If you’re going to travel in these uncertain times you will need to find your flexibility. Remaining optimistic is great but at some point you may have to accept changes and go with the flow. Because things simply do not necessarily go as planned.
On our recent Royal Caribbean 8 Night Cruise we only went ashore twice. It was during the January 2021 "Omnicron" Covid19 spike. Our original itinerary had 4 ports of call. Beginning in Fort Lauderdale we started with a SeaDay, to recover from packing and traveling. Our second day, and first port, was to be Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic; folowed by Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas; Phillipsburg, St. Maarteen; Basseterre, St Kitts; and a final relaxing 2 Sea Days. fyi: TWO reasons we selcted this itinerary were Puerto Plata and NO CoCo Cay Private Island.
After booking, but well before sailing, the Puerto Plata Dominican Republic port was changed to Nassau Bahamas. Everything else remained as planned until shortly after sailing away. Just after embarkation the captain announced that the ship population was well under 1% positive for Covid 19. But he also said if the percentage increased in excess of 1% we would be denied entry to St. Thomas.
The Guest Covid rate was obviously near 0% because you had to test negative to get on the ship. But the new varient Omnicron was working it's way through the Crew. Crew lives on lower decks in tight quarters, and many share a room with at least one other person. They aren't allowed to leave the ship during these times. So obvioulsy the guests brought them Covid19. They are fully vaccinated, so breakthrough cases are mild, but still need to be isolated until one tests negative again, to prevent a full ship breakout! And of course some guests pick it up on their way to the ship and test positive during the cruise.
When ever the ship is near their private island Coco Cay, Royal Caribbean makes a stop to transfer positive testing crew to a medical ship that was stationed there, for isolation and recovery. Since the island is in the Bahamas, likely they had just done this prior to coming into Ft. Lauderdale to turn over the ship.
Rob and I had scheduled a scuba dive excursion in Nassau, which was our first port of call on day 2. We ordered room service breakfast as a wake up call. We intended to eat breakfast and have our coffee on our balcony, and watch the arrival to Nassau. But when we opened our balcony door we realized how WINDY it was. It was still dark, and we could see "Atlantis" the huge resort in the distance. What we didn't realize at first is that the ship was headed away from Atlantis. The captain had attempted to approach the island but it was way too windy to navigate the channel and reach the pier safely. So a Sea Day it was to be.
Day 3 was Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas USVI. NOT our favorite port. However, before we arruvedm the captain announced that the Covid 19 positive rate was now at 1.4% - so we would not be stopping in St. Thomas on Day 3 as planned. Having missed the 1st and 2nd stops on our itinerary, Royal Caribbean got busy and found two substitute ports (Nassau and Coco Cay),
Day 4 we arrived at Philipsburg, St. Maarten, a day early. It was lovely. We walked, beached, drank, and shopped It was PERFECT!.
Day 6 was supposed to be St. Kitts, but they reported that their own Covid19 positivity rate was too high for them to accept tourists.
The captain's annoucement was really cute.
"You are sailing on Captain Mike's Magical Mystery Cruise, where every day I get up, spin the wheel to see where we are going"
The Captian announced that he had decided to head back up north, and adjusted our itinerary to include 2 Sea Days to get there, and a stop at Coco Cay, followed by a second attempt at Nassau.
Day 5 and Day 6 Became Sea Days
We took advantage of these days to ENJOY Allure of the Sea's MANY fun ammenities. Rob tried the zip line, and Lynn went Rock Climbing, and we both went ICE Skating. Someone cooked our breakfast, lunch, and dinner. AND made up our room twice a day. It was 75+ degrees. Easy to adjust when temps back home were 7f.
Day 7. When we got to Coco Cay it was WINDY again! We had rescheduled our dive. So ANOTHER 6am wake-up and coffee on our balcony. We had coffee while watching the waves crashing into and rolling over the pier where we would walk to shore. Captain Mike decided to wait. It was supposed to settle down later in the day. So we sat... But, we enjoyed breakfast in the main dining room. We found a tolerable place to sit in the sun. We did some work in our cabin. At 1:00 pm the Captain promised a decision - go to shore or head back out to sea. To Sea it was. He knew exactly where to go, and the winds died down in short order.
At this point we wondered if we would get a 2nd port of call - or NOT. After all this is January in the Bahamas, and Nassau isn't that far away. It's entirely possible that we will get more of the same. Rob had originally said "If we get an 8 Night Cruise with no ports of call, it will be okay", but now he was reneging on this, admitting that he didn't really mean it! I thought it was fine. After all it was below zero at home and we were just cruising around in the Caribbean with other people cooking for us. Ya Mon - No Problem.
On Day 8 we woke up already docked at Nassau. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful Caribbean Day! We had a liesurely breakfast in the main dining room and then set out on foot to see what we could find. We found one Fort, walked some more and found another.
Then, satisfied with Architecture, we headed for the Beach looking for a deal on Rum Punch! We found 4 for $20 Bahama Mamas - and a nice clean table in powder white sand! A perfect setting for our last day...
PUBLISHED AND PLANNED ITINERARY
PUERTO PLATA CHANGED TO NASSAU > And too windy to dock Nassau.
ST THOMAS - DENIED ENTRY too much covid on ship per St. Thomas
ST MAARTEN - MADE IT!!
ST KITTS - DENIED ENTRY too much covid in St. Kitts per St. Kitts
NASSAU - TOO WINDY for the ship to navigate the channel
ST MARTIN - GREAT DAY!
COCO CAY - TOO WINDY waves crashing over the walking pier
NASSAU - ANOTHER GREAT DAY!
Royal Caribbean and the Captain certainly did their part at rolling with the punches. Historically it has been rare for us to have an itinerary change, but it's ALWAYS possible, according to the terms and conditions. Between Covid19 and the weather Royal Caribbean really had to re-group! We love cruising so all of the Sea Days were no problem for us. In circumstances as such, it is much easier to BE HAPPY than to be disappointed! Who could complain about warm Caribbean air, sunshine, eating in restaurants, having someone make and turn down your bed, when it's 0 degrees at home?
If it is challenging for you to accept unexpected change - you should probably stay home right now. But we are finding it to be a VERY enjoyable time to Cruise. Low population onboard the ship combined with crew that are HAPPY to have a job, really make for a PERFECT cruise experience!
Stay tuned. Subscribe. Follow. Flying to Los Angeles next month to Cruise with Princess Cruises (the original Love Boat brand). Sailing the west coast of Mexico, down to the Panama Canal, through the Canal and back to Fort Lauderdale. it should be a HOT and SUNNY voyage and we're packing our Virgin Voyages Red attire to wear on Valentines Day!
Wondering about Covid19 policies on the ship? See a previous post here!
Hey if you want to join us - I hear it's not sold out... Contact for details. I heard you can still get the beverage package promo! Cheers!
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