How the cruise industry will survive COVID-19

Cruise vessel infographic. Credit: Getty Images/IHS Markit

The pandemic has significantly affected the cruise sector and damaged public perception. SAS explores what changes should be made so that cruise ship travel can restart safely

“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen”, according to one of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin’s lesser-contested musings. It certainly feels like a decade ago that viral outbreaks on massive cruise ships were prompting assertions that it was unwise for them to get any larger or to cram any more passengers into such a small space.

These vessels have had a chequered past with outbreaks long before COVID-19, with gastrointestinal illness outbreaks a common occurrence, as evidenced on the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC) website. However, there is nothing like an international pandemic to kick the issue into the spotlight.

In mid-March, 2,647 passengers disembarked from Ruby Princess and onto the streets of Sydney, Australia’s most populous city, with a significant proportion of them having been infected with the COVID-19 virus. A month later, ABC News reported that 10.47% of Australian infections could be traced back to the ship; a month after that, 22 people were dead.

“We have the utmost respect for our guests and understand the worldwide impact of COVID-19 including on some of our guests, crew members, and their families,” said a spokesperson for Princess Cruises in July. “The NSW Special Commission of Inquiry, in which we are participating, is in the process of establishing the facts in relation to Ruby Princess.”

This is an excerpt of the SAS October edition. To have access to the full article, and more SAS features, please subscribe here.