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  • Writer's pictureColette DeGrazia

How safe is it to cruise?

It's been a whirlwind. A slow one at that. Does that even make sense? How can a whirlwind be slow? Over the last 15 months, those of us that are part of the cruise industry have felt like we've been on a very long bumper car ride. From the unfolding nightmare of all the ships that were sailing when the pandemic started to rage in Asia, then as it swept around the world, cruise lines were making decision without much data on how to contain the COVID-19 virus. I remember I started following this virus while I was visiting family in California, January of 2020. It was surreal what we were seeing on the ships. It was sad to see the passengers quarantined to their cabins, ships being turned away from ports and all the illness there was. Turns out they were doing the exact opposite of what should have been done. We know so much more today, and it's not rocket science. All the cruise lines have worked together to get through this pandemic. They worked to get the crews home, laid off staff, they supported travel advisors by protecting commissions, they supported passengers by offering refunds and future cruise credits, they have shored up their finances and put up with unfair & untrue media “reports”. There's still a long road ahead. Today is a bright beginning with the departure of The Celebrity Edge from US soil. The cruise lines have found a way to move on despite the lawsuits are still going on, the weakened CDC and the Governor of Florida's antics. It's a time to put their money where their mouth is. A time to prove to the skeptical that these new protocols devised by research & data, backed by science and with the advisors of the Healthy Sail Panels, there is a way to sail safe, we can return to cruise. Some fun facts about today's sailing on the Celebrity Edge, the ship holds 2,918 passengers, there are 40% of that number sailing. 99% of those passengers are vaccinated, 100% of the crew is vaccinated. If you have a favorite cruise line, on their home page, there will be a link you can read through their protocols, I recommend the FAQ section for a summary. For a more in depth analysis you can visit the CDC website, Cruise Ship Guidance | Quarantine | CDC. While I'm writing about ocean going vessels in this article, river cruise ships have much of the same protocols, the main difference is that the number of people on most river ships is well under 200. It's not as large as an operation but still very important on how they handle this! NOTE: This information is current today. Protocols are changing, nothing is final. Things change daily, that's why you need a Travel Advisor when planning your trips. Must one have been vaccinated to board a cruise? Cruise lines are highly recommending being vaccinated. They are limiting the number of non-vaccinated passengers, under 5% of the total per CDC guidelines. Every cruise line has said crew will be vaccinated. The 5% takes into consideration children under 16 and those who are unable to be vaccinated. On some lines from certain destinations you must be vaccinated. Sailing from Florida as of now, they cannot mandate vaccines to board per a recent court ruling, they can control the number of vaccinated vs unvaccinated passengers they allow onboard. What can I expect on board? Do I have to wear a mask? This varies depending on where you are on the ship. If it's crowded - yes. In your stateroom- no, when eating or drinking- no, outside-no, surrounded by your traveling party with others socially distanced - no. You can expect staggered arrivals, contactless transactions, COVID testing and monitoring as they monitor passengers. If I'm not vaccinated can I sail? Yes, but. And on only some cruise lines. There will be more protocols for you too jump through, testing at your expense before, during and after the cruise. There will be some restrictions on the ship, you will not be able to access all venues. For example, the casino on Royal Ships will only be open to vaccinated passengers. What happens if someone test positive or gets sick on board? This has actually already happened twice since June. The passengers are isolated in a special section of the ship and are removed from the ship at the soonest opportunity and flown home. This does not dis What do you recommend as a Travel Advisor? The first cruise I am booked on is October 1st. If I have an opportunity, you can bet I'll sail sooner than that. I have been following these protocols the entire time and I believe they will work. Why? Because they used these protocols last summer in Europe and Asia. Over 400,000 passengers and there were less than 50 cases. Did you hear that in the news? No. Why? Because it worked! Having said this, I wrote in another issue about how everyone has their own personal travel risk tolerance. If all this gives you the hives, don't travel! I'm happy to chat anytime about anything travel if you have any questions!

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