A plea to cruise lines: Stay the course!: Travel Weekly

Helen Coiro is the co-founder and owner of Direct Line Cruises in Hauppauge, N.Y.

Typically, after I’ve read something exceptionally positive in one of the trade magazines, I discuss it in my next bimonthly client newsletter.  I express my own honest feelings about it, as well.

I must say, however, that the news about the CDC’s new cruise guidelines causes me some concern. Everyone seems to be happy with this week’s news, and I know there is something here that I should be happy about, yet I am hoping that there are many people within the industry (especially those who make the rules) who are feeling as uneasy about it as I am.

(Coincidentally, I came down with Covid symptoms last week, and I have heard of a multitude of new cases from people I have communicated with over the past few weeks. The numbers are definitely up.

I truly hope that the majority of people in this industry realize that vaccination and testing requirements are not what is keeping people from getting back on a cruise ship nearly as much as a person’s fear of contracting Covid onboard a ship and being very sick and quarantined.

Most of our clients are happy about the required safeguards the cruise lines have taken during the pandemic. I hear it constantly. That is why those cruisers are coming back, slowly but surely.

• Related: Travel advisors cheer the end of the CDC’s Covid program for cruises

My newsletters are filled with accolades for the cruise lines and the way they have handled the covid pandemic. Early on I talked about the details and the millions of dollars spent on ventilation systems throughout the ships and the safe environment they created. I received such upbeat and hopeful feedback from our clients. No other industry turned things around the way the cruise lines did. It is the reason people came back an continue to come back.

When the supermarkets dropped the masking requirement, I continued to wear my mask. I know that many people felt happy that they no longer had to be inconvenienced while shopping. I thought it was foolish to think that changes made by the supermarket management would make me feel less susceptible. I knew that there still had to be plenty of infected people walking those aisles. Coincidentally, just recently I did stop wearing my mask. I guess I should feel lucky that I had not contracted it until now.

The possibility of vaccinations or testing being recommended but not required gives me a bit of a chill. I may not have a crystal ball, but I don’t think I need one to know what the outcome could be: a possible disaster for the industry. My opinion is that we are not ready to swap one R-word – recommended rather than required — for another.

So what is the solution? I think the cruise industry must continue (at least for a longer period) to do what it has been doing. My newsletters say cruise ships are the safest place to be, and most of the cruising population believes that. It’s just to0 soon to drop those requirements, especially testing. Unlike the supermarket or the movie theater, I like knowing that at the moment I walk onto a cruise ship, no one is infected. I feel safe, and that is something the cruise lines have controlled and can still control.

When then-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo mandated that our business must close down for several months during the winter of 2020, our only hope was that the ships would sail again and that the cruise lines would find a way to keep them sailing almost Covid-free.  They did indeed do that.  We just arrived at where we needed to be. We all fought long and hard to get there.

And it was the leaders of this industry (take a bow Richard Fain) who brought us to where we are because they instinctively knew how to play out this ordeal. While respectfully playing by the rules, they went to work transforming the industry into something no other vacation venue has been able to do. They did not sit back and bellyache about roadblocks. Instead, they built bridges. It’s all working, and now is our time to shine, now is our time to showcase the industry’s ability to control the spread of the virus on board a ship.

I didn’t say “stop”; I said “control.” What I am happy about is that the CDC is allowing us to now show the vacation-going public what we are really capable of doing (without being told to). This is the hurrah we want and need.

No one likes inconvenience, but if the cruise lines drop the vaccination and testing requirements before this virus is under control, people will put their faith in what they are told (like the management’s sign at the supermarket). More will come back, but shortly after they do, there may be uncontrollable outbreaks, at which point there will be no credibility left. The media will pounce, and all of the efforts and hard work and money put into safeguarding passengers with an incredibly successful outcome on ships will be history and at that point … with possibly no way back.

So let’s continue being inconvenienced for a while longer. Let’s not take the easy way out. Let’s continue to work on maintaining the incredible outcome the leaders of the cruise lines have achieved.

I think, in the long run, we will gain more respect along with more passengers.

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