When you plan a cruise vacation, you are looking forward to freedom and fun with exciting ports of call, a variety of onboard activities, and new experiences to enjoy. But what happens if you or someone in your traveling party must be isolated or quarantined on board? It may not be the cruise you had hoped for, but you can make the most of any time you might need to spend in quarantine.
Why Passengers May Be Quarantined
Cruise lines have implemented many healthy and safety protocols to minimize the risk of contagious disease outbreaks on their ships. Requirements such as needing vaccinations or boosters, pre-cruise testing, and health screenings are meant to minimize risk, but they are not foolproof and it is still possible that cases of COVID-19 or other diseases can be detected onboard any cruise.
Out of an abundance of caution and to minimize the risk of a larger outbreak that spreads to other guests and crew members, anyone who tests positive or shows symptoms of diseases of concern may be isolated or quarantined on board. Anyone identified as a close contact of someone who may test positive or show symptoms may also be isolated or quarantined until they are known to be healthy.
If a Cruise Ship Quarantines Passengers
Different cruise lines have different protocols when quarantine measures need to be initiated. Affected passengers will be notified as soon as possible, and may be asked to isolate in their staterooms or could be moved to a designated isolation or quarantine area on board. Those designated areas may be on different decks that are not currently open to passengers, or may be closer to the ship’s medical center to make any potential care or checkups easier.
Quarantine periods can vary. In some cases, passengers may only need to be isolated for a few hours or a day until they have negative test results that verify they are healthy and can resume normal activities.
If a passenger has tested positive and is displaying symptoms, however, they may need to remain in quarantine until they can be evacuated from the cruise ship or the sailing ends and they can either move to shore-based quarantine facilities or safely return home.
When passengers are quarantined, cruise lines try to make the experience as relaxing and stress-free as possible. Of course remaining in isolation is not the cruise vacation anyone wants, but cruise lines do take steps to make it more pleasant, considering the circumstances.
Depending on the line, quarantined passengers may have free access to wifi, allowing them to stream videos or games online, as well as to visit their favorite websites, send emails, or interact with social media.
If pay-per-view services are available in quarantined cabins, passengers may have access to those as well, without fees or charges. Similarly, room service menus may be available to isolated or quarantined passengers without service fees or other costs.
Isolated and quarantined passengers will also likely get daily check-ins not only from the medical staff on board for monitoring their symptoms and condition, but also from the ship’s cruise director, entertainment staff, or even the ship’s captain.
These calls are not only the check on the passenger’s well-being, but also to ensure they are being properly looked after and are as comfortable as reasonably possible under such challenging conditions.
While policies do vary, many cruise lines offer additional compensation to passengers who are required to be quarantined. Affected passengers may receive a partial refund of their cruise fare or a prorated future cruise credit based on the number of days the passenger was quarantined.
Planning for Quarantine
Just like planning for any contingency during a vacation, cruise travelers can take steps to plan for a possible quarantine. Bringing along items such as extra electronic devices or chargers, travel games, books, puzzles, coloring books, or similar entertainment options can give passengers something to do if quarantining becomes necessary.
Packing along some simple comfort snacks, such as favorite candy or chips, is also a good idea, particularly as a treat for children who may need to be isolated. While cruise ships do stock some candy and snacks in the retail shops, the supplies are limited and prices can be high, and these items will not likely be offered for free by the cruise ship.
It is also best to be prepared for illness symptoms with preferred over-the-counter medication. While the cruise ship can supply basic decongestants, fever reducers, cough suppressants, and other medication, passengers who have a preferred brand for these items will feel more comfortable if they can use the medications they are accustomed to.
If passengers do self-treat with their own medications, it is important to let the ship’s medical staff know what products are being used so there are no complications with any other medications that may be issued.
It is natural to feel frustrated if you are required to quarantine during your cruise vacation. It is critical, however, to remember that these steps – however drastic they may seem – are to ensure that not only do you get the best possible medical care you may need, but that any possible outbreak or additional contagion is minimized and others do not get sick.
Quarantined guests should always be honest with the ship’s medical staff, even if it seems their symptoms are insignificant. This will ensure the best possible treatment, particularly if symptoms progress or the passenger has other health concerns.
It is essential to be patient with all crew members. While guests in quarantine will naturally be frustrated at missing ports of call or not being able to join in onboard activities, it is never acceptable to take those frustrations out on the crew members bringing supplies or food to the cabin, or the staff calling to check on the guest’s condition. Staying polite at all times can make the necessity of quarantine easier for everyone involved in this challenging situation.
Finally, guests in isolation or quarantine should not be afraid to make requests. Need extra towels or want to relax in plush robe? Ask if it is possible to have those items brought to the cabin. Extra pillows can make any bed or couch into a more relaxing nest, or extra blankets can be used for a creative in-cabin fort for young cruisers.
Ask if games or books can be brought to you from the ship’s library, if there are any craft kits available, if the ship may have an extra tablet available for loan, or if food items from other locations – a pizza, burger, daily cookies, etc. – could be brought to the cabin.
While crazy requests may not be accommodated, it doesn’t hurt to politely ask for anything that may make the quarantine conditions more enjoyable. Cruise ship crew members take pride in providing exceptional service, and will often go out of their way to do whatever they can to make the situation as comfortable as possible.
The quarantine will be ended as soon as it is safely possible to do so. At that time, guests who have been cleared will be able to resume activities onboard the ship, including visiting ports of call as available.
When guests can go back to enjoying their vacation, they will still need to follow all onboard health and safety protocols, and may be required to check back in with the medical staff for additional follow-ups.
Being required to quarantine on a cruise ship is not the vacation anyone hopes for, but it is sometimes necessary. Understanding why quarantines may happen and how to make the most of them can help you adapt to this unexpected situation as smoothly as possible, and still enjoy as much of your cruise as you can.