Photos courtesy of Viking Cruise Lines
Four months ago, I wrote a travel article that began like this –
32 million people can’t be wrong. That’s the number of travelers who booked cruise vacations in 2019. Statistics show this figure has increased 7% annually since 2007, and it’s not hard to see why. Life on a cruise ship is about as good as it gets . . .
How times have changed. In January we were blissfully unaware of what was coming and completely unprepared. Well, to be perfectly honest the cruise ship industry probably had a clue. They’ve been quietly dealing with onboard epidemics for a while now, think Legionnaires Disease, and gastrointestinal bugs like Norovirus, Salmonella, and Shigella, any of which can wreak havoc in a cruise environment.
For the most part, these isolated incidents flew under the radar and die-hard cruisers like myself turned a blind eye to the warning signs. It won’t happen to me, right? Wrong. Now the problems are impossible to ignore. It’s absolutely nobody’s dream to be stuck in a floating piece of jetsam that bounces from port to port unloved and unwanted. The very thought of being quarantined to the tiny windowless room we usually book gives me claustrophobia in the extreme – excuse me while I run outside and take several deep breaths.
O.K. I’m back – so now, what’s to be done about this? I have no idea. To me, it seemed the cruise lines were already bending over backward to keep things sanitary and hygienic. On our last cruise, I noticed employees constantly disinfecting every surface from stair rails to elevator buttons. There are spiffy touchless water faucets, and super strength hand dryers at the entrance of every dining area, not to mention the armies of cheery but INSISTENT purveyors of hand sanitizer sprinkled liberally throughout the ship. Despite all these precautions, the entire cruise industry ran aground in a matter of weeks. The culprit, a microscopic virus called Covid 19.