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?”
Sign me up I’m ready to cruise!
We are going to the Mexican Riviera on Princess Cruises during Thanksgiving week. It’s a family cruise that was supposed to be celebrating our granddaughter’s 9th birthday and my husband’s 70th birthday, both of which are on the same day. Princess willingly accepted the reservation months ago, but now say children 11 and under cannot go unless they are vaccinated. We all know that vaccines are not available for children 11 and under. However, they will let unvaccinated adults with medical and religious exemptions on board. This news was a huge disappointment in so many ways. Interestingly, my daughter did not receive notification of this change in the “rules” from Princess, but instead found out because they have been calling every week to be sure that there had been no change to their reservation, especially regarding our granddaughter.
My recommendation is that if you are traveling with children, always double and triple check up to the day before departure because they change the rules constantly.
I’ve heard the cruise lines are allowing a very small percentage of unvaccinated passengers for just this reason — the children. Have you checked with Princess to see if your granddaughter will be eligible?
I’m ready to cruise too!!
It will be interesting to see how cruises will come back after all this time being docked. I definitely still want to try a cruise some day…but maybe I’ll wait a few years to see how it goes.
I am reading a lot these days about the cruise ship lines starting up. We have a cruise booked for the winter and we need to make a go/no go decision in December. Interesting to see all the new processes that Holland America has put in place for Covid. I think now would be a great time to cruise if you booked short term when the current requirements are pretty well known. But still plan for contingencies.
I agree. You have to stay on top of things!
I have never been on a cruise before but have had it on my list. Hopefully someday I get to go. Its really nice to know that the cruises like Holland America have started to put more protocols in place to make sure their passengers are safe.
This ship is huge! I saw ships of this size cruising off the shore of Venice – the sights was almost scary since the dimensions between the city and the ship were so odd.
I didn’t know that cruise ships were good for a city’s economy, I only know that they can do a lot of damage to the ecology. The only time I went on a ‘cruise’ was from Northern Germany to Norway. It was rather some posh kind of a ferry and the roundtrip took only three days.
We LOVE cruising of all types though we haven’t sailed with Holland America yet. But would love to experience it for sure.
I do wonder though cause I know you said that this is an awesome time to sail, and I agree. (to be fair, any time to sail is the best in my opinion). But my question is despite everyone sailing on these first cruises will be fully vaccinated and tested again before embarking how are they going to handle experiences?
I mean if you want to sail around and just stay on the boat that is fine. But how is Holland going to guarantee that everyone who goes and does an excursion doesnt come back on the boat with covid? How do they plan on testing every single excursion company & staff member in foreign countries (especially the poorer ones with less access to vaccines). How is Holland or any company going to regulate that those who just disembark to walk around a port town like Ensenada, Rosarito, or even further down, in Cabo dont come back onboard after having contact cause a PCR test wont be able to tell you that within 24 hours and then it will be too late?
Now I ask not because I disagree with you. I think now is an amazing time to cruise and the lesser capacity makes it amazing. Plus I love that they are going out of their way to keep the boat clean. But I just dont want to be trapped on the boat the entire cruise and thus allowing us all to disembark at different ports in less regulated countries does raise the risk level a lot more than practically zero.
Very good points, Eric. I don’t think Holland America has begun cruising to other countries yet but of course they’re gearing up for that. What I’ve heard about shore excursions is that they have “bubble excursions”, meaning you can’t just walk off the ship and do anything you want. You must stay in “bubbles” of groups from the ship with only approved tours or activities. I’m assuming they do have to do some vetting of excursion companies. I suppose nothing we do these days can give you 100% assurance. But with everyone on board being vaccinated, chances of contracting covid from casual interactions off the ship should be very very low.
A cruise is on my dream list. Holland America is impressive both in terms of its interior, amenities, and entertainment. You certainly cannot be bored on such a journey.
True! You will not be bored!