What’s Cruising Going To Look Like in 2021?

In March 2020, I was scheduled on a Mekong River cruise to Vietnam and Cambodia with AmaWaterways. I had booked my cabins, received my visas, and cleared my calendar. Then the world shut down. Countries closed their borders and cruise ships came to a halt. Eight months later, I still have no idea when my cruise will be rescheduled for.

Curious to know when will you be able to go on your next cruise vacation? While there’s no certainty, chances are 2021 will bring new changes to the cruise industry, making it safer and viable.

Cruise to the Italian Riviera

Europe is Sailing

Cruise ships in Europe started sailing in Summer 2020 amidst the pandemic. With only European passengers on board and local (mainly river cruise) itineraries, many of the cruises were able to contain COVID-19 outbreaks. “With enhanced measures in place – including 100% testing for passengers and crew prior to boarding, mask-wearing, physical distancing requirements, highly controlled shore excursions and many more, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) members have gradually resumed sailing in Europe and other parts of the world with success,” the organization said. CLIA members comprise 95% of global oceangoing cruise capacity.

AmaWaterways became the first U.S. based river cruise line to resume operations in Europe. They followed protocols outlined by not only the CDC, but the World Health Organization, IG RiverCruise and other official authorities.

US Suspended Until Dec 31, 2020

In the U.S., CDC banned cruising until October. On Oct 31st, it lifted its No Sail Order on cruise ships in U.S. waters, but with a series of requirements – 74 in fact. CLIA member cruise lines extended their suspension of cruise operations through Dec. 31, following the CDC’s latest order, which ended the cruise ship sailing ban but replaced it with an extensive series of requirements cruise lines must undertake to resume sailing again in U.S. waters. These were established by The Healthy Sail Panel.

Cruising on Anthem of the Seas in the Mediterranean

Simulations/ Test Voyages

The framework includes a requirement that ships conduct test sailings prior to restarting commercial operations and present to the CDC a report showing that those sailings were successful in mitigating the risk of spread to crew, passengers and communities. 

Once a simulated voyage is complete and the cruise line reports on its results, the CDC will determine whether that ship will receive a Conditional Sailing Certificate or if it must modify its practices or engage in additional simulated voyages.

Also among the requirements is that a cruise line must apply for elements of Conditional Sailing Certificate at least 60 days before a ship plans to launch passenger cruises, which is likely to push any sailing in U.S. waters until at least early January.

More than 100,000 people signed up to take part in Royal Caribbean’s test sailings just days after the cruise line put out a call for volunteers. Sign up here if you want to be on a simulated voyage.

volunteer on a cruise
Cruise lines are looking for volunteers on simulated voyages

Sailing Agreements

Further, there are new restrictions by the ports. Cruise lines must establish agreements with shoreside healthcare entities in any ports in which they plan to operate, in case they need to evacuate any passengers and crew in need of Covid-19 care to a hospital.

sail to key west

For example, Key West has capped the number of cruisers allowed ashore and the size of ships allowed to dock, and to give priority to ships based on their health and environmental records. Their measures include banning cruise ships that carry more than 1,300 people, including passengers and crew; allowing only 1,500 cruise passengers per day to disembark; and requiring ports to prioritize berthing to companies based on their scores with the CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program and their record of environmental violations. According to the Florida Ports Council, Key West is one of the busiest cruise ports in the nation, with about 393 ships and 913,323 passengers visiting during the 2018-19 season.

viking world cafe

Food and Tours

Meal service and entertainment venues are going to be modified to facilitate social distancing. While most cruise ships around the world stay docked, many cruise lines are launching new designs and new ships. AmaWaterways is replacing buffets with more personalized dining experiences, from à la carte dining to debuting show kitchens on the newly renovated sister ships AmaBella and AmaVerde. Silversea is launching a new culinary focused Silver Moon ship.

Shore excursions may be fewer, and restricted to smaller groups, rather than bus load. Many of these now focus on outdoor adventures, natural spaces, sustainability and ecotourism.

Views from a Cruise Ship

Smaller

Heard of barges, gulets or Turkish schooners? Luxury tour operators and yacht rental companies are seeing growing demand from first-time customers and ocean cruisers for the variety of small-boat products that enable families or groups of friends to travel in their own bubble.  

These include slow traveling river barges that carry six to 18 passengers. They have sails but are typically powered by engines. You can do a full buyout to create your own itinerary and meals in a Covid-safe bubble. Where could you go? Turkey, Croatia, Mexico, and most of the Caribbean is open to US citizens.

In the meantime, learn about Croatia’s delicious food

Also important to note that The Framework for Conditional Sailing Order applies to all cruise ships, which the Order defines as commercial passenger ships with the capacity to carry more than 250 people and where an overnight stay onboard by passengers or crew is anticipated.

cruise in the galapagos islands

Private Islands

To avoid crowds and port agreements, some cruise lines are developing their own private island, just for the passengers to enjoy. Expect more itineraries from Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings. CEO Frank Del Rio said that the cruise company is the only one with a private destination in both the Bahamas, with Great Stirrup Cay, and the Western Caribbean, where it developed Harvest Caye in Belize.

Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean International’s senior vice president of sales, trade support and service, confirmed that the first sailings the line will offer when it resumes service will be short cruises to its private island, Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Continuous Testing

When you do get on a cruise, expect to be tested before and during the sail. According to Viking Cruises, “Continuous PCR testing, along with our extensive onboard hygiene protocols, will lead to making Viking ships a safe place to get away to and explore the world.” The Norwegian cruise operator has installed a laboratory capable of running daily Covid-19 tests on all guests and crew onboard its 930-passenger Viking Star.

When onboard infections are detected in time, they can avoid any ship wide outbreaks. The important things is that the ships have a procedures (and space) to isolate those who are infected.

cruise travel in Greenland

Cruise Restart Will Take Time

It is unlikely that cruise ships will start sailing in January 2021. It takes time to bring crew from various countries, quarantine and test them, provision and prepare ships for service, and deploy them to ports. This will likely take a minimum of two months. The bigger piece for all the cruise lines is to combat media negativity and consumer fears.

two cruise ships
Photo by Samson Bush on Pexels.com

Economic Impact

Why should you even care? With rising COVID-19 cases, who wants to book, let alone go on a cruise in the distant future?

CLIA says that each day without cruise operations in the U.S. results in nearly 1,000 American jobs lost and that from mid-March through today (Nov 2020). It is estimated that the suspension of cruise operations has resulted in a loss of more than $25 billion in economic activity and over 164,000 American jobs. Globally, the cruise industry generates over $150 billion in economic activity every year, supporting 1.17 million jobs paying more than $50 billion in salaries and wages.

“The positive news regarding a vaccine, together with our Travel Waiver Plus program, proven health and safety protocols, and innovative designs give guests peace of mind,” says Kristin Karst, Executive Vice President and Co-Founder of AmaWaterways.

And when you return from your cruise ship or river cruise voyage, check here for the latest CDC advise to passengers.

Read about my fly/ cruise to Antarctica in January 2020

Greetings to Learn From Other Cultures

In America, what’s a common way for a person to greet someone? A usual “Hi! Nice to meet you!” followed by a handshake is what many would think of when asked that question. What started as a Greek symbol of peace has became an everyday action now, but how do you feel about the new elbow bump that’s becoming commonplace with social distancing?

With COVID-19 still a concern, you may be wary of exchanging physical contact. So instead of the usual universal greeting, why not take a look at how other cultures greet each other? Though the handshake has been a long tradition in American life, learning and trying out different new ways to greet people can be a fun, unique experience, while also helping you build stronger bonds with people from various backgrounds. It may even come in handy on your next business or leisure trip!

1. Bow

bow greeting
In Asia, a bow is appropriate for all social settings.
photo courtesy of TripSavvy

In Eastern Asian countries like Japan and Korea, bowing is a common greeting. Though everyone greets by bowing, the meaning of the gesture can take on different forms. It can symbolize respect, sincerity, humility, and remorse, depending on the context of the situation. Increase the emotion behind the greeting by bowing lower than the other person.

For a Japanese bow or “ojigi,” men should have their hands to their sides, while women would place their hands onto their laps. During the bow, make sure to lower your gaze and avoid eye contact. The neck and back should be a straight line. In informal situations, a 15-degree angle bow is acceptable, but during formal situations, a 30-degree angle bow is expected. In Korea, however, numerous bows or “konsu” are practiced. They vary from casual and respectful, to “belly-button” bows. Each gesture has different guidelines to follow for specific settings a person may be in. 

Check out this video for a more in-depth explanation and the difference between the two cultural bows!

Want to try some Japanese snacks? Check out this fun box that comes with an assortment of food items anyone can enjoy!

2. Shaking Fist

I tried out this fun greeting, and it’s super easy! Try it out next time you’re with friends!
Photo courtesy by Mental Floss

This greeting of shaking your own fist in the air is common among the Kanuri tribe in Niger. The Kanuri tribe belongs to the Saharan Branch of the Nilo-Sharan, and its lineage traces back to the medieval Kanem-Bornu Empire. As farmers, fishers and traders, it’s common to encounter the Kanuri people in Southeast Niger. Instead of smiling or waving, shaking fists is a formal greeting!

To correctly do this, raise your hands at eye level and then form them into fists. Then, shake your fists while saying “wooshay!” which translates to “hi!”

3. Wai

For the wei, the higher your hands symbolizes the amount of respect shown.
Photo courtesy by Koh Samui Sunset

The wai, pronounced  “why,” is exclusive to the people of Thailand. The wai complements the Thai word “sawasdee” which means hello. However, it’s recommended to not gesture the wai to people who are younger than you, as age plays a major role in social ranking in Thailand. Instead, give them a nod and smile. Use the greeting to say goodbye, to apologize, and to pay respects to spirit houses, temples or shrines!

To wai, place your palms together with each finger touching its counterpart. With your hands at the center of your chest, bend your neck toward your fingers. As your neck is lowering, rotate your hands to where your index figure will touch your nose. The higher you place your hands, the more respect is conveyed.

4. Tongue Out

greeting
This Tibetan greeting will make kids chuckle.
Photo courtesy of Home Exchange

Across the globe, children often stick their tongues out when making fun of each other. As adults, we refrain from this as it is considered rude. In Tibet, however, it’s quite the opposite, and is actually a formal greeting. The tradition stems from the 9th century during the rule of Tibetan King Lang Darma. Known for his cruelty and black tongue, Darma is an infamous figure in Tibetian history.

Tibetans fear Darma’s incarnation and stick out their tongues as a greeting. If the tongue is not black, they are deemed not guilty of evil deeds, and are not incarnations of the malevolent king. When you visit Tibet, you don’t have to worry about being impolite since the greeting is actually a form of respect!

5. Namaste

namaste greeting
Namaste symbolizes unity and good energy.
Photo courtesy of Stuff

During this time of social distancing, namaste has become the go-to method across the globe for greeting people. The action is a customary, non-contact form of Hindu greeting predominately found in India. The meaning behind the custom is to welcome guests, relatives, or to acknowledge strangers. It expresses courtesy, politeness and gratitude, while also acting as a salutation and valediction. Derived from the Sanskrit language and meaning, “I bow to the divine in you,” namaste is the highest and most respectful greeting in the world!

To say namaste, hold both palms together with forefingers posing upwards. Bring your thumbs close to your chest. Close your eyes as you bow, and say “namaste” loud and clear. For an example of how to correctly observe this greeting, watch this video from Hemalayaa.

~By Virtual Marketing & Communications Intern, Laura Vo. Laura’s a Public Relations Major at Kennesaw State University and has a passion for supporting great causes like Go Eat Give.

A Complete Road Trip Guide During COVID-19

Due to the Coronavirus, the closing of numerous states and countries have put a pause in many people’s travel plans. Though it may be a while before the tourism industry takes full flight again, the United States is beginning to ease its quarantine restrictions as states make plans to reopen. That being said, family-friendly, affordable and fun summer getaways can still be enjoyed, while abiding by CDC’s health guidelines. Now is the best time to start planning for practical road trips you and your loved ones can experience, and here are a few tips to keep in mind when preparing for your upcoming road trip.

Heath and safety reminders at Rock City Gardens

Pack An Essentials Bag

An emergency bag is important for every road trip you take, especially during this time. When preparing your kit, remember to gather any over-the-counter medications like Tylenol, Pepto Bismol and Benadryl, so you’re ready to combat any health symptoms you may experience and avoid an impromptu trip to the store. To save money and avoid too many stops, pack granola bars and energy drinks along with other non-perishable foods. 

Your main essentials to pack to help you practice good hygiene and ensure your safety include –  sanitary items such as gloves, wet wipes, at least 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and face masks. Use disposable gloves when pumping gas or entering rest areas. Wear a face mask whenever you leave your car to protect yourself and those around you. Be sure to regularly wipe down surfaces before and after touching them, and you’re ready to go!

The Ultimate PPE Care Package includes all the essentials you need for travel

Get 10% off Ultimate PPE CarePackage with code: GOEATGIVE10. The ready-to-go travel box comes complete with reusable and disposable face masks (including KN95 Face Masks), hand sanitizer, flushable wipes, safety glasses and several pairs of gloves.

The Riverview Inn is tucked away in the historic Lookout Mountain

Stay In Places Where Social Distancing Is Easier

With new regulations in place, several hotels, Like Extended Stay America and Hyatt, have also implemented new policies on how they will maintain social distancing and sanitize their facility. Familiarize yourself with the guidelines provided by the American Hotel & Lodging Association

Before booking a room, call the hotel or visit the website to see what COVID-19 protocols are in place. When checking into your hotel, also ask to decline housekeeping to reduce the number of people entering your room. Try to avoid densely populated locations that are popular “tourist areas,” such as Las Vegas or New York. Also, now may be a good time to stay at a short-term vacation rental, condo, or AirBnB that will limit frequent contact with others. 

Set ground rules for traveling together

Travel With People You Are Quarantined With

Some say that the best part of a road trip is the company they bring along. When planning for your destination, consider who to travel with. It is best to choose people you’ve been in constant contact with or have been self-quarantining with. Such individuals can be family members in the same house, roommates and significant others. 

Try out this fun game that anyone can enjoy while on the road!

Establish social distancing rules that everyone follows before, during and after the road trip. Make sure everyone is on the same page with protecting themselves and potentially exposing others. It’s important to pick people who can earnestly self-quarantine themselves and can guarantee they will not come into contact with others after the trip.

Wash hands after visiting and touching public areas

Disinfect Frequently During The Road Trip

The CDC released a disinfection guide for everyone to follow good hygiene practices for any situation. When making stops for food, gas and resting, bacteria is easily transferred from outside surfaces and to those around you. With your road trip kit packed and ready to go, make it a habit to wipe down the inside of your car and surfaces that you may touch often – such as gas pumps, car door, restroom fixtures, handles, and your phone. Wash hands frequently and avoid touching your face. It’s also a good idea to disinfect your room when checking into your hotel.

Plan ahead and be a smart traveler

Preplan Your Locations and Activities

With several businesses and attractions being closed, there’s a good chance that your typical summer activities are on hold. However, The National Governors Association created a terrific resource to show which states are under stay-at-home orders. For your road trip, prepare for closed theme parks, boardwalks, beaches and parks. Map how many rest stops you may take, and be on the lookout for any toll collection sites that require either cash or card. Also, know which restaurants allow on delivery/carry out, have limited dine-in services, or are reservations only by checking online and calling. It’ll save you the hassle once you hit the road!

~By Virtual Marketing & Communications Intern, Laura Vo. Laura’s a Public Relations Major at Kennesaw State University and has a passion for supporting great causes like Go Eat Give.

New Standards in Hotel Stays Post Coronavirus

Has cabin fever got you down? Are you looking to book your next vacation for later this summer, during Thanksgiving, or pushing it out to 2021? If you are concerned about staying at a hotel and want to know what they are doing to ensure your safety, health and hygiene, this post should give you some good insight. The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) which represents the global Travel and Tourism private sector, has unveiled a range of new worldwide measures to restart the travel sector. Based on these mandates, hotels across the world are already making key changes before they reopen. Here’s what to expect…

Reduced Capacity

Though not required to do so, most hotels are planning to fill approximately 60% of their rooms. This will allow them to have more lag time between check-ins so they can thoroughly clean each room and apply more resources toward existing guests. Speculations are that cost of hotel per night will go up. However, more travelers will choose to stay longer at one destination.

hotel

Use of Technology

You may not be walking up to a check-in desk, having small talk about how your journey was, and waiting for the agent to allocate your keys anymore. The WTTC encourages hotels to integrate technologies to enable automation. These are contactless check-ins, keyless entry, and automated payments.

hotel

Cleaning

Extensive new cleaning practices are in place for protection against potential Covid-19 viruses. Before guests arrive, all rooms are deep cleaned. The same cleaning protocols are applied during every guest change over. The most frequently used areas, such as bathrooms, and most used devices and appliances like TV remote controls will receive particular attention. Disinfectant dispensers are placed throughout the property, especially at all important contact points. Some hotels will pre-schedule your housekeeping time.

IHG is offering individual guest amenity cleaning kits, as part of their  Clean Promise program launching on June 1, 2020. They will also appoint on-property Clean Champions to continue building the culture of clean instilled in IHG hotels around the world. 

hotel

Limited Dine-In

To limit the number of guests in hotel restaurants, capacities will be significantly reduced. Tables are 6 feet apart. In order to provide sufficient space for all guests, the opening hours of restaurants and other hotel facilities will be extended. Everyone should use no-contact, delivery room service. Self-service offers, such as buffets, are reduced to a minimum. Wherever possible, food and beverages are served to guests by staff wearing protective masks.

Social Distancing

Signage and guidelines posted around the hotel will remind guests of social distancing rules. Marked paths in common areas and hallways will control the flow of traffic. In public areas, such as in the restaurants, corridors or gyms, all employees will keep a distance of 6 feet between them and the guests.

Personnel Training

The new protocols will be enforced with the staff first and training is underway. Daily temperature monitoring, social distancing and enhanced hygiene measures, including handwashing and the use of masks and gloves will be practiced. Training by independent auditors is also likely.

Entertainment and activities

Many travelers enjoy using the spa, swimming pool, play golf, or watch live shows at resorts. For the next few months, only events involving a small number of participants and without close contact will be made available. Golf or tennis, for example, can take place, but football tournaments cannot. Spas are adapted so you or the therapist are the only people in the room fitted with HEPA filters. Childcare is organized to new standards. Such standards are in line with the requirements of the destinations and guests’ countries of origin.

Hotels, from MGM Resorts International to Marriott International are outlining their comprehensive health and safety protocols and procedures designed in conjunction with medical and scientific experts to deter the spread of the virus, protect customers and employees and rapidly respond to potential new cases. Make sure to check the website of the hotel for what they are doing, before booking your stay.

FAQ About Flying Post Covid-19

You are probably not ready to get on a plane as yet, but are thinking about it. Like me, if you are feeling trapped at home for way too long, you are day dreaming of your next getaway. As soon as it is safe, you will get on an airplane and jet set to see your friends, family or just chill at the beach or one of the national parks.

The fact is, the entire process of traveling is going to change. It will be somewhat different that what we are use to. Airports and airlines are already publishing their new flight protocols. Although this may evolve in the coming weeks, here’s what I think will happen…

Airline Tickets are Going To Get Expensive

Say goodbye to all those crazy sweet airline deals you see on discount travel websites. Grab them while you still have the chance because airfares will go up eventually. Now, this is partly due to reduced load factor, meaning airplanes are not going to fill every single seat. Some are stating they will keep the middle seat empty. Others’ are charging passengers extra if you want to have no one sit next to you. Xi’an, China based Air Changan is selling up to 8 extra seats per passenger for social distancing. Secondly, there will be fewer flights and schedule reductions. This is because of capacity reductions. Most airlines will downsize after September once the Cares Act expires. Thirdly, airplanes will be disinfected and treated after each flight. Therefore, turnaround time for them will be longer and cost per flight, higher.

Travel Insurance Will Be Important

I have always traveled with insurance, whether through VolunteerCard (for Go Eat Give trips), or Allianz Travel. With the frequency of travel I do, it is inevitable that I may loose a bag, miss a flight, or need to visit a doctor when away from home. There are a few times I have had to file a claim and the insurance has more than paid for itself.

Going forwards, more travelers are going to recognize the importance of having travel insurance. You can purchase a per trip policy or have a yearly one in place. Make sure to also include coverage for “cancel for any reason” if you are worried about recovering your travel costs.

That being said, most airlines and tour operators are going to offer flexible cancellation and rebooking, so definitely check their policy before booking.

There Will be Longer Wait Times at The Airport

It is safe to assume you will need to arrive at the airport earlier to allow some time for health screening. There are going to be fewer lines with more distancing. Some high traffic airports say, give yourself 4 hours. Think of pre 9/11 when you could just walk into the airport and go to your gate directly. There was no security screening and people without boarding passes could see you board the plane. We adjusted to that change, didn’t we?

You Will Get Tested

UAE-based Emirates started rapid testing all their passengers for antibodies (not COVID-19) from Dubai in mid-April. Others are testing flight attendants and employees. Long term, if this is going to be blood tests, infrared tunnels, temperature monitoring, or a quick Covid-19 test, may depend on the airline. If you test positive, you will be denied boarding and would need to go back for self quarantining.

International boarders will require self declaration of where you have been in the last 14 days, if you show symptoms, who you have been in contact with, etc. Currently, many countries in Africa require you to show proof of vaccinations (such as Yellow Fever) before letting you in through, and this procedure may be adopted globally.

New Carry-On Recommendations

Starting May 4, most airlines will require you to wear a mask at the airport and on the flight at all times. Small children are exempt. Though wearing a mask is not a full proof way of protecting yourself, it helps ensure that your respiratory droplets don’t fall on surfaces and on other passengers. I have been wearing travel masks long before Covid-19!

Also, you should carry sanitizing wipes or gels onboard. New TSA requirement allow one liquid hand sanitizer up to 12oz per passenger. This will be screened separately at security checkpoint, so keep it in separate zip lock bag from your other liquids and gels. If you don’t have a mask or gels, some airlines will provide this to you for a small fee.

There is going to be some trial and error in the coming months, so make sure you stay calm and oblige with airport officials. Also, check the destination’s health guidelines ahead of boarding, so you can alter travel plans as needed.

Important Links to Keep Handy:

COVID-19 confirmed cases by airport

Which USA states are open

CDC’s travel advisory