As soon as the ship pulled away from the Florida coastline on Sunday afternoon, I knew I’d made the right decision to go ahead with my long-awaited Caribbean cruise. Friends thought I was crazy not to cancel now coronavirus is causing cruise ships to hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. At best, they believed I was willingly heading off to a floating quarantine or might spend a pointless week at sea, refused entry to ports anxious to avoid potentially infected passengers.
When I arrived in Fort Lauderdale to board Celebrity Edge for a seven-day round-trip, I did wonder if I should have thought more carefully. The very same day, the ship Regal Princess was refused permission to dock at the same port while coronavirus tests were carried out on two crew members on board (they were later given the all-clear) and the ship could be seen, suddenly stilled, off the coast. With the seed of paranoia planted, I couldn’t help but reach for the hand sanitiser every time I handed my passport over and cringed inwardly as one staff member tapped the boarding pass on my phone with her gloved hands.
Yet the mood inside the terminal was calm and ordered. Every passenger had their temperature taken as they entered and all passports were checked thoroughly to ensure no one had visited a high-risk country in the last two weeks. Neither check had happened when I’d entered the US at Miami airport a day earlier. Later I learnt even cruise passengers who were remaining on board following the previous cruise on the same ship were required to present themselves for their temperatures to be taken again before the second cruise began.