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Is It Safe to Cruise Prior to a Vaccine?


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I'm thinking of taking a cruise this Winter (in North America) but not having pre-existing conditions or being older (I'm 51) I'm probably not going to be able to get vaccinated until next Spring (along with probably a lot of other people.)  I see some cruise lines are starting back up in November.  I read this excellent article here by Claudia Ceci ( https://www.cruisecritic.com/news/5572/ ) that detailed some of the great lengths the ships are going to to make them safe.  That's great!

The thing I'm concerned about is that as we've learned more about the virus, we now know it spreads through the air, not just surfaces.  So you really want to avoid confined spaces with large groups of people for long periods.  So while the safety precautions the ships are taking definitely help reduce the risk, can't I still contract the virus from some asymptomatic purpose while breathing the same air as them in various parts of the ship, especially while eating with a mask off? 

Claudia's article keeps referencing a "guarantee" as in "safety guarantee"  is this just being used figuratively or do I actually get all my money back if I catch the virus.  For example the article states "With the restart of the cruises, you expect the first to book are the repeaters, yet this is not the case: on board there are many guests who are new to cruise. They chose it for the safety guarantee it offers and once on board they are discovering its infinite possibilities."

Is this a money back safety guarantee?  Does Royal Caribbean North American cruises have something similar?

I understand that nothing in life is without risk, but I'm undecided as to whether to cruise this Winter before a vaccine?  Seems like maybe some more time and many more ships sailing will eventually answer the question as to whether an outbreak can be prevented.  But given the horror stories of passengers stranded of the coast when the virus broke out, wouldn't another virus breakout on a cruise ship prior to the world being vaccinated (could take another year?) be extremely catastrophic to the industry?  I suppose all of us cruising before the vaccine are basically voluntary guinea pigs?

What do other potential cruisers think?
 

 

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Welcome to the message boards, @captainjak!

3 minutes ago, captainjak said:

Claudia's article keeps referencing a "guarantee" as in "safety guarantee"  is this just being used figuratively or do I actually get all my money back if I catch the virus.

For one thing, that article is talking about MSC, so not exactly a 1:1 to Royal Caribbean.

But in short, no, there's no money back guarantee you wont get a virus. No company can offer that.  Best I've seen so far is one of the ultra-luxury brands, Atlas Cruises,  includes medical evacuation, cost of emergency transportation home.

5 minutes ago, captainjak said:

I'm undecided as to whether to cruise this Winter before a vaccine? 

There's still too many variables unanswered to truly have an answer to this question.  So you're not missing anything that others have found.

The vaccine has a lot of potential, but it's also not entirely known how effective it will be, nor which one will be the vaccine.  So it's still too early to draw conclusions about what effect a vaccine will have.

The best thing we can all do is keep waiting and see what transpires.

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I sort of figured that but wasn't sure. 

Like you said, it's basically right now a wait and see.  I would guess the accountants and risk experts have determined that there will be enough "early adopters" to help the cruise lines stop or slow their losses to the point it's worth the risk of another outbreak in the news.  The Pac-12 Football league just announced they reversed their decision on canceling the season due to more availability of rapid testing.  Maybe this will translate to other industries like the cruise industry but I don't know how feasible it would be to test every single passenger every time they board the ship at all ports? Guess they could test on the day or day prior to starting the cruise and hope no one gets anything at any of the ports of call early enough in the cruise to become contagious to the other passengers prior to having symptoms?

Guess it will boil down (prior to vaccination) to every individual's risk tolerance. It's just without a lot of prior history data with safety measures in place, very hard to estimate the risk.

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In reference to the "Safety Guarantee" reading the article it's not clear what "guarantee" she was referring to.  She was in the middle of reviewing an excursion from the ship.  

In the past if did your own thing at a port of call and missed the ship's departure you were responsible for any and all costs to continue your vacation from there, the ship won't wait for you.  When you book an excursion through the cruise line and the excursion returns late the ship will wait or they will pay the costs to reunite you with the ship.  They don't guarantee you'll enjoy the excursion, just your return to the ship.  Perhaps this is the "safety" she was referring to that comes with being required to take a ship excursion.

Given that the writer is Italian writing about a cruise in Italy it's possible the "guarantee" reference doesn't mean what it would to someone here in America.  She uses the word in another sentence in reference to the buffet:

"The waiters, in addition to face masks, wear gloves while preparing the dishes. An additional guarantee."

As we know wearing gloves doesn't eliminate any or all risk.  Gloves are a step towards mitigation but stop well short of eliminating all risk.  I don't think the cruise line is guaranteeing a guest has zero chance of becoming infecting, the writer chose a word that carries a different meaning in this part of the world.  

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1 hour ago, twangster said:

In reference to the "Safety Guarantee" reading the article it's not clear what "guarantee" she was referring to.  She was in the middle of reviewing an excursion from the ship.  

In the past if did your own thing at a port of call and missed the ship's departure you were responsible for any and all costs to continue your vacation from there, the ship won't wait for you.  When you book an excursion through the cruise line and the excursion returns late the ship will wait or they will pay the costs to reunite you with the ship.  They don't guarantee you'll enjoy the excursion, just your return to the ship.  Perhaps this is the "safety" she was referring to that comes with being required to take a ship excursion.

Given that the writer is Italian writing about a cruise in Italy it's possible the "guarantee" reference doesn't mean what it would to someone here in America.  She uses the word in another sentence in reference to the buffet:

"The waiters, in addition to face masks, wear gloves while preparing the dishes. An additional guarantee."

As we know wearing gloves doesn't eliminate any or all risk.  Gloves are a step towards mitigation but stop well short of eliminating all risk.  I don't think the cruise line is guaranteeing a guest has zero chance of becoming infecting, the writer chose a word that carries a different meaning in this part of the world.  

Yeah,  the glove thing is going to be nearly impossible.  There is a major glove shortage right now, and distributors can't get their hands on any. Our restaurant is suffering because of it, my friends bio lab is feeling the effects, RCL is crazy if they think they'll get them ahead of hospitals, too

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Regarding vaccine timing -- do remember that one of the pharma labs (I think it was Astra Zeneca, in the UK?) that had a promising vaccine and was "in the lead" on getting to Stage 3 trials, had to pull their vaccine entirely after one of the participants developed an unknown illness. All of these labs are going to be operating with an extreme abundance of caution, because as much as everyone wants a vaccine by this winter or spring, not a one of those labs wants to become known as the company that mass-produced a vaccine that caused a huge number of severe illnesses or other problems (god forbid, deaths) as a side effect. The vaccine will be here when it's here and deemed truly safe and effective; that could be this winter, it could be next winter depending on how those trials go.

My money and opinion says no vaccine before the spring at the very earliest. I've worked in a research lab way back in the day, and I know there are tons of protocols that have to be followed and how crazy long it can take to get proper data for a confident result.

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And once the vaccine is ready to go it'll take quite a long time to distribute it to the masses.  One friend of mine who works in biomedical was told on a conference call to not expect a vaccine to be widely distributed until 2022.  There will be an order as to who gets it first (once they figure out what that order is).  It'll take a while.

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As others have stated above, there is no guarantee of anything, whether you are on a cruise, at a concert or sporting event. When you put large groups of people together, there is always going to be a risk. At least in the near future. I'm hoping the efforts put for by RC and others, to add extra cleaning and sanitation will help mitigate the risk of Covid as well as other "cruise" illness's such as Norovirus. 

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21 hours ago, twangster said:

In reference to the "Safety Guarantee" reading the article it's not clear what "guarantee" she was referring to.  She was in the middle of reviewing an excursion from the ship.  

In the past if did your own thing at a port of call and missed the ship's departure you were responsible for any and all costs to continue your vacation from there, the ship won't wait for you.  When you book an excursion through the cruise line and the excursion returns late the ship will wait or they will pay the costs to reunite you with the ship.  They don't guarantee you'll enjoy the excursion, just your return to the ship.  Perhaps this is the "safety" she was referring to that comes with being required to take a ship excursion.

Given that the writer is Italian writing about a cruise in Italy it's possible the "guarantee" reference doesn't mean what it would to someone here in America.  She uses the word in another sentence in reference to the buffet:

"The waiters, in addition to face masks, wear gloves while preparing the dishes. An additional guarantee."

As we know wearing gloves doesn't eliminate any or all risk.  Gloves are a step towards mitigation but stop well short of eliminating all risk.  I don't think the cruise line is guaranteeing a guest has zero chance of becoming infecting, the writer chose a word that carries a different meaning in this part of the world.  

I think what is being referred to in the statement is the cruiselines Guarantee that it will do all it can to reduce possible hazards involved and try to reduce the risks for those that cruise.

By having passengers only using ships excursions they have eliminated the risks of people going off by themselves and mixing with whoever.

By having all crew wear masks and gloves they are reducing the risk of transmitting any potential virus.

So the cruiseline by taking such actions is Guaranteeing that it is doing all it can to reduce the risks, its all about ticking the correct boxes as required by government HSE when doing their risk assessment 

 

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16 minutes ago, FManke said:

Thanks for your opinion, but we refrain from politics here.

Oh sorry about that.  I think in some cases politics has a resulting affect on the subject matter of the cruise-related topic being discussed such as how it possibly affects curisers' determination of timing of their cruise vacation based on information they are receiving about vaccine availablity.   Statement from policitians' therefore are relevant as far as people's expectations on timing of the vaccine.  But I suppose there is a risk that some people can then go off track and want to debate politics.  I'll refrain from any further comments on the political aspects.  I've removed my remarks about statements being made for re-election purposes in my opinion. (For the record, I'm actually an Independent, in the middle.)

 

 

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4 minutes ago, captainjak said:

Oh sorry about that.  I think in some cases politics has a resulting affect on the subject matter of the cruise-related topic being discussed such as how it possibly affects curisers' determination of timing of their cruise vacation based on information they are receiving about vaccine availablity.   Statement from policitians' therefore are relevant as far as people's expectations on timing of the vaccine.  But I suppose there is a risk that some people can then go off track and want to debate politics.  I'll refrain from any further comments on the political aspects.

 

 

Welcome to the boards. Sorry. I should have started with that.

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8 minutes ago, captainjak said:

BINGO!  So she may have meant they are guaranteeing they are taking all the safety precautions as required by the government to be able to cruise again.

 

Having studied for 2 years to gain my Nebosh (HSE )certificate, im pretty sure this is what is meant but has been lost in translation 

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So I guess the bottom line is the answer to my original question is it's too early to tell with any degree of confidence if these precautions the cruise lines are guaranteeing they are taking will be effective at preventing an outbreak or at least containing it to the point all passengers on a ship don't have to be quarantined if only a few passengers are infected?

 

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3 minutes ago, captainjak said:

So I guess the bottom line is the answer to my original question is no one knows with any degree of confidence yet if these precautions the cruise lines are guaranteeing they are taking will be effective at preventing an outbreak or at least containing it to the point all passengers on a ship don't have to be quarantined if only a few passengers are infected?

 

I think that's a fair statement.

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Could use the influenza vaccine example.  We have it, many get the vaccine  yet for some reason they succumb.  Vaccines are a way to reduce chances of getting sick, but don't guarantee it.   We try to combine many strategies to prevent a disease - vaccines, diet, exercise, hygiene etc.   When you put yourself into a new environment like a hotel, ship, plane - you're introduced to factors out of your control - like who's around you.   So if you use all the tools available, you'll build a safe house against 97% of the storms.   (Evacuate for the remaining 3)

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4 hours ago, cruisellama said:

Could use the influenza vaccine example.  We have it, many get the vaccine  yet for some reason they succumb.  Vaccines are a way to reduce chances of getting sick, but don't guarantee it.   We try to combine many strategies to prevent a disease - vaccines, diet, exercise, hygiene etc.   When you put yourself into a new environment like a hotel, ship, plane - you're introduced to factors out of your control - like who's around you.   So if you use all the tools available, you'll build a safe house against 97% of the storms.   (Evacuate for the remaining 3)

True. But I don't think you can really make an apples to apples comparison between COVID-19 and the Seasonal Flu.  Overall COVID-19 has about a 10 times higher death rate as a percentage of infected people.  Much higher if you are older aged and/or have pre-existing health conditions.  I would really be surprised to see anyone in, let's say their 70's on up (or even 60's), or people with pre-existing health conditions, in any situation where they are in a relatively enclosed environment with hundreds or thousands of people for extended periods of time (many hours or days.)  Prior to receiving an effect vaccine.

It's very possible that a future outbreak like the COVID virus could be much deadlier, like 25% death rate and affecting all age groups equally.  That would be a complete world economic catatrophe if something happened like that where the virus was spread just as easy as COVID-19.  People would not be leaving their house prior to a vaccine.

"When you put yourself into a new environment like a hotel, ship, plane - you're introduced to factors out of your control"  Yes. But the question is, do you choose to put yourself in that situation in the first place.  With COVID, it can be a difficult choice based on personal circumstance a attitude towards/perception of the risk.  If you had something like EBOLA that was spread just as easily, the decision would be much simpler.

I ran some numbers a while back and I think it came out to each person's statistical likelihood of knowing an immediate family member or very close friend that has been infected by COVID is around 1 in 100 (in the USA).  That greatly affects people's perception of the risk.  That number will only get worse the longer the virus persists without an effective vaccine so people's attitudes on average may change over time prior to the vaccine as the chance it hits closer to home grows.

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17 minutes ago, captainjak said:

True. But I don't think you can really make an apples to apples comparison between COVID-19 and the Seasonal Flu.  Overall COVID-19 has about a 10 times higher death rate as a percentage of infected people.  Much higher if you are older aged and/or have pre-existing health conditions.  I would really be surprised to see anyone in, let's say their 70's on up (or even 60's), or people with pre-existing health conditions, in any situation where they are in a relatively enclosed environment with hundreds or thousands of people for extended periods of time (many hours or days.)  Prior to receiving an effect vaccine.

It's very possible that a future outbreak like the COVID virus could be much deadlier, like 25% death rate and affecting all age groups equally.  That would be a complete world economic catatrophe if something happened like that where the virus was spread just as easy as COVID-19.  People would not be leaving their house prior to a vaccine.

"When you put yourself into a new environment like a hotel, ship, plane - you're introduced to factors out of your control"  Yes. But the question is, do you choose to put yourself in that situation in the first place.  With COVID, it can be a difficult choice based on personal circumstance a attitude towards/perception of the risk.  If you had something like EBOLA that was spread just as easily, the decision would be much simpler.

I ran some numbers a while back and I think it came out to each person's statistical likelihood of knowing an immediate family member or very close friend that has been infected by COVID is around 1 in 100 (in the USA).  That greatly affects people's perception of the risk.  That number will only get worse the longer the virus persists without an effective vaccine so people's attitudes on average may change over time prior to the vaccine as the chance it hits closer to home grows.

I was not asserting equivalency between the two, only using influenza as there is actually a vaccine in place and you still need other mitigating factors to avert risk.

 Actually had close 3 family members have it.  Two kids (30s) had mild symptoms for 2 days and recovered (then donated plasma for antibodies), my sibling ended up in the hospital for 3 days and quickly recovered after therapeutics were administered.  So not underplaying at all.  But we need to move forward and understand what all the health planning can provide or not.  

 

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5 hours ago, cruisellama said:

Could use the influenza vaccine example.  We have it, many get the vaccine  yet for some reason they succumb.  

 

No one knows what variation of the flu virus is coming that winter so the flu vaccine that people recieve is just pure guess work in the hope it works. Most people will be ok however some as you point out will succumb even with the vaccine, simply because the vaccine given doesnt work with the virus.

IF as has been reported previously that covid is here to stay and vaccines will be yearly then its going to be the same lottery as the flu vaccine, take your pick and hope for the best. 

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11 hours ago, cruisellama said:

Could use the influenza vaccine example.  We have it, many get the vaccine  yet for some reason they succumb.  Vaccines are a way to reduce chances of getting sick, but don't guarantee it.

The flu vaccine is probably the worst example to use for comparison.  There are many strains of the flu and each year the vaccine in the USA is made up of the 4 strains the scientists believe are most likely to circulate in the USA.  (Other countries choose a different set of strains based on their research for their areas.)  Sometimes the research is wrong so the vaccine is ineffective because a different strain spreads the most.  Sometimes the research is right, but you happen to get sick from a different strain.  You might ask why they don't just put every strain into the vaccine every year and the answer is it would be too expensive.

Most other vaccines are much more straight-forward.  You take a measles vaccine and you have immunity to measles with almost no chance to get it.

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12 hours ago, Atlantix2000 said:

The flu vaccine is probably the worst example to use for comparison.  There are many strains of the flu and each year the vaccine in the USA is made up of the 4 strains the scientists believe are most likely to circulate in the USA.  (Other countries choose a different set of strains based on their research for their areas.)  Sometimes the research is wrong so the vaccine is ineffective because a different strain spreads the most.  Sometimes the research is right, but you happen to get sick from a different strain.  You might ask why they don't just put every strain into the vaccine every year and the answer is it would be too expensive.

Most other vaccines are much more straight-forward.  You take a measles vaccine and you have immunity to measles with almost no chance to get it.

You missed the point.  Not making a direct comparison but  illustrating  an example that a vaccine is 1 arrow in a quiver of many mitigation techniques.  It takes many techniques to make things safer - again nothing is 100%.  The health panel recommendations comprise of a web of many mitigation actions.

If you don't like the word influenza - substitute measles.

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