By Ron & Mary James
Mary and I have had many chats lately about our upcoming booked cruises. We wonder if they will be cancelled as the pandemic persists. We speculate about radical changes in the cruise experience as cruise lines focus on keeping passengers Covid-19 free. And we worry that some favorite cruise companies might not weather the economic challenges they’re facing.
Like many travellers we have not received promised refunds and other compensation. We wait…and call…and wait some more. In some cases more than three months have passed with no sign of the funds, in our case, from a cruise company and airline. We know others have faced the same challenges all across the travel industry. And many, like us, have learned our travel insurance is worthless in a pandemic.
Cruise lines have been hit hard, maybe the hardest, since the pandemic forced them from the seas. We surely understand they are struggling with cash flow as their income has dried up. We sympathize with customer service reps who face a public increasingly vexed with refund delays.
Add in America’s poor response to the pandemic that has made U.S. citizens unwelcome around the world, and it’s understandable why we are reluctant to book and/or pay for future cruises. Sure you can cancel until the last minute without penalty, but when you do that, you likely won’t see those funds for months… if ever. The same goes for airfares, lodging, etc.
The result is a vicious circle of woe for an already battered industry.
We do have a cruise on the books for May 2021. But what shipboard experience will await us when/if we board then.To us, the comradery of gathering with fellow cruisers is as important as enjoying great food, drink and exciting ports and shore excursions. Imagine that experience wearing a face mask (and we always wear one in public now) and maintaining social distancing. How will elevators, dining rooms, lounges, bars and theaters operate? How will crew practices change to insure their safety and health?
All are thorny issues for cruise lines, their customers and employees. Perhaps the only way the ships can reassure passengers and the public is a robust testing of all boarding after every trip ashore until a vaccine is available to all. When that happens, proof of vaccination will be as necessary for boarding as a passport. No exceptions.
Recently Robert R. Redfield, the director of the C.D.C., blamed cruise ships for widespread transmission of the virus as he banned cruises through the month of September. The C.D.C mandated that before cruise ships can sail in or out of American waters, cruise lines must come up with cohesive plans for prevention and mitigation of the illness.
Cruise lines know these steps are essential if they are to survive. Most are working with health and travel experts to find answers that satisfy authorities, protect passengers and crews, and provide the levels of service and satisfaction their clients expect.
We fervently wish them well because we can’t wait to sail again. But in the meantime, we hope they’ll send our money back soon.