As the rest of the world has slowly opened up, everyone involved with the cruise industry — including those who want nothing more than to get back to their happy place — have been asking the same question: “Why is it I can go out to eat, jump on an airplane, and head to an amusement park… but I can’t get back on a ship?”
The answer is as simple as it is both annoying and undeniable: Perception is everything. And from the very beginning of the pandemic, the cruise industry was wrongly portrayed as the villain of the piece thanks to endless, lazy coverage of the Diamond Princess disaster.
To this day, much of the reporting on the Diamond Princess revolves around what happened on the ship as opposed to the massive mistakes made by the Japanese government when it came to the handling of the crisis.
In the weeks that followed, cruise ships were practically the epicenter of the media coverage as mainstream outlets breathlessly reported each time a vessel was turned away from a port. (Less often reported? When ships were turned away not because anyone on board had tested positive but out of fears which had been stoked, like a snake eating its tail, by the hair-on-fire media reports.)
This isn’t a new problem for the industry. When the general public thinks of norovirus, they immediately think of cruise ships. This despite the fact that you are far more likely to catch the surprisingly common ailment on land than sea. But because cruise ships are required to report any type of viral outbreak — unlike almost anywhere else on land — headline-hungry journalists love nothing more than jumping on the tired (and inaccurate) petri-dish metaphor to paint a picture that feeds into a pre-existing misconception.
The More Things (Don’t) Change…
So when lawsuits were filed and senators began introducing bills designed to get the cruise industry started again, those opposing the idea trotted out — with the help of the CDC — quotes about how, as Senator Patty Murray put it, “Cruise ships require specific focus and protocols in place to prevent future outbreaks.”
The problem with her stance? That absolutely nobody disagrees with it… including within the industry. Which is why cruise lines spent a whole lot of time and money developing health and safety protocols and have been almost literally begging the CDC to work with them toward implementing them in such a way that would allow ships to resume.
Cruise lines have repeatedly made it clear they are not only willing but eager to work with the CDC. Yet not a single ship has been given permission to do the much-discussed “test sailings” which would help test the new health and safety protocols. And opponents seem determined to completely ignore the fact that cruising has resumed in other parts of the world with great success.
How? By using the same protocols that cruise lines want to use if permitted to sail out of U.S. ports.
The Bottom Line
In the final analysis, it’s tough to hear those who would see cruising remain shut down and not want to ask them several pointed questions.
Specifically, how do they justify cruising being quite literally the only industry in the country which has been shut down for a year and remains so to this day… with no end in sight? Have they, we would ask, read the health and safety protocols put forth by the cruise lines? Have they looked at how cruising is working in other parts of the world and, if so, why do they seem to believe the same successes can’t be had when sailing out of U.S. ports?
It’s one thing to argue that hundreds of thousands of jobs are on the line and billions of dollars are at stake. The easy anti-cruise response to that is to say, “Yes, but we’re balancing that against the health and safety of the American population.”
However, it’s increasingly difficult to hear that argument and not respond with the above questions. And it seems increasingly obvious that the real reason the cruise industry is still shut down is that every story needs a villain, and for a year now, the cruise industry has served that purpose.
And it might just be time to push — hard — for a change in that narrative.