I now know what it’s like to be a ping pong ball. Trips booked, then postponed, on again, off again, vaccine freedom, then Delta dread, governments imposing mandatory quarantines, then …
We were all set for our October 4, 2021 Crystal Debussy cruise on the Rhine. Flights booked, hotels booked. Ready. Set. Go. Not so fast. A month before our departure, in early September, the government of the Netherlands imposed new rules that required both vaccinated and unvaccinated Americans to quarantine for 10 days. Crystal and other river cruise operators were left scratching their heads, along with those of us who had booked cruises departing from Amsterdam.
What to do? A 12-hour transit loophole provided a solution, a not-so-great one. The idea was that we would cancel our hotel rooms, reschedule our flights to arrive the day we were to step on Debussy and get the herring out of the Netherlands as quickly as possible – well, at least within 12 hours so as not to violate the quarantine requirement. Read the rest of this entry »
A decade ago, many expedition ships were retired ice breakers lacking in creature comforts such as nice staterooms and good food. That situation started to change when some traditional luxury small ship cruise lines and charter operators ordered “luxury expedition ships.” These ships combined their usual cruising features with polar-rated PC6 hulls that could handle ice packs in Antarctica and, hopefully, transit the Northwest Passage unassisted.
Many of the ship designers let their imaginations run wild. They added a helicopter and a mini-submarine; and “garages” that permitted the vessels to launch and retrieve Zodiacs and water toys from inside the ship. Most also supplemented the crew with naturalists, professional photographers, and armed polar bear guards—bringing some guest-crew ratios to almost 1:1. Read the rest of this entry »