Cruising with Confidence During COVID-19
Updated: Nov 18
Cruise companies are ready to get back to business. They have had many months to figure out social distancing and they are ready to make money!
For the most part, the news is not reporting COVID-19 outbreaks on cruise ships. They are doing a great job at keeping things cleaned while trying to avoid the floating Petri dish mantra. We were checked over an over again for shots and test results before we were allowed to board the ship.
When departing the port, you are checked and rechecked, numerous times.
Having arrived back from the Virgin Islands by ship this week, cruising comes with significant boarding requirements. Currently to embark on a cruise, you must be vaccinated and have a negative COVID-19 test no older than 48 hours. The only exceptions for vaccination are children and individuals who cannot be vaccinated.
The cruise ship staff are doing everything they can to make the environment as nice as possible during this inconvenient time. Washing stands have been placed outside of many of the restaurants. You will find hand sanitizer everywhere. All buffets have been replaced with cafeteria style servers wearing gloves. No longer do serving implements change hands between passengers.
Crewmembers are constantly cleaning and sterilizing handrails, buttons, furniture and walls. Even the shows are segregated into those that are vaccinated and those that are not, which for the most part, are families with children.
The ships are generally leaving port at reduced capacity. This makes for a very nice experience for those traveling, especially for those accustomed to crowded cruise ships. It’s not difficult to find something to do without a crowd. Wait time for seating, getting a drink at a bar, and getting served have all been reduced.
You are constantly asked to wash your hands and keep your masks on in the common areas. Some ships are allowing for you to take your mask off in “vaccinated only” areas. However, I understand if that is not a standard procedure for all ships. Most passengers on the ship are very courteous about distancing, masking and sanitizing. Elevators generally have reduced capacity and people tend to follow the rules.
When arriving in other countries, the cruise company is vouching that they have a healthy passengers and crew. Debarkation did not require any testing in the USVI or Sint Maarten. We found the public to be receptive as most of the locales are accustomed to many more ships per week than are currently arriving. This has not only affected the economies, but also providing time for proprietors to have more meaningful and enjoyable conversation with tourists. In Saint Thomas for example, we were one of two ships to arrive that week. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the islanders had been a custom to three or four ships a day,
Entering the United States
Unlike flying in from overseas, returning cruise ship passengers entering the U.S. do not need to take another test prior to arriving at a U.S. port. This is interesting as our cruise company did a good job segregating the vaccinated from the non-vaccinated on board, but there are no control measures for those visiting foreign ports and returning to the ship.
If you should fly back to the states from your cruise destination, returning tourists have to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and bring proof of a negative COVID test no more than 72 hours old. Vaccines authorized or approved by the FDA or World Health Organization will be accepted for entry into the United States. Exceptions will be made for people traveling from countries with low vaccine availability, as well as for those under age 18. If you are unvaccinated, you will have to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 24 hours of the flight.
Final Bit of Advice
To avoid complications and inconvenience, it is essential to check the U.S. State Department website well before your travel. Each country listed on this page has consulate or embassy specific information on current conditions, entry and exit requirements, acceptable tests and shots, availability of tests for returning U.S. citizens, quarantine information, and movement restrictions. For example, with COVID-19 currently on the rise in Germany, the site is recommending a “Level 3 – Reconsider Travel Advisory”.
The good news is we are seeing restrictions lifted on non-essential travel. However, to avoid disappointment make sure you study the procedures and requirements for your cruise destination and understand the method and requirements for coming home.