In spite of omicron flaring up, our January cruise on Celebrity Constellation out of Tampa did sail. Itineraries are pretty fluid these days. When we first booked the cruise it went to Key West, Aruba, Curacao, Bonaire, and Grand Cayman. Later we got a notice saying it was only going to the 3 ABC ports with an overnight in Curacao. The last notification before sailing dropped the overnight and added a stop in Costa Maya. Of course once you get on a ship there is no guarantee these days if it will actually stop at all the scheduled ports or even sail the full length of the cruise as some ships have been denied entry and others turned back due to covid. Not that there was ever a guarantee the ship would make every port as weather or emergencies among passengers or crew have sometimes cancelled port stops long before covid ever existed.
Much as the news likes to make cruising sound unsafe and full of sickness, since passengers are generally required to be vaccinated and tested before boarding and crew are all vaccinated and tested regularly in some areas you are probably more likely to run into somebody with covid at the local grocery store. The cases onboard are usually mild or asymptomatic and most likely among the crew since they are tested on a regular basis whether they show any symptoms or not.
We were very lucky in getting to our cruise on the Constellation. At the time flights were getting cancelled frequently, in fact the same flight as ours from Seattle to Tampa was cancelled both the day before and the day after our flight, so we were extremely lucky that ours was just an hour and a half late. People could count themselves lucky if their flight flew at all between cancellations for de-icing planes not keeping up to the number of planes needing de-icing and cancellations due to not enough crew to man the flight because they were all out sick with covid.
Not everyone made it though. The ship left Tampa with just 700 passengers onboard – and over 900 crew. They expected more than 1200 passengers that sailing, and the ship can carry over 2000. Some likely cancelled in advance for fear of covid, some for a positive pre-cruise covid test, and the rest couldn’t get a flight that actually flew. Our backup plan was to fly to Orlando if we couldn’t get to Tampa and hope to score a rental car as those are scarce these days as well. Or uber it if we had to. Luckily our scheduled flight got us there and we didn’t have to worry about alternatives.
On day 5 of our 11-day cruise on Celebrity Constellation, we got word that our 7-day cruise on Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas, which we were to board the day after the Celebrity cruise ended, had been cancelled. We went down to the future cruise desk thinking that they would be happy to make some sort of a deal to keep people who were already there onboard for the next cruise since a lot of other passengers would not likely show up, but the best deal they came up with was the internet price from their own website, which was nearly double the price anyone could go online and book at Vacations To Go. I guess they would rather the rooms sit empty and make nothing on them than give somebody who was already there a good deal and make something. Which seems pretty stupid because besides making nothing on the room, that’s less tips the crew makes and less money spent onboard for other things so they lost all around.
When we originally booked the two cruises, other than starting and ending in Tampa, neither went to any of the same places and both had one port we’d never been to. Bonaire on the Celebrity one, and I can’t remember where on Royal because it got cut from the itinerary before I printed out the schedule. The final itinerary for that one was Cozumel Mexico, Roatan Honduras, Belize City Belize, and Costa Maya Mexico. All places we have been and Costa Maya would have been a repeat from the Celebrity Cruise, but I was really looking forward to the totally awesome sounding zipline course we had booked an excursion to in Roatan. You can’t count on a cruise these days until it sails, or a port until you actually get there and make it off the ship.
Vacations have to be flexible these days, as the itinerary can change even in the middle of it, by a lot more than just a missed port as is always a possibility on a cruise.
We had a hotel booked in Tampa for what was supposed to be the one night between the two cruises. We’d picked one with guest laundry so we could wash all our clothes between cruises since neither ship had one. The plans for that day had been laundry and covid tests for the next cruise. As it turned out they had free covid tests on the dock for any disembarking guests from the Constellation who wanted one. Assuming those gave you some sort of proof of the results, if the next cruise hadn’t been cancelled we’d have just done the test there before we left the dock instead of the online thing, though we had packed the tests you buy from the cruiseline with plans to take them at the hotel.
With the second cruise cancelled neither of those things was necessary. We still spent the night at the hotel because our new flight home wasn’t until the next morning. After checking in we spent the day at Busch Gardens, which was just across the street.
We took covid tests after we got home and were both negative. Covid hadn’t really been much of a problem during our sailing on the Constellation. There weren’t any cases until about halfway through, then it was just 5 people who were sent to isolation. By the end it was close to 1%, which is probably far less than in the general population, especially since a lot of the cases on ships are asymptomatic crew who would never even know they had it if they weren’t required to be tested on a regular basis, which of course the general population on land is not so a lot of people don’t even know they have it.
Our options for the cancelled cruise were either a 100% refund or a 125% credit toward a future cruise. We took the credit and booked a cruise for next fall on Royal’s new ship Wonder of the Seas, due to launch in March and take over from Symphony of the Seas as the world’s largest cruise ship. Fingers crossed that one sails – preferably half full or less like the last 2 I’ve taken. It’s really nice when there’s not nearly the amount of people a ship holds so you can always get a deck chair, theater seat, or table at the buffet. Not to mention no lines or crowds anywhere onboard.