Coronavirus Concerns Aren't Stopping Cruisers
As cases of coronavirus continue to pop-up on cruise ships, the U.S. State Department is urging travelers - especially those with underlying medical conditions - to stay ashore.
But as passengers at the Port of Tampa embarked on their vacations Monday, the only visible sign of concerns about COVID-19 came from a bachelorette party debating the best brand of hand sanitizer.
Despite news of coronavirus outbreaks on ships off the coasts of California and Japan, the people boarding Carnival Cruises’ Paradise were relatively unconcerned about the possibility of infection.
But travelers like Lillian Hammitt are taking precautions.
"We're prepared, we're going to constantly wash things down, we have our chlorine wipes and everything so we're ready,” said Hammitt.
After disembarking from a five-day cruise to Cozumel, Ed Katroscik said that while he was initially reluctant about making the trip, his fears about the virus quickly subsided as he saw the steps the cruise line took.
“At the beginning of the cruise, there were salt and pepper shakers on the table, but by the middle, they removed it and you had to ask,” said Katroscik. “And you couldn’t get your own food at the buffet – they had to plate it for you.”
READ MORE: Coronavirus Coverage on WUSF
The CDC issued an advisory Sunday recommending travelers – particularly those with underlying medical conditions – postpone any cruise travel, citing concerns over the infection’s ability to spread in close quarters.
People with heart disease, chronic lung disease, diabetes or other immunosuppressant conditions are specifically urged to reconsider travel.
The State Department also warned that it cannot guarantee U.S. citizens will be free from quarantine and that repatriation flights back to the country should not be relied upon as an option.
Addressing those concerns, many cruise lines are committing to enhanced screening procedures and cleaning standards.
In a letter to passengers, Norwegian Cruise Lines said that it plans to avoid any destination designated as a ‘Level 4 – do not travel’ area by the State Department.
Carnival Cruise Lines announced that it would beef up its cleaning measures – requiring frequent sanitizing of communal items, installing additional washing stations for passengers and raising the temperature of the water used to launder sheets to ensure disinfection.
But for some travelers, the excitement of travel still outweighs concerns about the risk of infection.
Hammitt and her sister booked the trip to Cozumel as a Christmas present for their mother, Lillian Morales.
Morales, who travels with an oxygen tank, said that once her doctors gave her the okay, she wasn’t going to let fear of the coronavirus stop her from ticking off what she called a "bucket list item."
“I’m having a great time,” said Morales. “This is my first cruise ever and I’m going to have the fun of my life.”