When AmaWaterways invited me to the Christening of AmaSiena, I said yes immediately. The prospect of going on a river cruise for the first time since the summer of 2019 excited me so much that I agreed to come on the trip without giving any of the details a second thought. But, as my cruise approached, I found myself questioning my decision to cruise during Covid: What happens if I test positive for Covid on board the ship? Do I need to pack anything extra? What do I need to do to be cleared to fly to the Netherlands and, on the way back, to the United States? And, most importantly, how will my cruise experience differ to the cruises I’ve taken in the past?
I realize that many of you are considering river cruises as well but traveling during the pandemic leaves you with similar questions, which I want to share with you how I prepared for my return to Europe.
Preparing To Fly & COVID-19 Protocols
Three days before I left for AmaSiena, my father added me onto a three-way call with one of our readers. “I just looked at the [Netherlands] website and it says that you need a Covid test to enter,” he said. This wasn’t the first time I heard this observation. In making sure that I had completed everything I needed to to travel, I asked a friend if she had gotten a Covid test. “Yes,” she answered, “The Netherlands’ website says you need one to enter.” So, I went to the site myself to check.
Covid protocols are constantly changing, but at the time I checked the Netherlands’ site it said that you would only need a negative Covid test if you were an unvaccinated traveler. Though AmaWaterways requires proof of vaccination for all sailings most passengers on my trip still did get a Covid test before boarding, not just to play it safe with Covid requirements and protocols but also because testing was recommended by AmaWaterways. There was also a form needed by the Dutch government where we self testified that we had no symptoms and had not been in contact with anyone who had Covid. I showed this document, as well as my vaccination card, at the airport in Charlotte and was ready to go. These documents were not checked again when I landed in Amsterdam.
While I am speaking to my experience just a week ago, things have changed again with Covid protocols in the Netherlands. Starting tomorrow, September 4, 2021, all visitors coming from the United States (or any other high-risk area) must quarantine for 10 days upon arrival – with few exceptions.
Though these protocols are constantly changing, I will say that AmaWaterways was extremely helpful in keeping us up to date and assisted in getting us all the forms we needed to travel between countries while we cruised. We will talk more about this in another article and an interview with my cruise manager, Martina.
The easiest way to avoid getting stuck in the ever-changing Covid protocols is to get vaccinated. In France, we needed to show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test to eat – even though we were eating outside. Covid test results are only good for a certain number of days. For now, a vaccination can not only protect you and your fellow travelers but also save you a lot of hassle.
To get back into the US, a negative antigen test is required. AmaWaterways offered a PCR test on board for a charge of 60 Euros, which most passengers who were returning back to the US opted to take. There are, however, some work arounds to this which I will discuss in the upcoming weeks. We also needed to fill out a paper self testifying that we did not have reason to believe we had Covid that we showed at the airport in Switzerland.
What I Packed
I am a notoriously heavy packer. While most of my fellow travelers opted for carry-on only travel, I have no problem checking a bag so that I can have an extra pair of shoes (or five). We’ve written articles on packing for men and packing for women in the past, so you can check those out for some of our best tips.
I usually take one suitcase with me that includes my clothes and shoes for the week. This would be the suitcase that I plan on checking. Then in a smaller rolling carry-on, I pack a few pairs of underwear and a couple of outfits. I also put my toothbrush, skincare, makeup, etc. in this bag. This way if my checked luggage does get lost, I am set for a couple of days until my bag catches up with me. Although, once my luggage was lost for seven days before I received it. This is why we recommend arriving to your destination a day early. This way, your luggage will likely be able to catch up with you before you set sail.
I also take a backpack with my computer, chargers, iPad, and other equipment I may need for the trip. The backpack serves also as my purse in the airport with a separate compartment for my passport, wallet, and other personal belongings.
My wardrobe for this trip consisted of mostly dresses. While I used to pack button downs for their ability to be dressed up or down, I find that I can do the same with dresses by pairing them with either a sneaker or a dress shoe. They take up a lot less room in luggage so, if you are one who strives to pack lightly, dresses are a good option.
AmaWaterways offers a range of active activities on all of its itineraries, so I knew that packing exercise clothes was a must. I packed a few pairs of shorts and t-shirts, but my favorite, and most worn item, were a pair of lightweight joggers from Athleta. (Though I opted for this subtle camo version.) These were perfect for biking and are extremely compact.
Ama’s ships also house swimming pools and, even though I knew it was going to be cold, I knew I needed to pack my swimsuit.
Lastly, I had to think about what I needed to bring for Covid purposes. My vaccination card was a must, as it was required by the airline (so that I didn’t have to show a negative Covid test), and by AmaWaterways; and all of the paperwork required by various governments.
So, with this – I was set! But wait…I forgot something.
Don’t be a dummy like I was and forget to pack your masks. Don’t worry, I turned around and grabbed them after I realized – though I was already 20 minutes out from home. Because masks are constantly lying around my purse and car, they just slipped my mind to pack.
It is also important to remember that certain countries and airlines have mask requirements. For example, Delta will not allow masks with a valve. Germany requires medical masks or KN95s. Because of the different regulations, I packed a variety of masks: KN95s, blue medical masks, and about 4 or 5 cloth masks. Cloth masks were worn by most of my fellow passengers on board, though some opted for something heavier duty.
Throughout the next few weeks, I will cover more of my time on board AmaSiena and more about traveling during Covid. To kick things off, we will have a webinar next week to answer some of your questions. Sign up here.