Resort deck, two-story hot tub is a popular spot.
Travellers Ready to Hit the High Seas
Some pre-pandemic cruise enthusiasts, like Gord Fansher, are eager to return, but holding off until next year. Others, like Joan Ball, doubt they’ll ever cruise again. But some, like Noreen and Pat Flynn, are so eager that they’ve already been on a cruise and are looking forward to the next one.
On Celebrity Cruises’ newly launched Apex, the adults-only solarium offers a peaceful atmosphere.
These Londoners are all veteran cruisers and love it for various reasons. For Fansher, it is the social element that he most prizes. “I love meeting and talking to people from all over.” He considered booking a cruise in 2022 but thinks now that 2023 is more comfortable for wife Jan and himself. They usually travel with Carnival Cruise Line.
Joan Ball and her partner, John Prouty, both over 65 with some health issues that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19, have travelled on most of the major cruise lines over the years. “The great thing (about cruising) is being able to see a number of things without unpacking and the cruise company takes care of everything – food, accommodations, activities – for you.” But the pandemic has her doubting that the couple will be cruising ever again, or at least not for a long time.
Conversely, the Flynns were so excited to get back on the water that they did a seven-day Mediterranean cruise last September on one of Celebrity Cruises’ new ships – the Apex.
According to Michelle Whalen, at Uniglobe Enterprise Travel, some travellers are still hesitant to reserve a cruise because of the federal government’s Level 4 travel advisory against international travel./p>
As part of their safety measures, cruise lines are requiring crew members to be double vaccinated, pass COVID tests during every cruise and wear masks at all times while working. Also, they are not allowed to leave the ship while in ports.
Maxine Gundermann, of Celebrity Cruises, agrees, saying that this is confusing, as the CDC has changed its advisory to a Level 3, which allows for cruising with restrictions.
According to Gail Ducharme, of Ellison Travel and Tours, these restrictions include many that Canadians will be used to, like masking in indoor public areas, extra spacing between chairs and tables, and limited numbers allowed in pools and hot tubs at one time.
Some differences that veteran cruisers will notice are that not all routes are available on all lines and that insurance coverage varies and should be thoroughly researched before departing. Ducharme explains that some insurance companies will cover passengers when they are on land destinations but not on the ship because “airlifting someone off the ship when it’s at sea is prohibitively expensive.”
Gundermann adds that spacing while sitting on deck chairs or in the dining room has not been a problem because ships have been running well below capacity. She expects this to change as more people get comfortable with the idea of international travel.
- All adult passengers must be double vaccinated and show proof
- All must have a negative test to present before departure
- Crew members are double vaccinated, tested during each cruise and wear masks at all times
- Crew members are not allowed to exit the ship while in port
- Carding on and off ship is now touchless
- Some ports are still off limits, others allow only cruise line escorted tours and others allow passengers to disembark and explore on their own
- Food on the buffets is now served by crew members
Many people have long favoured the smaller ships used for river cruising. According to Federico Berarducci, of Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, this is truer than ever. He adds that Uniworld’s boats have been travelling at three-quarters of their capacities, so those who want to interact with a couple hundred people rather than a couple thousand would be more comfortable on river cruises.
Cruise reviewer Lynn Elmhirst agrees. Her autumn cruise on the Rhone River with Avalon Waterways had a capacity of 200 with just 100 on board during the journey. Because the number of people is so small, “river cruising feels like your own bubble,” she explains. Though she felt somewhat apprehensive about going on the cruise with COVID numbers rising in the fall of 2021, the cleanliness of the boat and close observance of restrictions by the crew helped Flynn feel very safe.
This was also the feeling of Torontonian Marsha Mowers, of Canadian Travel News, who took her first cruise in August of 2021. She “was very impressed with the protocols.” On Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas, she noticed that room service carts are not wheeled into the cabins; rather the cart is brought to the door and guests take over from there.
Gundermann says Celebrity is further assuring passenger safety with Muster 2.0, which is a combination of watching safety videos on the cabin TV or on a phone app and later checking in with a muster leader at the appropriate muster station.
The cruise lines have also upgraded air filtration systems as well as their already-stringent cleaning protocols. Elmhirst and Flynn both mention that they were asked for their vaccine certificate in shops and restaurants in European ports. They were relieved to see that locals and tourists wore masks when in port. Both were pleased that the cruise lines on which they were travelling provided complimentary PCR testing for returning Canadians.
Flynn, like Gord Fansher, appreciates the sociability of cruising that, she says, she and Pat found at the large martini bar on the Apex, which doubles as the lounge area. Spacing of tables and chairs limits socialization in other areas. Mower, Flynn and Elmhirst all enjoyed their travel experiences since cruising has restarted and recommend the experience.