Would you cruise across the Atlantic rather than fly?


Ready to get on a 10 hour overseas flight, wearing an N95 mask, sharing bathrooms, in the middle seat between two coughing passengers? I didn't think so. With all the idle cruise ships out there, would you sail across the ocean like your grandparents in a private cabin if they followed good virus procedure? 4 days stuck in a room (kinda like now) to prove that your virus test is accurate to the country you're heading to.

I discuss the potential in my new Forbes site article Will you fly across the ocean or will the transatlantic cruise return?


Only the independently wealthy could afford 8 days round trip travel to Europe, and those aren't the kind of people who would be willing to camp out in a a ship's cabin, even with a view (of the endless Atlantic ocean). They're much more likely to hop in their private jet. In fact that's where I would predict substantial growth: private jet travel, even for domestic. I also predict an increase in automobile fatalities as people drive where they previously would have flown.

Cruise ship travel is a LOT less than private jet flight. In fact, if the ship is not operating any activities or kitchens, I suspect it's not just less than a flight and 4 days of quarantine hotel, I suspect it's plain cheaper than the flight.

For example here is a 7 night transatlantic cruise, including all the usual meals, entertainment and activities for $1700 per person for a balcony - https://www.cruisecheap.com/itineraries/7-night-transatlantic-crossing-cruise_queen-mary-2_9-25-2020.html?refPage=src

Inside cabins, if you could tolerate them, are as low as $600 per person for a 15 day cruise(!) on some ships. Quite a bit cheaper than flying, and again, including all that food and service. On this cruise, you bring your own non-perishable food, you don't do any of the activities, and nobody cleans your room during the cruise.

Cruise ships haven’t proven that they can isolate passengers from each other, and upgrading the ships ventilation systems to do so might be prohibitively expensive.

Inside cabins would be unlikely to be taken? So will ticket prices be through the roof, or will the ships operate at a loss? Sitting idle costs very little. Operating them across the ocean costs a lot.

Can’t you just test everyone before they go on a flight? You could even require a 4-day quarantine before going on a flight.

Cruise ships actually are often priced competitively with hotels. Which they are, except built in low cost ports not subject to the regulations that make building a hotel in the rich world much more expensive. Which is both good and bad, of course. Many cruises today are quite cheap. They include a ton of fancy food an entertainment for that price (but also upsell shore excusions.) They do not spend all their time under sail, though so they have lower fuel costs per day.

Some people will take the inside cabins but only those who can't afford the outside ones. Newer inside cabins should soon have 4K TVs showing the actual view in pretty good detail, and full spectrum lighting, but I don't know how common this is. I think there would be a push to install these if it is the only way to sell those cabins. A well done 4K HDR TV can be surprisingly window like, but key is that the view sways as the ship sways, which reduces seasickness.

A 4 day quarantine before the flight is possible. But why not just do that on a ship? On the way back, I mean, when you have to get a hotel set up for it. Outbound, you can possibly do it at home, if they trust you. Shipboard, you can't go out.

First and foremost, you don't want to quarantine on a ship because we're currently undergoing a pandemic, and a ship is a breeding grounds for spreading viruses. It's also cramped, the food is not as good, there are not good medical facilities if you do indeed come down with something (or if you have any other type of medical emergency). About 1/3 of the population is highly susceptible to motion sickness, and while they might not enjoy flying either, cruise ships tend to be worse.

It's also more expensive. $1,700 PER PERSON for seven days is 2-3 times the cost of an average hotel room even if you only have two people. And that's the price when the occupancy is full. The number of people who want to take a four-day cruise during a pandemic is likely to be very low, which means the cruise company has to charge much much more just to break even.

I guess for people particularly susceptible to COVID, who don't mind cruise ships, who have a lot of money, and who absolutely have to travel across the ocean, it might make sense. I wouldn't recommend an inside cabin, though. Not because of the view, but because of the reliance on the ventilation system. It's unclear why so many people on board the Diamond Princess caught the coronavirus while quarantining in their cabin, but I'd be surprised if the ventilation system didn't play a role. So pick a cabin with a window, keep it open at all times, and don't use the A/C.

It's no more a breeding ground than a hotel is, though we do treat it differently. $1700 was a nice ship, and a flight to Europe plus 6 nights hotel can easily cost you that.

A lot of travel is done by those in the "at risk" group who will now be afraid of planes.

The Princess ships became breeding grounds because they were idiots and early in the pandemic. They had infected crew, and those crew kept coming into contact with the guests and each other. I presume the crew also slept in common quarters, used same toilets etc.

You make a lot of claims, but don't back any of them up.

As I said, "I guess for people particularly susceptible to COVID, who don't mind cruise ships, who have a lot of money, and who absolutely have to travel across the ocean, it might make sense." For the rest of us, we'll either take a plane or not take the trip. If they test everyone who gets on the plane, it should be an acceptable risk for a lot of people.

Just off the cuff here... Since the virus, to my understanding is not an "airborne" virus, but contracted thru surfaces. With a cabin on a ship,you could bring a gallon or so of alchol to sanitize said room urself (& request no attendants w/o permission). Whereas on a flight, the way they pack 'em in so tight these days... seems there's little controll of "surface contact" via elbow, shoulder, and other body contacts (numerous). Imho, if allowed - walking the deck, outside, would be preferable. Take the time, enjoy the ride! :D

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