Our Experiences Cruising During the Coronavirus

Yes, we were on a cruise ship when the coronavirus impacted travel. Here are our honest experiences cruising during the coronavirus.

Our Experience Cruising During the Coronavirus

Despite the recent coronavirus incident on Diamond Princess in Asia, we had no concerns about our upcoming cruise on Freedom of the Seas departing on March 8, 2020 from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Even as cruise lines began updating cancellation policies due to the increasing concerns in the United States, we did not even give the idea of cancelling or rescheduling our cruise a thought. Once the CDC issued an advisory recommending to avoid cruise travel, cruise lines began cancelling sailings, schools across the county began announcing closures, and towns were implementing mandatory quarantines. Yet, we were still at sea. We were still cruising during the coronavirus without any issues.  

What It Was Like Cruising During the Coronavirus

The Conditions Onboard During the Cruise

For the most part, the conditions onboard Freedom of the Seas did not vary much from a typical cruise vacation.

Cruising during the coronavirus

Just prior to our sail date, Royal Caribbean did begin implementing enhanced health screenings at the embarkation port. Our temperatures were taken before being allowed to board the ship. The cruise line indicated that those with travel to several high risk countries, those with a fever, or those who may have come in contact with individuals confirmed to have the virus were not going to be allowed to board and would receive a full refund.

Honestly, this did not concern us either as we were glad Royal Caribbean was taking extra precautions. We were feeling well, our temperatures were normal, and our travels had not taken us to any of the restricted areas.

So far, so good.

While we had read reports from other cruisers online, we were actually a bit surprised that there was not much deviation from the normal cruise routine.

There were certainly more hand sanitizing stations present throughout the ship, and the reminder to “washy-washy” was more persistent. While we normally see crew cleaning during a typical trip, there did appear to be more sanitizing and cleaning of heavy traffic areas, like handrails. Yet, it did surprise us that cruisers were still able to self-serve in the Windjammer buffet since we had heard that other cruise lines had restricted this practice.
 

Cruise Schedule and Itinerary

Until this past Sunday (our scheduled disembarkation day), the cruise had been smooth sailing. Yes, pun intended. The weather had been fabulous, and we were able to dock at all ports. Local authorities cleared the ship in Aruba, Curacao, Bonaire, and St. Thomas with no noticeable issues. Leaving St. Thomas, the ship was delayed an hour, which the Captain claimed was due to the Coast Guard reviewing some of the ship’s paperwork but reassured us that it was not due to any illnesses onboard the ship. In hindsight, this announcement might have been a bit misleading.

Our Experience Cruising During the Coronavirus

Over the 7 days of our trip, there were no changes to the schedule. All entertainment, including main theater shows, parties, and cruise activities occurred as planned and were well-attended for the most part.

All of this changed on Sunday morning, when the governor of Puerto Rico denied the ship entry into the cruise port. According to the announcement made at 7 am by the Captain, the island was requiring the ship to go through heightened health screenings that would extend our time in San Juan by four days or possibly more. We later found out that Norwegian Epic received the same treatment.

The cruise line made the decision overnight to reroute the ship to Miami, FL with a planned disembarkation of Tuesday, March 17th. Luckily, we were able to cancel and rebook flights getting us back home at a reasonable time. In fact, we saved over $600 with the new flights.

Related Post: Cruise Cancellations and Refund Policies Due to the Coronavirus

Cruiser Morale

For the most part, the vibe on the ship was upbeat. Many of us had a similar feeling regarding the negative slant on cruising during the coronavirus in the media. We did not feel at any increased risk on our cruise ship than if we were back on land. While we kept tabs on updates from other cruise lines on social media and family back home, some cruisers did not seem to be following these developments at all.

The ship was pretty full and cruisers didn’t appear to be practicing too much “social distancing”. We actually did avoid the buffet but still attended all the parties, shows, and other activities around the ship.

As we were all in this together, other cruisers seemed to be doing their part by sanitizing and routinely washing their hands. We were happy that everyone took the risks seriously, yet did not let them impact their vacations.

Our Experience Cruising During the Coronavirus

Of course, things changed a bit on Sunday morning as there were certainly many unhappy and concerned cruisers. When we awoke at 5:30 am to realize that we were sailing at close to full speed and there was no land in sight, we both knew something was wrong. Royal Caribbean handled the situation the best they could, providing free internet to allow individuals to make changes to flights and other accommodations. The cruise line also offered compensation for flight cancellation and change fees, as well as additional funds for those that needed to spend the night in Miami due to the change in disembarkation port.

For cruisers from Puerto Rico, the cruise line worked with those individuals to get them flights back home.

Surviving a Cruise During the Coronavirus

While there have been outbreaks of the disease on a few other cruise ships to date since Diamond Princess, we feel fine. Despite cruising during the coronavirus, there were no confirmed cases on our ship. Yet, the cruise lines did the right thing and suspended all cruises for the next 30 days. Our priority is to try to get back to some semblance of reality. Still, it feels that things back home are actually more abnormal than on the ship. In the end, we know we will all weather this storm. Certainly, we still have plans to get back onboard a cruise ship as soon as possible.

With work disruptions, school closings, and empty markets, we have to put things into perspective. Though, we have no plans to stop blogging and vlogging about cruising. Further, we encourage you to continue doing what you love to do. Follow us and all the other amazing travelers on social media during your cruise dry dock. We are certain that the cruise industry will rebound, and we cruisers will be able to set sail again in the near future.

Comments

Has the coronavirus impacted your travel plans? Will you continue to cruise once the ban is lifted? Drop us an anchor below to let us know your thoughts on the coronavirus and cruising.

Our Experience Cruising on Freedom of the Seas During the Coronavirus

Cruising during coronavirus
Don Bucolo, or “DB”, loves everything about cruising- the ocean, the food, and the atmosphere. While he may be obsessed with doing extensive amounts of research on ships and all elements of a cruise, Don enjoys sharing his new found knowledge with fellow cruisers. When he is not sailing the high seas, he does whatever his wife tells him to do-it only took 10 years to realize this.
Don
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6 comments on Our Experiences Cruising During the Coronavirus

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  1. We had reservations to fly to Europe and take a two week Viking Ocean cruise on April 12th. We were going to celebrate our 50th anniversary. We have rebooked for May 2021. Viking treated us right.

      i’m supposed to cruise in May, i hope everything is okay in 2 months…. i can’t wait to read your freedom of the seas review?

        We were on the same cruise as you and we agree passengers didn’t seem to be very bothered by the virus. Business as usual..we did notice Royal changing the buffet utensils constantly and disinfecting the hand rails on the stairs non stop along with the “washy/washy reminders 🙂 We too smelled a rat in St Thomas when we witnessed 6 coast guard men boarding the ship . Crossing our fingers we don’t get a letter in the future stating that someone on the ship tested positive for the virus since returning home! Stay safe everyone 🙂

    We were on the Celebrity Infinity and disembarked on Saturday the 9th. The night before the Captain came on and told us we were the last passengers before they stopped sailing and that we were still scheduled to get off the next day at Miami. Not an hour later, we were diverted to Key West for a medical emergency. Some people seemed to get a little frazzled by it. It had nothing to do with the virus. Since it was an older ship, my understanding that the internet was quite slow and the tv channels seemed scarce (who’s in the rooms watching it anyway!) I personally never get the internet and we both have high stress jobs ad prefer to get “off the grid”. There was really no talk during the cruise about the virus and the severity of what was happening. It was cruising as usual. The only difference was the amping up of sanitary guidelines. More hand sanitizing stations, encouraging of hand washing. The food in the buffet was covered with hard covers and served to you. I was amazed that at night, you could hear the crews in the halls wiping everything down; doors, knobs, etc… The most impressive thing I saw was as everyone was gone, I saw someone in safety gear spraying then entire buffet dining area with a disinfectant spray using a leaf-blower like backpack. As we began to slowly get off of the ship, people were turning on their phones and began to realize the magnitude of the new situation we had entered into. Personally, I received a text, as did my husband that we were no quarantined for the next 14 days. It felt as if we returned into the apocalypse. Our families had to go elsewhere. I felt terrible for those who had to continue on with their travel by air.Flights cancelled, unable to contact air elites. I heard one person who was looking to rent a car to Canada. We were fortunate as we live in Florida. The world had changed on that day. It will get better and hopefully soon. Stay healthy everyone!

    We had a cruise scheduled to leave 3/21. We have rescheduled it for one leaving 10/3. We have taken nearly 25 cruises over the years and will continue to take many more once the ban is lifted. Stay healthy everyone!

    Hello! I was on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas. Leading up to the trip, we received notices from Royal Caribbean and the airline almost daily. The flight to Miami on March 7th was very light and we all were spread out and had plenty of room.

    On the 8th, we set sail on the Oasis with no issues. They took our temperatures and we noticed the additional hand sanitizing stations and cleaning. We believe that there were some that did not take the cruise because the ship was not crowded at all. We knew before we left that Jamaica was not going to allow us to port, but we were routed to Costa Maya instead. We were able to port at all other locations without any issues. Every where we ported was business as usual.

    Several of the evening shows were cancelled, but then were rescheduled later in the week. We were given different reasons or the cancellations, but of course it made me wonder if it was due to the virus.

    We appreciated the extra cleaning and plenty of hand sanitizer and toilet paper. By this time we were seeing Facebook posts of empty shelves and people hoarding TP.

    Overall it was a great trip and a beautiful ship. On Saturday, March 14th, the Captain made an announcement that Royal Caribbean was going to suspend cruising for 30 days and that on the 15th we would arrive in Miami and disembark without any issues. There were no delays in Miami and I never heard of any illness on the ship.

    We had 2 flights to get back home. The last leg of our flight only had 22 passengers and that included the pilot.

    I love cruising and will not stop. I can’t wait for cruising to resume and to book my next trip!