If you are like me, you are excited cruising is back. But of course, it has come back with a different face due to the COVID 19 pandemic. In September I sailed in the Carnival Horizon and thought I would share my experience.
When all of the protocols were announced, to be honest, I was skeptical on sailing. Do I really want to wear a mask, how much of a pain is this going to be? Well, to be honest, it was not as bad as I thought. First, lets start with pre cruise.
About a month before the cruise I was required to attest online that I am or will be fully vaccinated at the time of sailing. Fully vaccinated means you have had the final dose more than 14 days prior to sailing. Not a big deal but they did put a time limit on it so watch your emails. Then about three days prior, I had to complete a health questionnaire online. This can be completed at the port but get it done before you go for easier processing.
The next step I was to get tested. At the time, you had to get tested no more than 72 hours or three days prior to sailing but that have moved that up to 48 hours or two days prior to sailing. Personally, I had no problem getting an appointment at an urgent care location here but I know it can be a challenge. If you are cruising in the next month or so, I would do some research now to find locations and have a back up plan. Also, take the Rapid Test because you will get the results much quicker and no worries about a time crunch. The test can be the home test but must be monitored by a medical facility through a tele doc appointment. But consult your cruise line or travel advisor for the latest requirements.
Now I was able to print my results from the portal but ask for a printed result from the medical facility. It does need to have your name, date of birth, date of the test, the facility, the type of test and result which of course needs to be negative or not detected. I was able to use a screen shot.
Embarkation was a little different than times past. Carnival has had the arrival appointments for years but have been lax in the past. Now, they are very strict and you will not get in the terminal early. This is done to keep the crowds down as much as possible. Once you arrive at the terminal you will need to be wearing a mask from that point on. I will go over the requirements for the mask while on board later.
Here is what you will need to enter the terminal.
Before I got up to the door I was asked for these items, I think just to make sure I had them with me. Once in the terminal you will show the test results and vaccination card one time so those can be put away., but you will need your boarding pass a few times. In Miami they use facial recognition so they will take your picture and send you through security. Once you are beyond that, the process is normal except the wearing of the mask.
One of the biggest changes that came out of this pandemic and I hope it remains is the muster drill. Prior to the shutdown, you would need to gather in the dining room, the theater or even outside in big groups for safety instructions. Well, not anymore. Now, you watch a video on your phone or on your stateroom TV then visit your muster station between certain times and get a demonstration. Maybe it took 5 minutes. They will still make the typical announcement about 30 minutes prior to departure with the alarm sounds but you don't have to stop your vacation for it.
So the question do you have to wear a mask the whole cruise, yes and no. First, when you are outdoors you are not required to wear a mask. Now when you are indoors, that is where it gets a little tricky. Technically, you are required to wear a mask indoors unless you are eating or drinking. The only place this was really enforced was walking into the Lido Marketplace, the theater, the dining room and at some of the entertainment venues. Personally, I would take my mask down if I was in areas by my self but put it back up around others. When you walk into the dining room, you will be required to wear the mask on your way to the table but while sitting, the mask does not need to be worn.
Another use of technology that came out of this is around menus and the Fun Times. With Carnival, everything is on the HUB App or on QR codes at the venues. and easy to access. On the App you can find the fun times for each day of your cruise with a schedule of events and activities, hours for bars and restaurants and menus for the dining room. If you do want a hard copy, you can get it at Guest Services but its just a piece of paper so not the old Fun Times which I loved.
For the restaurants other than the dining room as well as the bars, on the bar and tables you will find a card with a QR Code. Simply scan the card with the camera on your phone and open the site. I always downloaded it so I would have it for the rest of the cruise. The only place I saw a paper menu was a Bonsai Teppanyaki and Bonsai Sushi, every where else had the QR Codes. But don't worry, if you dont have your phone with you, just ask for a menu and they will provide it. Sounds strange but one of the places I thought this took away from the atmosphere was at Alchemy These menus were always big books with a back lit and I just thought that was pretty cool.
If you are concerned about sailing right now, its perfectly understandable. But I will tell you the cruise lines are doing a fantastic job in keeping passengers and crew safe. Besides the mask, I saw a lot of cleaning throughout the ship and really all of the time. If you got up from a table in the Lido Marketplace, they were cleaning and sanitizing it before anyone else sat down, They have also increased medical staff and the size of the medical facility to assist with any situations. I also want to mention, other passengers were taking the requirements serious by wearing mask and hand washing.
One of the benefits of sailing right now is the small crowds. I believe my sailing was at about 60% capacity and I could really tell. Lines were short and I never had a problem finding a chair on deck. It was really noticeable on embarkation day which can be a mad house. Usually its crazy busy in the Lido Marketplace, lido buffet, on embarkation day but I walked through there quite a few times and never was it too crazy.
Of course, one thing to keep in mind, this was my experience on Carnival so the other cruise lines could be different. For the most part, the protocols are the same with testing, vaccine requirements and mask but the level of enforcement and requirements on board could vary. But not to worry, when you book with Freedom to Roam Travel, I will keep you up to date on protocols and requirements so you are prepared. For more information, email me firstname.lastname@example.org
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I have a passion for travel and believe travel is about experiences. Experiences create memories and are the stories we tell to friends and family - even with a little fudging on the facts.