaps, more importantly, should we even try to save cruises, or should we let this former travel niche sail toward a watery grave?
Health and Safety Issues Exposed
Even before the 2020 coronavirus outbreak, cruise ships were notorious for the health risks they posed, often in the form of viral outbreaks. That many enclosed, shared spaces are inevitably going to turn into hotbeds of virus and bacteria activity, even if they are cleaned consistently. That means when you take a cruise, you run an even higher risk of catching everything from common colds to life-threatening illnesses, regardless of whether the world is in the middle of a pandemic, but viruses certainly aren’t the only health hazards on board.
Emergency Medicine Falls Short
Cruise ship doctors are trained in emergency medicine for common illnesses and accidents, but most aren’t equipped to handle every potential health concern, and they aren’t required to engage in additional training. Even more alarming, a crew member who has medical training is "sufficient," according to Maritime Law, so the "doctor" doesn’t even have to be an actual doctor.
Environmental Impact of Cruises
In order to lure tourists away from their competition, cruise lines have had to create bigger and more outrageous amenities, resulting in the floating cities you see on the water today. So, just like any city, a cruise ship creates a lot of waste and companies don’t always dispose of it properly. In fact, Carnival Cruises has been cited and fined multi-millions of dollars for improper waste disposal.
Should We Bring Back Cruises?
Some things could certainly be done to improve the industry, but at this point, many people are asking if enough changes can be made to truly fix it. Treatment of personnel is beyond questionable — to the point where human rights activists equate some cruise liner jobs to human slavery and debt bondage.