Oh, the cruise life! The sun, the sea, the fun, the… viruses? Wait, that doesn’t sound like the dreamy vacation brochure we’ve all seen! But for Erin Montgomery, her last trip on the MS Zaandam cruise ship was far from the glamorous getaway she had imagined.
As the ship’s sanitation officer, Montgomery found herself in a real-life thriller. Picture this: a luxury cruise ship owned by Carnival Corp., anchored off Panama City, with over a thousand passengers and hundreds of crew members. Sounds like smooth sailing, right? Well, not quite.
The year was 2020, and unbeknownst to many, COVID-19 had sneaked aboard the Zaandam like an unwelcome stowaway. But, oh, it didn’t hesitate to make its presence known! “COVID-19 was tearing through the Zaandam,” investigative journalists Michael Smith and Jonathan Franklin wrote in their new book, Cruising Chaos: The Untold Story of the MS Zaandam. It was a gripping tale of a viral rampage on the high seas!
Montgomery’s recollection of the chaos is heart-wrenching. “It was horrible,” she recalls, fighting back tears. People falling ill, lives lost, and she felt powerless to stop it all. But hey, the virus didn’t send out RSVPs before boarding, did it?
As the ship sailed on its fateful journey, the virus silently wreaked havoc, and it took a chilling announcement from the captain to wake everyone up from their cruise daydreams: “Unfortunately, four of our guests have passed away.” Cue dramatic gasps!
But hold on, folks! The story didn’t end there. When the ship finally docked in Port Everglades, Fla., on April 2, 2020, four passengers were gone, and hundreds were fighting the viral beast. It was a journey that made headlines worldwide!
Now, here’s where it gets interesting. Fast forward a couple of years, and the cruise industry wants us to believe it’s all ancient history, that the pandemic is no biggie. Oh, how time flies when you’re trying to forget the past, right?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) once warned us to steer clear of cruise ships to avoid COVID-19’s clutches. But like a daring pirate, the CDC dropped its two-year advisory against cruise travel in late March. “Make your own risk assessment,” they said. Well, well, aren’t we feeling adventurous?
And guess what? People jumped back on board! Bookings soared, and the cruise lines were on cloud nine. It’s as if they’re saying, “Ahoy, pandemic, we’re sailing through!”
But let’s be real, fellow travelers. Can we change the basic facts? Airborne viruses love cruise ships! Even the CDC officials said that if they designed a machine for spreading COVID, it wouldn’t look much different from a cruise ship. Yikes!
Now, we’re not here to point fingers. The health officials on the Zaandam were like a tiny crew of their own, and higher-ups made some “devastating mistakes.” But hey, let’s not dwell on the past; let’s look ahead, shall we?
The big question now is, could it happen again? Current stats show that 100% of cruise ships with passengers have cases of COVID onboard. That’s like a viral party on the high seas!
As the protocols loosen and masks become optional for vaccinated guests, we can’t help but wonder if history will repeat itself. The voyage continues, but the waters are still choppy.
In the midst of it all, Montgomery, now 57, is ready to board a cruise ship again after two long years. “It’s been a struggle to pay the bills,” she says, as she ventures back into the cruise life, keeping her fingers crossed for smoother sailing this time.
So, ahoy there, fellow travelers! As you embark on your cruise adventures, may you be wise and vigilant like a seasoned sailor. Who knows what awaits you on those mysterious waters? Stay safe, stay vigilant, and bon voyage!