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Little boy getting hand sanitizer outside cruise ship during coronavirus outbreak

Cruising Amidst Coronavirus: A Mom’s Real-Life Account

what would you have done?

As COVID-19 continues to spread, the CDC has recommended that travelers—especially those with underlying health issues—defer all cruise ship travel worldwide. A North Texas family was on a cruise when the outbreak worsened. Mom Lorena Pudyk shared what that experience was like.

Traveling anywhere in the midst of coronavirus is something a lot of people are not even considering right now—least of all on a cruise. And here we are …

Just a few hours ago, we got off our cruise ship and we’re now heading back home after a five-day trip to Mexico.

My husband booked our spring break vacation in early February. At the time, the news was focused on the outbreak in China. As the date of our trip got closer and closer, the virus was quickly spreading to other countries. It was the only thing you heard about on the news, and the hysteria about it quickly grew on social media.

But honestly, canceling or rescheduling our trip never crossed our minds. We typically don’t watch the news, especially if it’s too negative.

Of course, we kept our ears and eyes open for any updates, but our plans for a fun vacation were still on.

It wasn’t until we heard the announcement of the first death in the United States due to the virus—and the news about cruise ships that couldn’t dock in certain places—that we hit pause.

We wanted to do more research and get all the facts from reliable sources. In addition to closely following the news, we also followed the official cruise line’s Facebook page as well as the website.

Our cruise line kept us well informed via email with the safety precautions being taken, the latest news, as well as any updates.

We decided to proceed. Thankfully my husband bought travel insurance, so if things went south prior to our trip, we would be covered financially. We quit telling people we were traveling—to avoid the eye-rolls or the amazed look that came along with a negative comment.

My motto as a preschool teacher is “Always say your prayers and wash your hands—because God and germs are everywhere.”

On that note, I’ve long carried a bottle of hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes with me. I’m constantly using them, and this trip was no exception. My husband and I carried more than usual of both in our luggage.

Our boarding process went very smoothly. Everybody’s temperature was taken before boarding. And yes, hand sanitizer stations were everywhere (more than usual), all over the ship. People didn’t seem too concerned; in fact, we would hear an occasional joke about coronavirus.

The shows on board happened as usual, and people were swimming, eating and having a good time.

There were little things being done differently this cruise—for example, our towels were always switched after one use. They didn’t let people reuse the same towel for a shower or the pool; the option of, “To conserve water and protect the environment, please reuse your towel,” was not available.

Buffets were open, but there were no tongs for passengers to use. Instead, the waiters filled your plate. You would just point at the food to let them know what you wanted. If a table wasn’t clean, the staff would leave a note to let you know it hadn’t been sanitized.

At the ports of call, sanitary and safety precautions were also being taken. As one of our excursion guides said, “With more than six cruise ships docking every day in Cozumel, we always do [sanitize things], we always must, and more so today than ever.”

During our trip, we tried to stay on top of things but minimized our time on the topic on social media, as we noticed it was getting out of control. We pretty much stayed away from the news as well. We contacted relatives only with fun pictures of our trip and to let them know where we were.

On our last day at sea, there was a Q&A session on board. The brand ambassador cruise director confirmed coronavirus had been upgraded to a pandemic. He answered questions as best he could (as expected, most were about the virus) and talked about all the safety protocols in full effect.

It was nice being disconnected from the news media craziness for a few days. Being back on land meant coming back to a far worse reality than the one that existed before we left. Italy was on lockdown; flights to Europe were cancelled; shows and events were being called off, and so on.

As a family, we’ll still try to do as much as we can. I believe that making decisions with faith more than making them out of fear is the way to go.

Photo courtesy of Lorena Pudyk.