Chris and Joe Scott of Fredericksburg, Virginia, are intrepid travelers—by land and sea. So the retired couple was intrigued when they learned about the Travelers’ Century Club. To join this private social club that boasts more than 1500 members around the globe, an applicant has to have visited a minimum of 100 of the countries/territories listed in the club’s directory.
The Scotts are well on their way toward achieving that goal. At last count, they logged in 83 destinations.
They have a particular affinity for cruising because it’s a convenient, hassle-free way to visit multiple destinations on a single trip—without having to pack, unpack, or arrange transportation from place to place. They have been on 24 cruises since 1994.
Plans delayed but not dashed
The pandemic has created a time warp affecting many aspects of our lives. It also delayed the Scotts goal of qualifying for membership in the Travelers’ Century Club.
Their last cruise—pre-pandemic—was on Regal Princess in February 2020 (at which time they participated in the largest vow renewal at sea). Then, in March 2020, the CDC’s No Sail Order went into effect. The order was extended twice until a phased return of cruising was allowed with new protocols in place to mitigate the spread of COVID.
The Scotts made several domestic trips during their unexpected travel hiatus but were eager to get back cruising.
Their first post-pandemic cruise was in October 2021, a 7-day round trip Baltimore to Bahamas cruise on the 2,124-passenger Carnival Pride. And on December 12, they returned from a 7-day Southern Caribbean cruise on the 2,440-passenger Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas.
The Scotts’ desire to cruise, comfort level in doing so—and enjoyment of post-pandemic voyages—haven’t been diminished by fears of contracting the virus. “We were fully vaccinated and knew that the cruise lines were doing everything they could to keep people safe,” says Chris.
“Both cruise lines outlined their protocols in advance,” she says. “We also understood that the protocols could change if new guidance came out, and there was always a possibility that a port visit might be canceled.”
Better than expected
The Scotts found that cruising during the pandemic was much easier than they anticipated. Embarkation was quick and easy, even with new COVID testing requirements.
In addition, the ships they sailed on weren’t operating anywhere close to capacity. They estimate that the Carnival ship had about half its normal passenger load; the Royal Caribbean, about one-third, which made social distancing easier.
The ambiance of a cruise ship is generally jovial. But this time, there was an abundance of gratitude as well. Everyone was glad to be traveling again—both passengers and crew. Locals at the ports especially welcomed the return of visitors vital to the economy.
The Scotts noticed several other changes on one or both ships: constant cleaning of furniture in public spaces, a switch to phone apps instead of in-cabin daily programs, hand sanitizers all over the ship and in cabins, and waiter service at the buffet.
Going with the flow
Veteran cruisers know that cruising always requires flexibility. A captain may need to change course because of high winds or rough seas, or even miss a port.
The Scotts see the dynamic nature of the virus and public health policies as just one more factor that might dictate a change of plans.
“After 24 cruises, we understand that things can change on a dime,” says Chris. “On the Carnival cruise, we weren’t able to dock in Freeport, Bahamas, due to high winds. And on Royal Caribbean, three port stops were changed because the countries were still closed to cruise passengers.”
“There were a few more steps to go through, like COVID testing before and after the cruise, but it was a minor inconvenience,” says Chris. But everyone knew the protocols before boarding, and there were “gentle reminders” on board to wear masks, wash hands, maintain social distance, and inform the staff of any symptoms.
“Most of the Caribbean ports require masks to be worn outdoors, even when you are socially distanced,” she says. “But you get used to the requirements and know what type of mask works best for you. So apart from being a little warm, we were happy to wear them.”
The Scotts observed that health and safety policies, including testing (and their related costs), mask requirements, and cancellation policies (in the event of a positive test before a cruise) varied from line to line, sometimes from venue to venue, and might be subject to change.
For example, on the Scott’s Royal Caribbean cruise, the main theater and some lounges were designated for vaccinated passengers only. On the Carnival cruise, there was a “sip and cover” mask policy at the comedy club.
The Scotts had such a good time on the two cruises that they’ve booked two more. Next up: In March, they will depart on a Panama Canal cruise on Norwegian Jewel.
When asked about the recent breakthrough cases reported on the Norwegian Breakaway, Chris said: “We’re not worried at all. There are going to be breakthrough cases. I think everyone who travels realizes there is a chance you might get sick or injured. We do our best to stay healthy.”
What differentiates people, like the Scotts, who cruise with confidence compared to those who see cruise ships as floating Petri dishes?
“Some people are more adventurous and spirited than others,” says Linda Ligenza, LCSW, a therapist and life coach in private practice in Charleston, SC. “They feel that being fully vaccinated, they are as protected as they can possibly be and that the cruise lines are committed to doing all they can. They don’t want to stop living their lives,”
“People have personality traits that range from being risk-averse, where they feel as if they couldn’t enjoy themselves anyway because the risk would be too great, to risk-seeking, where it’s more fun because it is risky. Others tend to weigh risk and reward in order to arrive at a pragmatic decision around the cost-benefit of a cruise,” adds psychotherapist Daryl Appleton, EdD, who practices in East Greenwich, Rhode Island..
Back to the count
So, where do the Scotts stand in terms of joining The Travelers’ Century Club?
Club membership doesn’t dictate every aspect of their wanderlust. “We had already been to the Bahamas multiple times, but the Carnival cruise allowed us to get back on a ship and see what the new protocols would be like,” says Chris.
However, the Royal Caribbean cruise did offer them the opportunity to add two destinations to their list. Because they couldn’t get to the three ports that were closed to cruise ships (Trinidad, Tobago, and Martinique), they could only add new one (St. Vincent and the Grenadines).
The Scotts aren’t concerned. “On our next trip, we will pick up three more, hopefully,” she says—adventurous, flexible, and ever-optimistic.