NCL, the parent of Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Oceania Cruises, and Norwegian Cruise Line, has just announced that it is dropping almost all Covid-19 protocols. There will be no testing except for unvaccinated guests who must still provide a 72-hour negative test.
While I appreciate Covid testing has caused many to be reluctant to travel for a few reasons. But the biggest one is, “What if my cruise is about to happen and I test positive?!” There is also the general hassle of getting a test and, unfortunately, the politicization of Covid-19.
As a preface, since Covid-19 finally started to quiet down in June 2021 I have sailed on Windstar (three times), Silversea, Scenic Eclipse, Ponant, Celebrity, (later this month) Quark Expeditions, and, by land, Iceland and New York. I have spent well over 100 hours in aircraft, and dozens more in airports. But I have l been vaccinated, boosted twice, and, when appropriate, wear a mask (no colds or flu either!). Did I get Covid? Yes, last November…but not from any of my travels. I got it from a friend right after I received my booster (so it wasn’t yet effective) and I didn’t have any symptoms. But with all of that, I remain a huge proponent of Pre-Cruise Testing of Everyone + Limited Non-Vaccinated Guests.
The basis for NCL’s decision, while obviously first-and-foremost short-term profits driven, is also based upon what I believe is a flawed assertion. It is claimed that even though the vaccines and boosters do a very good job in preventing severe illness, they don’t do a similarly excellent job in preventing the spread of Covid-19. Huh? That is a troublingly simplistic “logic” that, as you will see, falls apart very quickly.
If a person is ill, but has no-to-mild symptoms, the viral load that person has to spread to others is limited…usually very limited. Similarly, the person that is vaccinated and boosted who has been exposed to that person has an excellent chance of either not becoming infected or, if infected, having similar lower viral loads. Hence, both of those people probably are not going to be spreading lots of virus around the ship…and that will continue if everyone on the ship is similarly vaccinated and boosted.
When you layer on top of that the testing of everyone before they get on the ship, the probability of the foregoing happening is statistically substantially reduced; resulting in a very comfortable situation…especially for older travelers and those otherwise concerned with becoming infected.
When the foregoing is then layered (again) with the ship’s protocols and quarantining processes (and, yes, I was quarantined once due to exposure to someone but I did not test positive: French Polynesia on Windstar’s Star Breeze (January 2022) – Part IV – Oh! What I Will Endure for My Clients?! ) the vast majority of cruise guests will have a fantastic and Covid-free time.
Now fill the ship with people who aren’t tested (a percentage may well be bringing active Covid onboard…Remember, “I know I’m not feeling great, but I am not going to miss my vacation!”?) along with who knows how many that aren’t vaccinated (who are more susceptible to not only being infected, but have more severe symptoms and, thus, carrying and spreading a greater viral load to others of whom many are also not vaccinated) and, well, you can see how it can go from a few isolated cases to a significant infection of guests and crew throughout a ship.
And if that happens, what is that going to do to Sales and Consumer Confidence?
We all want things to get back to “normal”. You know, norovirus, flu, etc. LOL. Seriously, we are all sick and tired of Covid. We all want it to go away. We all want to eliminate testing and the anxiety of wondering if you can board the ship. But mostly we want to travel. We want to cruise. AND we want to be sure the cruise lines, although clearly in financial turmoil of sorts, to make sure we are safe…like they have been doing an excellent job of doing.
Let’s not blow it now!