Cruising is back amid the pandemic

Fitness coach Jen Furer sails back to sea after more than a year: ‘Everyone was respecting each other’s space.’

By Cristina DC Pastor

It’s been a bumpy ride for the cruise industry but for New Jersey resident Jen Furer, her first cruise vacation since the pandemic has been one big thrill throughout.

“It’s been wonderful,” gushed the fitness coach and Makilala TV co-host.

This is not her first sailing trip. Jen’s family are cruise habitues, getting on and off ships since 2004 and traveling to places such as the Bahamas, Bermuda or the Caribbean. And while liners have been likened by some to “petri dishes” for COVID transmission, Jen and her family went on their recent travel all psyched up and vaccinated.  The cruise required every passenger a negative Covid test two days before sailing and proof of complete vaccination for anyone 12 and older. Unvaccinated minors are tested multiple times during the duration of the cruise. All guests are required to complete pre-cruise health questions. There is additional testing for kids age 2 to 11. For all cruises, kids take a complimentary PCR test when checking in at the terminal.  

Jen’s family recently got back from the Bahamas and observed some changes brought on by strictly enforced health protocols.  Where before ships were usually packed with about 6K guests, there were only 2,500 on board.  Crew kept their masks indoors and outdoors, while guests were required to wear masks indoors. In areas designated for vaccinated people, masks were optional.   

“Hand sanitizers were all over the eating area, and washing hands before meals were normal practices,” she said. “Seats are spaced out and disinfected after use.”

There is wait staff serving food instead of the usual buffet table where guests are shoulder to shoulder and use the same serving utensils. “I like this, it’s cleaner and healthier,” she said.

The swimming pool has a maximum capacity, the average was a maximum of 6 people.So are elevators and restrooms. “Guests make it a point to keep a distance from other guests. Everyone was respecting each other’s space by social distancing.”

‘I like waking up and seeing the horizon, the sunshine and see endless skies.’

The CDC has had a complicated dance with the cruise industry since the pandemic erupted in late 2019 to early 2020. Rampant infections were reported among guests and the CDC came down hard on the industry. Like many in the travel and tourism trade, business ground to a dead halt. The industry had to put in place “safety protocols that align with CDC’s standards for protecting passengers, crew, port personnel.”

Currently, cruise ships are color-coded indicating where they are in the CDC monitoring. Here’s what the colors mean, according to the CDC website:

-Green status means the ship has no reports of cases of COVID-19 or COVID-19-like illness.

-Orange status means the ship has reported cases of COVID-19 but is below the threshold for CDC investigation.

-Yellow status means the ship has met the threshold for CDC investigation, which includes one of the following criteria: at or above the investigation threshold for crew COVID-19 cases, at or above the investigation threshold for passenger COVID-19 cases; or state or local health department notified CDC of passenger COVID-19 cases occurring within five days of disembarkation.

-Red status means the ship is at or above the CDC investigation threshold for passenger and crew COVID-19 cases.

-Gray status means CDC has not reviewed or confirmed the cruise ship operator’s health and safety protocols.

Jen and family were constantly in touch with the cruise company for any changes in schedule. They were supposed to cruise in 2020 but waited until Royal Caribbean gave the go-ahead for their trip.

She was happy to see crew and staff grateful to be back to work, and guests tipping more to show their appreciation for their hard work.

“The live entertainers and the crew were very grateful to be back doing what they love to do. I’ve spoken to the Filipinos who enjoy working for Royal Caribbean, and even though their work contract is not as long as pre-pandemic, they are so happy to be back to work, after not working for over 16 months,” she said.

She noticed too that older people are more adventurous – flying down the zip line, rock climbing, body surfing, even barreling off the 135-foot tall water slide.”

“Not me though, maybe next time.”

(C) The FilAm 2021

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