Is This The End Of Cruising As We Know It?

If you’re waiting for the end of Covid-19 before you resume cruising, I have bad news for you: According to experts coronavirus is not going to end anytime soon. 

As science and medicine have proven, however, we have the tools to manage coronavirus: masks, vaccines, boosters and new treatments such as antiviral pills designed to reduce hospitalizations and deaths.

“We know how this ends: The coronavirus becomes endemic, and we live with it forever,” writes Sarah Zhang in The Atlantic. “We will never get the risk of COVID-19 down to absolute zero, and we need to define a level of risk we can live with.”

Given that Covid is probably here to stay, is there a way we can enjoy the “new normal” of cruising? That new normal consists of testing (on Viking Oceans, you’re given a saliva test everyday, as you’ll read in Britton’s story), masking (on some ships, crew only), and there are protocols for isolating guests who may come down with coronavirus. No one knows how long these protocols will need to be in place, but some companies are already requiring Covid safety protocols throughout 2022.

I was a reluctant cruiser, waiting for it to be safe before flying abroad and boarding a ship. I thought the pandemic would have an abrupt end. Faced with the reality that it was not going to end suddenly (or perhaps ever), I took the plunge in October, deciding that that time for me to return to cruising. 

The experience was not as I imagined it would be. Getting tested before flying proved to be challenging.  Once in Amsterdam, I was shocked by the near absence of Covid safety protocols. Crystal River Cruises, on the other hand, gave us great comfort, with testing just before boarding and a mask-free cruise. See I Cruised Crystal Debussy In October. Was This The Same Crystal That We Knew & Loved Before The Pandemic? What Changed & Why.

I was tested three times for my cruise, before flying, before boarding Debussy and before returning home. All three tests were negative. The experience emboldened me, giving me faith in the vaccines and boosters. I’ll continue to be careful, but I am ready to start doing some of the things I missed out on for the past year and a half.

Dr. Robert Wachter — the chair of the medicine department at the University of California, San Francisco — recently told The New York Times that “he has begun to think about when most of life’s rhythms should start returning to normal. Increasingly, he believes the answer is: Now.” See How Does This End.

Wachter’s sentiment is echoed by 87-year-old psychotherapist and author Katharine Etsy, who writes in I’m 87, Triple Vaxxed and Living My Life Again: “ … if the risk of getting sick with Covid-19 is holding me back, there’s something even stronger drawing me out: the fear of not making the most of my remaining time … ,” writes Etsy.

Some experts believe that this winter will be Covid’s last stand. They say coronavirus will begin to fade as a disruptive force in our lives.

Some aren’t waiting for coronavirus to fade. “It is a time to enjoy a full life,” writes the 87-year-old Etsy. “And that’s what I’m ready to do.“

Me too.

I realize that my experience of cruising this past October and my reading of current sources has shaped my view, and perhaps biased it. This may be the end of cruising as we once knew it, at least for the short term. But do the new protocols diminish the experience? They didn’t for me. My cruise on Debussy was nothing short of wonderful.

On board, I shared stories and laughter with others over lunches and dinners. I pedaled through vineyards and walked through fairy-tale-like villages, trekked uphill to castles, sipped Riesling while watching the wine harvest, felt the sun in my face while motoring along the enchanting Moselle and joined the symphony of cyclists on rides through Amsterdam.

After 18 months of waiting, I am glad that I risked traveling once again. And my daughter has done the same. She’s been on two ocean cruises and two river cruises since late summer, with more ahead for both of us.

I pedaled up through vineyards near Trier for this photograph of the Moselle. © 2021 Ralph Grizzle
I walked through fairy-tale-like Bernkastel. © 2021 Ralph Grizzle
An enjoyable day near Arnhem, taking the bike ferry across the river. © the friendly guy who operated the ferry.

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