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In March 2020, I was watching the coronavirus pandemic reality unfold while still holding onto the idea that I was about to go on my 1st Disney cruise at the end of the month. For a cruiser and a Disney fan, that’s bucketlist stuff. Even now, I’m afraid that I don’t know when I might be able to even try to go on one again. All of the stars had aligned and I could actually afford to book it. I remember thinking, just let me make it back from my cruise and then we can stay home. It never happened. 2 weeks before it, everything started to shut down. There’s nothing more real than watching Disney close after you’ve seen it barely ever shut down for a hurricane. On March 5, 2020, we had our last visit to Epcot – not knowing that we might not be going back for a long while. I took one of my favorite shots that day with Mary Poppins:
Just a Reminder…
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Even once we accepted that everything had shut down, that there was a toilet paper shortage among other things, and that we were going to be #stayinghome, it still hadn’t sunk in that it was indefinite. I wondered if I could rebook my cruise for May and I had another one already planned for June. Then, I wondered if I could just push out the June one until September, surely things would be back to normal by then. Well, I should’ve gotten back from my cruise yesterday. Nothing is normal now.
I have been eagerly awaiting the return of cruise travel, it’s my favorite form of travel. How else can the average person get to visit numerous countries in one week? It has it’s downfalls like everything else but we pick and choose our poison, right? Mine is cruising. I’m not alone either, cruise ships carried 30 million passengers in 2019. That boom has meant overtourism and pollution but it has also meant jobs. The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) estimated for every 1% drop in cruising, up to 9,100 jobs will be lost.
CLIA has issued a voluntary suspension of cruises through October 31st and has developed a safety plan that needs to be approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) before cruises can resume. This plan vows 100% testing for all passengers and crew, limits shore excursions, and requires passengers to wear masks and social distance from each other on board. Additional specifications for cruise lines include emergency quarantine responses, limited capacity, and improved ventilation and filtration methods when possible.
The one thing I want to see is accountability and enforcement of whatever rules are implemented because that’s why many of us will be willing to venture back out. There are people that were already afraid to cruise and might not cruise ever because of this. I don’t want to see people break the rules that put us all at risk and then get away with it. MSC held steadfast to enforcement on its August cruise when a family broke protocol while in port, then, weren’t allowed to get back on board. We’ve all overheard someone bragging about what they’ve gotten away with, this is just not one of the instances where I want to be standing behind that person in line and hearing it.
Vacations are meant for relaxing and I won’t be relaxed if I can’t trust that others are following the rules and being held responsible. Whether someone believes in the severity of the disease is irrelevant, I don’t want to be sick – period. I don’t want the flu, a cold, nothing at all and I don’t want to have to take care of my sick children either so the less spreading of germs, the better.
The one thing I am not looking forward to in order to cruise again isn’t the testing, masks, or social distancing. It’s the “limited touring” which depending on the cruise line appears to mean that you can only go ashore if you have a pre-booked, cruise line sponsored shore excursion. You must always stay with the group. That sounds soul crushing. Pump the brakes, I can NOT wander?! Roaming around in my own little world sets my soul on fire but I am also a strict follower of rules, so I’ll conform, I just won’t like it. This made me think of all the experiences I would’ve missed out on if this had been the rule when I cruised pre-COVID.
Like meeting another Chicagoan that had relocated to St. Thomas and started a touring business. That’s like finding a unicorn out in the world that looks and thinks like you. There is this thing that happens when I run into another Chicagoan, its loud and usually ends with a discussion of food we miss. We were wandering around downtown Charlotte Amalie when we started talking to him (of course he was trying to sell us on letting him show us around, which we did!). I know that sounds a little seedy the way I just described it but trust me, it was fine. We weren’t even going to book a tour because it was our 3rd trip to St. Thomas so we thought we’d just explore but we were glad we ran into him.
Mr. Nice – When we went to Dominica in 2009, I had scoured the cruise boards and one name came up over and over again. We had to go to Mr. Nice’s Fruit Stand. I chose Antours Dominica as our private tour guide and we had one of the best days ever. They took me to see everything on my list from Mr. Nice to a black sand beach, caves, and waterfalls. They pointed out the flora and fauna along the way and the driver scared the life out of me but was somehow awesome at the same time.
I wouldn’t have learned that our scraping to save and pay for this one annual vacation each year meant that we looked like “rich Americans” to some people. What’s more important is that it took me years to understand it and not be offended by it. The first time I heard it was on a private shore excursion in Antigua (which I thought we got a steal on), our tour guide was friendly and kind but would make references that “this is where the rich Americans like you live” while driving us pass certain places. The whole time I was dying to know where he lived, I wanted to eat where he eats not the overpriced hamburger on the beach. I was so annoyed that he kept calling us rich because I kept thinking yeah, well we’ll be broke for the next year trying to get money to do this again one day, reminding myself that my “broke” does not equal everyone else’s “broke”. And then he showed us where the Caribbean Sea met the Atlantic Ocean from the Shirley Heights Overlook, walked us through Nelson’s Dockyard, and Hell’s Gate. Suddenly, I felt like the richest person alive.
I wouldn’t have rented a golf cart in Costa Maya and practiced just chilling out for a change. We didn’t do anything special, just drove around, admired the scenery, ran up a tab at a beach restaurant, bought a shot glass with our pics on it, and got a serenade – Despacito, of course. I kept thinking wow, he saw right through me and picked my favorite song ( but no, he just went with the hit that Americans embraced summer 2018). Who cares, I love it, although he looked bored singing it for what I imagine was probably the 50 thousandth time. Thanks, I appreciated it anyway. Stopped at the tequila museum, bought way too much tequila and met this guy. You might be wondering why is he showing me his tats – it’s my superpower, I can get people to show me their tats and twerk upside down on against a pole outside Weiner Circle (true story). Don’t ask me how. If you’ve suddenly done something like that for a stranger and don’t know why – hi, it might’ve been me.
I wouldn’t have climbed up hills only to see that if I had turned right (or left), I could’ve saved myself some agony.
But then, I wouldn’t have walked by some very pretty places and taken in some majestic views.
I wouldn’t have explored as far or ate at some true local restaurants.
I wouldn’t have inspired a family of wanderers to just get outside and see where your feet take you today.
There are these great experiences to be had that happen outside of organized fun. There are real people depending on those interactions for their livelihood that can’t make it through the bureaucratic tape to get the cruise lines stamp of approval. We’d be foolish to think that everyone with a valuable experience to offer is magically approved. Those that do also have to share the profits with the cruise line. I’m not against anyone making money, I just like to see everyone get a piece of the pie, especially those that aren’t usually invited to the table. These new rules will cut some people out but in fairness, without them, it could be detrimental for even more.
Although I’m seldom aware enough to see it, the greater cost regarding that which I possess was not what I paid for it, but what someone along the way sacrificed so that I might have the opportunity to pay for it.– Author: Craig D. Lounsbrough
All is Not Lost
While I am fond of wandering off on my own or supporting local independent tour guides, I have purchased quite a few cruise line sponsored shore excursions and not regretted it. For instance, in St. Lucia, we had one of the best tours ever (what can I say, I love everything), our tour guide reminded me of Busta Rhymes, he was funny and charismatic, ok, I might have been crushing on him but we really did have a great time! On an open air jeep safari through banana plantations and fishing villages, we managed to see it all, the Sulphur Springs and views of the Pitons.
Yeah, I’ll miss wandering on my own but I am so ready for my next cruise adventure because let’s face it, I’m going to have fun. I’ve already decided that I will and that’s half the battle.
Happy Wandering on your next cruise!