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January 10, 2021, 12.43 PM

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Cruise liners have the advantage of being a closed system. Unlike guests in hotels on land, passengers cannot come and go as they please.

In addition, on board they are constantly digitally monitored, which could facilitate tracing contacts in case of an outbreak. “On a ship, tracking can have almost totalitarian features, without passengers being very aware of it,” cruise expert Illes adds.

“Epidemiologists on land would love to have such track and trace capacities.”

'Cruises to nowhere — an attempt to establish trust

What were called "cruises to nowhere" were undertaken in the past few months to show that cruises were feasible even in times of pandemic. But the term concealed sobering facts: such outings took place with a maximum of 60% of normal passenger numbers and strict hygiene measures.

During the first cruises to northern Europe, on the Mediterranean and off Singapore, passengers were not allowed to leave the ships. Now, if local authorities allow it, passengers can again disembark. Nevertheless, cruise passengers have to remain together in their group. Those who leave them without permission are not allowed to return to the ship.

The cruise operators are convinced the concept works. “Since July, on more than 50 cruises, we have had more than 50,000 passengers on board and demonstrated that cruises are possible, even in COVID-19 times,” said TUI Cruises in answer to a DW inquiry.

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Apart from a few exceptions, the experiment was successful, as most trips took place without incident. However, the concept would not hold up in the long term. For cruise operators, such low passenger numbers mean losing money.


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