Air vs Cruise Travel: What's Safer Amid Covid-19
Air or cruise? This would have been an ideal leisure-seeker’s question back in the day. By back in the day, we mean pre-Coronavirus day.
Today, the question of choosing between these two modes of transport is a little more than the luxuries of comforts and amenities. Today, one wants to know which one is safer for a long distance travel, which one poses lesser risk to health, which one will ensure a COVID19-free environment. With a ton of health guidelines released every single day by some of the most reputed agencies like WHO and CDC, one cannot but wonder if cruise travel is really safe in the larger scheme of things. Or is air travel better? Here’s our comparative study.
You would think that cruise is a better option than plane. Because you have the luxury of space. Maintaining 6 ft distance is not a problem on a large cruise with limited passengers. A flight, on the other hand, does not allow you much space, even if alternate row seating is provided and only window seats are sold. A 2 m distance is the most you can maintain on a plane.
But really, space constraints are the least of your concerns when you compare other factors.
This is the bane of the matter at hand. Really. You would think the number of stops are not so important, but they are. A flight can have a maximum of 2, maybe even 3 layovers. But a cruise usually travels long distances with stops at numerous towns and ports, where people as well as cargo get in and out. According to WHO, the rapid movement and stops result in the most number of outbreaks of communicable diseases on a ship. More than a hundred disease outbreaks have been reported to be associated with cruises over the last 3 decades. Many aren’t even reported and go unregistered. From rubella to hepatitis A, meningitis to measles, you name it. What this also means is that you are definitely more susceptible to the novel Coronavirus when on a ship.
Well, a flight will ensure that you disembark in a few hours, a day, a maximum of two days. Cruises though, they become your home for at least a couple of days, maybe a few weeks. This means sharing space, gadgets, dining rooms, recreational centres and more with so many others. And there is definitely a higher risk of transmission if you are exposed to something for a long period of time.
On a cruise ship, you don’t have an equivalent of a hospital. The most you can get is a dispensary or an infirmary, which is in no way helpful for serious illnesses. Smaller ships sometimes only have a nurse. And the passengers on cruises are usually in the mid-age or older groups, starting 45-50. 1/3rd of most cruise ship passengers are in the senior citizen strata. This means people are more susceptible to diseases. Not only COVID19 but also other communicable diseases, respiratory illnesses, bacterial infections and viruses.
More than 30 million passengers travelled on cruises in 2019. That’s a huge number. The average duration of travel can be chalked down to 7 days, with a strength of 3000 passengers and 1000 crew per ship, across continents. The revised guidelines from International Health Regulations (2005) determine better standards for cruise ship travel, from rodent control to waste disposal, food to water safety. But in spite of these, in March 2020, the CDC experts issued Warning - Level 3 to all passengers around the world. Which means, the USA Disease Control body asked people not to travel on cruises. There is speculation that even after the novel coronavirus loosens its grip on the world, the norms of social distancing and sanitation will mean that cruise ships will have to spend another couple of months parked on their bays.