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How to Minimize Covid Risk on a Cruise

The Holland America Line Koningsdam was the first cruise line to return to Canada since the pandemic shut down the industry two years earlier.

The Holland America Line Koningsdam was the first cruise line to return to Canada since the pandemic shut down the industry two years earlier.

Photographer: James MacDonald/Bloomberg

In this week's edition of the Covid Q&A, we tackle vacations. In hopes of making this very confusing time just a little less so, each week Bloomberg Prognosis picks one reader question and puts it to experts in the field. This week’s question comes to us from Mollye in Baltimore. She asks:

My husband and I booked a cruise to the Bahamas with our two teenagers. We are excited to settle into a ship loaded with activities and not worry about whether people are vaccinated (you must be to board the ship). How should we prepare? What should we watch out for on board and when visiting ports? What would happen if someone got Covid while at sea?

Cruise ships acquired a special sort of notoriety during the pandemic. We all remember the early days of Covid when all those innocent vacationers were stranded at sea — unaware that an ultra-contagious virus was encircling the globe when they first set off on holiday. It highlighted something many passengers don’t think (or want to think) about: Cruise ships are excellent breeding grounds for viruses.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that Covid spreads easily on ships because passengers are traveling in such close quarters. 

“This means to prepare for the cruise, all four of you should be fully vaccinated and boosted,” says Jessica Justman, an infectious diseases specialist and epidemiologist at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

The CDC recommends a single booster for those ages 5 and up, and a second one for people over 50 (or, those over age 12 who are also immunocompromised — it’s always best to check in with your doctor to figure out what’s best for you.)