Figuring out risk/benefit calculus for cruise vacation as COVID drags o
October 9, 2021 6:04 PM   Subscribe

My 77yo mother has asked me to go on a 4 day cruise with her in one month. I keep seeing mental images of the news stories about ships not being allowed back on U.S. land. I assume that protocols are now such that this particular outcome is unlikely. But, I am not sure what to do based on my unique situation. Help me decide?

I just got the Pfizer booster so I will have fresh b cells by the time the cruise begins. I have autoimmune conditions but am not immunosuppressed. My mother IS immunosuppressed but her mental health is suffering greatly from COVID isolation especially as she has been in an assisted living facility with frequent lock downs, and is sad because my local family members rarely visit her or invite her over for fun/entertainment.

My son is the only one amongst family I will see at Thanksgiving who is not either naturally immune from getting COVID or vaccinated (or both). I could easily mask myself around him for 14 days upon my return.

I just... The risk/benefit calculus in the early stage of the pandemic isn't the same as now. I need to get out and see the world again, and I'd like to help my mother achieve improved mental health even at the risk of her physical health. And, it might not be much of a "vacation" for me as my mother is needy and immature, has multiple health issues impacting mobility etc , and could experience a medical crisis of various kinds. But she's also passively suicidal so if this will help her feel better, I'm ok with it.

While I would like to help my mother attempt to experience travel before she's truly too sick to do it anymore, I don't want to cause unnecessary risk to others. My work is fully virtual. My husband wears a mask at work and other employees are supposed to as well. I can mask around my unvaccinated child for 2 weeks.

And, if there is a good chance I could be trapped on a cruise ship like what happened in the early pandemic, I need some information to explain why that is, because if it's sound information I cannot conceive of going under any circumstances. I do not mind getting sick, especially since I can avoid spreading it to others. I do not mind my mother dying on this trip because she is choosing it to be happy. I do mind, very much, getting trapped on a cruise ship.
posted by crunchy potato to Human Relations (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Why a cruise? Is there some other kind of vacation you could take with your mother? Cruise ships are just about the worst case scenario for disease transmission. Chances are you won't get trapped on the ship (it hasn't happened that much lately), but it still feels like an odd choice for a vacation with a 77yo immunocompromised person.

Also, can you clarify your mother's vaccination status? I'm guessing she's vaccinated, but you didn't mention that detail. If she's not, then a cruise would be a hard no.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 6:32 PM on October 9, 2021 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: She is vaccinated and plans to get the booster. Cruise is her idea because she loves them. Her mobility issues really limit what else we could do.
posted by crunchy potato at 6:58 PM on October 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I just did a quick search and couldn't find any stories of ships being "stuck" since cruising resumed in summer and early fall. I'm not sure why you'd be "stuck" now since the original problem was not wanting to spread COVID to a new population and, well, COVID's just about everywhere now. You would probably be quarantined aboard the ship, but on a four-day trip, that would probably not be unbearable, if not pleasant, either.

Cruises aren't the wisest form of travel still, but I appreciate that you probably can't rewrite your mother's plans, especially at this late date, and it's this or nothing. Honestly, given all the circumstances you've provided, I'd go, but braced for it maybe not being the most fun time ever (e.g., give yourself a couple buffer vacation days afterwards if you can).
posted by praemunire at 6:59 PM on October 9, 2021 [5 favorites]

On the one hand, cruises spread disease incredibly fast. On the other hand, with a fresh booster? You'll have fresh antibodies, and even if you didn't have fresh ones, severe covid is greatly reduced because of your t cell memory.

I'd assume you'd be exposed a few times, but you probably wouldn't contract it or spread it.

I'd go! Live a little! For all the positive reasons!

And... I wouldn't quarantine from a 14 year old for 14 days... You only need to quarantine if you test positive. Get a test afterwards, and without symptoms, and a negative result, you'll be good.
posted by bbqturtle at 7:10 PM on October 9, 2021 [3 favorites]

Even as someone who would not take a cruise ship vacation at this point in the pandemic for the other reasons you've mentioned, "possibility of getting stuck on the ship" wouldn't cross my mind. If that's your dealbreaker, I don't think you need to worry about that specific thing at this point.
posted by Stacey at 8:04 PM on October 9, 2021 [3 favorites]

And... I wouldn't quarantine from a 14 year old for 14 days... You only need to quarantine if you test positive.

That very much depends on what happens on the cruise ship. If there's an outbreak on board, then I certainly would quarantine from loved ones until I had test results from a nasal swab done 5 days after my last possible exposure.
posted by mediareport at 9:06 PM on October 9, 2021 [5 favorites]

FWIW's this guy's blog* (probably not the most unbiased source, but probably not totally wrong either) seems to imply that breakthrough infections can still happen, and cruise lines are not always being forthcoming with the issue. Thus, IMHO it seems worthwhile to do a news/ social media search about the specific cruise line/ cruise itinerary.

*Content warning for covid-related deaths.

Also have you seen the CDC cruise ship color status?
posted by oceano at 1:16 AM on October 10, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I have a local acquaintance who goes on cruises with his wife, a former RN, and they work on the cruises for elderly people and their caregivers, like this outfit (note, I have no idea if it's the same one). Would something like this appeal to you and your mother?

Here is a list of their upcoming cruises. Note, in the description on the home page above, they cater to elderly folks with all kinds of issues, not just dementia.

He also just took a cruise to Greece with his wife, as a vacation, and said their handwashing and other protocols were very strict, and they did not feel unsafe in any way.

YMMV and there are no guarantees in life, but look into the cruises geared toward the elderly and their family/caregivers, whom you'd think they'd be extra cautious with, given the medical support provided.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 2:39 AM on October 10, 2021 [2 favorites]

Cruise ships are bad for airborne infections generally, I would get the flu jab if you haven’t had it yet this year. My assessment of the risks in your scenario is about the same as yours except I wouldn’t quarantine from the 14 yr old, I would take a test, get the results and then continue to quarantine only if positive.
posted by plonkee at 5:08 AM on October 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

Norwegian Cruise Lines had posted a lot of YouTube videos on their safety protocols that might be helpful for your thinking. One thing that I find insightful to note is that Norwegian is requiring vaccines of all passengers. I am not sure of the other lines.
posted by mortaddams at 7:09 AM on October 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

No to cruise. No to cruise. Oh lord no to cruise.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 9:46 AM on October 10, 2021

People are saying that your son is 14, but I don't see where you stated that. If he is 14, is there any chance that he could get vaccinated before your trip? Personally, I wouldn't feel comfortable going on a cruise and then going home to my not-vaccinated child, and counting on a wearing a mask to protect them - I just don't trust masks to that extent. If your son is an adult and you have no say-so over whether he receives the vaccine, he does not live with you, and you will only see him briefly at Thanksgiving, perhaps a mask plus a rapid covid test would make it safe enough?
posted by SageTrail at 10:02 AM on October 10, 2021

Best answer: I had zero desire to go on a cruise pre-COVID, and less desire now. That said, a 77-year-old may not have any cruises left and if the cruise line is requiring vaccinations, I think the risk of missing out on a something important to mom may be greater than the risk of any health issues from the cruise.
posted by COD at 10:02 AM on October 10, 2021 [4 favorites]

It sounds like the question here is really "Is it worth my mother's life to try to go on this cruise?" because other than your child not being vaccinated, it sounds like most other variables are accounted for, imprisonment on ships isn't a thing any more, you can quarantine from him, etc.

It sounds like if your mother is "passively suicidal" already, it might literally be worth her life to do it, for her. So if she wants to go and you're not against the idea and you're as protected as you can get....I guess you have my permission, for what that's worth.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:53 AM on October 10, 2021 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Small correction: My child is almost 5, not 14. The cruise line she uses requires vaccinations and a pre trip test, and has limited spots for unvaccinated only with medical exemption. It's not that hard to get a doc to say you can't get the shot unfortunately, but they already only release a limited number of spots and won't allow any disembarking for port activities for the unvaccinated.

There's a difference between policy and enforcement of course, but it sounds like they are being fairly strict so I will probably go.
posted by crunchy potato at 12:40 PM on October 10, 2021

Best answer: I don't know where you live, but if you're in the USA and your mom is completely average, it's likely she only has 12 years left to live. In my local area, a vaccinated 65+ year old has a hospitalization (not death) risk of 46 per 100,000 population (ie, 0.046%).

At this point in your mom's life, it is radically more likely she dies of natural causes than COVID. The vast majority of people on a cruise are vaccinated, whereas the average person is exposed to some number of unvaccinated people regularly. It seems to me you should let her have one of her last wishes in life.
posted by saeculorum at 3:01 PM on October 10, 2021 [2 favorites]

My SO loves to cruise. He has stage 4 cancer, mobility issues and some minor cognitive issues caused by long term Chemo. We have been on two cruises since they reopened and have another in January. Ships have reduced capacity, vaccine requirements and darn good cleaning protocols. We are careful and wear our masks in common spaces and elevators. We stay away from overly crowded groups (not real hard so far). Realistically he cannot do spread out resorts and overly active itineraries, Cruising allows him new places, good food, people watching, music, and a myriad of low key activities at his speed and if he gets tired, he is never more than 10 minutes from a lie down. If you like cruising or just want to support your Mother, just go.
posted by ReiFlinx at 9:30 AM on October 11, 2021 [2 favorites]

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