Cruises out of the United States are still banned, but in Europe, where Covid-19 infections are under much better control, cruises are just beginning to resume.
MSC Cruises was the first big mainstream line to come back, albeit with a strict set of safety protocols to avoid any outbreaks on board.
One of the new rules is that passengers must remain under the watch of crew or contracted ship employees at all times. That means that when ships call at ports, you can't explore on your own. Instead, all passengers must agree to stick to cruise line–sanctioned groups.
This rule seems draconian on the surface, but it's designed to ensure that everyone remains in the same "travel bubble" following the same rigorous protocols, allowing little chance to introduce pathogens to the larger group.
This week, a family was booted from the MSC Grandiosa after they wandered away from their shore excursion group in Naples, Italy.
"This family broke from the 'social bubble' created for them and all other guests, and therefore could not be permitted to re-board the ship," an MSC rep told the press.
The MSC Grandiosa, a new ship that began service only last October, was on a seven-night, round-trip itinerary from Genoa, Italy. Because current travel restrictions prevent many nationalities from entering Europe, all passengers were from the European Union.
The bubble-breaking guests never made it back on board and the ship was able to continue sailing as planned.
It's a sobering glimpse at what cruising will look like until Covid-19 is solved. Travelers who are fond of breaking away from the herd and striking out on their own may find that pandemic-era cruising is not conducive to independence. It may be group tours or nothing—and that will change whether many people choose cruise vacations at all.