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What's It Like to Be On a Cruise Now

I have been getting a lot of questions about what it’s like on board cruise ships now. In short,

it’s like you remember it in many ways, but things are far from normal. Read on to learn what things are the same and which ones are different.

Vaccination Status Matters a Lot

Many ships are sailing with a vaccine requirement as they restart operations. Even those that aren’t requiring passengers to be vaccinated will ask about your status as part of an extensive health screening.

In the United States, those with at least 95 percent of passengers and crew fully vaccinated are allowed to relax safety rules. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, operators of those cruises “may advise passengers and crew that they do not have to wear a mask or maintain physical distance in any areas.”

If fewer than 95 percent of passengers are vaccinated on a ship, there may be areas designated for those who have gotten the shot (wristbands show who is vaccinated). In those vaccinated-only areas, passengers can go without a mask. But in other indoor areas where all passengers are together, both vaccinated and unvaccinated passengers may have to wear masks unless they are eating and drinking. Those who are not vaccinated also have to pay for extra tests.

Crowds are Smaller

Ships are sailing at reduced capacity for now, and as you might imagine there were not many complaints about this new and temporary reality. “It feels like being on a very big yacht with so few people,” said one cruiser. “Sometimes you wish there were more people, but enjoying no lines nor waiting for anything is pretty awesome.”

Another cruiser noticed the difference right away on the two cruises she took, from the Bahamas and Miami, on Royal Caribbean International. “Normally on a ship, you have to get out there pretty early in the morning to get the prime real estate for a lounge chair that overlooks the pool,” she said. “Right now that’s not an issue.”

The Buffet Lives On (in some cases, with tweaks)

On some cruise lines, such as Celebrity and Royal Caribbean, buffets are staffed with crew members who serve passengers. But other cruise lines are letting passengers serve themselves — with some crew around to keep an eye on behavior.

“You can use the buffet like pre-pandemic times,” one guy said of his cruise. “They are changing out the tongs and everything, and there are people standing there to ‘buffet patrol’, maybe just making sure that no one’s doing anything they shouldn’t be doing.”

Someone Might Test Positive, But It Shouldn’t Ruin the Cruise

Routine testing has turned up positive covid cases on a few sailings so far — which cruise operators have expected. Their goal is to make sure a couple of cases don’t become an outbreak that would force a cruise to end early. So far, the efforts have been successful.

One cruiser was on board in June when two unvaccinated children tested positive — one asymptomatic and one with mild symptoms — and had to be flown home. The captain announced the cases and “that’s all we heard about it,” she said. Everyone 16 and older was required to be vaccinated on that sailing.

“Nobody was like, “Oh No”, she said. “We know the protocols work, we saw it in action, and we just went on with the rest of our cruise.”

Rules Vary By Port - Onboard and On Land

Cruise lines will not have the same rules for testing and mask-wearing on each ship because those measures are dictated by the ports from which they sail. Passengers should expect to have to wear masks in terminals, but the onboard experience will vary.

“We have sailed on three cruises from three different cruise lines thus far; each has had different protocols in place,” said one frequent cruiser. “One thing that stands out is that there isn’t consistency across the cruise lines in healthy and safety measures.”

Rules for what you can do off the ships will vary as well. “Depending on the port of call, the cruise line, and your vaccination status, you may not be able to explore independently,” one cruiser said. “While we could explore freely on two cruises, one cruise required all guests to book shore excursions with the cruise line for two out of three ports of call.”

As you can see, flexibility is key, but the joys of cruising are back! Contact me today to help find

the best cruise for you.

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