Saturday, December 12, 2020

Why cruise ships are setting sail again as COVID-19 rages

The surreal world of cruising during a pandemic requires temperature checks at meals, pre-boarding virus tests, and masks on the dance floor.

An employee in protective gear sprayed disinfectant on pool lounges aboard the MSC Grandiosa in October 2020. One of the world’s largest cruise ships, the boat normally holds more than 6,000 passengers, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was generally sailing at 60 percent capacity. Photograph by Davide Bertuccio

By Rachel Ng
Photographs by Davide Bertuccio
National Geographic

When you take a cruise during a pandemic, daily activities look and feel quite different from pre-COVID-19 times. Breakfast is served at socially distanced tables after a pre-meal temperature check. At night, you can dance at a club, provided you cover your face and give other passengers a wide berth. The pool is open, kept clean by staffers in face shields and protective jumpsuits who also spray the lounge chairs with disinfectants.

Before March, a cruise ship worker in a hazmat suit would’ve seemed straight out of a high-seas horror movie. But for people traveling during a pandemic, like Victoria Balabaeva, such precautions seem assuring.

“It made me feel safe seeing how seriously the ship is taking health protocols,” said Balabaeva, who, in September, after months of lockdowns in her native Italy, joined 3,000 or so other passengers for an eight-day trip on MSC Cruises’ MSC Grandiosa. The ship set off from Genoa to destinations including Naples and Malta, one of the first sailings since the pandemic started.  Read more >>