Have you ever sailed alone on a 300 meter long ship?
Well, neither did I – but I had a cabin all to myself on the first cruise ship to visit Canada Place in over two years – and it made for thinking (not of myself in the ocean – the water isn’t shallow enough for that kind of antics).
Canada had advised against any kind of international travel for a considerable time. While the government briefly lifted its advisory before the new year, it reinstated one after COVID-19 cases started to climb due to the Omicron variant.
But cruising was particularly frowned upon due to some high-profile cases early in the pandemic.
the infamous Ruby Princess Hatching saw at least 900 passengers test positive for coronavirus and 28 of them died, according to the BBC.
Before I left for the cruise, at least a handful of people expressed concerns about my safety, despite the fact that I was triple vaccinated and everyone on Holland America Line ships must be at least double vaccinated. All passengers must also present proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no later than three days before departure.
Did I feel safe?
The ship left San Diego on the afternoon of Sunday April 3. The Disney Wonder was moored next to the ship I was going to board, Holland America Line’s Ms Koningsdam. There were many people at the pier and I was worried it would be a long wait to get through security. To my surprise, however, everyone was checked out quickly. I had printed copies of all my documents, which made things a little easier.
While it was busy, everyone had to wear masks during the boarding portion of the cruise. All passengers have also had their proof of vaccination checked.
Once on board, however, the ship felt noticeably less crowded. All crew members were wearing N95 masks and people were doing their best to physically distance themselves.
The Centers for Disease Control in the United States has implemented a “Cruise Ship Color Statusprogram for cruise ships operating or planning to operate in the United States. A few days after I boarded, the CDC announced that the ship I was on was under Orange status. In other words, 0.3 % or more of the total number of passengers on board have been infected with the virus.
Naturally, I became concerned with the investigation and began to wonder what was going to happen next. But the situation was resolved without any notification or involvement of the passengers on board. Within days, the ship was upgraded to green status.
Coronavirus protocol on the ship
While I was on the ship, Holland America Line President Gus Antorcha told me in an interview that guests who test positive for the virus are isolated from the rest of the ship and disembarked from sailing. to the next port. If they have not completed their quarantine period when they are removed from the ship, the cruise line will book a hotel for them.
“If it’s crew or guests, we have a series of isolation cabins,” he explained. “And so they’re separated from everyone else to the point where we know someone is positive.”
Holland America Line is also offering customers who test positive and spend time in isolation a credit, Antorcha added.
The CDC will launch an investigation if only four or five people out of a 1,500-person boating test test positive for COVID-19; this figure would meet the Orange status requirement. The test positivity rate for the United States is much higher, the cruise line’s president pointed out.
During this navigation, the passengers were sent back to San Francisco and the ship was transferred to green status following the investigation. And while the number of passengers wearing face masks decreased as the sailing progressed, I never saw a crew without a mask.
“The harder it is, the more pride you have in the end.”
Asked if he was excited to bring the first ship to Canada in over two years, Ms Kongingsdam’s captain Robert Jan Kan told Crows Nest reporters he had mixed emotions; It was a pride for the crew but it came with a lot of pressure.
At the start of the pandemic, Kan sailed around the world, bringing home thousands of crew members after the virus brought the cruise industry to a screeching halt. Many of them were unable to return home because their home countries had strict COVID-19 protocols in place and they had been living on the ship for months.
The experience had a profound impact on the captain, who stressed that this trip could not be taken lightly. That said, Vancouver is a key port for Holland America Line; it was also the first cruise line to visit Place du Canada when it opened.
“Vancouver is of course one of our great ports of call…it’s the gateway to Alaska,” he noted, adding that sailing through Johnstone Strait from the city offers particularly breathtaking views.
Holland America Line hotel general manager Ron Bontenbal echoed the captain’s sentiment, remarking that they wouldn’t feel like they could celebrate until they left Vancouver safely.
“If you look at the amount of information that we have to process, absorb…it’s a lot to go through,” he said.
“But the harder it is, the more pride you have in the end.”