Since introducing vaccine mandates this past summer, outbreaks of Covid-19 on cruise ships have been well below levels reported on land in many countries, and most of the cases at sea have been mild. This should not be surprising given that more than 96 per cent of people aboard cruise ships in the past six months have been fully vaccinated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

It may be safer to sail on a cruise ship this winter than going to your local mall.

According to a recent report from the CDC, there were 1,359 cases of Covid-19 on cruise ships between June 26 and October 21 of this year, a four-month period during which more than 600,000 passengers sailed aboard dozens of different ships. In contrast, this past week the United States reported a daily average of 72,239 people getting infected, while Canada’ daily average was 2,223 people according to the Reuters Covid-19 Tracker.

“The relatively low occurrence of Covid-19 during that period, particularly when compared to the rest of the country, further shows the leadership of the cruise industry and the effectiveness of the science-backed protocols that have enabled a successful return to operations around the world,” says Bari Golin-Blaugrund, a spokeswoman for the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).

Furthermore, the cases on cruise ships have been mainly mild or asymptomatic, with just 49 people requiring hospitalization (surprising, given many cruisers are in the golden years). And, as vaccination rates or those with immunity from previous infection gets closer to 100 per cent of passengers, the data may get even better.

In the interim, however, the CDC has extended its ‘conditional sail order’ to January 15, at which time it will change from mandatory to conditional. The sail orders include restrictions such as vaccine requirements, testing rules, capacity limits and mask mandates, most of which cruise lines will continue to follow for the foreseeable future.

Indeed, a captain in the US Public Health Service and lead for the CDC’s maritime unit recently told The Washington Post that vaccinations should continue to be “an essential part” of cruise line health plans even after the rules expire. “That’s one of the main reasons we haven’t seen medical systems overwhelmed on board, because we have such high vaccination rates on board,” said Aimee Treffiletti.

Furthermore, the confusion around which type of vaccines will be accepted for ships departing US waters has been resolved now that the CDC has accepted the use of mixed vaccine doses. Previously, all the major cruise lines required both doses of a vaccine to be the same type, and if different, they would only accept mixing of mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna), and not AstraZeneca with an mRNA dose.

According to CLIA, the positive results of implementing strict health and safety protocols at sea have restored the travelling public’s faith in the safety of cruising, with 82 per cent of cruisers saying they plan to cruise again soon—exceeding pre-pandemic levels. In addition, 62 per cent of non-cruisers say they are open to cruising, an increase of nine per cent since June 2020.

In fact, demand for cruising is so strong that CLIA projects that the industry will reactivate 100 per cent of its global capacity by mid-2022.

So, while cruising still poses some risk to passengers, it’s probably a lot safer place to be than in a hotel or resort that does not require anyone to be vaccinated. In fact, cruising might even be safer than staying at home and going to your local shopping centre.

Now, if I could only convince my health insurance provider of that, I might be able to claim the cost of my next cruise!

This story is dedicated to my dear friend Pierre Bourque, who passed away this summer at the age of 62. Pierre was the source of many ideas for my travel blogs, and posted many of my stories on his media-aggregation site Bourque NewsWatch, which brought thousands of new readers to Gentleman’s Portion.

This is David’s 98th post on Gentleman’s Portion. Please add a LIKE or COMMENT if you have enjoyed this article — clickable at the top or bottom of each story. Click on the FOLLOW button at the bottom of the page if you would like to receive email notifications of new articles. The SEARCH function at the top works really well if you want to look back and see some of his previous stories.

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