Why I Won’t Sail Again: The Cruise Industry Fails to Help Sick Passengers

When we retired to Palm Beach County in 2013, my husband and I discovered the pleasure of getting on a cruise ship, unpacking once, and seeing the world from a balcony over the water. We began with the crystal blue Caribbean, then branched out to the Hawaiian islands, the sun-drenched Mediterranean, and the chilly Baltic. Each trip left us happy to have ventured out and eager for the next one.

But, two weeks into a three-week cruise in 2019, I was medically evacuated from a cruise ship minutes before it departed Amsterdam, and my heart stopped as I was wheeled into a Dutch ER. A ruptured aneurysm was to blame: had it happened during our sailing across the Atlantic crossing and Norway fjords, I would have lost my life. A ship medical office is simply not equipped to handle trauma. An infirmary is not an ICU.

This very close call made us hyper aware of the cruise industry’s limited capacity to handle illness, something that the Coronavirus pandemic has only made more critical. 

Cruise ships pandemic ground zero

In April 2020, I wrote about cruise ships unable to dock as hundreds of passengers [and staff] were sickened by COVID-19. The industry ground to a halt for more than a year, only last summer beginning to pack ships and sail the seas.

Precautions have not eliminated COVID risk

Nearly two years later, despite masking and vaccines and social distancing protocols, cruise ships are again in the crosshairs of the Coronavirus.

Almost every cruise ship operating in US waters reported COVID-19 cases among passengers or crew, despite extensive precautions to guard against the spread of the virus, including vaccinations, testing and face-covering requirements.

Dave Berman, Florida Today, January 4, 2022

Sick passengers placed in quarantine dungeon

The CDC says the chance of getting COVID-19 on board a cruise ship is very high, even if you are fully vaccinated and have received a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose. And, if you do get ill, you’ll be in quarantine, but not in your swank suite.

The comedian Jen Murphy was hit with COVID on the first day of a 8-day sail. She’d been hired by the cruise ship as the talent. Instead, she was escorted, like a prisoner, to a tiny room below the waterline where she spent 8 days in isolation, incommunicado other than the knock on the door with chow, and nothing but lozenges to see her through. Here’s her story.

Think twice before you sail

You’re safer on a cruise ship than you are in a grocery store.

Port Canaveral Chief Executive Officer John Murray

Maybe, which is why we mask up when we go indoors, keep our distance from others, and wash our hands. We don’t seal ourselves into a store and let it take us — and everyone else in the building — away from the rest of the world for a week or two. The omicron surge caused Norwegian and Royal Caribbean to cancel January sailings. My grocery store remains open.

As of mid-January, reports USA Today, the CDC guidelines are optional for the cruise industry.

Buyer, be very very aware.