Spit tube and tracking necklace.
We have been on four prior cruises; one river and three ocean. This is our fifth and the first one in 2 years. Covid-19 has dictated the essence of the cruise. It is safety; for us, fellow passengers and the crew. We were reluctant to take the cruise, but, staying home at our age (79 & 81) seemed even worse. And, a cruise ship seemed like the safest place. But, we had to jump through a lot of hoops; the most important being not to forget to wear our masks and carry our tracking necklace.
Covid-19 has added a number of things to the ordinary cruise:
1. All passengers and crew must be completely vaccinated.
2. VeriFly is required to prove your vaccination status. No cheating.
3. Negative PCR test 72 hours in advance of various deadlines depending on destination.
4. Negative Antigen test 48 hours in advance of boarding the ship.
5. Second negative Antigen test 48 hours in advance of boarding the ship, because due to a flight delay, we thought it would be 50 hours.
6. Vaccination card.
7. Check in at the dock before boarding the ship with copies of all documents
8. Negative PCR test on boarding the ship. This ship has its own lab to do daily PCR tests.
9. Masks at all times when outside your stateroom except when eating.
10. Daily spitting in a tube which is collected at 9:00 AM for the daily PCR test – hard because we do not have enough spit early in the morning – collected by the room steward in a big bag.
11. Daily questionnaire as to your health.
12. Temp check at the entrance of each restaurant or cafe.
14. Separated seats in the theater.
15. Separeted tables in the dining areas.
16. Whirlpool and spa areas limited to 10 people and apointment required.
17. All crew masked, vaccinated and tested daily.
And, we have yet to get to our first port on this cruise.
Tender from the Viking Sun approaching the Chilean General Service Boat Talcahuano.
I was recently on a Viking Sun Cruise around Cape Horn, going from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Santiago, Chile. While walking the 1/4 mile walking track on Deck 2, I noticed a Chilean Navy Ship, the General Service Boat Talcahuano, in the distance beginning to circle the ship. Part of the deck path was closed and a tender had been launched. I, like about half of the 900 passengers, watched for the next hour, or so.
While we watched, the tender made several attempts to hook up with the Chilean Navy Ship, but couldn’t get close because of the waves. The Navy vessel continued to circle the ship and tried to reposition itself.
The tender returned to the cruise ship and waited while the Navy ship circled again. I was right above the tender on deck 2 next to the blocked deck area.
Through an open hatch in the top of the tender, I saw the Captain of the Viking Sun, whom I think had just taken command of the tender. He headed straight for the Navy Ship, and without apparent incident, went along side and transferred the passenger on a stretcher, her husband and the ship’s doctor to the Chilean Navy Ship which took off for a land-based hospital.
I was totally impressed with the way Viking handled the situation.
I did not hear of any report of the event on the Viking Sun; however, the next day Newsweek reported that the passenger had fallen, had injured herself, and had been evacuated to Coronel Bay, Chile for emergency treatment. Look at the Google Map of Coronel Bay; not quite the “End of the World” around Cape Horn, but close.
This raised a number of questions in my mind. Questions to ask about your travel insurance on a cruise; or any international trip, especially, if you are old; and, maybe even if you are not.
- No way was Medicare going to cover the evacuation, or anything else, outside the US. What are you prepared for?
- Does the fact that the rescue happened in international waters make any difference?
- Will the Chilean Navy want to be reimbursed?
- Does your travel insurance cover rescues at Sea?
- What about costs for husband, doctor and costs after transfer to the hospital in Coronel Bay?
- What if the passenger does not have insurance?
- Just what does your travel policy cover?
- Will your regular insurance cover any of this?
- Is there insurance coverage for the ship’s medical care or for the ship’s doctor going with the injured person to a foreign hospital?
- What unknown costs are there to a difficult rescue at sea?
The bottom line is that this lady was injured, transferred on the high seas, in a stretcher, from a cruise ship to a tender to a Chilean Navel Vessel, in international waters. She was then taken to a foreign hospital. She and her husband probably had no idea where they were going except that it was near “the end of the world.” We had just come around Cape Horn.
The real question is: What next? Did she come back to the ship? How? Where? When? Did she go home? How? Who paid?
Interesting questions, ask your insurance carrier.
I have in the past few years had two friends who have gotten sick while traveling, both in China. One spent over a month in a Chinese hospital, was transferred back to the US with medical support; and, then died. No insurance – wiped out an inheritance. The other had a stroke, spent several weeks in a Chinese hospital and was flown back to the US with a medical professional accompanying her. She had great insurance which covered all the costs and she is doing fine.
Travel insurance is expensive if you are old; but, consider the alternatives.
You might even want one of your kids to review your travel policy, if you have one, and advise you. None of us ever reads the policy, we just pay and board the ship.
There is no truth to the rumor that cruise lines weigh passengers when they board and when they leave, and that the one who gains the most weight gets a free trip. But, it seems that way. There is food everywhere and all the time. I keep looking for the resident gerontologist.
That said, cruise ships also have great fitness facilities and an assortment of food that allows you to eat only what is good for you.
The fitness facilities on the Viking Sun are great and decidedly Scandinavian. The rule here is: “Showing up is half the battle.” If you can move down a deck or two, you will be one of a handful of people who use the facilities. It is like the health club you belong to. (for free with Silver Sneakers). There are a few dozen out of hundreds of members who actually show up regularly.
On our Viking Sun Ocean Cruise the fitness facilities stood out even if only used by a few of us. We are the new 1 %, only it is health not money that moves us into this category of old people.
Viking Sun has:
- A quarter-mile walking track with a half-dozen walkers. Great except for windy days.
- Fitness classes including yoga, Pilates, etc.
- Trainers for a fee.
- The best machines that I have ever used; and, I used them daily along with about a dozen others. (Out of 930 passengers, none of whom were children, there were few in the fitness rooms.)
- The usual spa treatments, massages, hair stylists, manicures, etc.
- A swimming pool
- A salt water whirl pool; a regular whirl pool; and a sauna.
- In addition and unusual on a cruise ship, a cold water bucket and the snow grotto. I tried the snow grotto – man-made snow in a glassed-in room kept at freezing temperature. I did not try the water bucket. These two reflect the Scandinavian love of hot and cold.
The snow grotto.
The cold water bucket.
With a free launderette on every deck, you can pack a lot less!
We were in our late 70’s when we took our first cruise. Our second was on a Viking River Boat from Bucharest to Budapest. It was such a great experience that we then signed up for a Viking Ocean Cruise on the Viking Sun. We are now in the fifth day of that cruise. First thoughts are important, so… here are mine.
Our cruise, South America and Cape Horn, is from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Santiago, Chile.
- The ship is small – only 930 passengers.
- There are no children aboard.
- There are few additional costs – beer and wine with meals are free; one free tour in each port; and 24 hour free room service. The wi-fi is free. Old people are cheap. Viking, by including almost everything in the fare, makes “traveling while old” (TWO) much easier and more pleasant.
- Viking has some sort of deal with the countries we stopped in. Viking kept our passports and we could go ashore using our Viking ID cards. No one ever checked us on land; we were carefully checked when boarding the ship.
- There are expert lecturers on board, including a ship’s historian who presented talks about every port. In addition there are movies, musicals, classes, etc.
- The staff is a diverse international group and the most friendly and helpful people I have ever met.
- There is a free launderette on every deck, which means next time I can travel with one change of clothing; a great fitness center with the best exercise machines I have experienced; all the usual spa treatments; hot tubs, saunas; and, a 1/4 mile walking path on deck 2. (This was sometimes cold and windy.) These were great because only a few people took advantage of them.
- Most of the passengers had been on several Viking cruises and half were on the Round The World Cruise which could last for up to 160 days, or so. The rest of us just filled in the empty spaces between the Round the World ports of call.
- The only “dress code” is no jeans/shorts at dinner in the main and speciality dining rooms. Not only was a coat and tie not required, but no one was wearing either in the speciality dining rooms. No extra charge for specialty dining.
- At 78, I think I was a bit over the average age, but not by much.
Those are my initial thoughts; but, I have two weeks to go.
One of the best things about our cruise on the Holland America, MS Veendam from Monteal to Boston was the cooking class. It was held three times with a professional chef from Cook’s Magazine cooking in a professional kitchen with seating for about 100.
The only downside is that we didn’t get to taste what the chef prepared. But, we did get recipes and an entertaining and educational 45 minutes on three different occasions.
This was our first cruise; and worth it just for the cooking class.
Apparently all of the Holland America Lines ships have these cooking classes.