Not long after pressing the “publish” button for Is This The End Of River Cruising As We Know It? – River Cruise Advisor, I received several comments from our readers. Some offered words of encouragement; others offered words of caution.
Let’s start with the words of caution from T.J. and Sherry. Their comments have been edited for brevity.
My wife and I have been trying to live as normal a life as possible these days and we, like you, are avid travelers and cruisers.
So far this year, we have spent the winter skiing at our home in Jackson Hole, got vaccinated in March/April, then went off to Florida for three weeks, took a Viking Cruise to Iceland, traveled around Europe with friends (including a barge cruise), and then back to Europe for a Viking River Cruise – almost.
It’s the “almost” that people need to be made aware of. On September 30th, we flew from home, via Denver and Frankfurt, to Prague to enjoy the Viking pre-cruise extension. Then traveled by Viking Bus to Budapest. The first day in Budapest I was feeling tired and chalked it up to jet lag. Then after a good night’s sleep, the next morning while in the shower the phone rang, my wife answered and was informed I had tested positive for COVID-19 and we were not going to be joining the ship.
We had planned this cruise for three years with friends, pushed back a year from 2020. We were both quarantined for the day and I moved to a separate room to get away from her.
We watched the ship sail away with our friends on board waving to us. The next day, I was positive again and my wife still negative. In spite of her negative tests, she was not allowed to join the cruise. So, I arranged a flight home for her and I set up camp for the next 8 days at the InterContinental Budapest. My only symptoms were a slight runny nose and a slight cough. On the 10th day I tested negative and was free.
Viking gave us a full cruise credit for the complete value of all monies paid including the extension we actually did; I thought that was fair. But, I’m still on the hook for the extra days in Budapest and the extra flights to get my wife home, not to mention the airfare to/from Europe for a vacation that didn’t happen. I do have outside travel insurance and I have filed a claim. We’ll see what they cover.
My point is that everyone is talking about how safe cruising is, without any mention of the downside. People need to be aware of what can happen. I am sure the ship is safe, but you have to get to the ship. Looking back, I am fairly sure I contracted my case in one of the airports on the way over where people who are not vaccinated are still able to fly.
Now, having said all of that I have no regrets. The Viking credit will be used for a cruise we have booked for next year. And we are departing on a previously scheduled Silversea cruise right after Thanksgiving.
People need to be aware of what can, and does, happen. Most important, they need to have a plan. Cruise lines need to have a plan, and clearly communicate that to their clients. As more people experience problems like mine and communicate them with their friends, it could become a real issue for the travel industry.
Thanks for reading and I hope you found this insightful.
Yes, I did find T.J. and Sherry’s email insightful – and helpful for all of us who are trying to continue with normal lives. T.J. and Sherry seemed to have done all the right things. They took the proper precautions and still got caught in Covid’s web. For its part, Viking seemed to have handled things well, although as he noted, T.J. is still on the hook for considerable expense for a vacation that didn’t pan out as planned. We hope his insurance company comes through and will look for an update from him.
I find two lessons in their story: 1) Have a plan. That includes having insurance to cover the unexpected. Have a plan for what happens back home if you’re stuck in Europe for longer than planned.
That’s particularly important for a reader named Ernest. He writes: “I would love to river cruise again but age, health, and fear of being quarantined in a foreign country just isn’t practical. We have horses and dogs at home that need daily attention. We have been lucky to get sitters for trips but cannot ask them to extend for long delays. Maybe cruising the Mississippi is an option.”
Let’s end this discussion on a happy note. Dorothy writes that she just returned from a Viking Ocean cruise, Athens to Istanbul. My daughter, Britton, cruised Viking in Bermuda, penning upon her return, Is Viking Orion The Safest Ship At Sea?
It’s a trick question, because Viking has a fleet of ships, and Dorothy’s cruise on Viking proved to feel just as safe as Britton’s. So all of Viking’s ships arguably could be deemed the safest at sea. That’s in part because of Viking’s rigid, and mostly unobtrusive testing. “Viking had daily testing,” Dorothy writes. “[The room attendants] left tubes each evening to be out each morning; all crew had to be tested as well each day before reporting for stations. Masks were worn by the crew at all times, guests had to wear masks except when eating/drinking or outside. When on shore excursions we wore masks and observed that close to 100 percent of locals in all ports and airports wore masks. Viking did the covid tests and provided results for the airline flight home. I at no time felt at risk; in fact, at home with so much resistance and non-masking etc., I am less comfortable out.”
I’ve actually cruised with Dorothy before. She and her daughter joined one of my barge cruises in France. I remember her warm spirit, optimistic disposition and shrewd intellect. Well, you’ll see it for yourself in how she sums up her comment: “I am 89 years old and have booked another river cruise with Viking in May 2022 to coincide with a Road Scholar trip to include Oberammergau,” she writes. “Do consider the joys of travel. We may be living with this for some time. HAPPY TRAVELS!”
Indeed. Just keep in mind what all three readers had to say. Have a Plan A, a Plan B and a Plan C and get out there and enjoy.
An avid traveler and an award-winning journalist, Ralph Grizzle produces articles, video and photos that are inspiring and informative, personal and passionate. A journalism graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Ralph has specialized in travel writing for more than two decades. To read more cruise and port reviews by Ralph Grizzle, visit his website at www.avidcruiser.com.