With a white captain's hat on, Calvin Ballard looked relaxed as he waited to set off on his very first cruise to Mexico, unimpressed by the possibility of being caught by a corona virus outbreak on a besieged ship. Like many other vacationers flocking to an ocean liner docked near Los Angeles, Calvin Ballard said he was aware that passengers on other cruises had been stranded for weeks away from home, and he vowed to do so especially make sure to stay healthy. Still, he was determined to have a good time.
"We plan to wash our hands a lot, try not to touch things and then touch our mouths, and just be aware of how we get in touch with people – the smart stuff," said the 55-year-old Asset manager from Orange, California said cheerfully.
"We focus on having fun."
"We focus on having fun." California cruise ship passengers don't let coronavirus spoil the fun https://t.co/YT92tEcryJpic.twitter.com/F1rLQO66vD
– Reuters (@Reuters), February 22, 2020
Calvin Ballard and his wife Judy, 50, in a sailor hat, were among the approximately 2,350 passengers on the Carnival Cruise Line who left Thursday on a three-day trip from the port of Long Beach to the spa town of Ensenada on the Mexican Baja coast.
The pauses for interviews with Reuters directly in front of the terminal showed that most passengers had packed additional hand disinfectants with their sunscreen and that they would probably approach the buffet lines with more fear than in the past. Everyone immediately recognized that the fear of the corona virus and the stories of cruise ships that were quarantined in Cambodia and Japan were not far from them.
"We all heard the horror stories," said Andrew MacKenzie, 37, of Napa, California, when he was waiting with a buddy before boarding Carnival Imagination. But everyone said they had made peace with the idea of being rounded up with hundreds of strangers in a confined space and were determined to follow meticulous hand hygiene and keep a safe distance from anyone who appeared sick.
Boarding passengers said they also consoled themselves because they knew that their short break in North America was far from the epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic that infected over 75,000 people and killed over 2,200 people. The vast majority of cases and deaths are in China.
"Hopefully we're fine," said Shirley Sosin, 67, and traveled with her friend Bernadette Neve, 53, both Fresno nurses.
They booked their trip long before the coronavirus broke out, but felt reassured by the steps Carnival had taken to minimize the risk, including stricter pre-cruise checkups and "improved onboard hygiene practices".
A key precaution is a strict ban on passengers or crew members who have been in China, Hong Kong or Macau in the past 14 days – the suspected incubation period of the virus
The cruise company promised full reimbursement for passengers denied boarding.
Hit cruise earnings
Although the airline said it operates normally in North America and Australia, its parent company, Carnival Corp, the world's largest cruise company, has been severely affected by coronavirus-related disruption to its business in Asia.
The company, which ended in 2019 with adjusted earnings per share of $ 4.40, has forecast that its financial performance will decrease by 55 to 65 cents per share in 2020, including passenger compensation for canceled bookings.
Paul Meade, 57, a resident of Lincolnshire, England, who completed a family visit to Utah with a short trip to Mexico, said he and his wife were "following the (coronavirus) story in the news". "But a three-day cruise from Los Angeles, I don't think there is anything to worry about," he said.
"We know the precautions for good hygiene and still practice them. I don't think there is cause for concern."
Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, agreed that the coronavirus is little to fear given the cruise ship's precautions. "The risk of someone getting flu is infinitely higher than the risk of getting coronavirus if you go to the western hemisphere or even to Hawaii," he said.
Dr. William Schaffner said cruise ships have done a great deal in recent years to improve sanitization and hygiene training and reduce the incidence of foodborne and respiratory illnesses on board. Still, he said that careful hand washing, proper cough and sneeze coverage, and self-reporting of illnesses are key to curbing germs, including seasonal flu and norovirus, a serious bowel disease that was particularly problematic at sea.
The corona virus spreads mainly through tiny droplets that are directly coughed or sneezed into the face of a nearby person by an infected person, as opposed to the infectious transmission of a virus like airborne measles that hovers in closed rooms and breathed in within hours After being exhaled by sick people, Dr. William Schaffner.
Although coronavirus can be absorbed from surfaces, droplet spread is considered the major vector, so "widespread disinfection is unlikely to be effective" to curb transmission, according to a guide from the U.S. Centers for Control and Prevention of Diseases (CDC).
Overall, the risk of getting infected with coronavirus while cruising in North America remains "very, very low," said Dr. William Schaffner, adding that his advice to someone who expressed interest in such a trip was a "good trip".
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)