If you’re a cruise lover, chances are good that at some point in the past few weeks, a friend asked if “this whole coronavirus thing” has made you think twice about sailing.
And that was likely before the State Department said people shouldn’t board ships (followed shortly after by two other government officials saying, “As long as you’re healthy, it’s fine… go for it.”).
When Bad Things Happen on Good Cruise Ships
It’s not at all surprising that media outlets focused so much attention on cruise ships in general and the Diamond Princess in particular. After all, that story came with the awesome buzzword “quarantine” and the ability to take something very big and turn it into a small, digestible tidbit.
Saying that 100,000 people around the world have tested positive is difficult for our brains to process. But tell us that several hundred people on a quarantined ship are infected, and it’s the kind of story that’s tailor-made for headlines.
This is not to say that what happened on the Diamond Princess wasn’t worth covering, nor is it to downplay the fact that since then, several other ships have had to deal with similar — if far less severe — situation.
So far, however, there has not been nearly enough discussion about the various ways in which the Japanese government mishandled the situation, very likely making things far worse than they should have been.
Even as I type this, the cruise lines are working to develop plans so that they are better prepared when (not if) the situation occurs again, whether in conjunction to the coronavirus or some other, future issue.
But this isn’t the first time the cruise industry (and its devoted followers) have been thrust into a negative spotlight. You’re unlikely to hear about the millions of people who enjoy amazing voyages on which the worst thing to happen was a bad meal in the main dining room.
But if enough people on a single sailing make a ruckus about itineraries that were altered and ports skipped during hurricane season, it’s going to get some media coverage.
Yes, bad things sometimes happen on cruise ships.
Occasionally, incredibly awful things happen, such as the tragic Costa Concordia incident of 2012 in which 32 people died and the captain was jailed for 16 years. Such cases are, it should (but usually doesn’t) go without saying, the exception rather than the rule.
This Ain’t Our First Rodeo
Even as the cruise industry is taking a pretty severe beating (one look at the stock price for any of the major lines will tell the story), cruisers remain devoted to their preferred method of travel. Ships continue to sail, most without incident and thus unnoticed by the media.
Beneath any article posted on the topic, no matter the site, you’ll find two camps hashing it out in the comment sections: Those who label ships “floating petri dishes” and those who say, “Warnings be damned, my countdown clock is at 100 days, and tomorrow I do the double-digit dance!”
It’s not that devotees are blind to the potential downsides. Rather, it’s that they understand the rarity of incidents, as well as the various ways in which to protect themselves. Long before coronavirus became a concern, there was norovirus. Like its newly-arrived sibling, norovirus is far more common on land than at sea, and yet media coverage of the gastrointestinal disease is almost exclusively relegated to incidents aboard ships. And cruise lovers figured out long ago that there were things one could easily do to lessen one’s chances of contracting norovirus.
READ MORE: 7 Outrageous Cruise Refund Requests
To be fair, many cruise fans are, to a certain degree, apologists. When they hear a lawsuit’s been filed by passengers who believe a ship sailed through unnecessarily rough seas, they’ll scoff and tell tales of their own storm-tossed voyages. You issue a complaint, they’ll have a negating response to it. That’s the nature of the beast, and it’s not exclusive to the cruise community. (Need proof? Allow me to introduce you to some of my favorite Walt Disney World apologists.)
In the coming days and weeks, you’ll definitely read stories about people who opt not to cruise, usually citing what’s become an oft-repeated catchphrases: “Out of an abundance of caution.” (Those six words have suddenly become major players in the cruise lexicon.)
It’s a decision every person who currently has a cruise booked has to make for themselves, and for many, it’s not easy. For those who do, all of the major lines have made it as simple as possible, offering full refunds in the form of future cruise credits. This is important, as it helps prevent people from having to say, “Do I go forward with my cruise, despite any reservations I might have, or risk losing money by canceling at this late date?”
But as long as ships are sailing, there will be people happy to board. Because for every person that cancels, there’s someone like my friend Rebecca. When asked if coronavirus had her thinking twice about booking another cruise, she didn’t hesitate. “Actually,” she responded, “it has me thinking I can get a great deal on my next trip!”
‘Cause that’s just how cruise people roll.