TORONTO — The cruise sector’s recovery won’t be deterred by new reports of COVID cases — not if loyal cruise travellers have anything to do with it, at least.
In the past week two Princess Cruises ships have made headlines because of COVID. In late March, Ruby Princess had COVID onboard when passengers disembarked following a 15-day Panama Canal cruise. Another Princess ship – Caribbean Princess – is in the news this week, after the vessel cancelled calls in Vancouver and Victoria. At least one passenger told media that the ship “had lots of COVID”, and Princess confirmed that there were COVID cases onboard. Like most cruise lines Princess has a 100% full vaccination policy for passengers and crew.
Big-ship cruise lines have long pointed out that they’re the only product in the travel and tourism industry that must adhere to the guidance of the CDC, and must report all cases of illness onboard their ships.
All that transparency can result in more headlines, even if cruise ships may be no more conducive to COVID than, say, a hotel.
We wanted to know, are cruise clients expressing concern, or cancelling?
Jennifer McPherson with Turnkey Travel – Travel Only in Brantford, ON, says that while clients generally need more reassurance these days – and not just for COVID, but war worries too – her cruise travellers are of two minds from months ago.
As McPherson tells it, some clients are firmly convinced that “you wouldn’t catch me within 100 ft. of a cruise ship”.
And the others? They’re saying, “I booked it, paid for it, so nothing is going to stop me.”
Cruise travellers are among the most loyal-to-product clients an agent can have, and this market is showing incredible resilience despite all odds.
Some industry outsiders scoffed in 2020 and 2021 as the cruise sector prepared its comeback, working with the CDC for more than a year on extensive health and safety protocols.
Then bookings came roaring back. And now even with COVID cases and other concerns, the cruise industry’s recovery is holding steady.
Says McPherson: “Whether it’s the pandemic or the war in Ukraine, I have seen lots of examples of travellers proceeding with their cruise plans ‘no matter what’. I have four ladies on Oceania right now cruising from Rome to Lisbon so the war was troublesome but not enough to keep them from going … and definitely not COVID.”
She adds: “Myself, I leave on Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas this Sunday, with my daughter and I am not fazed. I am still taking precautions with masks, distancing and sanitizing.”
McPherson says her clients have been booking cruises for later 2022 and into 2023, and she’s hoping that trend continues. She’s a strong proponent of keeping health and safety protocols onboard the ships for as long as needed.
“Now that the travel advisories for cruises have been downgraded, the demand has gone up. But I’m an advocate for still maintaining the health and safety protocols until the case numbers are much lower. Cruising has (and continues to get) a bad rap compared to resorts that do not need to report their COVID cases. So I am hoping that travellers use common sense and these recent articles do not set the cruise lines back with their fragile rebound post-COVID.”