October 03, 2021

Finally Heading Back to Sea

It has been about 20 months since I  have packed for a cruise, navigated the nuances of security checks and walked down the gangway of a cruise ship. At first there was little knowledge about the "pandemic". Some leaders in Washington insisted it would be gone in two weeks.  Eventually the truth bacame known. As of September 2021 700,000 Americans have lost their lives to this very contagious disease. Scientists and big pharma knew a pandemic would hit someday and they worked overtime to develope a vacccine, that as I write, is available to all those over 12 that want it.

It seemed that every week testing and vaccine protocols required for boarding a cruise ship  changed. Proof of vaccination, testing, no vacination. As the sailing date approached, proof of vaccination 14 days before sailing and negative testing within 48 hours of boarding looked like where things would settle for this cruise. 

After seeing that appointments for testing were scarce during the 48 hour period prior to weekend boarding of ships, I elected to take a virtually supervised home test ordered thru the cruise line.

The home test was a smart decision. Simple, quick, about 30 minutes, and certified results acceptable to meet CDC and cruise ship requirements. All in the comfort of sitting at my dining room table, phone in hand.

Packing could be a nightmare since it was almost two years since I touched a suitcase. Fortunately a practice I started a number of years ago made it very easy. An organized packing list that covers every possible item I may want to take, and enough description of how and in what order to pack it. Just one new item to add - KN95 face masks, required in some ports of call. During the past week I have worked on organizing stuff and replacing a few things that were too far past expiration dates, like my sunscreen.

The evening before departure, everything is packed in its place. The suitcase is not full, but is heavy.

The alarm is set for 6:45. My daughter and her husband are due at my house to leave by 7:30. The luggage is in my car, the A/C reset, and the water turned off. They arrive a few minutes late. Then an oops. Most cruise lines permit you to bring one or two bottles of wine on board in your carry on luggage. They were bringing one, but when the back pack was set down on the driveway a little too hard, it broke. Wine was dripping out the bottom of the back pack filled with broken glass.

I turn the water back on and they scramble to clean the back pack as much as possible. There could be worse odors permeating the car. Fortunately close by passports and other boarding documents remained unscathed.

We finally hit the road at 8:00 AM, 30 minutes later than scheduled. Not really a concern as our scheduled boarding time is 12:00 to 12:30 and the ship doesn't leave until 6:00 pm. Scheduled boarding times are more strigently enforced than in years past, again another consequence of the pandemic, spread people out, it is safer.

Traffic is lite as we head down the Florida Turnpike towards Port Everglades. The windshield time is used by everyone to update the Celebrity app. I can't say it is an absolute requirement for sailing, but highly encourage anyone considering a cruise to install the app for the appropriate cruise line. Nearly the entire checkin process is now done through an app.

After fuel and restroom stops it is time for a totally new experience. As I head down the road at 70mph, we listen to all the muster drill instructions including the ships horn emergency signal. My passengers also use the time to answer all the preboarding health questions.  Something that everyone must do before the ship can sail. Once on the ship we will have several hours to find our muster station and check in with the staff. So much better than having thousands of passengers standing under the lifeboats at the same time. This is a change that was in the works before the pandemic. Well appreciated by experienced cruisers, but not so sure it is the best for the first timer.

We pull into the parking lot, transfer to the waiting shuttle bus and are on our way to the nearby waiting ship. The Celebrity Edge.