In April, we surveyed readers across River Cruise Advisor and Avid Cruiser to ask when they would be comfortable cruising again. A few weeks ago a reader wrote us to suggest that we run a similar survey to see how things have changed, and if travelers are ready to start sailing again.
At the beginning of the pandemic it seemed that there was both a lack of hope and understanding that things would return to normal; or, conversely, that the pandemic would end quickly and that things would carry on as they were. Both of these things were untrue. Things have returned to a “new normal.” In fact, in North Carolina, where we reside, bars and movie theaters have just reopened. The pandemic is far from over, but it seems that most people have found a way to exist in a COVID ridden world happily. I, for one, have moved to a new town during the pandemic and have found creative ways to meet up with friends and family like eating socially distanced dinners on front porches. I digress…
This “new normal” makes the issue of returning to cruising a bit more complex than it was at first. We have a better understanding of how the virus is spread, but we also have an awareness that it could be a long time before we are living in a COVID-free world – if that can ever happen.
In understanding more about the virus, our views on things such as travel change. Those who said that they may be willing to resume cruising in fall 2020 might have thought that the virus would be over by now. On the other hand, those who answered that they would not be willing to cruise until 2022 might find comfort in cruising now with enhanced safety measures in place (and their handy dandy masks).
When looking at the results from our April survey, 17 percent of river cruisers said that they would be willing to cruise by fall 2020 and 19 percent of ocean cruisers said that they would be willing to cruise in fall 2020. Most readers said that they would be willing to cruise first in Europe, followed by the United States. Most said they would not cruise in Russia, Asia, or Africa.
It seems that geography is less of an issue now, minus the fact that there is a ban on American travelers in much of the world. So we chose to ask a simple question this time around: Are you ready to cruise in 2021? We followed up by asking which measures would need to be put in place, or are put in place, to make you feel comfortable sailing?
52 percent of river cruisers said that they are ready to sail in 2021, and 65 percent of ocean cruisers said that they would be willing to sail in 2021. Those that said yes cited enhanced safety protocols, capacity reductions, masks, COVID-19 testing, and social distancing as reasons that they would feel safe cruising again. While almost all of those that answered no said that they would need for there to be a COVID vaccine and/or cure to make them feel comfortable sailing again.
One reader wrote: “The problem IS THE measures put in place, masks on all the time, no more buffets, the tours are lessened, probably no more bar time; I don’t want to pay that much money to not get the same services I had the other times. Just no fun…..”
It perhaps is no fun for some people. As we have seen, there are many people who don’t want to wear masks – and being on a cruise line that enforces a mask policy might not work for everyone. But after talking to our Belgian friend, Mike Louagie, who has done two sailings during the pandemic, I am convinced that there is still plenty of fun to be had on board a ship. There is a lot of comfort, however, in knowing that more than half of our readers feel that the cruise lines have done enough to make them feel safe to step on board a ship again.
As for us? Ralph is intending to host his barge trips in April and I am ready to step back on board a ship whenever I can – with a mask on.