I want to start by saying that everyone has their on comfort level with cruising in a a world where the Covid pandemic caused or contributed to the death of millions of people world wide. This article is in no way intended to diminish the suffering that so many had world wide either through their own illness, the loss of a loved one, or the hit to the economy and our mental well being that was caused by Covid 19, the lock-downs, shut downs and mitigation protocols.
The cruise industry took the situation very seriously and worked for over a year to establish procedures and protocols that would make cruising the safest and healthiest way to travel. For many months, starting in the end of 2020, we thought that cruising would soon be back, but it wasn’t until the vaccines started rolling out in early 2021, that the cruise lines were finally able to work with the CDC to determine safe and healthy ways for cruising to begin again.
Wanting to make sure that they never were to experience a mass outbreak on a ship and minimize the risks of any breakthrough spread, the cruise lines are requiring at least 95% of guests be vaccinated. For some lines this rule is applied to 95% of all gusts, for others they seem to be defining it as 95% of eligible guests be vaccinated. The cruise lines have stated that this is not a permanent requirement, but as long as there is still a world wide issue with the number of cases, they will have this requirement.
Our whole family made the well thought through choice to get vaccines for Covid 19, so that meant that as soon as cruising opened up we would be able to go.
Flying in the Covid era does require masks at the airport and on the plane when not actively eating or drinking. We have flown 3 times since we have gotten our vaccines. Perhaps the hardest part is that one must wear the mask upon arrival at the airport to leaving the destination airport. I would say to arrive at the airport right at the recommended two hours before departure time so that you are not having to continuously wear your mast for longer than you have to.
We got a great last minute deal on the luxury cruise line Silversea. For this cruise, only proof of vaccination was required and mask were not required to be worn onboard. From what we understand, the following week, the protocol was updated for cruises departing the US to require masks be worn in public areas where social distancing was not possible. All of the crew were required to wear masks. This is primarily because they are going on the cruise from one cruise to another and they wouldn’t want to spread a breakthrough case from one cruise to another, so the masking is one mitigation against that. The crew are also tested weekly or even more often to prevent breakthrough spread. This was an Alaska cruise, so we were permitted to disembark the ship in each port and explore on our own, without having to take bubble tours. Most local towns required masks in indoor areas like shops or restaurants before guests are seated. We took one ship’s tour on an excursion boat in Endicott arm to see the Glaciers and Waterfalls. Per local public transportation protocols we had to wear our mask inside the tour boat, but if we were outdoors on deck we could take them off. In the cold weather, it wasn’t so bad wearing a mask.
For our second cruise post shut-down, we took a fantastic cruise on luxury line Seabourn. This cruise embarked in Barbados, so we had a specific set of protocols to follow in order to arrive in Barbados. Because of the way the arrival protocols work in Barbados, we determined that we either needed to arrive in Barbados the day of the embarkation or two days before. We didn’t want to miss any of our cruise, so we chose to arrive two days early. We had to take a full Covid PCR test 72 hours before our arrival. We found a place at the Phoenix airport to do this, and had out results back mid-day the next day. This was a lab that specialized in travel tests with quick turn around. We did have a long wait at the airport with masks while we awaited for our redeye flight. We had checked out of our hotel mid-day and then went to the airport. It did make for a very long day waiting for our flights with masks on and then having to wear them all day until we arrived at our hotel in Barbados. But it is the protocol, so as my husband says “You can either stay home and not wear a mask, or be willing to wear one and be able to travel”. We chose to be able to travel.
Upon arrival in Barbados, the health ministry checked our vaccination cards and our negative test results. We had already upload them to the BIM-Safe and Verifly apps. We then had, as planned, another PCR test administered by Barbados Health ministry. Once we had those taken, we had to “Quarantine” at our hotel until the results were back. That meant wearing masks around the hotel grounds and when social distancing was not possible, like in elevators, but we were free to enjoy the pool, pool restaurant and bar, and the main dining room. All these were outside venues which made us feel even more comfortable. We got out negative tests back by the next morning via email which allowed us to explore the Island as we wished.
Our next step to boarding our beautiful cruise was getting tested one more time at the pier. This was pretty easy and simple and only took about 20 minutes total. Once those negative results were back, we were free to embark and masks were not required by guests during the cruise. Once again, as a precaution of break through spread from one cruise to another, the fully vaccinated crew were all wearing masks for most of the cruise.
I personally felt that we were at an infinitesimally low risk of having any kind of break through infection, especially with only 86 fully vaccinated and tested three times, guests on the cruise. The crew are also tested every week. When we go out to an event here at home, we have no way of knowing if someone is vaccinated, tested, having a break through infection or what. I personally felt that yes, cruising is back and it is the safest, healthiest way to travel.
Our travel in this post-pandimic world will continue and the protocols that we must follow will continue to change. We all look forward to the day when we can put all of these precautions behind us, but for now we have to be willing to take a few steps here in there in order to be able to travel.