When the COVID-19 pandemic hit North America in February, cruise ships became a case-study for the rest of the world of how quickly and easily the virus could spread through a group of people in a confined space. The Diamond Princess, operated by Carnival Cruises, was a topic of national conversation when more than seven hundred of its passengers tested positive for the virus, and over a dozen people died.
Not surprisingly, the cruise ship industry sustained a significant blow as travel bans and lockdown orders were put in place. After months of entire cruise ship fleets were docked indefinitely, some companies, including Carnival Cruises, are preparing to hit the seas again- and passengers are clamoring to get on board.
Carnival Cruise Bookings Soar
It seems that the possibility of being stuck on a boat in the middle of the ocean with hundreds of infected passengers is not a concern to many Americans. At the beginning of May, Carnival Cruise announced that some of its ships would be resuming in August, and within days of the announcement the number of bookings increased by six hundred percent .
What may come as even more of a shock to some, is that the number of bookings for August 2020 is up two hundred percent from the previous year, despite the fact that in 2019 no one had ever heard of the coronavirus or social distancing; the deadly pandemic was far from anyone’s minds .
Starting August first, eight ships will be departing from Port Canaveral and Miami in Florida, as well as from Galveston, Texas. In a news release, the cruise line stated that they are committed to supporting public health experts to help manage the COVID-19 situation.
“We are taking a measured approach, focusing our return to service on a select number of home ports where we have more significant operations that are easily accessible by car for the majority of our guests.” 
Cruisers are Not Deterred
A poll conducted by the review site CruiseCritic.com determined that 75 percent of the 4600 cruise customers who were questioned said that they planned to continue booking cruises at the same rate as they did before the COVID-19 pandemic began .
Another survey conducted by The Harris Poll also found that only 22 percent of respondents said it would be “a year or longer” before they would get on another cruise ship .
As for the current surge in bookings, according to a Cruise Planners representative, people who are booking cruises are generally younger and healthier and thus are not concerned about travelling despite rising case numbers.
The representative also noted that other contributing factors for the increase in bookings could be the pent-up desire to travel after spending months in lockdown, and of course the low price tag, since you can now book a Carnival Cruise for as little as 28 dollars per night .
How Unsafe are Cruises?
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, the CDC ordered that all cruise ships be docked for more than three months before resuming business. The hope, at the time, was that three months would be enough to get over the worst of the pandemic .
Cruise ships are the perfect place for a deadly virus to circulate easily and quickly. Hundreds- or sometimes thousands- of guests are all confined to a relatively small space, making social distancing a near-impossible task.
Activities on the ships focus on groups and bringing passengers together in places like pools, casinos, bars, showrooms, and buffets, where people crowd around tables and other small places. This creates a perfect opportunity for a virus to spread.
Claire Panosian Dunavan, professor of medicine emeritus in the infectious diseases division of UCLA’s School of Medicine, says that cruise ships are an inherently high-risk setting.
“A lot of people crammed together touching the same surfaces… I think this is the virus that is revealing the inherent vulnerability of this popular form of travel.” 
The CDC has classified cruise travel as “Warning- Level Three”, and recommends that all cruise travel be deferred worldwide while the pandemic continues, stating that cruise passengers are at an increased risk for person-to-person spread of infectious diseases .
A Cheap Trip- But What’s the Cost?
The cruise line industry has lost billions of dollars of revenue as a result of the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as such are eager to fill their rooms and get back out to sea. For this reason, prices are slashed and cruise travel is now more affordable than ever before.
The question is- as the novel coronvirus continues to threaten public health and safety, is the cheap price tag really worth the risk?
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