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Cruise passengers’risk reduction strategies in the wake of COVID-19
, Tim Mazzarol
,Geoﬀrey N. Soutar
, Suellen Tapsall
Wendy A. Elliott
Brighton Business School, University of Brighton, Brighton, UK;
Suﬀolk Business School, University of Suﬀolk, Ipswich, UK;
Business School, University of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia;
Division of Education and Students, University of
Technology Sydney, Ultimo, Australia
The COVID-19 pandemic devastated the cruise sector with an initial global shutdown
and ongoing patchy resumption, widespread reporting of virus transmission onboard
and billions of dollars in economic losses. This study explores how COVID-19 has
impacted Australian and UK consumers’risk perceptions, revealing cruises are no
longer considered “safe”. Consumers are more negative about, and less willing to,
cruise. Cluster and Leximancer analyses identiﬁed ﬁve distinct market segments
diﬀerentiated by the extent of travel risk they perceived. Speciﬁc risk reduction
strategies are identiﬁed and include risk mitigation, use of risk relievers, and risk
Risk; tourism; risk reduction;
cruise ship; COVID-19; cruise
The COVID-19 pandemic devastated global tourism,
with the cruise sector particularly aﬀected. The pan-
demic had signiﬁcant impact on ocean cruising as
cruise operations were suspended for months with
multi-billion-dollar ﬁnancial losses, the shedding of
tens of thousands of jobs, with some cruise lines
going out of business, others restructuring and
reﬁnancing and the sale of ships (Cruise Lines Inter-
national Association [CLIA], 2020a; Levin, 2020). The
largest corporation, Carnival Cruise Lines, had to
secure an investment loan of $26.3bn after losses
of $10bn (BBC, 2021). The cruise sector was particu-
larly aﬀected due to high infection rates among
crew and passengers (Mizumoto & Chowell, 2020;
Moriarty et al., 2020; Rocklöv et al., 2020), and
experienced unprecedented cancelations and econ-
omic losses (Chen et al., 2021). Thousands of passen-
gers were stranded onboard, as cruise ships were
held in quarantine or refused entry to ports as
borders closed. Prior to the pandemic, the cruise
sector had experienced robust growth and 2020
should have been a record year, with 32 million pas-
sengers expected to sail (CLIA, 2019b,2020b).
Cruise ships have been negatively associated with
COVID-19 after a large cluster of cases were conﬁrmed
onboard several ships, including the Diamond Prin-
cess, the Ruby Princess, and the Grand Princess (Ito
et al., 2020). There were at least 700 conﬁrmed cases
of COVID-19 on the Diamond Princess, which related
to 14 deaths (Leﬄer & Hogan, 2020). Globally, more
than 50 cruise ships reported conﬁrmed cases of
COVID-19, with at least 83 deaths (Dolven et al.,
2020). In Australia, risk perceptions were particularly
aﬀected by the saga of the Ruby Princess, which
would be linked to more than 1221 cases and 28
deaths (Davies et al., 2020; Walker, 2020).
Prior to 2020, Australia was performing strongly in
the cruise travel sector, as cruising had become the
country’s fastest growing tourism sector (CLIA Austra-
lasia, 2018). Australia had a higher market penetration
than the rest of the world and was the only passenger
source market in which 1 in 17 people had cruised
(CLIA, 2019a;CLIA Australasia, 2018) with 1.35
million Australians cruising in 2019 (CLIA, 2020c).
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
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is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.
CONTACT Jennifer Holland email@example.com Brighton Business School, University of Brighton, Mithras House, Lewes Road,
Brighton BN2 4AT, UK
ASIA PACIFIC JOURNAL OF TOURISM RESEARCH
Industry reports estimated the contribution of the
cruise sector to the Australian economy was worth
$5.2 billion in 2018 and was an increase of 11%
from the previous ﬁnancial year (CLIA, 2019b). The
Australian government ceased all cruise travel from
March 2020 and it was anticipated there would be
no resumption of cruising in Australian waters
before 2022 at the earliest, with oﬃcials continuing
to advise cruise travel posed an unacceptable public
health risk (Holland et al., 2021; Seatrade Cruise
The UK had also enjoyed increasing demand for
cruising, with more cruise lines operating in that
region. In 2019 a record two million passengers
cruised from the UK and Ireland, making this the
third largest passenger source market after the
United States and Germany (CLIA, 2020c). Signiﬁ-
cantly, the UK represents 28% of cruise passengers
in Europe (Business Research & Economic Advisors
[BREA], 2019) and generated £10 billion for the UK
economy in 2019 (BREA, 2020). The UK ceased cruise
operations in March 2020 and restarted at a reduced
capacity in May 2021 (Seatrade Cruise News, 2021b).
Cruise lines operating in the UK must follow stringent
protocols developed by the UK Chamber of Shipping
and CLIA (UK Chamber of Shipping, 2020). Australia
and the UK were selected as research sites due to
the signiﬁcant impact of the pandemic on the cruise
sector in these regions.
The COVID-19 pandemic highlights potential risks
involved in travel, and how risk perceptions,
whether real or imagined, can signiﬁcantly impact
travel decisions (Chen et al., 2021; Mizrachi & Fuchs,
2016; Neuburger & Egger, 2021). Understanding how
tourists manage risk is important as perceived risk
inﬂuences travel decisions including destination
choice, travel intentions, information search and pre-
purchase behaviour (Fuchs & Reichel, 2011; Kim
et al., 2016; Quintal et al., 2010; Reisinger &
Mavondo, 2005; Yang & Nair, 2014). This issue is par-
ticularly important, as travel products are risky due
to their intangibility, high cost and complexity (Lin
et al., 2009), vulnerable to crises and disasters (Chen
et al., 2021) with many researchers acknowledging
that risk is an unavoidable part of travel (Williams &
Baláž,2013; Yang et al., 2017).
Tourists, as consumers, develop strategies to reduce
risk and manage uncertainty to a tolerable level (Bauer,
1960;Mizrachi&Fuchs,2016). However, there is a gap
in our understanding of how risk perceptions inﬂuence
cruise decision-making, with scholars calling for more
research on this topic (Holland, 2020; Le & Arcodia,
2018), particularly in relation to risk-reduction
because of COVID-19 (Quintal et al., 2021).
More research is needed to better understand how
COVID-19 may have changed how risk is perceived
and managed when people consider a cruise
holiday. Studies are emerging addressing this impor-
tant topic, including work by Quintal et al. (2021)
and Yuen et al. (2021) examining the impact of
COVID-19 on cruise travel. Potential cruisers need to
consider aspects such as health protocols, outbreak
prevention plans, onboard cleaning procedures,
social distancing measures and health screenings
prior to boarding. Additionally, potential cruisers
may need to consider implications of possible out-
breaks during a cruise, which may result in them
being quarantined in their cabin. Cruises may be ter-
minated should there be an outbreak on the ship or
in the region that the cruise ship is visiting, resulting
in a need to return home suddenly. All of this adds
to the complexity and uncertainty associated with
the decision to cruise and what actions can be taken
to mitigate the risks involved. Consequently, the
present study was undertaken to investigate how
risk perceptions of ocean cruising have changed
because of the pandemic, to identify risk reduction
strategies cruisers might use to manage risk.
Tourists’risk perceptions are inﬂuenced by preference
for familiarity or novelty (Cohen, 1972; Lepp & Gibson,
2003; Reichel et al., 2007; Wang et al., 2019), chrono-
logical or cognitive age (Amatulli et al., 2015; Guido
et al., 2014), subjective knowledge (Perpiña et al.,
2021) and travel experience (Karl et al., 2020; Moraka-
bati et al., 2012; Roehl & Fesenmaier, 1992). There has
been debate about whether gender inﬂuences risk
perceptions (Jordan & Gibson, 2005; Lepp & Gibson,
2003; Li et al., 2020; Yang et al., 2017), with results
being inconclusive. An individual’s tolerance level
for risk may also be inﬂuenced by their national
culture (Fuchs & Reichel, 2004; Kozak et al., 2007),
social status, educational level, motivation, or person-
ality attributes (Breakwell, 2014; Hasan et al., 2017;
Korstanje, 2011; Le & Arcodia, 2018) or prior travel
experience (Bowen et al., 2014; Kozak et al., 2007).
Other factors seem to be biological in origin, such as
DNA or neural chemistry (Ropeik, 2004), or external
including physical and ideological contexts (Break-
well, 2014; Douglas & Wildavsky, 1982; Korstanje,
2J. HOLLAND ET AL.
2011). However, past research has been very limited in
relation to tourists’risk perceptions of ocean cruising.
Such research seems particularly important at this
time, as the cruise sector has, arguably, been devas-
tated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Le and Arcodia (2018) are, to date, the only
researchers to develop a framework for investigating
risk perceptions for cruise passengers. The framework
identiﬁed ﬁve cruise-related risks: infection outbreaks,
sexually transmissible infections, motion sickness,
cruise accidents, and terrorism, piracy, crime.
Holland (2020) explored cruiser and non-cruiser’
health and safety risk perceptions of cruising;
ﬁnding that perceived risk inﬂuenced tourist
decision-making. In that study, non-cruisers perceived
more risk of getting sick onboard, while cruisers
reported developing strategies to minimise getting
sick, such as handwashing. Overall, both cruisers and
non-cruisers perceived a cruise as a safe holiday but
worried about health aspects.
Liu-Lastres et al. (2019) investigated customer
responses to communication given by a cruise line
about a theoretical norovirus outbreak, speciﬁcally
looking at how communication inﬂuenced infor-
mation search behaviour, safety perceptions and
cruise travel intentions. They found eﬀective and
accurate information helped passengers feel safer
and better able to cope with a potential outbreak.
Their study also highlighted the importance of tailor-
ing messages to diﬀerent audiences and suggested
emotion aﬀected how messages were interpreted.
If an individual consumer’s risk tolerance is surpassed,
the consumer will abandon the purchase or take steps
to mitigate the risk in purchasing a service or product
(Li et al., 2020; Mitchell, 1999; Roselius, 1971; Taylor,
1974; Wai et al., 2019). Risk reduction strategies
include the use of risk relievers, risk mitigation and
risk avoidance. A risk reliever is a device or action,
initiated by a buyer or seller, used to reduce risk by
decreasing the probability the purchase will fail or
to shift the perceived loss to a level tolerable for the
consumer (Roselius, 1971). Examples of this include
choosing well-known brands, preferencing brands
used in the past, selecting products tested by govern-
ment, recommended by friends or family, or endorsed
by a celebrity or expert. Risk mitigation refers to
eﬀorts to reduce loss or the consequences of unex-
pected outcomes (Fang et al., 2014), and can
include buying from reputable sources, buying
brands that have a money-back guarantee. Risk avoid-
ance refers to purchasing only when certain of the
outcome (Quintal et al., 2010).
Tourists engage in additional risk reduction strategies,
such as conducting detailed information searches (Lee
et al., 2019; Quintal et al., 2021), using advice from
family and friends, consulting those who have experi-
ence in relevant destinations and modifying the time
spent in each destination (Fuchs & Reichel, 2011; Lin
et al., 2009; Lo et al., 2011; Mansfeld et al., 2016; Miz-
rachi & Fuchs, 2016). To reduce risk they might book
through travel agents, travel in groups, book
packages, purchase travel insurance or book shorter
trips (Chien et al., 2017; Matiza, 2020; Nugraha et al.,
2020), get vaccinated and take medical precautions
(Yeung & Yee, 2020). The most signiﬁcant way tourists
handle risk is through destination avoidance (Nugraha
et al., 2016; Promsivapallop & Kannaovakun, 2018;
Quintal et al., 2010; Sönmez & Graefe, 1998).
However, an emphasis on destination avoidance fails
to adequately explain how tourists manage risk for
ocean cruises that may visit several destinations and
fails to recognise the complex decision-making
involved when choosing a cruise holiday.
Risk handling in ocean cruising
Prior to COVID-19, research on risk reduction strategies
in ocean cruise was limited to examining information
search (De La Vina & Ford, 2001; Petrick et al., 2007)
or brand loyalty. Studies have found cruise passengers
often choose the same brand based on previous
experience and familiarity (Hung & Petrick, 2011;Li&
Petrick, 2008; Petrick et al., 2007). Research has
shown cruise consumers were notable for their
loyalty to the cruise experience, with 62% of cruise pas-
sengers repeat cruising (see CLIA, 2016; Sun et al.,
2018), even after experiencing H1N1 or norovirus out-
breaks (Holland, 2020). CLIA (2021)foundconcerns
about COVID-19 had not aﬀected cruisers, with two
out of three cruisers saying they planned to cruise
again in the next year or two. Other research supports
this, noting repeat cruisers have said they feel safe
onboard and have conﬁdence in and trust the cruise
lines to look after them (Bowen et al., 2014; Holland,
2020). This supports the wider tourist risk literature,
which found prior travel experience may inﬂuence
ASIA PACIFIC JOURNAL OF TOURISM RESEARCH 3
risk perceptions (see Fuchs & Reichel, 2011; Kim et al.,
2016; Lepp & Gibson, 2003;Mansfeldetal.,2016;Shar-
ifpour et al., 2014;Tan&Wu,2016; Williams & Baláž,
2013). Sharifpour et al. (2014) suggested travel experi-
ence increased a tourist’s cumulative knowledge and
added information through experiences, while
Sönmez and Graefe (1998) found travel experience to
a destination decreased the perception of risk for
travel to that destination. Similarly, Henthorne et al.
(2013)foundﬁrst-time cruisers experienced more dis-
comfort ashore than did repeat cruisers. Thus, cruise
passengers may perceive less risk when they cruise
repeatedly, as they are familiar with cruising and
know what to expect.
Prior cruise travel experience may reduce health
risk perceptions (Baker & Stockton, 2013; Holland,
2020; Liu et al., 2016). Notable studies include Baker
and Stockton’s(2013) investigation of health percep-
tions and responses, suggesting (at that time) that
cruise passengers were not concerned about getting
sick and ﬁnding those who cruised more often took
precautions to avoid getting sick. These precautions
included consulting with their healthcare prac-
titioners before cruising and taking personal
measures to prevent getting sick, providing evidence
that past cruise experience impacted risk perceptions.
Liu et al. (2016) found cruise passengers’perceived
self-eﬃcacy moderated the relationship between the
perceived risk of contracting norovirus and the per-
ceived overall safety of cruising. In other words, tour-
ists with more cruise experience take more
preventative steps to protect themselves, increasing
their conﬁdence in preventing illness while on a
cruise. Similarly, Fisher et al. (2018) and Holland
(2020) found cruise passengers used handwashing
to prevent illness onboard and understood the impor-
tance of social distancing to avoid transmission.
While some cruise passengers may book a cruise
because of the perceived ease of access to medical
care, Klein et al. (2017) pointed out this was not
always the case, noting the lack of standardisation
in facilities onboard or medical staﬀ, with widely
diﬀering levels of medical qualiﬁcations (also Dahl &
Stannard, 2015). The authors identiﬁed wide variation
between what cruise passengers expect and what
exists, and the diﬃculty surrounding liability should
something go wrong. There is also increased
diﬃculty in medical evacuations from cruise ships
when sailing in remote destinations (Lück et al.,
2010; Stewart et al., 2007), which may be of more
concern when cruise operations resume after
COVID-19. However, the lack of data available in
relation to the COVID-19 pandemic suggests more
research is needed to determine if, or how, health
concerns about cruise holidays have changed,
especially considering the many cruise ships that
had conﬁrmed cases of the coronavirus onboard.
The impact of COVID-19 on the cruise sector
As the COVID-19 pandemic has had a signiﬁcant
impact on how people perceive health risks in cruis-
ing, it provides an opportunity to develop a deeper
understanding of how anxiety around health inﬂu-
ences cruise choices and, signiﬁcantly, what steps
cruise passengers might take in the future. A gap
exists in the literature in identifying how tourists
manage the risks of a cruise holiday, particularly
health risks, despite several previous infectious out-
breaks on cruise ships& amp; amp; amp; nbsp;(see
Kak, 2007; Lanini et al., 2014; Mouchtouri & Rudge,
2015; Neri et al., 2008). Further, little is understood
about what speciﬁc risk reduction strategies potential
cruise passengers employ to manage and mitigate
such risks as COVID-19. Thus, research needs to look
more deeply into how health anxieties inﬂuence risk
perceptions and explore how access to medical care
might inﬂuence cruise decision-making, especially
Quintal et al. (2021) are one of the ﬁrst studies to
investigate risk reducing behaviours for cruise tourists
in relation to COVID-19, ﬁnding health information
had a signiﬁcant positive impact on reducing travel
anxiety for some Australian cruisers. A framework
was proposed to guide risk communication to estab-
lish trust and handle risk, including focusing on com-
petence, consistency, consideration, and conviviality
(Quintal et al., 2021; Renn & Levine, 1991).
Further, few studies have examined risk strategies
beyond a narrow emphasis on cruisers in the United
States, perhaps because this is the largest cruise pas-
senger source market (CLIA, 2020c). Thus, our knowl-
edge is limited, and more research is needed, as there
may be diﬀerences in risk perceptions and risk
reduction methods between regions. For example,
Mahadevan’s(2016) study found brand reputation
and brand loyalty were less important to Australian
cruisers, which diﬀers from other studies which
found brand loyalty was inﬂuential in cruise
decision-making (see Ahn et al., 2021; Li & Petrick,
2008). This may be signiﬁcant as brand loyalty is a
risk reliever. An understanding of regional diﬀerences
4J. HOLLAND ET AL.
is critically important in predicting how cruisers will
respond in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic
and how risk perceptions will inﬂuence future cruise
travel decision-making and behaviour. As diﬀerent
markets begin to restart operations, understanding
regional diﬀerences will be even more important.
Prior research has found evidence of these diﬀer-
ences, with Holland et al. (2021) reporting that Austra-
lians were more negative about cruising because of
COVID-19 in comparison to respondents living in the
UK. This may be explained by the more extensive
media negative coverage in Australia in relation to
the Ruby Princess and other cruise-related deaths
and passenger-related COVID-19 transmissions.
Similarly, industry research conducted in the UK
during the height of the pandemic found 83% of UK
travellers aged 50–70 said given enough time and a
vaccine they would cruise again. However, a trend is
emerging where more cruisers are saying they
would not cruise again the longer the pandemic con-
tinued (Silver Travel Advisor, 2021). Further, 17% of
cruiser respondents indicated they would never
ocean cruise again, up from 14% at the start of the
research in May 2020 (Silver Travel Advisor, 2020).
Other research has also noted the pandemic’s nega-
tive impact on repeat cruisers’behavioural intentions
and willingness to cruise (Radic et al., 2021). The
increased perceived risk of cruising is particularly sig-
niﬁcant, as many cruise tourists are risk averse (Tarlow,
2006) and ensuring a safe and healthy cruise is para-
mount for the cruise sector (Liu-Lastres et al., 2019).
While research suggests those with more cruise
experience may take more actions to prevent illness
(Baker & Stockton, 2013; Liu et al., 2016), there is
less known about other steps cruise tourists might
take to reduce other risks. This is important as the
cruise industry seeks to restart operations, highlight-
ing the need to understand how to encourage
people to return to cruising and what risk reduction
strategies might assist in this transition. These issues
were examined in the present study, which is dis-
cussed in subsequent sections.
The study used a mixed-method approach in the
methodology comprising a large-scale consumer
survey with both psychometric scales for quantitative
analysis, and open-ended items for qualitative analy-
sis. The following sub-sections outline the method-
Questionnaire design and data collection
The survey incorporated items from a number of
applicable scales, including those focused on per-
ceived overall value, word of mouth, risk avoidance,
change and willingness to purchase (see, for
example, Quintal et al., 2010; Sweeney et al., 2008;
Sweeney & Soutar, 2001). This paper is primarily con-
cerned with cruisers’perceptions of cruise travel risk
and their responses to six items adapted and devel-
oped from the 15-item travel risk scale presented by
Floyd and Pennington-Gray (2004) and a number of
subsequent studies (e.g. Abraham et al., 2020; Choi
et al., 2019; Floyd et al., 2004; Schroeder et al.,
2013). The six items are:
.I feel nervous about travelling right now
.Travelling is risky right now
.I would feel very uncomfortable if I was travelling
.Travelling now could cause me trouble
.It would be risky for me to travel now
.There is a potential loss for me if I should travel
To better understand the risk associated with
diﬀerent types of travel, respondents answered
these items with respect to domestic travel, inter-
national travel, and ocean cruising, with a seven-
point Likert-type disagree–agree scale being used in
each case. Some background information (e.g. age,
gender, and cruising history) was also obtained for
classiﬁcation purposes and open-ended questions
were included to provide additional insights into the
Data were collected from 369 cruiser respon-
dents in Australia and the UK in June 2020 at the
height of the COVID-19 crisis. The survey was admi-
nistered by an international consumer panel
company and was not intended to be a representa-
tive sample of the population of either Australia or
the UK, but rather to obtain a mix of respondents
who had not cruised and those with cruising
experience who were generally representative of
the cruising population. Thus, a minimum number
of cruisers aged 40 or older was targeted given the
average age of Australian cruisers was 49 and 57 for
UK passengers (CLIA, 2019a; CLIA Australasia, 2018).
The sample included 283 Australian and 86 UK
respondents who had cruised previously, compared
to only 6% of Australians (CLIA Australasia, 2018)
ASIA PACIFIC JOURNAL OF TOURISM RESEARCH 5
and 3% of UK residents (CLIA UK & Ireland, 2019) who
have cruised when compared to the wider national
population. As can be seen in Table 1, the samples
were similar in terms of their socio-demographic
An initial analysis suggested some of the risk items
were very highly correlated across the three contexts,
which meant it was not possible to assume discrimi-
nant validity between them. Consequently, some
items were removed from some of the contexts,
which meant four international travel and ﬁve cruising
items were retained, as can be seen in the Appendix.
When this was done, the three contexts had discrimi-
nant validity. Further, following Thomas et al.’s(2001)
suggestion, it was clear removing these items had not
aﬀected the nature of the scales, as the correlations
between the original and revised scales were 0.98
for the cruising scale and 0.81 for international
travel. The descriptive statistics obtained for the
three risk scales after these revisions can be seen in
Table 2. As can be seen in the Table, cruising and
international travel rated as high risk (5.87 and 5.79
respectively), while domestic travel was less risky.
Interestingly, the scales all had reasonable variability
(as can be seen in their standard deviations),
suggesting there may be some heterogeneity in
responses. The alpha coeﬃcients and construct
reliabilities were all high (well above 0.80), suggesting
reliabilities were acceptable, while the AVE scores
were all well above 0.50, suggesting convergent val-
idity could be assumed (Fornell & Larcker, 1981).
Finally, discriminant validity was assessed by examin-
ing the AVE scores and their correlations. In this case,
all the AVE scores were higher than their relevant
squared correlation, suggesting discriminant validity
could be assumed (Fornell & Larcker, 1981). Further,
HTMT ratios were also computed and there were all
less than 0.90, supporting the scales’discriminant val-
idity (Henseler et al., 2015).
As it seemed likely there was heterogeneity in the
data, a cluster analysis was undertaken to see whether
there were diﬀerent subgroups. Cluster analysis aims
to identify homogeneous subgroups, allowing
researchers to identify any “natural structure among
the observations based on a multivariate proﬁle”
(Hair et al., 2014, p. 415). Ward’s(1963) hierarchical
clustering method was used to do this, as it minimises
within-group variation and tends to produce clusters
of similar size (Sweeney et al., 2011; Viswanathan
Table 2. Risk scales’descriptive statistics.
Construct Mean SD Alpha
Domestic Travel 4.12 1.52 0.94 0.94 0.73
5.79 1.29 0.88 0.88 0.64
Cruising 5.87 1.30 0.91 0.91 0.67
Table 1. Respondents’background characteristics.
Background Variable TOTAL Australian UK
N 369 283 86
Gender Male 49% Female 51% Male 48% Female 52% Male 47% Female 53%
Age (Median) 53 years (54) 55 years (54) 55 years (57)
Household Income 36% Under $52,000
8% Over $156,000
27% Under $52,000
10% Over $156,000
16% Under £24,999
10% Over £91,000
(% with University qualiﬁcation)
45% 46% 44%
Cruise History 32% = 1 cruise
22% = 2 cruises
27% = 3–4 cruises
11% = 5–9 cruises
6% = 10+ cruises
31% = 1 cruise
22% = 2 cruises
29% = 3–4 cruises
11% = 5–9 cruises
7% = 10+ cruises
31% = 1 cruise
22% = 2 cruises
29% = 3–4 cruises
11% = 5–9 cruises
7% = 10+ cruises
% Full-time 31% 30% 36%
% Self-Employed/ Part-time 27% 27% 26%
% Retired 31% 32% 30%
Unemployed/stood down because of COVID-19 10% 11% 8%
% with partner (%married) 70% (58%) 72% (59%) 66% (56%)
%no children in house (%childless) 67% (27%) 68% (27%) 64% (26%)
6J. HOLLAND ET AL.
et al., 2007). A ﬁve-cluster solution emerged as the
most appropriate when considering minimum
cluster sizes and a maximum and acceptable point
biserial correlation coeﬃcient (0.46 in this case) (Milli-
gan & Mahajan, 1980; Soutar & Sweeney, 2003). The
multivariate diﬀerences between the groups were
examined by following Soutar and Sweeney’s(2003)
suggestion of estimating a discriminant analysis in
which the ﬁve groups were the dependent variable,
and the three risk contexts were the explanatory vari-
ables. The analysis suggested the cluster analysis had
found ﬁve distinct subgroups, as the F-statistics based
on the Mahalanobis distances between the groups
were all signiﬁcant well beyond the 0.0001 level.
Further, the I-square statistic suggested by Peterson
and Mahajan (1976) indicated the discriminant analy-
sis explained 91% of the variation between the
groups. Clearly, the groups are distinct and worthy
of further attention and their mean scores can be
seen in Table 3.
As can be seen in Table 3, there were real diﬀerences
in group members’risk perceptions, which led to the
names they were given, which are also shown in the
table. There were notable diﬀerences between the
groups, and this provides insight about cruisers’risk
perceptions. There were also some diﬀerences in
their backgrounds, as can be seen in Table 4 and is
discussed in more detail within each group. Groups
3 and 4 perceived the most risk in all travel, compared
to groups 1 and 2 which perceived risk in cruising and
international travel, but not domestic travel. Groups 1
and 2 also appear to feel risk was manageable, with
group 5 perceiving the least risk in any form of
travel. Each group is discussed in more detail in the
Group 3 perceived all travel as very risky, including
concerns about domestic travel. This group had the
highest proportion of females, and more group
members were retired. This group had a greater
change in their views about cruising, with 85%
feeling less positive now than before the pandemic
and 85% saying they were much less willing to
cruise now. There was also the highest negative
response compared to the other groups with 30%
responding they would never cruise again. Group 3
are most risk avoidant.
Groups 1 and 2 saw domestic travel as manage-
able, but international travel and cruise travel as
risky. These groups’members were more likely to be
in full-time employment. Group 2 had the second
highest percentage of responses saying they would
never cruise again (24%), with 39% saying they were
much less willing to cruise again. Further, 32% of
Group 2 respondents said their attitude to cruising
had changed and they felt much less positive about
cruising, compared to 4% for group 1. Interestingly,
58% of Group 1 members said they would cruise
again when it was safe, even though these respon-
dents were 50% less willing to cruise.
Group 4 members saw all travel as moderately
risky, with 45% saying they would cruise again once
it was “safe”and 25% reporting no change to how
they felt about cruising. However, 54% said they
were less positive about cruising because of the pan-
demic, and 59% were less willing to cruise. This group
had the highest proportion of members holding
bookings impacted by COVID-19.
Group 5 members had least concerns about travel
risk. This group had much higher percentages of
males and UK respondents than in the others and
was the most experienced group of cruisers, with
several respondents having cruised 10 times or
more. This group’s members were less likely to have
changed how they felt about cruising (47%), with
50% saying the pandemic has not changed their will-
ingness to cruise.
Responses to the open-ended question that asked
respondents to comment on how they might
Table 3. Mean scores (ﬁve groups).
Group 1 2 3 4 5
Domestic Travel 2.82 3.14 5.82 4.78 2.46
International Travel 4.97 6.59 6.83 5.41 3.15
Cruising 5.00 6.64 6.88 5.56 3.12
Group Size 48 99 88 100 34
Group Name Moderate risk in
High risk in
High risk all
Moderate risk all
Low to moderate risk all
ASIA PACIFIC JOURNAL OF TOURISM RESEARCH 7
change the way they cruise in future were analysed
using the Leximancer text-analytic software. Leximan-
cer identiﬁes the underlying themes and related con-
cepts within a corpus of text using word occurrence
and co-occurrence counts to extract major thematic
and conceptual content to generate a concept map,
or tables, that indicate key concepts and conceptual
relationships (Angus et al., 2013). This software pro-
vides a robust, machine-supported way to analyse
text-based qualitative data (Biroscak et al., 2017;
Lemon & Hayes, 2020). It generates both tabular and
visual reports, the latter being concept maps (see
Figure 1), which display the concept seeds found in
the data, linkages between them, and how they are
clustered into themes within the corpus in coloured
“bubbles”that are labelled automatically by the soft-
ware. Themes that contain the highest proportion of
responses (hits), are visualised with “hotter”colours
A total of 352 respondents provided comments
and these data were used in the Leximancer analysis.
These comments were placed into their risk groups
based on the cluster analysis discussed earlier.
Figure 1 shows the concept map obtained from this
analysis using the same ﬁve distinct groups identiﬁed
in the cluster analysis, while Table 5 identiﬁes the
themes obtained from this analysis.
As can be seen in Figure 1, nine major themes
emerged from the Leximancer analysis. Of these, the
most important was CRUISE, which focused on
respondents’perceptions of whether they would be
happy to cruise again in the future due to the
impact of COVID-19. As the indicative text listed in
Table 5 suggests, this focused on respondents
feeling they would give more attention to selecting
cruise companies they feel were more trustworthy
and oﬀered safe ships. This extends to selecting itiner-
aries that stopped at safe ports and that were either
cruising closer to their home ports, and/or had less
crowded ships with the right mix of passengers (e.g.
adults rather than families and children). It is worth
noting the theme SHIPS was connected to the
CRUISE theme. This theme focused on the desire for
ships that were perceived to be clean, with more
Table 4. Background diﬀerences between the groups.
Characteristic Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4 Group 5 TOTAL
Gender 52% M: 46% F 44% M: 56% F 41% M: 59% F 45% M: 55% F 71% M: 29% F 47% M: 53% F
Country 77% AU: 23% UK 88% AU: 12% UK 78% AU: 22% UK 74% AU: 26% UK 47% AU: 53% UK 77% AU: 23% UK
Average Age 54 years 57 years 58 years 52 years 55 years 55 years
Work status 42% Full-time
Yes: 29% No: 71% Yes: 16% No: 84% Yes: 14% No: 86% Yes: 21% No: 79% Yes: 18% No: 82% Yes: 19% No: 81%
How soon do
again (by %
58% When it is
29% Do not know.
6% As soon as
36% When it is
37% Do not know.
2% As soon as
36% Do not know.
33% When it is
1% As soon as
45% When it is
34% Do not know.
8% As soon as
41% Do not know.
32% When it is
24% As soon as
41% When it is
36% Do not know.
6% As soon as
50% Less Willing
(4.2% Much less
38% no change
62% Less Willing
(39% Much less
13% no change
85% Less Willing
(60% Much less
13% no change
59% Less Willing
(17% Much less
18% no change
18% Less Willing
(3% Much less
50% no change
65% Less Willing
(30% Much less
26% no change
56% Less positive
(4.2% Much less
35% no change
72% Less positive
(32% Much less
26% no change
85% Less positive
(56% Much less
13% no change
54% Less positive
(15% Much less
25% no change
29% Less positive
(3% Much less
47% no change
64% Less positive
(27% Much less
26% no change
8J. HOLLAND ET AL.
and better medical staﬀand facilities. There was also a
clear preference for smaller ships that were less likely
to pose a health risk.
The CABIN theme was the next most important
and reﬂected respondent’s desires to secure cabins
with a balcony or more space. This appears to be
a response to a perceived need to have access to
fresh air, not just for the beneﬁts of this for
health, but in case they were caught by a COVID
outbreak that required them to be quarantined in
The next most important theme was CHANGE. This
reﬂected respondents’apprehension about whether
to cruise, and a desire to ensure any future cruising
was safe. However, there were comments, as shown
in Table 5, which indicated a desire for a smaller “bou-
tique”cruise experience that might be closer to their
home port. This was followed by the theme SURE,
which was connected to the CHANGE theme. The
focus of the theme was respondents’perceptions
about what actions they might be able to take to
make sure they were safe. This included choosing itin-
eraries that were closer to their home port, securing a
balcony cabin and cruising on ships that oﬀered more
safety from disease.
The ﬁfth most important theme was CRUISING,
which included respondents wanting shorter cruises,
but also comments about their willingness to ocean
Figure 1. The Leximancer concept map.
ASIA PACIFIC JOURNAL OF TOURISM RESEARCH 9
cruise in future. This theme was closely associated
with the theme ROOM, which focused on a desire
for a balcony cabin, with access to fresh air and
suﬃcient space. The other two themes were TRY,
which related to respondents’desire to ﬁnd a safe
cruise experience, and COVID, which focused on
their concerns about the need to ﬁnd a vaccine or
cure for the COVID-19 virus or to travel only to
countries considered virus free (e.g. Australia and
Table 5. The key themes and concepts.
THEMES HITS CONCEPTS INDICATIVE TEXT
CRUISE 109 Cruise, future, line I will only book a cruise in the future with a reputable cruise line that is transparent and
I would probably be looking to change my cruise line in the future. I would also like to choose
an itinerary close to my home.
A better-quality line that doesn’t have families.
I’m dissatisﬁed with all cruise line companies as there ruining the oceans and ports.
The only cruise I may consider in the future would be a European river cruise.
CABIN 75 Cabin, balcony, book,
Book diﬀerent cabin type.
Book a diﬀerent type of cabin.
Cabin with a balcony, shorter cruise, diﬀerent destination.
Book a balcony cabin.
Will always book a balcony cabin. Never sail for more than 14 days.
CHANGE 65 Change, cruises, home If the COVID-19 was resolved (i.e. cure or safe vaccination) I wouldn’t change the way I cruise in
the future. Unless the situation is resolved I won’t be going on any cruises.
Would not change anything –Silverseas oﬀers small numbers and staﬀwho provide excellent
service and appear happy to work on the ships. Would not do a cruise on the cheap cruises that
Closer to home.
Itinerary closer to home.
Closer to home sailing from an English port.
SURE 53 Sure, choose, itinerary I will choose itinerary closer to home and make sure it’s safe.
I would choose an itinerary closer to home.
Choose itinerary closer to home.
I would make sure I booked a balcony cabin, I would research cruise lines for people’s reviews, I
would ﬁnd an itinerary closer to home.
I would probably be looking to change my cruise line in the future. I would also like to choose
an itinerary close to my home.
CRUISING 19 Cruising Shorter cruising.
I won’t be cruising until a vaccine is created and available.
Doubt if this applies to me, not planning on cruising again.
Depends on where I decide to go if cruising.
SHIPS 8 Ships Clean ships, more health workers.
Go on smaller ships.
Won’t go on large ships.
More secure healthy on-board experience, more doctors on ships, better health service.
Smaller cruise ships, like the Sea Cloud II.
ROOM 8 Room Would request a disabled room or balcony. I need fresh air due to my advanced lung disease.
Balcony room for fresh air. Carefully choose ports.
Wait and ensure I have a balcony room.
Would love to have balcony room.
I would make sure I have a large room and ensure that all passengers are checked before the
TRY 7 Try Will try to book as personalised as it can b.
We had a bad experience according to other cruisers –so I MIGHT try again –not sure where.
Would only try to go to new places that I have not yet visited.
I think I would try a diﬀerent cruise line as I thought Carnival was aimed more at young
I would probably try and book a balcony if I cruised again in case of quarantine.
COVID 6 COVID Nothing will happen for me until COVID-19 is eradicated.
Yes, I think 1st thing is safety, no COVID-19 impact, complete security, clean and completely
I am afraid now if COVID makes me stuck in cruise itself.
Only visit places with good record on COVID e.g. NZ, Australia.
Will enjoy more than previous because after long time may take trip for this due to COVID-19.
10 J. HOLLAND ET AL.
The ﬁve subgroups
The Leximancer software enables sub-populations to
be separately coded to identify any similarities or
diﬀerences that exist between them. By coding the
sub-populations e.g. moderate risk cruising (Group
1), high risk cruising (Group 2), high risk all travel
(Group 3), moderate risk all travel (Group 4), and low
risk all travel (Group 5), it was possible to generate
their orientation within the concept map as illustrated
in Figure 1. As can be seen, there were diﬀerences
between these groups with each being more closely
associated with a diﬀerent theme or set of concepts
found within the corpus of text. These diﬀerences
are discussed below.
Perhaps the most noticeable relationship was with
Group 3, who were closely associated with the theme
COVID, suggesting their concerns about the risks
from COVID-19 had increased their risk perceptions
for travel of any kind, not just cruising. Group 2 were
closely associated with the CABIN,ROOM, and TRY
themes, indicating theirdesire to mitigate risk by ensur-
ing that they can securea suitable cabin with a balcony
and suﬃcient space in case they are forced into quaran-
tine while on the ship. By contrast, Group 1 were closely
associated with the theme CHANGE, which reﬂects, in
many cases, a view that they would not seek to
change much, although they might select cruise itiner-
aries that were closer to their home ports or that are run
by cruise companies with smaller ships, they consider
to be safer. Group 4 was linked to the theme SURE,
which included concepts relating to the selection of
travel arrangements that might serve to mitigate the
risk of infection. A further Leximancer analysis of each
of the ﬁve groups separately highlighted these diﬀer-
ences and the results obtained are discussed in sub-
Group 1: moderate risk perception for cruising
The most important issue for this group was their
ability to secure cruise itineraries they felt were safer
(e.g. closer to their home ports and booking a cabin
with a balcony). They also preferred smaller ships
they perceived would be less likely to spread the
COVID-19. Examples of comments from this group
.“I would probably be looking to change my cruise
line in the future. I would also like to choose an itin-
erary close to my home.”
.“I would possibly choose a balcony cabin and
deﬁnitely choose a liner that only carries a small
number of passengers.”
However, it is also worth noting that many within
this group expressed a view that they would not
change anything, reﬂecting their moderate level of
Group 2: high risk perception for cruising
Many in this group reported they would never go on a
cruise ship again. For those that did feel they might
try cruising in the future, there was a strong prefer-
ence for smaller ships with fewer passengers and a
desire for cabins that provided access to fresh air
through windows or balconies. Despite this, many of
this group’s members did not see a need for
changes to cruising.
.“I won’t be cruising again.”
.“The only cruise I may consider in the future would
be a European river cruise.”
Group 3: high risk perception all travel
This group was very negative about any future cruise
travel. As with Group 2, members expressed a strong
desire for cabins with a balcony. In addition, they indi-
cated a preference for shorter journeys within areas
adjacent to their country of origin. There were also
calls for ships to be smaller, with safer itineraries, as
well as better medical and hygiene services on
board. Interestingly this group also highlighted a
desire to consider the overall impact of cruise activity:
.“I would ensure that the cruise line has every safety
measure in place that they should have, and that
they are also addressing environmental impact
and taking steps to be greener.”
.“Yes, I think, 1st thing is safety, no COVID-19
impact, complete security, clean and completely
Group 4: moderate risk perception all travel
This group focused on a need to secure cabins with
balconies or some access to more space and fresh
air. The cabin was an important consideration in any
future cruise travel intentions. However, this group
ASIA PACIFIC JOURNAL OF TOURISM RESEARCH 11
had many members who did not feel there was a need
.“Balcony room for fresh air.”
.“I would make sure I have a large room.”
Group 5: low to moderate risk perception all
This group showed a strong interest in securing
cabins with balconies and windows with fresh air.
They also wanted larger, more comfortable cabins,
and had an interest in ﬁnding cruise lines with a
good track record of maintaining health and
hygiene. Their interest in securing larger rooms with
access to fresh air seems to be motivated as much
by an assumption that this would be a more enjoyable
way to spend time if forced into quarantine than
would be a smaller room on the inside of the ship.
However, some group members did not feel there
was a real need to change.
.“I would probably try and book a balcony if I
cruised again in case of quarantine.”
.“More secure health on-board experience, more
doctors on ships, better health service.”
The cluster and Leximancer data analyses revealed
diﬀerences in risk perceptions across the cruiser
sample and found ﬁve distinct groups with
diﬀerent risk perceptions and diﬀerent risk handling
approaches (i.e. risk mitigation, risk avoidance and
the use of risk relievers). Interestingly, prior cruise
experience did not inﬂuence risk perceptions as
might have been expected when compared to
other research which had suggested prior experi-
ence reduced perceived risk (see Fuchs & Reichel,
2011). Risk mitigation was seen in avoiding air
travel, booking directly with cruise lines and at the
last minute, choosing river cruises as these ships
are smaller and buying better travel insurance. Risk
avoidance included avoiding all cruise travel, delay-
ing purchase and waiting until there was a vaccine
or until travel was deemed “safe”. This was noted
by groups 2 and 3, which had many members indi-
cating they would not cruise again. However,
members in group 2 might be willing to cruise
again if they felt it was safe, suggesting the
importance for cruise lines in promoting a safe
experience and the critical role of risk handling.
Risk relievers included choosing larger cabins with
a balcony to have access to fresh air. There was a
desire to cruise closer to home, as domestic cruising
was seen as “safe”. This relates to how Wolﬀet al.
(2019) suggests risk perceptions are evaluated in
comparison to “home”, with home judged as less
risky than abroad. Other risk relievers included travel-
ling on smaller ships with less people, which con-
trasts with the current industry trend to build
increasingly larger ships (see Castillo-Manzano &
López-Valpuesta, 2018). For example, Dream World
Cruises was set to launch a cruise ship (Global
Dream) in 2021 which would have carried 9000 pas-
sengers (Dream Cruise Line, 2019). The results from
this study suggest cruise passengers may not be
interested in returning to the larger cruise ships.
Both Australian and UK respondents expressed a pre-
ference for smaller ships, as the large mega-ships
were viewed as more dangerous. The respondents
from the UK were more likely to engage in risk relie-
vers, whereas the Australians were more likely to
suggest they plan to avoid all risk by avoiding cruis-
ing at this time.
The ﬁndings indicated group 5, which contained
more experienced cruisers, were less likely to have
experienced change in their willingness to cruise.
This contrasts with the other four groups, which
suggests more research is needed to better under-
stand the role of prior cruise experience on risk per-
ceptions, but also what impact other factors may
have. Group 5 members were more likely to be male
and from the UK, suggesting gender or country of
residence may also inﬂuence risk perceptions. Group
5 also saw all travel as low risk and had done the
most number of cruises, some having completed 10
or more. Group 3, which was the least willing to
cruise again was more likely to be female and from
A surprising ﬁnding was that respondents said they
would research the cruise line more in future to deter-
mine health measures and medical facilities onboard.
This contrasts with previous studies which found
cruise passengers were not concerned about health
risk and trusted the cruise lines to take care of them
and take appropriate precautions (Holland, 2020).
Further, they expected cruise ship companies would
maintain higher standards of cleanliness and disease
control. Respondents also suggested they would
look for changes to ship design to ensure improved
12 J. HOLLAND ET AL.
ventilation and consider a brand’s reputation for
handling viruses to select cruise operators and itiner-
aries that were perceived as COVID-safe. Concern was
expressed about travelling with fellow passengers,
with a distinct preference for those from “safe”
countries who were less likely to bring the virus
onboard and/or who would behave correctly. These
cruisers only wanted to visit port destinations that
were perceived as “safe”.
The challenges presently facing the global tourism
industry and the cruise sector are unprecedented
and both will need to address tourists’fears and
anxieties about travel. This study contributed to
this discussion by providing insights into how
cruise tourists are likely to manage risk and the
impact COVID-19 has had on risk perceptions. The
study addressed some identiﬁed research gaps by
exploring how Australian and UK cruisers’percep-
tions of the risk of cruising have changed because
of COVID-19. It considered diﬀerences between the
two regions in addition to diﬀerences between the
ﬁve identiﬁed subgroups’perceived risk of domestic,
international and cruise travel. It seems people’s will-
ingness to cruise and attitudes toward cruising are
more negative because of the pandemic, although
this is not uniform, as some subgroups were more
impacted than others. For the cruise industry to
rebound after the pandemic, the sector will need
to consider how cruise passengers will manage
risks in response to COVID-19.
The results indicate cruise lines can develop
diﬀerent strategies in relation to how diﬀerent
groups seek to manage risk and whether they per-
ceive domestic or international travel as risky. This
study provides a contribution by revealing that
cruise experience did not uniformly inﬂuence risk per-
ceptions, as all respondents were cruisers but reacted
diﬀerently, some reporting they were much more
negative about cruising and much less willing to
cruise again, while others indicated no change in
the perceived risk of cruising. As cruise experience
may play a role in reducing risk perceptions, more
research is needed to better understand the diﬀer-
ences between groups and how other factors such
as gender and country of residence may potentially
inﬂuence perceived risk.
This study presents speciﬁc risk reduction
methods and strategies that cruisers have identiﬁed
they plan to employ in the future, and as such adds
to the literature on risk handling for cruise passen-
gers. This study builds on the emerging literature
on tourists’perceptions of risk of ocean cruising,
adding to the empirical work of Holland (2020), Le
and Arcodia (2018) and Liu-Lastres et al. (2019).
This study also contributes to the developing litera-
ture exploring cruise tourism speciﬁcally in relation
to Australia and the United Kingdom, two important
passenger source markets that have been over-
looked and underdeveloped in comparison to
studies exploring cruisers from other regions. To
restore and strengthen consumer conﬁdence, the
cruise industry should promote the use of risk relie-
vers in marketing (see also Hasan et al., 2017) and
frame communication to address consumer anxieties
(Chua et al., 2021; Quintal et al., 2021). Marketing
should focus on smaller ships, balcony cabins, dom-
estic cruising where no ﬂying is needed, and
oﬀering shorter itineraries. They may also focus on
ﬂexible change and refund policies to decrease
concerns about potential ﬁnancial loss (see also
Chua et al., 2020). The industry and cruise lines
are encouraged to develop more transparent and
detailed communication to demonstrate how they
are addressing anxieties about cruise travel and
minimising risk, to further increase consumer conﬁ-
dence. This accords with Quintal et al.’s(2021)
observations about the importance of promoting
health protocols pre, during and post-cruise.
Above all, this study demonstrates the cruise
industry needs to take care to not assume cruisers
will automatically return, and to develop risk
reduction strategies that will assist in a rebuilding
No potential conﬂict of interest was reported by the author(s).
This work was supported by University of Western Australia.
Jennifer Holland http://orcid.org/0000-0002-5393-8794
Tim Mazzarol http://orcid.org/0000-0001-7107-7046
Geoﬀrey N. Soutar http://orcid.org/0000-0003-1478-788X
Suellen Tapsall http://orcid.org/0000-0002-1505-6686
Wendy A. Elliott http://orcid.org/0000-0001-8435-6933
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Appendix. The risk items used in the
International Travel Risk
I feel nervous about international travel right now
I would feel very uncomfortable if I were travelling internationally
International travel now could cause me trouble
It would be risky for me to travel internationally now
There is a potential loss for me if I should travel internationally now
Domestic Travel Risk
I feel nervous about travel in my own country right now
Travel in my own country is risky right now
I would feel very uncomfortable if I were travelling in my own
country right now
Travelling in my own country now could cause me trouble
It would be risky for me to travel in my own country right now
There is a potential loss for me if I should travel in my own country
Cruising Travel Risk
Going on a cruise is risky right now
I would feel very uncomfortable going on a cruise right now
Going on a cruise now could cause me trouble
There is a potential loss for me if I should go on a cruise now
18 J. HOLLAND ET AL.