Should cruise ships require masks, social distancing? Cruiser views are changing

Oct 8, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Will Americans still cruise if they have to wear a mask and social distance on ships?

A few months ago, many were saying “no” in the strongest possible terms, according to industry watchers. But there’s been a sea change, so to speak, in the thinking on the topic as the coronavirus crisis has dragged on.

“Back in March, they said ‘no way’ to things like masks and social distancing,” Colleen McDaniel, editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic, said Wednesday at Seatrade Cruise Virtual, an online version of the cruise industry’s annual meetup. “They’re much more prepared to take (it) on now.”

For more cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPG’s new cruise newsletter.

McDaniel, who cited Cruise Critic surveys of readers as pointing to the shift, was speaking on a panel on “the future of the guest experience” that included several cruise line representatives who echoed her comments.

“In April, they were saying, ‘Well, (if) I have to wear a mask, I’m not going to go,'” said Dan Blanchard, CEO of small-ship adventure company UnCruise Adventures. “Now they’re saying, ‘If you don’t require me to wear a mask and everybody (else), I’m not going.'”

Blanchard suggested that the majority of Americans now don’t want to go anywhere unless they know they will be in a bubble of safety. If that means sometimes intrusive anti-COVID measures, so be it.

Related: The best credit cards for booking cruises

MSC Grandiosa
MSC Grandiosa is one of the few cruise ships that has resumed sailings since March. It’s operating voyages out of Italy that are open to European travelers only. (Photo courtesy of MSC Cruises)

Bernhard Stacher, vice president of global hotel operations for MSC Cruises, said his company had seen something similar in Italy, where the line recently resumed limited sailings for Europeans only.

Stacher said MSC Cruises customers had become more comfortable not just with mask-wearing and social distancing on ships but even more extreme anti-COVID measures such as rules forbidding passengers to disembark in ports on their own.

“In the beginning, it was, like, ‘Hmmm. We can’t go ashore and explore now?” he said. “Since we’ve run (a ship with the policy for) a few weeks, and other cruise lines have said they are going to do the same, people feel very comfortable (with the idea).”

The changing consensus comes as Americans become more accustomed to anti-COVID measures in all aspects of life, McDaniel noted.

More Seatrade news: Cruise executives sound off on a U.S. cruise comeback

“They’re just getting used to it in their day-to-day lives,” she said of things like mask-wearing. “It’s something that just becomes routine and habit.”

McDaniel added that after so many months without cruising, cruise fans were ready to do just about anything to get back on ships. Cruise Critic surveys show that, despite the COVID outbreak, about 75% of readers are planning to cruise again in the next year.

“If (wearing a mask) means that they can get back on board cruise ships, they’re ready to do it,” she said.

Most major cruise lines haven’t operated a single departure since March, when health officials declared the new coronavirus a pandemic. But the main trade group for the industry, the Cruise Lines International Association, has said in recent weeks that it would require its members to implement a wide range of safety protocols when they restart operations.

More Seatrade news: One cruise line says it may never bring back the buffet

The protocols will include such things as mandatory COVID testing for all passengers, restrictions on port touring, mask-wearing on ships at times and social distancing on ships.

Already, a handful of lines that have resumed sailings out of Italy and other European countries are implementing such protocols, and the early word is passengers are complying with the rules, not complaining in great numbers and still enjoying the cruise experience.

“Italy was very hard-hit during the initial stages of the pandemic … and thus (had) already really changed their culture to accept mask use and the distancing and certain restrictions,” Stacher said. “So they (have been) very obedient.”

Stacher said passengers on the one ship the line now is operating out of Italy sometimes forget to put on their masks when walking in public areas. But the crew is trained to politely remind them, and the passengers have been very accepting of such nudges.

“They do follow (such requests), and they actually are very appreciative and say ‘thank you very much,'” he said. “I think it’s a big success story.”

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

Featured image of courtesy of MSC Cruises

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,600

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.