“I have now seen sucrose beaches and water a very bright blue. I have seen an all-red leisure suit with flared lapels. I have smelled suntan lotion spread over 2,100 pounds of hot flesh. I have been addressed as ‘Mon’ in three different nations. I have seen 500 upscale Americans dance the Electric Slide. I have seen sunsets that looked computer-enhanced. I have (very briefly) joined a conga line.” ~ David Foster Wallace, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again
In his widely praised and hilarious essay “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again,” in a collection of essays by the same title, David Foster Wallace chronicles seven days spent aboard a Caribbean cruise. As suggested by the title, the result is a raucous and biting account of the supposedly enjoyable experience but ultimately, for Wallace, a week filled with despair.
You might share Wallace’s feelings about cruises. In which case, no need to continue any further in this article (unless, of course, you’d like to pull a Wallace and try it out for an experiment or creative endeavor).
If, on the other hand, you’re a big ol’ fan of cruises, then there’s some must-know info if you plan on embarking on an oceanic adventure any time soon.
Things Have Changed—And That Includes Cruises
There are few aspects of our lives that have not been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our work lives, social lives, grocery shopping, travel, health care and countless other things have been altered—sometimes dramatically—as a result of the coronavirus. And the cruise industry is no exception.
Most of us probably—at least faintly—recall the cruise ship that made headlines around the world at the very start of the pandemic.
The Diamond Princess is a cruise ship owned and operated by Princess Cruises, and registered in the United Kingdom. On February 1, 2020, an 80-year-old passenger who had recently been in Hong Kong tested positive for coronavirus. By February 4, the whole ship was placed in quarantine, with the passengers restricted to their private cabins. Even with the rapid and effective quarantine, about 700 passengers ultimately tested positive for the virus (out of 3,711 people on board).
The Diamond Princess was one of the earliest examples of just how easily and rapidly COVID-19 can spread. And it was also an early signal that the cruise industry would not be able to continue on as usual during the pandemic. So cruises were essentially no more for the duration of 2020 and into much of 2021.
This summer, we’ve finally started to see the return of the cruise industry with a variety of companies resuming service. But that still doesn’t mean that cruises look like they used to. The pandemic has changed the industry—possibly for a long time to come—and there are new rules and restrictions in place in an attempt to keep the experience as safe as possible.
What To Expect On Board A Cruise This Year
Precautions definitely vary from cruise line to cruise line. But there are some themes or commonalities emerging as the cruise industry ramps back up.
According to NBC News, “Negative Covid tests or proof of vaccination for all passengers and crew members are the most common prerequisites operators have for boarding and moving about ships unmasked. Escalated protocols include the e-Mist electrostatic spraying system, which Uniworld River Cruises uses to disinfect its ships, and the labs that Viking Cruises built on its oceangoing ships (and onshore for river cruises) to facilitate processing the daily PCR tests all passengers are required to take.”
The cruise industry is much like other public or group activities—like schools, workplaces or churches—that are taking steps to prevent the spread. For some cruise lines, you’ll have to provide both proof of vaccination and a negative COVID test. For some, this may seem extreme. But that’s where the Diamond Princess provides an excellent cautionary tale: if there’s anywhere that a contagious virus spreads easily, it’s on board a crowded cruise.
But vaccinations and tests aren’t all that certain cruise lines are asking for. Carnival Cruise Line, for example, implemented the following guidelines as of August 7, 2021:
“We strongly encourage all guests to wear face masks when indoors, particularly guests who are unvaccinated, including children under the age of 12 who should wear masks in public areas, except when eating or drinking,” the website reads. “All guests age 2 and older will be required to wear face masks in elevators and in designated indoor entertainment areas, all retail shops, and in the casino, except when eating or drinking.”
Moral of the story is, expect to be masked—or at least strongly encouraged to be masked—on board many cruise ships in the coming months.
There are also a variety of other requirements or changes that have popped up, including alterations to restrictions around on-land activities and differences in how buffets or on-board lines now work.
Check with whichever cruise line you’re considering booking through for more details before your trip.
A Supposedly Fun Thing You Can Now Do Again
The good news for cruise lovers is that the cruise industry is back at it. All it takes are some simple precautions that most of us are (hopefully) taking anyways to get us all through this challenging time.
So, whether your future cruise adventure is full of fun or despair, do your research ahead of time, be kind and courteous and take the necessary steps to protect yourself and others.