Travel experts offer tips to cruise passengers as ships face COVID-19 outbreaks

Cruise ship
Posted at 6:30 PM, Dec 29, 2021

TAMPA, Fla. — Recently, cruise ships have faced COVID-19 outbreaks as the omicron variant continues to sweep the nation. The CDC is currently investigating or monitoring dozens of ships. Still, passengers are heading off on their trips from Port Tampa Bay while travel experts offer advice on safety.

On Wednesday, Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas set sail from Port Tampa Bay. According to the CDC, that ship is labeled a “yellow” color status, which means reported cases of COVID-19 have met the threshold for CDC investigation.

The CDC says ship color status is determined using surveillance data from the previous seven days, regardless of voyage dates, and CDC investigation findings.

“We’re vaccinated. We did our booster shots. We’ve been testing and everything, and we’ve been watching ourselves, so we’re confident that we’re going to be okay,” said Natalie Molano, a cruise passenger.

For some people, it was their first cruise in a long time, while others are returners who are excited to hit the open water again.

“I mean they’re constantly wiping things down,” said Lorraine Verrill. “The rooms are cleaned twice a day. It’s just kept immaculate.”

Since the return of sailing, cruise lines have implemented COVID-19 safety protocols from testing to masking and enhanced cleaning. Still in recent days, some ships have faced COVID-19 outbreaks.

“I have probably, booking at least one or two a week, if not more. People are ready to cruise,” said Shari Mereness, owner of the travel agency Seas Today Travels.

Mereness is an avid cruiser and says she’s felt very safe when she’s been on board, explaining staff on board do a good job communicating to passengers if there’s a case and what they’re doing.

“The cruises are doing absolutely everything they can. I feel safer on a cruise ship than I do going to a grocery store,” said Mereness.

If you want to cancel or postpone, Mereness says most of the cruise lines have been very accommodating to their guests.

“Depending on situations, they can either get their money back, or they can at least get a future cruise credit,” she said.

Mereness recommends you familiarize yourself with your cruise’s safety, testing, and cancellation policies before you leave or book. She also advises all her clients to have travel insurance.

“It’s not just falling down the steps and getting hurt on the ship. It’s cancellations. It’s baggage loss,” said Mereness. “This week alone, flight delays have been incredible. With travel insurance, you’ve got a third party there to help you at the airport.”

Experts stress being flexible with your trips during the pandemic.

As they head off on their trips, passengers say they’re ready to get back to cruising and back to normal as safely as possible.

“Life is too short, so enjoy. Just go for it,” said Samantha Alvarado, a cruise passenger.