Five things that need to change before cruising can go back to normal due to coronavirus

Matt Hochberg

The cruise industry is facing one its biggest challenges, if not its biggest challenge ever, in the effects the coronavirus pandemic has had on cruising.

Never before has cruising, and so many other industries, ground to a halt in this manner.  However, cruise lines, politicians and workers have all pledged things will get better and cruising will return.

Before Royal Caribbean can return to some semblance of normalcy, a number of policies and changes will need to occur first. Consider this a sort of checklist for what to look for in the weeks and months to come as we all work to "flatten the curve."

Cruises need to resume

This may seem obvious, but the linchpin for cruising to return to normal is for cruise ships to sail again.

Currently, Royal Caribbean has voluntarily suspended all of its sailings until at least early April. Until sailings resume, none of these other measures outlined in this post will matter.

The resumption of cruises signifies a belief that things are getting better. Whether that is a new normal or something else, the public will still want to go on vacation.

For what it's worth, Royal Caribbean says it is planning to resume sailings on May 12, 2020.

Countries need to reopen their cruise ports

Many, but not all, countries in the hardest hit areas of the world have closed off their cruise ports to cruise ship traffic.

The policy was made to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and without these ports, entire cruise seasons are in jeopardy.

Canada and most of Europe have added temporarily rules to prevent cruise ships from visiting. 

Add to that list New Zealand, some Caribbean countries and other cruising hot spots, and you have very limited options for cruise ships.

These countries rely heavily on tourism, and re-opening the ports are as important to them as the cruise lines, but the safety of their people is what is driving the current policies.

Prohibition against guests over 70 or guests with certain conditions

One of the early measures taken by Royal Caribbean and other cruise lines to limit exposure to the most at-risk guests was to prevent those that are 70 or older, as well as guests with a severe, chronic medical condition not to cruise.

This measure came with the caveat that if a doctor signs a letter that certifies the person is fit to travel, they could circumvent the policy.

Not only would rescinding this rule be a sign of a lessened coronavirus threat, but it would open back up cruising to a segment of senior citizens that love to cruise.

Temperature checks of all guests

In the early days of the coronavirus reaching epidemic levels, Royal Caribbean added a mandatory temperature screening of all guests prior to boarding the ships.

While this was a change added due to the spread of coronavirus, I would not mind if this policy remained in place as any guest with a higher than normal body temperature should be evaluated and treated regardless of if they are potentially carrying COVID-19 or just the flu.

Reduction in warning by the CDC and State Department


One change that caught a lot of the public's attention was the State Department and CDC warning the public specifically not to go on a cruise ship.

In the weeks since this warning, discretionary travel of all kinds has been warned against, but there is comfort among the public when the government is not actively voicing concern about any one specific activity.

When will this happen?

This outline sounds great, but the question on everyone's mind is when can this occur and how soon?

Unfortunately, it is too early to know. The situation appears to be changing on a daily basis, but new coronavirus treatments, government policies, and public support for social distancing aim to limit the spread of the virus and shorten the time it will take to lessen the global impact.

While no one has a crystal ball that can predict when these steps will take place, these changes are a good way to measure progress towards getting back to life at sea.