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A Return to Cruising – Plus the new Safety Recommendations

The Norwegian Dawn from Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas

Recently we received a reminder about a group cruise that we’ll be sailing on in six months.  That simple e-mail and video renewed our excitement about cruising. As we pulled out our travel documents, we noticed that our current Royal Caribbean points level was one cruise day shy of qualifying us for the next level of status.

That got us thinking…

What if we went on a short (3 or 4 day) cruise before our group cruise and gained that extra cruise credit? We’d be eligible for special gatherings and a few extra goodies. That, in itself, is not worth the cost of a cruise, but it was an added incentive.

Why We Cruise

We started cruising about 30 years ago. At the time it was a way to truly lose contact with work. People could contact us. But at that time shore to ship phone calls cost about $50 a minute and it would have had to be a critical emergency for our vacation to get interrupted. So, once the gangplank was pulled away, we knew we were free!

Cruising was our escape, but at the same time we fell in love with it. It’s like checking into a resort hotel full of activities – except the hotel moves to a new country every night.

That’s pretty cool.

A Holland America ship at journey’s end in Vancouver

Which Cruise to Choose?

You can find good deals right now, as the industry is hoping to entice vacationers to resume sailing. For Royal Caribbean, those discounts include 60% off the second guest. There are three RCCL ports within driving distance, so we had quite a selection.

Another benefit of booking now, we can cancel any time as long as it’s 48 hours before sailing and get a future cruise credit.  And, if Royal Caribbean doesn’t resume sailing and cancels the cruise we either get our money back, or a 125% credit on a future cruise.

Win. Win.

We started searching for cruises sailing in January. Then we reconsidered. What if we were among the first to be back on ships when cruising resumed? That would be a story to tell.

Since we knew we were sailing on Royal Caribbean and decided to go in early November, it only took ten minutes to choose the cruise – 3 nights out of Port Canaveral. That settled, we started looking for a room with a balcony and found one almost immediately – with the balcony facing straight aft. We always wondered what a rear balcony was like, this was the perfect chance to try it out. It was also the last balcony available in the price range we’d chosen.

A few more minutes and our cruise was booked. $867 total for both of us, including taxes and port fees.

That’s a good cruise deal.

Our Retirement and COVID

Are we worried about COVID?  Well, we take precautions, we wear masks, we don’t get too close to other people.  I have mild asthma, so that’s a small concern but otherwise we are in very good health. But does COVID stop us from enjoying retirement? No. 

We went to Epcot the day it reopened. It was a good day with few problems, and we did not get sick.  We just took advantage of another Disney offer for four visits between now and the end of the year for $52 per ticket (tax included). The parks have limited capacity, so it’s a great time to go.

I swim, my wife takes karate.  I get massages.  We go on with life. 

Cruising and COVID

I’m sure you’ve heard the comment, “Cruises are floating petri dishes.” To that I say, how is it any more dangerous than NBA or NFL players grabbing and holding each other for hours at a time?

Shortly after the cruise industry shut down, I was listening to one of my favorite business networks. A panel of ‘experts’ was proclaiming what they believed was the death of the cruise industry. “Why would anyone ever go on a cruise again?” asked the moderator. Everyone agreed. Then one more question was asked. “Who’s been on a cruise?” Of the four people on the panel, only ONE had ever been on a cruise. One time. TWENTY YEARS AGO.

Ooof. They simply didn’t know what they were talking about.

Our Pre-COVID Cruise

Our last cruise sailed March 1, the week before cruising was shut down from U.S. ports. We were not offered the ability to cancel. Knowing what had just happened to the passengers of the Diamond Princess off of Japan, we packed an extra suitcase in case we were quarantined on board.

And a few hundred Clorox wipes.

Our health check before boarding Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas simply amounted to answering questions about whether we were sick. Non-contact thermometers were not in common use at that time, so there was no temperature check.

Entry to the Windjammer Buffet

It was a different story once we were on board. We couldn’t leave our room without seeing a crew member wiping down handrails, elevator buttons and even the walls. Entering the buffet, you were required to wash your hands. A half dozen hand sanitizing stations greeted you as you entered the main dining room. Everyone entering the medical center had to wash their hands and have their temperature checked.

The New Safety Recommendations

Cleaning high touch areas

We felt the crew was doing the best they could in a very new and developing situation. But we know there will be substantial changes for our next sailing.

RCCL introduced what it calls it’s Healthy Sail Panel of medical and logistics experts to investigate how to safely return to cruising. They have just sent their new proposals for resumption of sailing to the CDC. Here are a few of the safety measures on the list.

  • Ships will sail at Reduced Capacity
  • Emphasis on Shorter Cruises with stops at Cruise Line owned Destinations.
  • Staggered Embarkation and Debarkation
  • Health Checks of Passengers and Crew, including requiring Passengers to have COVID Testing at least 24 hours before reaching port of Embarkation
  • Virtual Muster Drill
  • Enhanced Sanitation
  • No “self-serve” buffet
  • Socially Distanced Dining & Entertainment
  • Staggered Embarkation and Debarkation, including arrival “by appointment”
  • Limited Deck Gatherings organized by Cruise Directors
  • Passengers and Crew to wear Masks in “indoor” areas
  • Passengers required to use Cruise Line sponsored excursions to go ashore.
On the Promenade

The closest I usually come to another passenger is in the passageways or the elevators, or in line to go ashore. I do not see anything in the proposal about single direction walking in passageways, or how to avoid crowding in elevators.

The CDC also requested public comments on resumption of safe cruise travel. The agency’s “No Sail” order is set to expire on November 1st, so expect a final ruling soon.

Ready to Sail!

This is a choice everyone has to make for themselves.  For us, it’s time to cruise!  We’ll have reports on what we experience come mid-November and give you a look inside the return of the Cruise Industry.

Return to Cruising
Sunset at Sea

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