Is it Safe to Go on a Cruise – All You Need to Know

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When determining if it is safe to go on a cruise, the answer will depend on what your concerns are. For some, it is the concern over COVID-19 outbreaks. After all, we go on cruises to relax – not to get sick with a virus.

For others, the concern is the overall safety of traveling on the open sea. What happens during bad weather? However, it is natural to wonder if it is safe to go on a cruise. Here, we’ll break down all of your potential concerns.

COVID Concerns

While most countries have adopted more of a “learning to live with COVID” mentality, there are still some concerns about cruise travel. This is especially true when people see the news of recent outbreaks occurring. It may cause them to question their summertime plans.

It is not just catching COVID that is a concern, either. News of outbreaks on cruise ships, such as the Carnival Cruise ship docked in Seattle, has left many people wondering if it is safe to go on a cruise and what precautions should be taken.

This is probably the No. 1 reason people are skeptical about going on cruises. They are concerned for their overall health.

What Are My Chances of Catching COVID-19?

The answer to this is complicated. While the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) lifted its mandates for the cruise industry, passengers are advised to be current with vaccinations prior to boarding.

They also advise those who are immunocompromised or at risk to discuss the situation with their health care practitioner prior to booking a trip with a cruise operator.

Aside from the CDC, health experts are warning that COVID can easily spread between those in close proximity. Even if they are vaccinated, some variants of the COVID-19 virus can still quickly spread, putting guests at risk for infection.

Safety Measures

Months ago, the CDC had a Conditional Sailing Order that cruise ships had to abide by. This detailed the requirements and precautions to take if people wanted to go on any trips.

However, this order expired in January. Now, cruise ships like the Royal Caribbean or the Norwegian Cruise Line can elect to join CDC’s COVID-19 Program.

What Is the CDC COVID-19 Program?

Even though it is not required by cruise lines, it is recommended that fleets join this program. It tracks the virus’s status on each ship found in U.S. waters.

It provides a cruise ship with a specific color code that measures the level of COVID-19 on the ship. It also provides a threshold for the percentage of vaccinated passengers that should be on the journey.

The color code is as follows:

  • Green – No cases reported.
  • Yellow – Under 0.3% of all passengers/crew tested positive for the virus.
  • Orange – 0.3% or more of total passengers/crew tested positive.
  • Red – Over 0.3% of overall passengers/crew tested positive for the virus, plus there is sustained transmission. The condition is causing an overwhelming effect on health and medical resources. Concerning variants are found in these onboard cases.
  • Grey – The cruise ship has opted out of the program.
Photo Credit: Brenda Rocha – Blossom /

If the vessel is yellow, orange, or red, the CDC will launch an investigation. The organization then informs the ship of the status and reminds it of preventative measures. If the code is red, passengers may need to be tested mid-voyage, with increased testing for the crew. There may be required masking for guests and crew indoors.

It is recommended that guests are current with their vaccines and check the vaccination status on the ship you are boarding. Also, guests are advised to see if the cruise ship is requiring testing or vaccinations. Good hygiene practices are also encouraged.

What Other Changes Are Cruise Lines Implementing?

The experience on board a cruise line has changed, but mostly for the better. While these changes may be tiresome to some when all you want to do is relax, keep in mind that it is being done with the health of all passengers in mind.

E-Muster/Digital Muster Drills

The muster or lifeboat drill has been commonplace on cruise ships for more than a century. In fact, it is required by SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea). Though the drill used to be completed on an exterior deck and given by crew members, which often made it hard to hear the instructions being given, COVID revolutionized the drill’s effectiveness by making it electronic.

Muster 2.0
Image Via: Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean was the first to patent this idea in 2020. Now, similar systems are being adopted throughout the cruise line industry. Passengers review safety instructions on their stateroom television, smartphone, or visit a designated muster station to check in. 

Fewer Touchpoints

While cruise ships want to provide guests with an interactive, personalized experience, touching surfaces can cause the spread of the virus. Therefore, cruise lines have looked for ways they can generate that personal touch without actual face-to-face interaction.

Right now, this means that there are more QR codes to access restaurant menus along with facial-recognition technology used to identify guests as they enter and depart the ship at various ports.

Better Sanitation

Staff wipe down surfaces like hand railings several times per day, as well as disinfect public areas like restaurants, gyms, and clubs.

Onboard Carnival Cruise Ship
Photo Credit: Melissa Mayntz

Also, mask mandates and social distancing can still be enforced on cruise ships. Plus, there are various stations that offer hand sanitizer. The CDC is tracking sanitation protocols that every cruise ship is undergoing as part of its commitment to safety.

Purification Systems

Some ships contain air purifiers that filter viruses and bacteria in enclosed areas. There are also backpack-style foggers being used as disinfectant and enhanced sanitization/cleaning equipment.

None of these items are bad unto themselves. They are merely different. Increased sanitation measures benefit everyone – COVID or not. It is just a different way of doing things. The bonus is also that it cuts down on all viruses like colds and the flu.

What to Expect When Going on a Cruise

Many cruise lines are requiring passengers to be fully vaccinated. Disney Cruise Line has extended this rule to those under five. Guests may need to take supervised antigen or PCR tests prior to boarding. People are also being told to wear masks indoors. Other precautions may include:

  • Staggered boarding times. Guests can select times to arrive at their port by using an app. Using the app spaces out people entering the cruise ship
  • Areas are frequently disinfected.
  • The air found in public areas gets replaced every five-to-six minutes by using enhanced filtration systems.
  • Medical professionals have received extended training to deal with COVID-19, while medical centers are being equipped with testing.
  • Muster drills are provided through videos guests can watch in their rooms prior to checking in at the muster station prior to departing.

What About if COVID Is Not Your Main Concern?

If your concern is overall safety, you should know that cruise ships are designed to be completely safe. They are well-maintained and go through rigorous inspection to ensure safe passage to and from ports.

Cruise Vacation in Uncertain Times
Photo Credit: rahulraju / Shutterstock

The safety and well-being of passengers is always a top priority no matter what cruise ship you go on. Plus, cruise ships are designed to be completely safe despite their overwhelming size.

Although accidents on cruise ships sometimes do occur, they are not common. Those that sail in U.S. waters are inspected regularly by the U.S. Coast Guard, who examines the ship for safety issues and irregularities.

Safety Concerns

Every cruise ship, no matter where they travel, operates under a set of international rules (SOLAS). These regulate everything from fire safety to maritime security and navigation. All cruises need to abide by these regulations.

While some incidents may occur, like outages, small fires, or propulsion issues, guests are rarely aware of them and their safety is never compromised.

Weather Concerns

If you are concerned about bad weather, there are safety measures in place that every cruise ship abides by. Each ship carefully watches for upcoming storms and changes in weather patterns that may indicate trouble on the open seas. They can track weather days in advance and advise any ship in its path to change course.

Caribbean Hurricane Storm
Photo: Copyright Cruise Hive

Generally, the ship will be advised to head for calmer waters or go to a different port, among a host of other options. If, for whatever reason, a cruise ship is caught in a storm, the likelihood that it will capsize is very slim.

Related: How to Enjoy a Cruise Vacation in Uncertain Times

Ships are built with several different safety measures in place based on the principles of buoyancy and center of gravity. They are designed to stay afloat.

Furthermore, guests are always prepared if there is an emergency. It is part of the safety protocols that each ship must abide by.

What About Hurricanes?

While traveling to certain destinations is popular for families during the summer months, you may run the risk of encountering hurricane season.

Hurricanes have increased in frequency since the 1980s. This is the period in which high-quality satellite data has been available. Not only have they increased in frequency, but they have become more intense and longer in duration. Additionally, they are also beginning earlier in the season.

Hurricane in the Caribbean
Photo Credit: Mike Mareen / Shutterstock

If you have booked a cruise and a hurricane is on the horizon, most cruise lines will cancel the trip. However, if you don’t want to have to contend with this possibility, then you can avoid cruises to the Caribbean during the months of June to December.

Read Also: How a Hurricane Could Affect Your Cruise

If you want to travel to this area, select a location in the southern Caribbean where, statistically, there are less severe hurricanes. 

Are There any Unsafe Locations to Travel?

When it comes to Balkan or Baltic cruises, the itinerary may be altered. Some trips are canceled because of the Russian invasion in Ukraine. Many cruise lines are stopping in St. Petersburg during the summer but may not go further.

If you are wondering if it is safe to go on a cruise, it still depends. While cruise lines are diligent regarding the safety and health of their passengers, sometimes outbreaks do occur. The best thing that can be done in any situation is to have protocols in place to minimize exposure.

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