Holland America is ready for a cruise — are you? In fact, their first cruise in over 19 months departs tomorrow from San Diego! As you can imagine, Holland America has been waiting for this day for a long time. A lot has gone into preparing for safe cruises since the Covid-19 pandemic struck early in 2020.
Are you ready to cruise again? I know I am! Last year, my husband and I had booked a cruise to Alaska, and of course, it was cancelled. Ever since, we’ve been waiting and watching to see when it might be the right time to book another cruise. I was grateful for the invitation to attend Holland America’s press briefing before this week’s landmark departure. Besides getting to tour the sleek and beautiful Koningsdam, I learned a lot about Holland America’s preparations and what cruising will look like now. Plus the impact that cruising has on port cities — and why San Diego and other port cities are so happy to see cruises resuming.
Why cruising is safer than ever
Safety measures put in place by the CDC, Coast Guard, city ports, and the cruise lines have made cruising one of the safest vacation options available right now. Holland America cruises are currently operating with 100% fully vaccinated staff and crews. They are also requiring all passengers to be fully vaccinated for Covid-19, at least 14 days prior to cruise departure. In addition to these protocols, all passengers must submit a negative, medically observed PCR or antigen Covid-19 test within two days of embarkation.
A new policy has emails going out to all passengers with scheduled embarkation times — to reduce the number of people waiting to board the ship at any point in time. This gives more time to medical staff to review passengers’ health questionnaires, too.
Before embarking, medical staff will go over a health questionnaire with every passenger and perform touch-free temperature checks. Passengers are given health monitoring tips and hygiene guidelines to observe during the cruise. Guidelines include wearing face masks at all times while indoors (except while eating and drinking), maintaining physical distancing, and washing hands frequently. There are hand sanitization stations and safety protocol reminders all over the ship.
Holland America has expanded its medical capabilities to allow for testing onboard. Every ship has a medical center with a 24-hour physician, plus 2 to 4 registered nurses.
Why right now might be the very best time to cruise
Two reasons. Because everyone sailing on these first cruises will be fully vaccinated and tested again before embarking, the chances of contracting any illness is practically zero. I’m not an expert, but the odds of staying healthy on a cruise like this sound amazing.
The other reason? Because these first cruises of 2021 will be sailing at less than full capacity. This gives every passanger the chance to have the cruise of their dreams! It will be magical.
What should you do to be ready for a cruise?
First of all, you should book a cruise right now, especially because of the reasons I’ve mentioned above. Rest assured that Holland America’s worry-free promise allows you to cancel for any reason up to 30 days before departure. If you become infected with Covid-19, you can cancel up to departure time and still receive a future cruise credit.
To be prepared for your cruise, you may need a current passport (depending on your cruise itinerary), a proof-of-vaccination card for Covid-19, and a negative Covid-19 test within 2 days of departure. You may also need to book flights to your departure city and lodging if you wish to overnight before or after your cruise.
Of course, you can spend some time dreaming about what you’ll do on your cruise and planning shore excursions, too — that’s the fun part!
Highlights of the Koningsdam
As I toured the Koningsdam, I was impressed with how sleek and beautiful it was. It had both classical and modern touches, and there were plenty of details that spoke to Holland America’s desire to make a cruise special for their passengers.
Whether it was the pool deck with outdoor movie screen, the “Crow’s Nest” with sunbathing lounge chairs and privacy cabanas, a well-equipped fitness center with incredible views, a state-of-the-art theater, or specialty restaurants, the attention spent on details was inspiring.
I can totally imagine myself soaking in some sun in one of the gracefully curved deck chairs, applauding musical performances in the theater, or dining at Rudi’s (one of the Koningsdam’s specialty restaurants). I think the best thing about going on a cruise is the abundance of options, making it possible to please everyone!
Everywhere, staff were busy preparing the final details before embarking this weekend. Everything was being polished and made ready for a perfect cruise experience. Aren’t you feeling ready for a cruise about now?
Benefits of cruising
Besides being one of the best values in the world of vacationing, cruising does a lot to benefit the economy. For example, each cruise ship that departs from the port of San Diego provides about $400,000 directly to the city in provisioning, guest spending, taxes, employment and more. In addition, Holland America has been involved with more than 30 nonprofits in San Diego County through cruise donations.
During the press briefing I attended, I learned that while San Diego was in cruising “lockdown”, the city lost over $300 million dollars. Just imagine that loss multiplied many times over by all the port cities throughout the world! It’s not just me who is ready for a cruise!
A few more gems to share…
I’m grateful for the opportunity I had to learn about the efforts Holland America and others have made to ensure the safety of cruising. While attending the press briefing, I had the opportunity to interview Gustavo Antorcha (President of Holland America), Jerrol Golden (Director of International PR for Holland America), Erik Elvejord (Director, Public Relations), and Joe Stuyvesant (President and CEO of the Port of San Diego).
Here are a few things I learned:
- When I asked Jerrol Golden if Holland America had lost staff during the lockdowns, she explained that their crews have all been anxious to sail again. There is such a sense of loyalty and “family” among staff members. Many have worked for Holland America for over 20 years. When Holland America asked them to come back and prepare to sail, all were anxious to do so.
- Joe Stuyvesant said to Holland America: “We’re glad to see you back! Grateful to have you. Congratulations to you as a cruise line for navigating difficult waters and having been very forward in creating a safe cruise experience.”
- I asked Gus Antorcha what was his favorite place to travel — his answer? “It depends on who I’m traveling with. If I’m with family, the experiences are wonderful because of who I’m with. Croatia was a recent favorite. But I also enjoyed an Alaskan cruise with a parent. Wonderful memories!”
- Erik Elvejord answered the same question for me: “Some of my favorites have been Tahiti, Norway, or New Zealand. But it’s always about who you’re with.”
I have to agree! It goes right along with my motto that “Travel strengthens relationships.” I am so ready to book a cruise. How about you? Are you ready for a cruise yet? If you’ve never cruised before, be sure to read my article “What’s it Like to Come Home From Your First Cruise?”