According to Lekakou and Pallis (2005) the definition of cruise is “a mixture of sea transport, travel, tourism and leisure, while it is defined as the leisure activity of passengers paying for an itinerary (and possibly other services on board) and includes at least one overnight stay on a ship with a capacity of at least one hundred passengers”. According to M. Stopford, cruising is a sophisticated and complex sector of maritime transport. This is not so obvious because at the cruise all the prerequisite elements that represent sea transport are applied. For example, as in any other maritime transport, the main capital element is the ship, which is manned by crew and aims to transport passengers from one port to another. The difference between cruise ships and other means of sea is that they are the accommodation units of passengers throughout the trip.
In addition, the cruise industry is a critical sector of the transportation industry, which has also been severely affected by the pandemic. Unlike other types of merchant shipping, it had to suspend its operations worldwide. Even in some countries, cruise ships were banned from entering territorial waters.
For example, Canada had banned cruise ships until the fall of 2020. The cruise industry is one of the first elements of the shipping industry which was affected and specifically from the first half of 2020, resulting in a negative character in the eyes of people who chose this way of recreation. As a result, the strategies developed by cruise lines and related industries were affected as travelers and crew members come from many countries. Because of them, the Covid-19 disease was spreading quickly on cruise ships while crew members were transferred to different ships and travelers visiting global ports in different countries. As it can be understood, with the cessation of travel, cruise companies did not have revenue in order to pay salaries, buy spare parts for ships, etc. In addition, large number of personnel has decreased, whether it concerned the personnel within the company or the personnel on board.
Many cases of coronavirus occurred on different cruise ships. These cases are shown in the figure below. Some of the cases are Diamond Princess, Ruby Princess, Grand Princess, Zaandam, Coral Princess, Costa Fascinosa, Celebrity Apex, Greg Mortimer, Costa Atlantica, Aida Aura, Costa Smeralda, Anthem of the Seas, MSC Opera, Silver Spirit, MSC Meraviglia, Aida Vita, Westerdam. The first case of coronavirus that was reported on March 19, 2020 was on board Diamond Princess where she was moored in the port of Sydney. On this cruise ship eleven passengers died and at least 662 passengers and crew were infected. The Grand Princess was moored in San Francisco Harbor and Zaandam was docked in Florida, USA. In Costa Fascinosa, the ship’s doctor and crew died in Brazil. More than 200 crew members were infected on Celebrity Apex and 148 crew members were infected on the Costa Atlantica.
The first study focused on discovering a correlation between the number of COVID-19 cases and the estimated number of passengers landing at ports of departure and arrival, where people spend a few days before or after their cruises, and ports of arrival, where only a few hours are spent during cruise itineraries in these cities. The number of COVID-19 cases divided by the number of passengers landing is 12.85% in the country of arrival and departure and 1.5% only in the country of the port of arrival. As a result, cities located in arrival and departure cruise ports are more polluted than cities with ports that do not accommodate cruise ships.
Another study presented by Hanaoka & Kawasaki (2020) attempted to identify the main characteristics of ships and their itineraries in order to find a pattern among cruise ships infected with COVID-19. They found that large ships tended to be more contaminated than smaller ones. The worst routes, those with the highest probability of infection, were cruises with seven or eight days of cruising that had the same weekly sailings, cruises with fixed ports of arrival and departure. Another major factor contributing to infection rates was the practice of welcoming new passengers every week. This situation was more dangerous than having the same passengers for several weeks.
Another important finding is that there is no correlation between the number of passengers received at ports in one country and the number of COVID-19 in the same country. According to Ito et al. , the three countries with the highest number of passengers at their ports from January to March were the US, Mexico and the Bahamas. When this data was compared to the number of people infected with COVID-19, the Bahamas had only 49 infected people, despite having the third highest number of cruise passengers ashore in Nassau (Bahamas) from January to March 2020. However, COVID-19 had spread faster in countries that continued to accept cruises until early April than in others that quickly banned cruise ships from entering their ports (Ito et al., 2020). When analyzing ship size and itineraries and cruise passenger quantity by country, it is not possible to confirm a strong cause of correlation between cruise and the spread of COVID-19.
Radic et al. (2020) brought to light some weakness from the management of the cruise industry during COVID-19 and made recommendations. The authors confirmed that the key issues were communication and contingency plans. The lack of these skills has led the entire industry to face more difficult scenarios during this epidemic. The authors, based on their analysis, recommended various improvements. Improving the ability of cruise lines to communicate with society is one of the necessities presented in this study. Passengers should be trained on how to protect themselves and others on board, including good practices such as frequent hand washing and wearing masks at all times when it is not possible to keep a safe distance from others. In addition, cruise lines need to update best practices on board to avoid spreading diseases on their ships. The adoption of a previous mandatory quarantine in cruise departure cities should also be better analyzed. In addition, the cruise industry needs to work with the local government not only to create contingency plans but also to deal with infections and infected people who need to get ashore. The COVID-19 outbreak, according to these authors, brings cruise lines a great opportunity to rethink their cultural aspects, leadership styles, and risk management.
Taking into consideration all the above, the necessity of improving contingency plans and communicating these plans to the whole of society, were issues that were addressed between key players of the cruise industry in order to properly restart the cruising with safety.