San Francisco isn't likely to see cruise ships in the Bay anytime before next spring at the very earliest, but cruise companies are already talking about October 31 being a possible restart date for an industry that just five months ago was synonymous with contagion.
Americans are, ridiculously, lining up to get back on cruise ships despite a preponderance of evidence that they are breeding grounds not just for the latest coronavirus, but for viruses and pathogens of all kinds. Cruise companies are pushing forward with new safety precautions, however, with the hope of restarting cruise routes later this year. As CNN reports, these new protocols include mandatory mask-wearing for passengers and crew, seven-day quarantines for crew members before setting sail, and regular temperature checks for both.
Also, there is talk of increasing fresh air in ships' HVAC systems, which have been pinpointed as likely spreaders of virus particles during multiple cruise-ship outbreaks of COVID-19 earlier this year.
But isn't the sheer volume of human beings in a confined space reason enough to keep the ships idling for another year, or until an effective vaccine is widely available? That's what novelist and active cruise-goer Gay Courter told the New York Times last week is part of her thinking. Nonetheless she sees cruising as an addiction and says she's still looking forward to the first cruise she'll be able to take post-pandemic — despite being one of the passengers stuck on the disease-ridden Diamond Princess earlier this year.
Empty cruise ships are lined up in the English Channel waiting for they day they resume sailing. As of now, the CDC just extended its no-sail order for U.S. ports until October 31, from September 30, and that is likely to be extended again.
San Francisco officials, as the Chronicle reports, have said it will be next spring at the earliest before cruises are allowed to dock here — but Carnival Cruises is optimistically already selling (probably very cheap) tickets on a Carnival Miracle from SF to Mexico in April 2021.
I guess it will take another spring season of ships full of sick people, stranded and not being allowed into ports, for this industry to finally be put to bed? Will it take another pandemic in a few years? It remains unclear how many outbreaks in the U.S. might have been seeded by cruise ship passengers who were asymptomatic and not sufficiently quarantined — or who were asymptomatic in the month or two before it was well known how common asymptomatic spreading was.
Meanwhile, all those behemoth ships anchored around England are contributing to pollution there — the ships are constantly running auxiliary systems and pumping pollutants out of the chimneys which have contributed to noticeable smog around the seaside town of Weymouth.
Photo: Josiah Weiss