6 Head-Scratching Things That Are Open While Cruises Are Not

Ships have been empty of passengers since cruises stopped sailing.

For many, it’s time to get back to cruising.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) asked the public for comments on a return to cruising and the issues facing safe sailing. Many of the public comments were strongly in favor of a return of cruises:

  • Bottom line is that we are adults and can make our own choices and decide risks ourselves. Cruise ships are extraordinarily clean and cautious for their customers. I’m not afraid to sail today, if I were allowed.
  • We choose if we want to sail or not. People go to beaches that are packed, casinos, public sporting events, and so forth but people who cruise are not allowed?
  • I personally feel that cruising should resume immediately. The cruise lines have gone above and beyond to insure passenger safety yet the industry receives a great deal of bad press and is singled out whenever a small incident takes place. 

As we move into roughly eight months since the virus upended our daily lives, it’s clear that many people want to move to a new phase where we learn to live alongside the illness and get back to some semblance of normalcy.

Of course at the same time, there are some valid reasons that cruises have yet to sail again.

The virus is highly contagious, continues to spread rapidly around the United States and world, and the enclosed areas of cruise ships — with thousands of passengers in close proximity — is considered a conducive place for spread.

Add to that the fact that older people (which are a major segment of cruise passengers) have a more difficult time battling the virus.

Confusing Why Some Activities Are Allowed, but Not Cruises
Truth is, there are good arguments from both points of view about why cruises should be sailing and why they should not.

No matter your opinion, however, there is no arguing that in many ways our day-to-day life is getting back to normal. Around the country, many things are opening back up — albeit often in limited capacity and with safety rules in place.

But these openings do beg important questions. Why is that a movie theater can be open but a cruise ship can’t? Why can bars serve patrons, but passengers can’t have a day by the pool?

That’s not to argue for or against a return cruising, but simply point out some head-scratching logic that seems to be going on between what you can do in many places, yet not go on a cruise. 

Here are several locations that are currently open while ships remain with no passengers.

Movie Theaters

movie theater

Want to go watch a movie? There aren’t many new films being released and the year-over-year ticket sales are down to just a fraction of what they usually are. Even so, theaters have opened in dozens of states. If you want to go see a movie, then there’s little stopping you.

Of course, many new rules are in effect. That includes social distancing and facemask requirements. These rules are similar to the ones suggested by cruise lines when they eventually do return to cruising.


One of the favorite hot spots in the evening on a cruise ship is the casino. Every ship (outside of Disney and a handful of other liners) has one, and it will be busy every night.

While you can’t gamble on a cruise right now, you can gamble in many places around the country. Even though Las Vegas casinos took the unprecedented action of closing down at the start of the pandemic, they are now open.

Of course, playing looks a bit different than it used to with more distancing between players and lots of protective plexiglass. Even so, it seems odd that you could go play in Vegas, but not on a ship.


For many people weight gain due to COVID is a real thing. It even has a nickname — “Quarantine 15.”

One reason for that weight gain? Gyms were closed down during the start of the pandemic, and seemingly for good reason. With the virus spreading through the air and from person to person, a gym — where people are breathing heavily — seems like it would be a prime location to catch the bug.

Even so, gyms in most (if not all) states are re-opened. Of course there are plenty of rules in place and sanitation and distancing are the rule of the day. Still, it seems strange that you’d be able to go work out around others but not take a cruise.


Atrium Bar on Norwegian Encore

Everyone knows that bars are a big feature of cruising. Alcohol flows like water from the moment you step on board, and bars are dotted all around the ship.

At the same time, many officials have linked bars to the spread of coronavirus. The bar atmosphere usually includes loud talking and lots of close interaction between patrons. Even so, bars in many places are open. This includes the busiest cruise state — Florida.

Want to drink at sea? You still have some time to wait.

Sporting Events

Sports returning have been a welcome reprieve from the monotony of the quarantine and lockdown policies. It’s a sign that shows some hope that one day we will get back to normal.

Even so, sports look very different than they did before. The action on the field looks familiar, but stands are either completely empty or limited capacity. Even at limited capacity, however, tens of thousands are still attending some events. A football game at the University of Alabama attracted nearly 20,000 fans. Meanwhile, teams are practicing and playing, putting dozens of players in close proximity to each other.

Cruise lines have started sailing in Europe and do so at limited capacity, similar to a football game with a smaller crowd. In the United States, however, that hasn’t been the case yet.


Cruise line drink package calculator

Eating a great meal can be one of the highlights of a cruise, but right now you can’t do it. Want to eat on land, however, and you’re absolutely free to do so.

Restaurants have been among the hardest-hit industries (outside of cruising, of course!) in the wake of COVID. Many have shut down and even today still have limited seating capacity. In fact, take-out orders have become the norm for many.

With limited capacity onboard, cruise ships seem like they would be especially able to adapt to this new environment. Meals delivered to cabins or offering outdoor seating would both promote distancing more than eating inside a restaurant on land.

Essential Activities Also Open

In the list above, we’ve purposely kept our list to those things you can do that are voluntary — just like cruising.

That said, there are some activities that are essential and put people in closer proximity than they would likely see on a cruise. For these things, it’s not head-scratching at all why they are allowed while cruising is not. Still, these show that there will always be risk and avoiding all close contact is impossible.

Airlines have been hard hit as travel has been curtailed by millions of people. Even so, there’s hardly anywhere that seems more conductive to spreading a virus than on a plane. With hundreds of passengers packed tightly and sitting in a confined space for hours on end, it’s hard to imagine that cases aren’t being spread this way.

Even so, there has been no nationwide shutdown of flying as it’s essential for many.

There’s some debate on whether or not public transportation is tied to the spread of COVID. While public transportation puts people in close proximity to one another, it’s often for shorter time periods.

Where there is no debate is that transportation is essential for people to get to work, grocery stores, and more.

One of the most controversial re-openings in this pandemic has been schools. Some places have virtual learning, some places are in-person, and some are a hybrid. Meanwhile, some have described re-opening schools as extremely dangerous while others declare in-person class as essential. Either way, it puts many students in close proximity of one another, along with teachers.

So far the results seem mixed. Some universities have had to deal with outbreaks. High schools and below seem to have largely been spared, with The Washington Post declaring in a headline, “Feared coronavirus outbreaks in schools yet to arrive, early data shows“.

Bottom line: Whenever cruises do return to the United States, there’s no doubt that everyone — from naysayers to media to potential passengers — will be on high alert for any outbreaks. And cruise lines will no doubt take extreme precautions to limit the spread.

But in comparison to many of the day-to-day activities that have been allowed around the country, it seems confusing that things like movie theaters, bars, and gyms are allowed to operate while cruising is not.

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