Sunday, August 16, 2020

sea change

Before everything went to shit due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Mrs. Pincus and I had a cruise booked for the final week of October 2020. I had scheduled for the time off from work (a new job I had started full-time in February). At the end of the work day on March 13, my employer informed everyone to take home their desk computers and instructions on how to log on to the company network were distributed via email. After six weeks of "working from home," my entire department (as well as others) was dissolved and every employee — save for a skeleton crew — was let go. 

Industries across the country were shutting down, having employees work from home where applicable. Businesses that operated with patrons in close proximity — amusement parks, movie theaters, concert and sports venues — were shuttered. And all cruise lines discontinued all scheduled cruises for a few months. Our October cruise was nearly paid-in-full. With no regular income — except for my meager unemployment insurance payment — the price of a cruise is money that we could use for other, more essential needs. The problem is, if we canceled the trip, we would be penalized. We would stand to lose a portion of our deposit that we could not afford to lose. So, we would have to wait.... patiently. When you are stuck in your house for eleventy thousand weeks with no job, patience is not very easy to come by.

As the weeks of quarantine turned into months of quarantine, cruise lines were regularly assessing the safety and logistics of re-starting business. Mrs. Pincus and I closely followed the proposed scenarios and alternate procedures being suggested by cruise lines. We weren't too pleased with the solutions and how temporary or permanent they'd need to be.

Well, in a cavalcade of mixed feelings, our October cruise was canceled by Carnival. We, of course, were disappointed that we would not be going on a cruise. We were relieved, however, that we would not have to make what could possibly be a life-or-death decision about taking a cruise. Carnival made that decision for us. And we were offered a full refund of everything we had paid to date... which was, indeed, everything.

My wife and I began to assess the future of cruising. Since our first cruise seven years ago, my wife and I have become very enthusiastic about going on cruises. We like what we like about cruising. I assume that everyone who takes a cruise likes it for specific activities, even if they are different from the ones we like. We have a great time, which, based on my feelings before my first cruise, is very surprising to me. Sure, nearly every cruise we have taken was identical, but that's the experience we enjoy. We like to play trivia games. We like to go to the buffet. (I really like to go to the buffet!) We like the kitschy entertainment. We like meeting new people that we probably will never see again — but, thanks to the magic of the internet, can maintain a friendship as though they lived right next door. But, under the current circumstances as defined by the malevolent coronavirus, all the things we love about cruising will have to change. And that's the part we are wrestling with. Do we really want to take a cruise that is a completely different experience than our previous cruises? 

Well, the buffets would have to be eliminated to cut down on so many different people handling plates and serving utensils... not to mention those travelers who just handle the actual food with their hands.

Showrooms would have to reconfigure seating to allow for social distancing. Heck, the entire ship would have difficulty maintaining social distancing, from the narrow corridors, to the cramped, but mandatory muster drills, to the closeness of seating in the main dining rooms, sometimes with total strangers.

Our beloved trivia games would need to keep participants six feet apart, leading to players taking up huge areas of lounges and forcing the activity's host to speak even louder, repeating questions and stretching play time way past the time allotted for the event. Multiply that by every on-board activity for the entire week and I see a lot of disappointed passengers. Plus, there is the intimacy of bars and discos and swimming and water slides and sports.... ecchhh! it's a mess. Then there's the issue of other people not following the rules. And people on cruises love to not follow the rules. I don't think I want to spend the money for a cruise and not get the cruise I am used to. Until I am sure the cruise industry will go back to the way it was — the way I'm used to — Mrs. Pincus and I will have to pass, albeit reluctantly.

When this is all over (when ever that is), will we define our life timeline as BC (Before COVID-19) and AC (After COVID-19)? 

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