Yesterday, an image which Celebrity Cruises tweeted jumped out at me, so to speak. It was a photo (below) of a cruise line bartender pouring cocktails to two young women sitting close together at one of the bars on a Celebrity cruise ship. No one is wearing a mask, neither the crew nor the guests, and no social distancing was maintained in the closed interior space.

Congregating in a bar with no masks worn by either the guests or crew who are not maintaining social distancing is in violation of CDC guidelines, EU protocols and NCL- RCCL’s so-called “Healthy Sail” Protocols.

So one of two things may be possible here. First, the photo may be an accurate depiction of what it will be like congregating in a bar on a Celebrity ship. This is disappointing given that the wearing of masks and social distancing have proven to be effective measures against COVID-19. The photo makes a mockery of the protocols which these cruise lines have heavily touted. Secondly, and more likely, is that masks and social distancing will be required, in theory at least, but the cruise lines want to entice people to continue booking despite the reality that the fast spreading virus is largely out of control, that vaccine distribution and administration are largely lagging behind expectations and, realistically, cruising will not resume anytime soon.

The reality is that COVID-19 has infected over 25,000,000 people and killed over 419,000 in the U.S. alone, with nearly 100,000,000 (over 99,500,000) people infected in the world and over 2,135,000 dead due to the virus.

The cruise lines seem to think that the most important thing is to keep marketing and selling cruises, even if its images paint an unrealistic image of what cruising will be like and even if it is unlikely that the cruises will in fact go forward. Cruise lines are holding literally many billions of dollars in future cruise credits (FCC) and unrefunded cash refunds. Photos falsely showing “business as usual” images of mask-less smiling faces seem to be the cornerstone of the industry’s irresponsible sales tactics.

Unfortunately, many cruise lines advertise their company in such a misleading manner, carefully avoiding images of people wearing masks or socially distancing in a safe and prudent manner. Over the past year, several readers of this blog have sent me  images showing crew members crowded together with no one wearing a mask and with no thought of social distancing. On its website, NCL’s “Sail Safe” protocols, which claim that the cruise line is “working round the clock to develop a comprehensive and multi-faceted set of new and enhanced health and safety protocols,” are listed under a photo (top) of eight officers and a chef crowded together, shoulder to shoulder, with no mask in sight.

Marketing cruises in this way sends a confusing message to the public, much the way that the former U.S. president and members of his administration would never wear a mask in public, even while discussing important issues of public health.

In my view, cruising should not be permitted to return until the COVID-19 vaccines have been widely distributed to guests and crew members alike. Saga Cruises, which caters largely to the over-55 of age crowd, is the first cruise line to state that their customers will not be permitted to sail unless they all have been vaccinated (although this still not protect people in communities where cruise ships call). The CEOs of Royal Caribbean and NCL, meanwhile, have not yet voluntarily announced such a decision. Instead, they appear comfortable overseeing the misleading marketing of their cruise lines showing crew and guests without masks as if the deadly pandemic will magically disappear.

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Photo credit: Top – Norwegian Cruise Line Holding; middle – Celebrity Cruises, Inc.