Tuesday,  September 28, 2021  3:46 am

On location: "Cruising is back" - Cruise CEO's Caroline Hay reports from Celebrity Edge

  • Agency
  •   07-25-2021  11:28 am
  •   Caroline Hay

On location: "Cruising is back" - Cruise CEO's Caroline Hay reports from Celebrity Edge
President of Cruise CEO Caroline Hay (right), pictured with Captain Kate McCue on Celebrity Edge. Hay experienced Celebrity Edge in the Eastern Caribbean from July 17-24, 2021. (Supplied)
Caroline Hay

As travel advisors, we've been selling cruise vacations to clients, not knowing if things would be drastically different.  

I am pleased to report that my experience, overall, on the Celebrity Edge is indeed not that different compared any of the previous 80 cruises I have been on. 

Yes, there are enhanced protocols and extra steps required to get on board. However, once you step inside the Edge bubble, life feels normal and that was a pleasant and unexpected surprise.

Enhanced Protocols

The cruise industry has always faced harsh criticism. One only has to think back to pre-COVID days to know that cruising is held to a higher standard than any other sector in the travel industry. Today, that is no different. 

READ MORE: Cruise CEO hits the High Seas on the Celebrity Edge

The onboard crew has always ensured that the ship is in tip-top condition, making sure to clean all areas with special attention given to high-touch areas (handrails, elevator buttons, tabletops, casino area). And that has not changed. Today, however, it is more frequent. 

In-room guest care 'Healthy at Sea' package. (Caroline Hay)

Upon arrival to your stateroom, each guest has a care kit waiting for them comprising of a mask and hand sanitizer along with a welcome letter from Captain Kate outlining the importance of following protocols. 

I lost count on how many Purell stations there were on board. When I walked decks 4 and 5 from bow to stern, there was a Purell station every 200 to 250 steps. I even encountered a crew member cleaning one of the cleaning stations!

Handwashing station. (Caroline Hay)

Mask wearing for the crew is now optional. Guests onboard do not have to wear a mask or provide anything other than their vaccine certificates at the time of check-in. 

As indicated in my previous report, some unvaccinated guests were sailing that week. 

Those guests are required to wear masks onboard (except when eating and drinking) and take an antigen test mid-cruise and at the time of disembarkation. 

Please refer to the Celebrity Cruise Healthy at Sea information for all other onboard requirements. 

Onboard facilities

  • Spa services and gym facilities are operating as usual.
  • Pool and hot tubs are open and accessible to all.
  • Dining rooms, cafés, show lounges, bars and nightclubs (including the popular silent disco events) are operating, and social distancing is encouraged.
  • The shops are not to be missed and open to serve your clients
  • You don't have to sign for drinks or incidentals.  You can either self-scan your card or provide your stateroom number.

Dining

From private dining rooms for suite guests to a full buffet area and many other dining areas, there is undoubtedly an abundance of choice when it comes to dining onboard the Edge

There are Purell stations positioned at the entrance of each dining room and all guests are reminded to sanitize their hands before entering the restaurants. 

Hand washing stations are provided in the Oceanview Café

For the main dining rooms (of which there are four), guests can select their choice of set dining times or come as they please. 

Tables are spaced out well and each time we went into any dining room, we specifically requested a table that was further removed from others. This was easily accommodated. 

Many people wondered how it would be possible for cruise lines to have buffet areas, but that has all been considered here on Edge. Previously set up as a self-serve dining option, each station is now staffed. 

Salad preparation area. (Caroline Hay)

From being handed your plate and cutlery to being served each of the delectable choices available, I dare say that the buffet feels like more of an elevated experience from my previous cruises.

Kids Club

Onboard this week, there were a total of 90 children and 60 of them were teens! As a mom of a 15-year old, I am always paying attention to what the kids are doing onboard and they are having sooo much fun. 

Entrance to Camp at Sea for kids ages 3 to 12. (Caroline Hay)

I checked out both the Camp at Sea (ages 3-12) and The Basement (ages 13+), and while there are some changes in these areas (due to capacity control), they have adapted their offerings to ensure everyone can be included, with more activities outside of the designated areas whenever possible. 

Anytime a child or teen is in their respective kids' club, masks are mandatory. The majority of activities remain but the food-related activities (for instance: make your own pizza and cookie decorating) have been eliminated for the time being along with Toddler Time (under age two with parent).

Going ashore

On this particular sailing, which was from July 17-24, we followed an Eastern Caribbean route and visited Nassau, St. Thomas and St. Maarten

Each island is accustomed to an abundance of ships in its port and people were excited to see passengers coming back to visit.

St. Maarten ready to welcome visitors. (Caroline Hay)

Each port we visited had mandatory mask-wearing requirements. 

Passengers were reminded in the Celebrity Today (daily planner), and when disembarking to go ashore, to not to forget our masks. 

If taking a Celebrity Curated excursion, you were required to wear a face-covering during transportation. 

If you went off to explore on your own, you also were required to wear a face-covering. 

From what I saw, there were many people that did not comply and went mask-free; however, the majority of locals were wearing their masks. 

Upon returning to the ship, cold towels and Purell stations were waiting for us. 

It's important to note that the crew onboard Edge are not permitted to leave the ship. This ensures that they are kept within the bubble. 

Rest assured that, along with the crew being vaccinated, the cruise lines are doing all they can to keep passengers safe.

Testing onboard

Canadians require a PCR test to arrive back in Canada and this is all arranged (at no extra cost) by Celebrity for all guests that require a re-entry test. 

We received a phone call with a scheduled appointment time at the medical clinic on the last day of our voyage to do our PCR test. 

Within two hours, a confidential letter in our stateroom was delivered outlining our negative test results. 

Celebrity made this process easy and worry-free. The medical clinic is also set up to conduct antigen tests and manages the ongoing crew PCR testing protocols, which happen fairly frequently.

Arrival back in Canada

We arrived back in Toronto and were required to upload our vaccination certificates to the ArriveCan app

Nexus lines were operational, and after we completed the required information, the Customs Officer determined that we did not have to quarantine or self-isolate. 

After collecting our bags, we were given a choice to do a home test or complete a PCR test onsite (which is what we chose to do). 

Pro Tip – suggest to your clients to pre-register an account for Switch Health so they can move through the testing protocols quickly. The process was smooth and quick and your PCR testing results are emailed to you within 24 hours.

"Cruising is back"

Celebrity has always been known for an elevated level of service and this cruise brought an added layer of emotion that I did not anticipate. 

Under the leadership of Captain Kate McCue, the crew is happy – like really happy! Watching the interaction not just with guests but also with each other was so heartwarming. 

READ MORE: “We want to grow”: TPI team launches cruise-focused host agency “Cruise CEO”

I was walking down the deck a few days ago, and four staff members were cleaning an area and all laughing. I made a comment to them saying, "Oh, you're all so happy today." 

They answered: "We have waited a long time to be together, and we're happy to be back on board with our friends, seeing our guests and being able to provide for our families again."

The Celebrity Edge exceeded every one of my expectations and left no doubt in my mind that cruising is back.

I would be remiss not to recognize that, for some, it is not the right time to travel. However, for myself, it was. 

Having now had the opportunity to see firsthand how things are onboard and how amazing cruising can be post-covid was well worth it. 

We are in this business because we are passionate travellers and I encourage you all to get back to travel.  

We have all gone through a very hard and difficult time over the past 16 months and getting back out there will reinforce that, after the storm, there is sunshine, and the world is waiting for all of us.

Caroline Hay is President of Cruise CEO. For more info, visit CruiseCEO.com


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