4 Critical Things You Need To Do BEFORE Cruising in 2022

The cruise lines are telling Wall Street that 
2022 bookings are weakening significantly,   which is not a surprise to me as I’m being 
asked all the time by potential cruisers   if they should go cruising anytime 
soon, or even this year at all. I have been cruising and found many challenges, 
issues, and things to consider. I’ve managed to   boil it all down to 4 big questions that you need 
to ask if you are thinking of cruising this year. And more importantly, through my mistakes 
and experiences, I have very specific   actions and things you can do if after these 
questions you still want to go cruising. By the way, if you are new here, welcome 
aboard. I’m Gary Bembridge and it’s my goal   to make it fun and easy to discover, plan 
and enjoy unforgettable cruise vacations First, you need to ask if you are able   and, more importantly, willing to keep 
on top of the constantly changing rules.

And of course, be willingly 
to adapt and change plans as   the rules change – often during the 
trip – without getting stressed out. For example, just two days before I left 
for Panama to join a cruise on Oceania.   Panama changed the rules around 
vaccination which required   three doses to avoid any of the 
restrictions and quarantining. Whilst on my Ponant Antarctic trip, the UK 
changed the type of test required for my return   which meant finding a new test 
centre before my flight home. On the cruise I'm just back from in the Caribbean, 
as I record this, ports were constantly changing   in-port restrictions, which we would often only 
discover the night before or even on the day. St Lucia, Barbados and St Kitts decided we could 
only go on a cruise-line “bubble” excursions,   or use government approved taxis to 
a small list of government approved   locations. We only were aware of that often 
the day before we got into some of those ports. If you decide you are happy to travel 
with changing rules likely, like I am,   what should you do to make this less stressful? First, get someone else to do much of 
the work.

I book through a travel agent,   Sarah Bolton of Travel Counsellors, who 
I know, trust and have proven herself   to be up to date and proactive in terms of 
tracking and letting me know the rule changes. Her agency also has a 24-hour helpline 
that can be contacted by phone, but also   importantly by email which is key when on a ship. Second, I make I read every single 
document the cruise lines send me. For example, from both Holland America and 
Oceania cruises I’ve just done almost every day   in the run up to the cruises there were e-mails 
announcing, reinforcing, or changing rules.

I read every one of them as many require 
actions and I know if I miss anything   the lines will refuse boarding, 
and that will be at my expense. The third critical thing is I found travellers 
need to be tech savvy to navigate all of this. You need to be good with a smartphone or tablet. 
People without these I saw getting really stressed   and struggling because you must complete these 
various country and cruise line forms online. And you need access to emails 
and a device to be able to   pull up the various competed forms to scan 
QR codes, and to stay in touch with changes. Also, once on board the cruise lines 
have now shifted most of the cruise   materials and bookings onto their Smartphone App. I watch the new muster drill process often 
on an app.

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I review the daily program,   book dinner times, book a slot at some events 
and venues and reserve excursions on those Apps. Of course, you can get help in person 
from the crew to do all these too   and will not be excluded, but I have seen less 
tech-savvy passengers get stressed and fraught   on all my trips struggling to navigate the changes 
and country, line and port requirements and forms However, there is an even more fundamental 
question to ask that could be the killer one. Will you be comfortable with whatever   protocols the cruise lines will 
have in place when you cruise? We will not know exactly what they 
will be until the time of the cruise. This struck me when I received an email 
from one of the followers of the channel   saying their wife had said that she refused 
to go on their cruise if she had to wear a   mask. They had a cruise booked in 
7 months, but what should he do. My point to him was, we have no idea what 
the protocols will be throughout this year. There’s some key protocols which   I am assuming are going to stay for 
a while, if for much of the year.

First, vaccinations. I think if you 
can't have, or don't want to have a   vaccine – or soon a booster – then 
cruising as a vacation option will   be impossible or very restricted 
and I would not schedule one. The cruise lines are extending their 
vaccine mandates further into the year.   And the requirement for ‘fully vaccinated” 
to require a booster jab is gaining speed. I received e-mails in the two 
days before I recorded this   from three lines, I have bookings with this year   (Silversea, Viking and Azamara) advising that 
I must have a booster to be able to board. P&O and Cunard in the UK for 
recent cruises required boosters. Even Carnival Cruise Line say they will 
follow whatever the rules the USA CDC have,   and they are indicating they're likely to 
change the definition of fully vaccinated   to including boosters (which may have 
happened by time you watch this).

Growing number of countries that cruises 
call on, like Panama as I already mentioned,   are requiring boosters or vaccines 
within a certain timeframe to enter. I cannot even enter the United States 
without being vaccinated to join a cruise   because the US only let vaccinated visitors in. The cruise lines will have to keep vaccines   as part of the protocols because many countries 
require a vaccine before you can even go in. The second protocol is 
masks. Mask wearing mandates   will likely over time diminish or be reduced. However, I believe that cruise lines will be 
one of the last places to lift mask wearing as   are in an enclosed environment and interacting 
a lot, and many ports seem set to maintain it. Lines, I believe, will be slow to lift this 
as mask protocols have largely been followed   and customer data I’ve seen reported 
that many find it a reassuring measure. Less clear to me is around lower 
capacity and social distancing on ships,   and how quickly they will build back   higher load levels. This brings me though to 
a related question. One I am wrestling with. How comfortable will you be if 
they lift all the protocols? If the lines say, we're now sailing 
with full ships, no social distancing,   no masks or even lifting the vaccine rules, 
how comfortable will you be getting on a ship? I think there's many who will not be comfortable 
with that change once they think about it.

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I've been on quite a few cruises since 
shutdown. All at very reduced capacity.   My Holland America Nieuw Statendam was 
around 30%. Other cruises I've been on,   including Celebrity, Princess, Viking and 
even Ponant Antarctica we had 50% capacity. I am used to space and no crowded and 
busy places on board. It was reassuring. I noticed for example, when I was 
on my last cruise, that people were   informally socially distancing in the theatre. 
And if a stranger sat down next to someone,   people would get up and move 
to keep space between them   and the new arrivals – even though it 
wasn't part of the rules and regulations.

pexels photo 6836522

How comfortable will I, and you, be with full 
theatres, full excursion busses and so on? If you are not comfortable to cruise not knowing 
what protocols will be in place when you cruise,   I have some actions and tips. First, look at delaying or 
pushing back your cruise now. But even if you are happy to go 
without clarity on protocols,   understand the rules, key decision 
dates and flexibility your line is   offering in case the protocols are 
not suitable close to the cruise. Check if the line offers a 
“cruise with confidence” fare   that allows you, even once you've 
paid final balance, to cancel   or postpone your cruise. I made the mistake 
of not checking on my last cruise and realised   too late that only 30 days before 
departure could I change with no penalty.

If booking a new cruise, go for a refundable 
deposit or very low one. For example, I recently   booked a Christmas 2022 cruise on Westerdam 
which only has a £120 (about $170) deposit. But if you have any reservations do not pay your 
final balance and move your cruise, as once you   have paid it even if you delay and get Future 
Cruise Credit you have a lot of money tied up. But there is another thing to consider 
based on the type of cruise you are doing.

Is the cruise a bucket list 
cruise? Perhaps one that you've   always wanted to do and may only do once in your 
life, or maybe there is a destination, port,   or activity fundamental to why 
you are going on the cruise. There is no certainty on when lines 
and ports will be able to deliver   everything, so are you willing to pay a 
full fare and not get that full experience. I got no compensation for a change of port (from 
Martinique to Grenada) or a cancelled St Thomas   call on my Caribbean cruise and neither 
have others for more port cancellations. I was happy to go to the Caribbean knowing that 
ports may chop and change because any of them   offered that I wanted to do: escape European 
winter, get some sun, and go to the beach. So,   whether I was doing this is in Grenada, 
or Martinique was less important to me. But if that Martinique was fundamental 
to my going, this would be very different For example, I have a Baltic 
cruise during the summer,   and knowing I will get to go to 
Saint Petersburg is essential.

For that cruise, I bought cancellation 
insurance for any reason as I could not get   a “cruise with confidence” fare. Also, linked to this is ask if there 
are specific things that you want to do   onboard the ship or in a port that 
is fundamental to the experience. If you are doing a cruise where the itinerary,   or on-board activities, are 
key then these are my tips: First, if you have an absolute must do, 
must go to place, look at your options   to move now and, at least, know the key 
decision dates to shift without penalties. Second, if making a new booking look for a fare 
that offers changes close to the cruise or with   low financial risk, like that Christmas 
cruise I mentioned with only $175 deposit. There is one question which few 
seem to ask which, in my view, is   essential as it could make a huge difference 
to how your trip plays out, and costs. This is asking exactly what happens 
if you test positive for Covid   or are a close contact of someone 
who tests positive. And, who's   going to cover any costs of isolation, 
quarantine and medical care if needed.

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I have found that cruise lines have not made 
it that easy to find out what those will be. On my recent cruise on Oceania, they were 
the first to have sent to me in detail in   a pre-cruise email, and unpromoted, 
what happens if I tested positive. For example, testing positive 
in the pre-boarding test means   5 days quarantine in a hotel 
arranged and covered by Oceania. Testing positive and symptomatic means 10 days 
quarantine on board. If the cruise ends before   that time is up, then I would be disembarked 
into a hotel arranged and covered by them. If asymptomatic and been in quarantine 
for at least 5 days, means disembarking   as planned and able to travel home. On most lines I have been on, positive 
passengers are moved from their cabin   to dedicated cabins in a secure 
and restricted area on the ship.   Close contacts are usually quarantined 
in the cabin they have booked.

However, these rules differ by region. 
In the Caribbean isolated passengers   and crew are kept on the ship or perhaps 
transferred to a separate quarantining ship. However, in Europe, positive 
and close contact guests are   usually removed from the ship for isolation. In all those cases the cruise line was covering 
costs, transfers home arranged, and costs covered. This is what I do and recommend First, get your travel agent or the line 
to confirm will happen at all stages and   who covers the costs, including if you will be 
refunded any of the fare while in isolation. Second, have insurance that covers 
Covid issues like quarantine,   return home and medical. My insurance covers that. Third, if travelling to a foreign country to 
catch a cruise, time it so you can do the required   cruise line PCR or Antigen test for boarding 
at home. So you don’t have to do it once there,   as if you test positive then you will have to sort 
and pay for your quarantine and miss the cruise.

Fundamental to this whole thing is 
flexibility. If you are flexible   and you know that you will not get stressed 
by some of this uncertainty, keep going. Why not find out more about what it's like to 
cruise right now during the current situation,   look at this video where I show you in detail 
exactly what it's like starting with one of the   things that I had probably thought was going 
to be a massive issue, but turned out not to   be a massive issue, and one that caught me 
completely blindsided. See you over there..

As found on YouTube