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Taking the Kids: On a cruise (once everyone is vaccinated)

Eileen Ogintz, Tribune Content Agency on

Safer than going to the grocery store? “Being on a cruise is definitely safer than going to the grocery store,” opined Kristina Woolum, cruising recently with her family from Port Canaveral aboard Carnival’s new Megaship Mardi Gras.

“Honestly, we feel more comfortable on board than at Walmart,” said Gary Posavad, who is retired from the Air Force. He and his wife already have cruised Mardi Gras four times since last summer – and have four more cruises scheduled.

“The rules make you feel safer,” agreed Tyra Green, from Baltimore who was cruising with a large group of friends and friends of friends. Those rules include proof of vaccination (including for children 5 to 11) and a pre-cruise negative COVID-19 test, masking indoors when required, additional medical staff and facilities, including lab facilities for testing and special isolation rooms should someone test positive.

Windstar, known for their intimate sailing yachts that go to smaller ports, administers free COVID-19 tests to everyone before they are permitted to board; other cruise lines require a negative test presented at the port and additional testing at your expense for those who are unvaccinated, including young children.

Disney Cruise Line not only is reducing guest capacity but adjusting onboard experiences to promote social distancing, which means meet-and-greets with characters have been paused and youth programs are smaller.

Even with the new Omicron variant wreaking havoc with international travel — President Biden has announced everyone returning to the U.S. from abroad must show a negative COVID-19 test within 24 hours of travel — cruise executives believe their ships couldn’t be doing more to protect their guests and crew. This as more ships are back in service cruising from ports many can drive to. Carnival Cruise Line, for one, boasts that most people in the country live within 500 miles of a cruise port.

 

“Being on a cruise vacation is the very safest vacation you can take,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line which pre-pandemic carried more children than any other cruise line.

“We have gone far and above what has been required,” said Michael Bailey, president of Royal Caribbean aboard RCCL’s new Odyssey of the Seas.

That’s not to say the stringent health protocols have made cruise lines COVID-proof. Earlier this month the Washington Post reported that the Norwegian Breakaway returned to New Orleans with at least 17 passengers and crew infected. The CDC has reported more than 1,300 cases between the end of June and October, when cruising resumed. During that time, some 600,000 people cruised. And different cruise lines have slightly different rules; Carnival is limiting children’s activities to those five and older who are fully vaccinated while Royal Caribbean welcomes all kids three and up to their programs. It is key to carefully read the “know before you go” section of the cruise line’s website not only before you book, but right before you sail as the requirements can change. Recently, a Royal Carribean ship had 48 COVID cases, most in those fully vaccinated.

The newest ships have more outdoor space and dining spots on board (Mardi Gras has 22 food options) to keep passengers from congregating in any one place; buffets often now have servers and plated individual portions that also help cut down food waste, a Royal Caribbean spokesman explained. Enhanced apps encourage social distancing.

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