When the new coronavirus began to spread in Canada in early March, the Public Health Agency of Canada recommended against “all cruise ship travel” due to the risk of contracting COVID-19.
“The virus can spread quickly on cruise ships due to the close contact between passengers,” said chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam in a presser.
There have since been multiple outbreaks of COVID-19 on cruise ships around the world — and yet, despite all of this, cruise bookings for 2021 appear to be on the rise.
READ MORE: Officials urge Canadians to ‘avoid all cruise ship travel’ over COVID-19 risk
The cruise booking site cruisecompete.com had a 40 per cent increase in bookings for 2021 compared to 2019, the company told the Los Angeles Times, and a recent poll conducted by cruisecritic.com found that 75 per cent of people plan to book cruises at the same rate as before once the coronavirus outbreak is over.
But after facilitating the rapid spread of the new coronavirus, can cruise ships still be considered safe?
“The fact is that cruise ships are a little bit unique because you crowd a lot of people together in a fairly enclosed space, and it’s not just for … a few hours, it’s for days.”
Cruise ships have a long history of infectious disease outbreaks.
In 2019, a cruise ship was quarantined in St. Lucia due to a confirmed case of measles. There have also been issues with respiratory infections like influenza and chickenpox as well as norovirus and E. coli.
According to the U.S. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2019 alone there were eight confirmed outbreaks of norovirus on seven different cruise ships.
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Dr. Rachael Lee, infectious disease physician and hospital epidemiologist at the University of Alabama, Birmingham Hospital, agrees with Libman.