Cruise ships are playing a rather major role in the Coronavirus outbreak. First there was the cruise ship off Japan, where 500 people were stranded. Now another cruise ship along the California coast, with 3,500 people aboard, is facing quarantine. A cruise ship was just turned away from Malta. This should not be surprising to anyone. Cruise ships are floating petri dishes. I don’t care how frolicky and happy the commercials make them seem – you’re trapped there with whatever germs have decided to hop aboard.

In 2012, a friend of mine was on a cruise at the exact same time as the Costa Concordia tragedy, when the ship struck a rock, crashed and overturned, killing 32 people. His cruise was taking him around Cape Horn, then to Chile. When he first told me he’d bought the cruise for him and his husband to have a romantic getaway, I tried to keep a poker face, although I think I did end up saying, “Are you insane?” I have never understood why anyone would want to file onto a big boat with thousands of other people and go out to the middle of the ocean, where the only escape is a lifeboat or diving into shark-infested waters hoping you’ll be rescued. I am admittedly the worst claustrophobic I know and the very thought of being trapped like this sends shivers through me.

“It’s a big boat,” my friend said.

“On which you are confined,” I replied. People don’t understand claustrophobics. It’s not just about room, it’s about having an escape. We need one. I always know where the exits are.

When the news story broke about the Costa Concordia – the search for survivors, the number of dead, the jailed captain – I e-mailed my friend hoping he could actually get e-mails in the middle of the Atlantic. When I finally heard back from him, he said they had been chased by a storm, making it impossible to sail around Cape Horn. In fact, they hadn’t even been able to see it. And then there was an outbreak of Norovirus, which he and his partner had not caught but they were in the minority. So many passengers on the ship were sick, officials in the Falklands wouldn’t let them dock.

“Come home immediately!” I e-mailed back. “Abandon ship!”

I didn’t even know then what Norovirus was. Google informed me that it’s a nasty gastrointestinal thing and is very common on cruise ships, where it of course sweeps through the confined population.

“The stewards are disinfecting the rails, the elevator buttons, the decks and all common surfaces,” my friend’s second e-mail said. “But the glaciers in the Chilean fjords were lovely.”


Then I stopped hearing from him, which I assumed either meant he fell ill, or someone found my messages and confiscated his cell phone.

I would like to point out that a brief google search leads to some frightening statistics. Legionnaire’s disease was so rampant on cruise ships in 2003 and 2004, several cruise lines had to dock their boats and completely disinfect the vessels. In 2006, a total of 7,215 people on cruise ships got ill with various stomach viruses, including Norovirus. 2010 wasn’t much better. The total for that year was 7,101. Anyone foolish enough to consider going on a cruise ship should go to the website and I am sure common sense will prevail once you read how ridiculously dangerous this is. I don’t care how big the boat is, you’re in an incubation vessel for viruses that proliferate with alarming speed.

If being surrounded by thousands of barfing or coughing people isn’t enough to deter you, consider the murkiness of maritime law and the fact that, if you are the victim of a crime, there might be no recourse for you. [, maritime law]

A cruise ship in open seas follows the laws of the flag it flies under. In 2006, a woman on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship was raped while sailing in the Mexican Riviera. She reported it to the FBI when she got home, but they told her there was nothing they could do. Technically, she wasn’t in America when it happened.

Of course, some people want to go on a cruise ship just so they can do things that are illegal at home – like gamble if their state doesn’t allow it, or engage in prostitution – no problem if you have an Amsterdam flag flying above you – or pot smoking. Just don’t try complaining if a stoned prostitute rips you off at the gambling table.

All the facts I have just mentioned, plus all the quarantined ships at the moment, should make everyone swear off the notion of ever setting foot on a cruise ship. For God’s sake, there are planes, trains, car trips, and in a pinch there’s the Discovery Channel where you can see Cape Horn and many other magnificent sights without endangering your life.  By the way, my friends did make it home safely and have not gone on a cruise since.


  1. Willa Hendrickson says:

    Friends of mine are planning a group cruise trip. After reading your post, I have no regrets planning to miss it. I am getting my 2nd pneumonia vaccination update of a two part series later today at the pharmacy. Upon seeing my doctor a few days ago he mansplaned to me that the Corona Virus is a common cold. I have asthma, allergies, and apnea which leaves me vulnerable to upper respiratory infections and made my doctor’s mansplaning seem odd. He was out of the pneumonia vaccination I was supposed to update adding to my frustrations of the day. Peoples’ fear of COVID19 and some of their changes in behavior are very strange. One older man said that he is not eating Chinese food and/or chicken to reduce exposure while we were on public transportation. I was too far away to combat that misperception. I am happy your friends came to no harm on their cruise trip. I have a tiny bit of claustrophobia and really dislike getting MRIs but I dislike opiate pain medications even more than the tiny MRI tube. I had to pick up a generic Vicodin prescription from my PCP as I was told by my nephrologist to stop taking naproxen. My severe brain fog and nausea from opiate pain meds drives me . Stay well and avoid chicken. ❤

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