Q: I’ve heard that a few river cruises have started sailing again in Europe. Does that mean that, in the Covid era, small river cruises are less risky than big cruise ships?
A: Serene river ships, with their violin quartets and bookish shore guides, tend to accommodate about 150 passengers, so chances are indeed lower that you’ll contract coronavirus on those kind of vessels than, say, a 5,000-passenger ocean liner, laden with spin classes and Martini bars. Simply put: You’ll be exposed to fewer people and can more easily keep your distance. That’s one reason the CDC’s ban on cruise ships sailing in U.S. waters—through September, at the least—does not apply to vessels carrying fewer than 250 people. The handful of small ships that are sailing now, including the AmaKristina, which plies Germany’s Rhine, are carrying less than their typical passenger load. But don’t pack your deck shoes quite yet. The number of other people on board—even if they’re all masked up at the breakfast buffet—isn’t the only variable, said Dr. Edward Ryan, director of global infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “Where are the other passengers and crew coming from? From a high-risk environment? How much time will you spend indoors? And even if everyone came aboard without an infection, if they get off at ports, what’s the likelihood that they’ll bring it back to the ship? Those are just a few variables. We can probably think of 20 more,” said Dr. Ryan, adding that he personally wouldn’t risk a cruise vacation of any kind right now. He cites one possible exception: “If you could go on a cruise with the NBA ‘bubble,’ then you probably wouldn’t get Covid-19.”
Q: I’d like to go camping with my family one weekend this month in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but my wife is petrified to use the public bathrooms at the gas stations en route and at the campsite. Is she right to be worried?
A: Not to dampen the thrill of the proud new owners of Shewee, GoGirl, Feminal and the other restroom alternatives that have been flying off the virtual shelves this summer, but such products might be pointless. “I don’t think they have real value when it comes to preventing Covid-19,” said Dr. Maria Louisa Alcaide, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Miami. “As long as there aren’t too many people in the bathroom with you, it’s well ventilated, everyone is wearing a mask and you wash your hands, the risk is low.” Though those portable loos might serve another purpose: “People get very nervous about using public bathrooms,” said Dr. Alcaide. “If those [products] will make you feel more comfortable and enjoy your vacation, there’s value in that.”
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