State Department: Avoid Cruise Ships

A prudent, if overdue, warning.

Despite the dangerous politicization of coronavirus by the White House, the US Department of State has issued a bold travel advisory:

U.S. citizens, particularly travelers with underlying health conditions, should not travel by cruise ship.  CDC notes increased risk of infection of COVID-19 in a cruise ship environment. In order to curb the spread of COVID-19, many countries have implemented strict screening procedures that have denied port entry rights to ships and prevented passengers from disembarking.  In some cases, local authorities have permitted disembarkation but subjected passengers to local quarantine procedures.

While the U.S. government has evacuated some cruise ship passengers in recent weeks, repatriation flights should not be relied upon as an option for U.S. citizens under the potential risk of quarantine by local authorities.  

This is a fluid situation.  CDC notes that older adults and travelers with underlying health issues should avoid situations that put them at increased risk for more severe disease.  This entails avoiding crowded places, avoiding non-essential travel such as long plane trips, and especially avoiding embarking on cruise ships.  Passengers with plans to travel by cruise ship should contact their cruise line companies directly for further information and continue to monitor the website and see the latest information from the CDC:

This, frankly, should have come weeks ago.

It’s obviously a declaration that will have a devastating impact on the industry. A whole lot of employees, especially those lower on the payscale, will be severely impacted. But it’s simply irresponsible to allow people to get on cruise ships during a global pandemic.

FILED UNDER: Environment, Health, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. grumpy realist says:


  2. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Avoiding Cruise Ships is sound policy, in any case.
    The only petri dish more effective than airplanes.

  3. James Joyner says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: Agreed. And at least people take airplanes for business, weddings, family emergencies, and other occasions where the urgency may outweigh the miniscule risk. Aside from the crews, who do it to make a living, there’s no reason anyone needs to be on a cruise ship that could possibly outweigh the risk.

  4. DrDaveT says:

    I currently am booked on a small-ship cruise from late May to early June. In Italy.

    Anyone want to give odds that this trip happens?

  5. Kathy says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    A cruise might be worse than an airplane, as an infected person has many interactions with many people for several days. And those people interact with lots of other people as well. Whereas in an airplane exposure is more limited and for only a few hours.

    Regardless, this is hitting the travel industry hard. Airlines all over are reducing capacity, grounding aircraft, canceling flights, etc. Lufthansa will ground their entire A380 fleet (14 planes).

    Things are so bad, some airlines are waiving change and cancellation fees.

  6. James Joyner says:


    We still live in a country guided by individual liberty. Make your own decisions and quit looking to government.

    I think most OTB readers had already figured out that booking a cruise isn’t a good idea. But a lot of Americans, not unreasonably, would have taken the position that, “Well, the government says it’s okay so I guess it’s safe.”

    Beyond that, there are probably tens of thousands of people who booked cruises ahead of the news of the outbreak. A State Department advisory will, I should think, allow them to cancel their flights, cruise bookings, etc. without financial penalty.

  7. Kathy says:

    @James Joyner:

    OMG. Weren’t you born with an advanced microbiology degree and a PhD in infectious diseases like the rest of us?

  8. Mister Bluster says:

    @Guarneri:..Do you guys always wait for the government to tell you what to do?

    Your boyfriend, President Puke IS THE GOVERNMENT!

    FEB 2
    “We pretty much shut it down coming in from China,” Mr. Trump said of the coronavirus. “But we can’t have thousands of people coming in who may have this problem, the coronavirus. So, we’re going to see what happens, but we did shut it down, yes.”

    FEB 24
    “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CDC & World Health have been working hard and very smart. Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”

    On Feb 24, two weeks ago there were 53 cases in the US. Today there are 500 and 22 dead.
    I repeat. Do not listen to the head of the United States Government. Donald Trump does not know what he is talking about

  9. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @DrDaveT: I won’t give any odds on a trip that soon. My wife and I are booked on a Greek Islands cruise in October. I have no idea if that one’s a “go”, either.

  10. grumpy realist says:

    (Story from the Daily Mail, which means that it might be totally made up, but anyway….)

    This shows why we’re probably going to all get exposed to coronavirus–because selfish jerks can’t be bothered to follow instructions on self-quarantine. Because of this idiot, a bunch of schools now are being shut down and a hotel has to worry about all of its employees–plus all the guests.

    @Guarneri: No, we can’t assume that people have common sense or a sense of responsibility. Witness the jerk in the story above.

  11. CSK says:

    That would be “martial law,” not “marshal law.”

  12. Jen says:

    @grumpy realist: It’s a real story, it was in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as well. The older daughter was apparently studying abroad, came home from Italy flying into Chicago and then took the train to St. Louis. She was quarantined at home, and the rest of the family was supposed to stay home too. Instead, the father and the younger daughter went to a father-daughter dance.

    The St. Louis area is incredibly segregated by high schools (literally one of the sorting questions people ask is “where’d you go to high school?”). This family lives in one of the wealthiest suburbs in the country (Ladue) and the daughter goes to a very fancy and expensive Catholic girls high school.

    I’m astonished by the utter selfishness of people. I shouldn’t be, but yeesh.

  13. grumpy realist says:

    @Jen: Considering the paucity of other suspects and the fact that he was warned to self-quarantine, Mr. Idiot has just opened himself to a huge amount of liability if anyone who attended that daughter-father dance comes down with coronavirus.

    I bet tort lawyers in St. Louis are licking their chops even as we speak….I suspect that the possibility of tort liability is the only thing that will get certain Americans to start acting sensibly.

  14. CSK says:

    @Jen: @grumpy realist: It’s possible the family has been convinced that all the press about COVID-19 is a nothing more than a plot to bring down Trump.

    ETA: According to Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair today, Trump fears journalists on AF-1 might try deliberately to infect him with the coronavirus.

  15. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @DrDaveT: Well, I wouldn’t be taking the trip, but 67, COPD, and asthma make all three strikes necessary to call the out.

  16. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Guarneri: Just when I imagined that it would be impossible for you to ever say anything stupider than you all ready have, you come up with this plunge for the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Well Done!

  17. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    … Trump fears journalists on AF-1 might try deliberately to infect him with the coronavirus.

    From Trump’s fevered imagination to God’s ears. (And no, I’m not a particularly nice person. I try to be, but fail often.)

  18. Kathy says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    There’s this doctor, Barry Marshall, who claimed, against conventional wisdom, that peptic ulcers were caused by a bacterial infection. He advocated for treatment using antibiotics.

    He wasn’t taken seriously. So he drank some of the bacteria in question, H. pylori, and sure enough, he developed ulcers. He then treated himself with antibiotics and made a full recovery.

    Since Trump and many in his circle, like Rush Limbaugh, claim the new coronavirus is no worse than the flu or the common cold, they should acquire the infection and prove it.

  19. Gustopher says:


    Do you guys always wait for the government to tell you what to do? Do you have any common sense or sense of self responsibility? Are you emotionally 17 years old?

    I remember when I wasn’t living in the heart of an epidemic. And then there was a period where I was, but that information was being deliberately avoided if not intentionally withheld by the government.

    Those were the days.