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COVID Test to Cruise - Plan “B”

Updated: Jan 19, 2022

As we continue to Cruise through this pandemic, we gain Wisdom. We are firm believers that Cruise Travel is SAFE, as long as you’re smart and well prepared. In order to be well prepared there always has to be a “plan B”.

To get on a cruise ship all eligible guests must be fully vaccinated and test negative for COVID-19 no more than two days prior to sailing. By now most of us know that a COVID test is not instant so careful timing coordinated with your travel is very important.

Rob and I hustled over to our local University Medical School Thursday morning, right when they opened to initiate our tests. In a perfect world we would receive our results in less than 24 hours, and before we flew to Florida.

But, what if the results didn’t come in time? Or what if one of us gets an invalid result? Then what? We had been hearing from clients that test appointments in Florida were hard to come by.. One client booked a pre cruise hotel because they were offering testing, but was notified at the last minute that they had run out of tests… Our friend in Florida reported that he waited two hours for a proctor when completing a home test. We definitely needed a solid and reliable, “plan B”.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line offers Pre purchase of a portable test that is monitored online. They are a little pricey compared to free, but sure would be convenient and a GREAT VALUE, if needed! We purchased two test kits to bring along, just in case! Good thing we did!

Rob woke up this morning in Chicago (before our flight) with negative test results, so he was good to go, but the status of mine read “pending”. It wasn’t until lunch in Ft Lauderdale that I received the notice of “invalid result” from the University test center. Meaning I had to repeat my test.

I couldn’t possibly have COVID, as I had not left our house since the day after Christmas. So I shouldn’t have been worried but… that is easier said than done, with travel anxiety in the mix.

Once I got the news that I needed to re-test, I didn’t want to wait a moment longer, to get it over with, so we hustled back to our hotel. I set up my laptop in the courtyard because our room wasn’t ready yet. Following the step by step instructions at the testing website I began the process. Once a monitoring representative was there I was instructed to open the box and begin.

The representative assigned each task step-by-step. It was easy using the laptop but if you were going to use a tablet or a phone you would want to have something that made the phone or tablet stand up. You have to be completely on camera to sample your nose with the swab. Once the sampling is complete, chemicals are mixed with the swab, you are allowed to leave the camera, but the kit must remain in view at all times. The Representative will start a timer for 15 minutes and you wait.

It was a lovely place to wait, and I felt much better having that behind me.. even if I didn't have the results yet. I knew I would have results in no more than 15 minutes.

When 15 minutes are complete a representative comes back on to help you read the results of your test. They will ask you to display the test close to the camera on your device. Then they will show you a slide of two images. She said “these are two ways that your test results might look“. And then asked “which one does your test look like”? Interestingly both of the samples they show you first are examples of POSITIVE results. I felt like the representative was asking me to select one or the other of them. I had used a similar test previously so I understood the result choices. I told Representative “it is neither of those”. So she flipped to another slide with an image shown that looked like mine which was an example of a negative test result. I said “that’s what mine looks like“. and the representative confirmed a negative Covid test result. If I didn’t know better she could’ve easily tricked me into choosing a positive result Image.

Could she even see the test results herself when I showed them to her up close on the camera? I don’t think so.. perhaps why she has to be a little tricky with her narrative to accurately interpret results with people virtually.

There are THREE typical test results that you can get. Each test displays a control line that is pink and horizontal within the same rectangle where your result will appear.

1. You can get a horizontal line that looks exactly like the control line. Which would be a positive test result.

2. You can also get a very faint barely visible horizontal pink line which also indicates positive test result.

3. You can get nothing which is a negative test result.

I’m pretty sure they are concerned about the faint line, positive test result option, which is barely visible in person let alone virtually through a computer camera. The first two images I was shown were: the horizontal pink line that was exactly like the control line, and a very faint barely visible pink line options 1 & 2 above.

There are a couple known possible problems with the Binax NOW kits. A small plastic vial of liquid used for the test has been know to be “missing”. I can tell you that when I removed the kit components from my box, the vial had come out of the slot in the plastic tray and was loose in the bottom of the box. There may also be a language challenge with the representative. My representative was very difficult to understand. TIPS: Make sure your volume is turned all the way up on your device. I recommend plugging your device in, so your battery doesn’t time out part way through.. And make sure to NOT OPEN the kit until you are on camera with a proctor representative.

I believe that at this time (Early January 2022) The BinaxNOW Covid-19 Ag by Abbott is the ONLY at home test approved for travel. This is NOT the one commonly available in pharmacy stores.

I am writing this from my Balcony Stateroom onboard Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas. Subscribe for updates on Covid policies onboard and details of our experience. Follow us on your favorite Social platform for more frequent photos and updates.

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