By Steve White
contributing writer 

Cruising in a post-pandemic world

Life with Pepe


September 11, 2021

Jack Sann

I recently realized that my life with Pepe, during this ongoing pandemic, does not require that my rather boring, mostly self imposed, Sheltering In Place routines mean that I must stay home all the time. This COVID virus won't be eliminated and will continue to mutate but eventually the Pandemic will end. It won't upend our lives forever.

The coronavirus is not something we can avoid all the time; we have to prepare for the possibility that we will all be exposed at some point. This is something we're going to have to live with. I have learned, however, that I can minimize its impact. By getting the vaccinations, wearing a mask in public, following the CDC and other medical experts' advice will all minimize the chances of contamination with COVID-19, allowing us to lead an almost normal life.

I have begun to examine the best way for me to avoid contacting the virus; without staying home. I love to travel. My favorite travel plans include being a "guest" on a cruise ship.  Researching the cruise ship industry's steps being taken to avoid the horror of carrying the virus on their ships, I have discovered that being on a cruise ship is one of the safest places to be during this Pandemic.

During the month of August, Pepe and I cruised for a week from Seattle to three ports in Alaska. I spent a week, without Pepe, on a Mexican Riviera cruise two weeks later. How nice it was, after nearly 18-months of being almost locked down, to be able to enjoy meals prepared by others and in a formal setting. Also, we had the luxury of being constantly waited on and having our cabin freshened up daily by the ship's staff while we enjoyed the travel.

At first there were some anxious moments for me. We flew to Seattle with two nights in a hotel. That meant a lot of contact with others in the airport terminals, on the plane and in other public areas. And we've all heard the horror stories of how through close contact with others on cruise ships, passengers contracted the virus, taking the lives of many – during the opening weeks of the pandemic.

The cruising industry has taken drastic steps to put their ships back in travel. The ship's guest occupancy has been reduced by about 50%, which makes separation from others easy. All passengers and crew must be fully vaccinated; a negative COVID test is required two days before sailing; masks are required by everyone except when eating, drinking or swimming. One of the cruise ships we were on did not permit self-service in the buffet areas. Hand sanitizers and hand washing stations were everywhere. Crew members were at each elevator station to assist with using the elevators and by "wiping down" the call buttons and railings. I am scheduled for another 7-day cruise later this month. That cruise line will require an additional COVID test, given at the cruise ship terminal, prior to boarding.

I did go ashore in each of the Alaska ports for a self guided tour; however, I stayed aboard in Mexico as there is an increase in COVID infections in the country.

Our cruise to the Mexican Riviera was the first post COVID cruise to the area since the industry shut down over a year ago. After two days at sea we were escorted into Mazatlán by two small Mexican Navy ships. As we neared the dock a multi cannon salute welcomed us to the port.

Carnival Panorama is a true party boat! The cruises are inexpensive, with most of the passengers being of the generation after mine. The "sail away" party, as we left Long Beach, was a hoot. Loud music and an MC had all participants group dancing. People seemed to know what they were doing as everyone moved in unison to the music. Many were wearing hats shaped like the signature Carnival ship smoke stacks. Some wore T-shirts emblazoned with various Carnival line and cruise statements. Carnival ships pride themselves with the theme of fun; all activities are geared toward a good time for all.

I don't do much aboard the ship: I enjoy the mostly gourmet food served in a formal dining room; the sauna and hot tubs are frequented; I read some; explore; and have brief visits with other passengers. What a nice break from the locked down, isolation and sheltering in place routines that I've had the last several months. And best of all I feel comfortable about the very slim chance of contracting the virus. I had a COVID test after I got home from each cruise. Results were negative, of course!

Pepe is a small, male Chihuahua mix, 8 years old, that accompanies Steve everywhere. Steve has a hearing disability that allows him to have an ADA Certified Service Dog.


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