In the beginning of this pandemic cruising got a bad rap and then sort of became the scapegoat. Airlines and hotels had no problems getting back to business but yet cruise lines had to wait and wait and then had to jump through crazy hoops to get approved to restart. Personally I have always felt that cruise ships were 100 times cleaner and safer than airplanes or hotels and now I feel even more so.
I have been on 3 cruises since June and I felt safer than ever onboard each time. Heck I felt so safe in August that I turned around and booked another cruise for just 3 weeks later! In my opinion cruise ships have always been cleaner and better maintained than most airplanes or hotels. Let's not even talk about buses or trains that people use to get from one place to another!
I am not sure why it was made to hard for cruise ships to get back to business but now that they are let's talk about how much more they are doing to keep guests safe than any other vacation option. You might even decide a cruise ship is even safer than going out to your local restaurant!
#1 First off every crew member has to go through a quarantine and be vaccinated. They will also be tested regularly. You cannot say you know the same for every airline or hotel employee you might come into contact with that is for sure!
#2 As of right now all adults and kids 12 and older are required to be vaccinated get onboard just about every cruise. Ok so this is in part due to the Bahamas making it a requirement that every person 12 and old has to be vaccinated in order to visit any Bahamian island (even the private ones that no one lines on). I will say I find this very unfair that the Bahamas can require just cruise visitors be vaccinated when they will allow anyone vaccinated or not to fly into the Bahamas. Since the majority of major cruise lines are registered in the Bahamas and therefor required to make a Bahamian stop it seems very suspect that the Bahamas is also the only island making this vaccine rule for cruise visitors. Anyway that is rant for another time.
#3 Every single guest must be tested before boarding the ship. I applaud the cruise lines that are providing the testing at the port free of charge to those that are vaccinated (Disney and Virgin shout out to you both!).
#4 Cruise Line have been required to make a lot of changes onboard. Mostly to allow for social distance. This means lower capacity onboard and the removal of some tables and chairs to make space between. The cruise lines have also made great use of technology to make things as touchless as possible. Masks are also being required in any indoor areas and I know at least where I live no one is requiring masks inside so that already makes a cruise ship safer than my local store.
I know that I am not the only one that feels cruise ships are the safer since I saw The Points Guy wrote something similar recently.
So are you ready to say Bon Voyage to stress and get away on cruise now?
While I am excited to see the No Sail Order lifted I also quickly realized after skimming the 40 page CDC Framework for Conditional Sail Order that lists all of requirements to resume sailing that mostly likely cruising would not begin again until January 2021. That is because there is a condition that mentions 60 days so I figured that meant if they cruise lines started all this November 1 they should be good to go January 1. Shortly after the CDC posted the information the cruise lines started announcing December cancellations and as of now looks like all of them have confirmed no sailing until after 12/31. While I am bummed about no December cruises I am happy to think that we finally have some sort of really good timeline for restarting.
A few key things I noticed:
It looks like sailings will have to be kept to 7 days or less
Testing and masks are going to be part of the requirements
Shore excursions will have strict rules
Social Distancing rules will change things like dining and entertainment onboard
The rules and procedures required by the CDC encompass everything from extensive testing of crew already onboard ships; arrangements with ports and local health authorities; testing of new crew and passengers boarding; securing (by cruise lines) of local housing for isolating any people who test positive and don’t need hospital treatment, as well as their close contacts; simulated voyages with no passengers and more.
“This framework provides a pathway to resume safe and responsible sailing," said Robert Redfield, M.D., the CDC's director. "It will mitigate the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks on ships and prevent passengers and crew from seeding outbreaks at ports and in the communities where they live." He added that the CDC and the cruise industry have a shared goal to protect crew, passengers and communities, and will continue to work together to ensure that all necessary public health procedures are in place before cruise ships begin sailing with passengers.
I will be staying on top of all the news and hope that ships will be sailing come January 1!
I don't know about you but I cannot wait to get back on a cruise! The CDC announced last night that the no sail order will expire 10/31. I do hope that means cruising in the US will get started again in November! Some cruse ships have been sailing the Mediterranean since August and has been pretty much smooth sailing so far. There are new rules in place to cruise but there are new rules everywhere now so I am OK with that. One family on the first cruise to start up in the Mediterranean learned the hard way that these rules are strict and put in place for everyone's safety. They were told if you go on shore you have to stay with the tour group and if you don't you will not be allowed back onboard. They didn't follow the rule and wandered of so therefore not allowed back on the ship. I totally agree with this policy and glad to see the cruise line stuck to it.
Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA)—the industry association representing 95% of all ocean-going cruise capacity globally—announced that its member lines have agreed to a common set of mandatory health protocols.
Here is a list of the new protocols that will most likely be put in place when cruising in the US does start again -
I cannot wait to cruise again! Believe it or not social distancing is so easy on a cruise! For me vacation is all about relaxation so I am always seeking out the quiet places to relax and just get away from people. You could say I was researching social distancing even before it was required. I know some people might think that there is no way you could find quiet uncrowded places on a cruise ship but I have always found lots of quiet options on my cruises. Yes even on mega cruise ships with over 5,000 people onboard I was able to find quiet places away from lots of other people.
So if you are like me and ready to jump onboard as soon as the ships start sailing again -
Here are 4 Easy Ways to Social Distance on a Cruise
#1 - Your Room - I don't always think it makes sense to splurge on a balcony room but right about now it seems like a great way to get your own outside deck space. If you really want to splurge go for a suite to give yourself even more space to enjoy without other guests. Some cruise lines also offer special areas onboard just for suite guests so you get even more places to be able to social distance.
Sure you could go to a hotel or all inclusive resort and get a nice room but your view will never change while you are staying in that room whereas on a cruise you could see something new out your window all the time.
#2 - Room Service - Want to avoid the dining room? Most cruise lines offer free room service so eating in the comfort of your room is easy. Again this is where having the balcony comes in handy so you can even enjoy eating outside from your own room.
#3 - The Spa - I cannot think of a better place to social distance and relax! Either with a spa treatment or if the ship offers a relaxation room you can buy a pass to it is always quiet and not crowded.
#4 - Extra Charge Private Areas - Many ships now have some exclusive areas just for guests that choose to pay a little more to access these areas. These might be a private cabana or a private area on deck. I tried out the Sanctuary on Princess Cruise and it was totally worth the cost!
Cruise ships have been adding new technology that will help too, like being able to order a drink or food from anywhere you are instead of having to go up to the bar or get in line for food.
I also find if you explore the ship you can find lots of other corners of quiet either on an upper deck away from the pool, or maybe the library. One of my favorites is if the ship has a middle deck that that is open to the outside where you can sometimes walk around the whole ship outside. Do you have a favorite spot you have found while cruising?
Yes there are some areas or times on a cruise where social distance might be a challenge and I will talk about those next week.
I don't know about you but I cannot wait to be able to travel again. I will of course use commonsense and caution when we are given the green light to move about the world again. Travel is something that won't go away but it will change after all of this. Just like after 9/11 some changes were made in order to keep us safer and most are still with us today. As we slowly start to reopen in phases we will start to see some of these changes and ideas come out and some will work and some won't. Some of these changes may end of being permanent while others might be just around until there is a vaccine. No matter what the key is to start getting back to somewhat normal.
Here are 7 changes to the way we used to travel:
#1 Face Masks
JetBlue was first to announce that as of May 4 all passengers will be required to wear a face mask in order to fly. I have a feeling other airlines will follow and Canadian authorities have already mandated that anyone flying through Canadian airports must cover their nose and mouth. As much as I am not a fan of the face mask I would wear it if it means I can travel. Here is a link to each airline's current policy
#2 Social Distancing
This one could get tricky at places like theme parks but there are already talks of how the theme parks could start using virtual lines and then when you do have to actually enter the attraction line there will be places marked on the ground showing you where to stand so that you are staying far enough apart.
Another way to distance will be allowing less people into the parks or onto cruise ships. I have heard that when cruising starts again the ships will be sailing with a lot less guests in order to give everyone more room. I have also seen theme parks talking about limiting the number of guests per day.
Airlines are saying they plan to do things like leave the middle seats open and try to keep passengers as spread out as possible. I have even seen an idea for how airplanes might change seating configurations so that the middle seat faces the other direction and there are some sort of plexiglass partitions. I don't know if I see that happening anytime soon but maybe flying will somehow become a little more comfortable after all this.
#3 Relaxed Cancellation and Change Policies
This is one I would like to see stick around but doubt it will. At least for now the airlines, cruise lines, and most hotels are offering much better cancellation and change policies. This way you are able to book now and if things are not better or you are feeling sick you can cancel or change without losing all your money. Cruise lines have already said that if a guest is not feeling well even the day the cruise is to start they can cancel and won't lose everything. They would rather people didn't travel while sick just because they don't want to lose their money. I really like this change because it allows us all to plan something to look forward to but at the same time know we are not going to be severely penalized if it doesn't work out.
#4 Temperature Scans and Health Checks
Before the cruises stopped sailing many had started to take guest temperatures at boarding and would deny anyone with a fever. I have heard that most will continue this practice when cruising starts again. I have even heard plans for the ports to be set up with a scanning feature that you walk through as you enter to check in for the cruise. Both guests and crew will be checked before boarding. I have heard this could be something that goes beyond just cruising but also to the theme parks and maybe even the airports. We might also have to fill out a heath questionnaire similar to what we had to do before boarding a cruise but that could now apply to all forms of travel.
#5 More Cleaning and Sanitizing procedures
Everything from cruise ships, airplanes, theme parks, hotels, and really anything where people will come and go needs to step up sanitizing plans.
I think we will see a lot of high touch points changed into something like guests using an app or something on their own phone to do certain things like check in and even opening their room door. Princess Cruise was already ahead of the game on this with their Ocean Medallion, which I tested out in December. It really allows guests to avoid a lot of high touch things and even avoid standing in line for food. I am sure we will start seeing new technology for other things too.
Airlines and hotels are already using things like electrostatic sprayers or ultraviolet-light technology to clean. Hilton has started placing a seal on room doors that will tell when a room was clean and that it hasn't been opened since. Hyatt is planning to add a hygiene manager to each hotel to oversee cleaning and make sure everything needed is available to both employees and guests.
#6 More Hand Sanitizer and Hand Washing Stations Everywhere
Let's face it a big key to this virus is we touch something that has the virus on it and then we touch our face so if both surfaces and our hands are cleaned often that is a big way to get rid of this. Hand sanitizer and hand washing stations will be much more readily available. I can see things like these popping up all over and can see many places requiring guests to wash before they can enter a line or something like that. Cruise Lines were already ahead on this one as they have had hand washing stations and wipes set up before any place you would eat or when you would return to the ship from port for a long time. I can already picture the sanitizing stations being added to Theme Park entrances just the way security bag checks were added. I can even see it added at airports in the same way TSA check was added. Who knows maybe someone is working on the new airport scanning machine that both looks for the bad things people might be hiding on themselves and at the same kills any germs that might be hiding too.
#6 Bye-Bye Buffets
I have never really been a fan of the way most buffets work where anyone and everyone is touching everything so I will be glad to see this change. In places that will still be sort of like a buffet I think we will see more servers taking over all parts for us so the only thing we do is hold our plate and food is placed on it.
#7 Immunity Passports
This is one I really do not agree with but some countries have started what is pretty much an immunity passport which says you already had the virus and recovered so they are assuming you are now immune so you are free to travel. I think there are too many variables in this one for it to make sense so I hope this one doesn't happen.
Some of these are already happening and others are my speculation. Some might stick around for good and others might not but either way I am glad to see us making steps to get the world back open!
I personally prefer cruising to almost any other type of vacation but as a travel agent I do always want to research all options for my clients. All Inclusive resorts are a popular option so I have made it a point to get to check out some of them. Just like cruising there are many different types of All Inclusive resorts and something for all budgets. There are some that are adult only and others that are family friendly.
I am on my way to Jamaica for a stay at an All Inclusive resort so I thought this might be a good time to compare going to an All Inclusive vs a Cruise. Both vacation options offer some similar things. They both offer accommodations and most meals in your upfront cost. The pros and cons really vary based on what you are looking for in a vacation.
You might want to pick a cruise if...
#1 If you want to see more than one destination during your vacation
#2 If you are not a big drinker and don't want to be paying for alcohol to be included.
#3 If you like the idea that if the weather is bad your vacation can change where it is going to avoid the weather.
#4 If you want to avoid flying since many cruise starting points could be within driving distance. Even if you cannot drive to the starting port you might find cheaper flights for a cruise than flying to an island destination for an All Inclusive.
#5 If you do not have a passport. While it isn't recommend it is possible to take a cruise out of the United States and not have a passport.
You might want to pick an All Inclusive if...
#1 If you really want a vacation where you really don't do much at all Most All Inclusives will not have much scheduled for each day so you can just lay around the pool or on the beach.
#2 If you want to spend more time in one place and be able to go to the beach at any time (most of the All Inclusive resorts will have some kind of beach even if you can't always swim there).
#3 If you are a big drinker and like a vacation that includes all you can drink in your upfront cost.
#4 If you want to have the option for some water sports that won't cost you extra (most resorts will have some type of water sports like kayaking included)
#5 If you get motion sickness and prefer a vacation that stays on solid ground.
If you are unsure what might work best for you a good travel (shameless plug) will be happy to help you figure that out.
It used to be that you could earn some VIP perks on cruises by booking a suite or by being very loyal to a particular cruise line. Now, some cruise lines have come up with a new purchase option for guests that might want a little more of a VIP feeling when cruising but are not in a suite or have many past cruises.
Here is the list of cruise lines currently offering an option to pay for some type of extra perks. I have put them in alphabetical order but it is good to point out that this list includes all 3 of the Mass Market Cruise lines and just 1 Premium Cruise line. The Mass Market ships are going always be the biggest ships sailing with sometimes almost 6,000 guests so on those paying to avoid lines sort of makes sense. Holland American is a Premium so their ships are smaller and offer a bit more upscale cruise so you will see the perks they offer in their program are a bit different.
Carnival - Faster to the Fun
What it includes -
1. Priority Security, Check in, and Boarding. You get to board the ship after Diamond and Platinum guests and those traveling in Deluxe Suites. You do not get access to the Captains Lounge which is only for the Diamond, Platinum and Deluxe Suite guests.
2. First Access to your Stateroom. Your room is ready to enjoy as soon as you board.
3. Priority Luggage. Your bags will be one of the first that get delivered.
4. Priority Guest Service. Your own line or phone extension to talk guest services onboard.
5. Priority Dining Reservations. You get priority assignment for the Main Dining room and specialty restaurant reservations. Platinum and Diamond get cleared first and does not apply to Your Time Dining.
6. Tender Priority. When at a port with a tender to get onshore you will get priority times which can get you ashore faster.
7. Debarkation Choice. At the end of the cruise you can choose either early or late debarkation.
What Does It Cost*
1. The price is per room and not per person so just one guest in the room has to purchase and everyone gets it.
2. It must be purchased prior to the cruise. It is limited to a certain number of guests so best to buy as soon as possible.
3. Prices vary based on cruise length and sometimes the ship. Starting at $39.95 on a 2 day cruise up to $119.95 on an 8 day or longer cruise.
4. Not available on Carnival Journeys, Europe Cruises, or cruises out of certain ports.
Holland America - Club Orange
What it includes
1. Complimentary Stateroom Upgrade. Upgraded to the best available stateroom within your category at time of purchase. That means if you have an inside room your upgrade will still be an inside room but a better room.
2. Exclusive Dining Options and Premium in-room Breakfast. Priority access to specialty restaurant reservations and a premium menu for in room breakfast. The 2 newest ships have a private dining venue other ships get priority seating with expanded menu.
3. Priority Access. Priority check in and debarkation. Also have a priority line for guests services and shore excursions desk.
4. Tender Priority. When in port with tenders you get priority access times that will get you ashore first.
5. Dedicated Concierge Hotline
6. Upgraded Amenities. Get a welcome glass of sparkling wine at dinner the first night, premium bathrobes, exclusive Club Orange tote bag and Club Orange key card.
7. Special Event -Invitation to a special onboard event chosen by the ship's captain. These exclusive experiences may include a behind-the-scenes tour of the ship; a private spa and beauty consultation; or a coffee chat with onboard musicians, performers or cooking show hosts.
What Does It Cost*
1. Club Orange cost applies to 1st and 2nd guests in a room but if there are 3rd or 4th guests they receive it at no extra cost. The price listed is per person for the 1st and 2nd guests and both must purchase.
2. It is available for a limited number of non-suite guests on each sailing. Guests in Neptune or Pinnacle Suites get all the benefits (except the room upgrade) of Club Orange at not extra cost.
3. Must be purchased prior to the cruise start.
4. Price is $35 per person, per day on the 2 newest ships Nieuw Statendam and Koningsdam. All other ships are $25 per person, per day.
NCL - Priority Access
What It Includes
1. Priority Security, Check in, and Boarding
2. Tender Priority Access.
3. Priority Debarkation
4. Daily Complimentary Standard Room Service Breakfast
5. $50 Spa Discount (per person on port days only)
6. Complimentary Canapes (second day of cruise)
What Does it Cost*
1. The cost is per room
2. Guests staying in the Haven and Owners Suites along with Latitude Guests that are Platinum, Platinum Plus, or Ambassador levels cannot purchase but that is because they already get all of these benefits.
3. Only a limited number of Priority Access is available so best to book as early as possible
4. Prices vary by length of cruise
Royal Caribbean - The Key
What it Includes
1. Priority Check in and Boarding
2. Exclusive Welcome Lunch in Main Dining room with menu from Chops Grille
3. Carry on Bag Drop off in Main Dining Room. This means you can bring your carry on when you board and drop it off in the welcome lunch and it will be delivered to your stateroom for you instead of having to carry it around until rooms are open to guests.
4.Private Hours at Onboard Activities like Rock Climbing and Flow Rider and more
5. Priority Departure at Port from ship to shore
6. Seats in the Exclusive VIP seating section for shows in the Main Theater, Aqua Theater, Studio B, and Two70
7. VOOM Surf and Steam 1 Device High Speed Internet - 1 package per paying guest
8. Exclusive Debarkation Day Ala Carte Breakfast and choice of departure time
What Does it Cost*
1. Must be Purchased Prior to your cruise
2. Price is per person and everyone over age 6 in the room must get it even if just one person wants it.
3. The number sold is limited.
4. Cost is $25 per person per night and must be purchased for all nights of the cruise
*prices and inclusions always subject to change at anytime
I have mixed feelings about these pay for perks options. As a travel agent I want my client to have the best experience and if avoiding lines or getting some other perks that they are willing to pay for does that for them then I am glad to be able to offer that option. However as a guest on certain cruise lines that I might have earned some of the perks the hard way I am not so sure I am happy about people being able to jump right to them just by paying more. If I paid the big bucks for a suite on a cruise which entitles me to a lot of perks I would not like it that someone else can buy their way into those perks. It doesn't have quite the exclusive benefit feel when you open up to others to purchase. I am also worried that this will start a new trend of cruise lines adding more to their nickle and dime list that I really do not like. Personally I always liked the feeling of a cruise being mostly all inclusive but over the years it has changed a lot and now there are a many extras you might have to budget for on top of your cruise fare. There are still some cruise lines that do offer a more inclusive up front fare however that makes them look a lot more expensive at first glance so my advice on this is to really look at what you are getting for that low up front price. For example, instead of paying to avoid lines you could just choose a smaller cruise ship where there won't be any lines for anyone.
What are your feelings on these pay for perks options?
Ok so I admit when our ship is about to leave port I would head up to the upper deck and see if I can catch any last minute runners that are close to missing the boat. I would also laugh when I hear the announcement over the speaker looking for certain guests that are not showing as back onboard as the time to depart approaches. However I don't think I will do that anymore since I was almost one of those people.
It was on our Alaska cruise in the Juneau. If you have been there before you have probably ridden or at least seen the Mt Roberts tram to the top of the mountain. Depending on where your ship docked you could have been almost parked right in front of it. On this visit our ship was right there so we thought why not take a ride since we hadn't done it on our previous Alaska cruise. We rode to the top and got out to walk around a little and then it started raining, which wasn't a big surprise since it is part of a rainforest, but then we heard thunder and saw some lightning which seemed very odd. We headed back inside to catch a ride back down only to find that the tram wasn't running due to the storm. At that point the line was already pretty long and no idea when it would start running again. We asked about walking down and were told it was about 2 and half miles so we thought that isn't too bad and might be faster than waiting. We stated walking and were enjoying the trek despite a little rain but then it just seemed like we were walking forever and never getting any closer to the end. We passed a few people walking up and ask how much further and each time they said about a mile even though we passed them about 15 minutes apart. It is pretty wooded so you couldn't get an idea of where you were until we finally got to a spot where we could see out to the water and realized we were still very high up and only had about an hour to make it back to the boat. We picked up the pace and finally came out of the trail but realized that it came out a bit out of town and no where near the ships. Panic started to set in as we realized we had about 30 minutes to get back to the boat. Luckily a car was driving by and we flagged them down and they thankfully didn't mind giving us a lift back to the ship. Even with the ride we still were cutting it close. We were so grateful to have made it back on the ship that we didn't even realize that things were a little off and then we heard the announcement that the power was out. We found out that the same lightning strike that stopped the tram also knocked out port to the port. That caused the ship to leave port a bit later so we might have made it if we hadn't found a ride back to the boat but I won't take that chance again.
There were a few things running through my head as I thought we might miss the boat and I realized I really was not prepared. Since that was a close call I was sure to look up what what happens if you miss the boat. I learned that the ship will make a couple attempts to be sure you are not already onboard including check in your room. If you are not onboard they will try to collect a few of your things to leave with the port agent for you. It is then up to you to either get to the next port or home.
Here are my tips for being prepared when you get off the ship:
#1 - Be sure to take a copy of your passport with you when you get off the ship. You don't want to take your actual passports as you really do not want to lose those.
#2 - Know where your passports are in the room If you are pretty sure you are going to miss the boat you can call the ship and have guest services go into your room and get your passport to leave with the port agent. They can also grab other important things like medication. If you are not able to call the ship to let them know you are not going to make it someone from guests services will go to your room and attempt to find your passports anyway. If they can easily find them they will get them to the port agent.
#3 - Book with a travel agent (yes I know it sounds like a shameless plug but your agent really is your best advocate). You might not have the ship phone number handy on your excursion but my guess is your travel agent phone number should be in your phone somewhere so call and then your agent can take care of helping you make your plan for what comes next.
Here are a couple tips for how to best avoid missing the ship -
#1 - Book a shore excursion through the cruise line or a 3rd party that offers a back to ship guarantee as that is your best protection since it is more likely the ship will wait for a ship sponsored excursion. If for some reason the ship leaves without you the cruise line or tour provider will take care of the arrangements to get you to the next port. If you do choose a 3rd party be sure you research and know what their policy is for a late return to port.
#2 - If you do go off on your own in port be very mindful of the time you need to be back on the ship and account for the time needed to get back to the port and go through any possible security. Some of the bigger busier ports could have multiple ships in at the same time and they might leave around the same time so there could be lines. Also remember that the time ships leaves and all aboard is not the same thing. The all aboard time is earlier than the actual depart time. Another thing to be sure of is that your watch is set to the correct time since sometimes on your cruise you might cross time zones.
#3 - Make sure you really know where your ship is docked. If there are multiple ships in port with you there could be multiple docks being used so just saying to your taxi take me back to the port might not work out as easy as it sounds.
My biggest tip is for those of you that choose to cruise without a passport - WHATEVER YOU DO YOU CANNOT MISS THE BOAT! Without a passport you really could be in trouble if you miss the boat.
Celebrate your independence! Solo traveling is becoming more and more popular as people realize the freedom to do your own thing on vacation is really nice. I have traveled solo a few times and I will admit the first time I was really nervous but then I realized you are never really alone when traveling.
There are a lot of pros and cons to traveling alone and here are a few that I ran into and how I dealt with them:
My favorite travel options for going solo are a tour group, cruise, and theme parks. In a tour group there will usually be a bunch of people and not everyone will know each other but you will all be going to the same locations throughout your vacation. Tour guides are usually very good at making the group all feel like they know each other really well after the first day and you will never feel alone. On a cruise you won't get as personal with all your shipmates as on a tour group, but there is always plenty to do and others doing the same things that you feel like part of a group. In theme parks there is just so much to do where you are always on the move so being solo is actually super easy.
If you have ever thought about traveling solo go for it - you won't regret it!
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