A Bus Tour Opened My Eyes to More Than Just the Sights We Were Seeing

I just completed our first ever bus tour and it opened my eyes to another way of traveling that I had been snubbing for as long as I can remember. I always thought bus tours were for old people being shuffled from one souvenir shopping experience to another with some kind of blue-plate special each night at a 3:00 PM dinner service. Boy, was I wrong! It turned out to be a tour for fun people with adventures, shopping, sightseeing, and new friends.

We had a pretty large credit with Globus due to a group tour cancelled in 2020. (Thanks, COVID). The credit needed to be used by the end of 2022 or we would lose our investment in this vacation. Rather than apply it to a new group, we decided to use it for our own booking. We chose a 9-day Glacier National Park & Canadian Rockies tour. I have always wanted to see Glacier National Park and Banff, so it was an appealing option. We flew into Calgary the day before the tour started just because that’s a standard practice and one we recommend to our clients also. In case of flight cancellations and delays, it’s always good to arrive in your tour or cruise departure city the day before.

We arrived in Calgary September 4th and returned to Atlanta on September 13th. We like to travel in September after most kids are back in school and the crowds diminish significantly. But, I was also not looking forward to it because, in my mind, there would be 20 feet of snow already in the western part of Canada. I had never been to Calgary, but still expected a frozen hellscape. Nevertheless, I had always wanted to visit Glacier National Park and Banff National Park, and I figured the terrible winter weather would just be a necessary part of the experience.

I almost didn’t believe the weather reports as the day drew near, and even after landing, it was a very pleasant surprise to find Calgary sunny and warm – in the upper 80s (Fahrenheit, of course; our northern neighbors use Celsius). The city was full of shining skyscrapers reflecting the sunshine onto the surrounding rolling hills of prairie. It was so nice, we took the opportunity to do a little walking downtown and were impressed with how clean, uncrowded, and safe it seemed.

Calgary set behind Saddledome as seen from a bluff over the Bow River.

The next day before our official check-in for our Globus bus tour, we booked a city tour with Rocky Mountain Sidecar Adventures. I was disappointed I wasn’t able to drive the motorcycle, but still had a great time. Rose and I each had our own personal driver while we sat in sidecars being escorted through the city by Warren and Brian. We caught a lot of attention from people in Calgary waving and pointing as we rolled through the various city neighborhoods. Warren and Brian stopped a few times to point out significant sites, talk about the city they loved, and so we could take photos. Later, we learned some of the people on our bus tour had taken photos of us leaving the hotel. They were disappointed they didn’t book it themselves. I highly recommend it for anyone visiting Calgary. Warren and his wife Nicole own this small business, and we are always eager to support entrepreneurs. They have twenty-two drivers for 6 restored Russian Ural motorcycles. If you visit, check them out and take a tour. You can find them online at https://www.rockymountainsidecar.com/ or on sites like TripAdvisor and Viator.

Rocky Mountain Sidecar Adventures pulled right up to our hotel to begin our tour. Prior to arrival, they asked for a measure of our heads so they could bring correctly-sized helmets. So, when you book, be sure to note how big or small your noggin is. It’s a great tour; don’t miss it.

Back to the bus tour… As I said, I had never been on one, so I was not excited to spend nine days on a bus with a bunch of old people I didn’t know. I really thought it would be awkward and we wouldn’t really have anyone to talk with. And, in our 40s, we were definitely among the younger of the people on the tour. But, I quickly learned age didn’t matter – it was attitude that did. Some of the people we travelled with were well into their 70s, but they weren’t sitting with sweaters on while knitting the whole time. (Actually, my wife Rose did quite a bit of that). These people were fun and adventurous. They were making jokes, getting boisterous, and didn’t shy away from adventure along the way. By the end of the week, I was excited to know bus tours weren’t geriatric field days. It opened up a whole new way to travel that I really had not seriously considered for myself before.

I’ll admit on day 1, I was still stuck in my own head thinking this would be no fun. We were going down the highway as we left Calgary and headed to our first overnight in Waterton Lakes, Canada. Our Tour Director Neela was telling us about our first stop and how much time we had before we had to be back on the bus. Somewhere in my mind, I got annoyed because I immediately remembered middle school field trips. I didn’t want to spend my week being shepherded and treated like a child. But, it was too late because I was on the bus and had the rest of the trip ahead of me, so I tried to put it out of my mind. Then, later that night, like a middle schooler on a field trip, I realized I had lost something. We were planning to cross the U.S. border into Montana the next morning, but I had lost my passport on our first day of the tour! I thought hard about where it could be and was convinced it was on our bus. Neela rounded up the bus driver and they searched for it with no luck. Later, I saw the driver and asked if I could take a look. Thankfully I found it stuck between my seat and the wall of the bus. The next morning, Neela made an announcement to everyone that they needed to check to make sure they had their passports. I stopped worrying about being treated like a child because, apparently, I needed to be treated like a child.

Rose and I proved that once again when she forgot her purse at our Banff hotel. We didn’t want to become known as the forgetful couple, so we called the hotel and tried to make arrangements to get it without anyone knowing. But, the hotel had already called Neela who worked it out for us. At that point, we were so grateful to have Neela there because she was our “fixer.” She just took care of things that needed it. And after talking wither, I realized that it wasn’t about her shepherding us or babysitting us. For her, it was about providing exceptional service so that we didn’t have to think about anything other than enjoying our vacation. Neela is a Canadian immigrant originally from Germany and she loves Canada. She loves the Rockies and the animals and all the amazing experiences. Her job allows her to share that love with others, and she genuinely wants us to love it as much as she does. So, solving our problems was just part of making sure we were focused on the right things rather than distracted by our own silliness.

As we continued along the way visiting amazing places like UNESCO World Heritage sites, five national parks in the U.S. and Canada and seeing places I’ve always wanted to see, I was having an amazing experience and falling in love with the Canadian Rockies. But, there was something more enjoyable also happening: we were getting to do these things with new friends. We met two couples from New York City about our ages, a really fun mother and daughter who like to travel together to amazing places, and couples celebrating birthdays and anniversaries – some 48th and 50th anniversaries! Incredibly, we met a couple from Pekin, IL and another from Peoria, IL. Rose and I used to live near there and it turns out we had familiar haunts and knew some of the same people. We also met Sherry from Teutopolis, IL, close to where I grew up. She knew my high school health and drivers’ education teacher and others.

We learned about their families, other travels they had enjoyed, and their favorite sports teams. We also learned that many of them had been on prior Globus tours and they were planning to do it again. When I asked what they liked about them, every one of them said the same things – they liked how easy and relaxing it was. They didn’t have to think about where to eat, what to do, what to see. They had a Tour Director who prepared them with information and shared personal insights about the places being visited. It reminded me of hearing a client once complain that he was sick of renting cars on his European vacations. He had to focus on the road to drive all over the place while the rest of his family was able to look at all the amazing scenery. On our bus tour, none of us had to drive. None of us had to study and choose restaurants or how to spend the day in our various destinations. And our Tour Director was great about pointing out scenery we shouldn’t miss, keeping us on time, and answering any questions we had. Again, all we had to do was sit back and enjoy ourselves.

Spirt Island on Maligne Lake. The island is spiritually significant to the Stony Nakoda people.

Neela made the whole experience seamless. Each time we arrived at a hotel, she ran in to collect the keys and distribute them to us. We didn’t have to check in anywhere. Our bags were delivered to our rooms and picked up when it was time to leave. Our meals were planned ahead. And along the way, Neela was making phone calls to confirm everything would be ready when we arrived from one place to the next. Genuinely, all we needed to do was enjoy ourselves. At the start of each day, she outlined the planned events and at the end of each day, she reviewed the next day’s plans.

The entire tour was simple, relaxing, and carefree. So what about my other ignorant assumptions – the babysitting and the old people? Well, there was no reason to be concerned. Neela gave us all the information we needed so everyone in our group was on time and where we needed to be for our tour to keep moving as expected. But, we still had plenty of free time each day. A couple of times, Rose and I took naps in our hotel rooms before dinner or before strolling around a mountain town. We made reservations in Whitefish, MT and ate a fancy dinner. (Rose even tried escargot – quite an adventure for her). In addition to our planned tour activities, which included visiting glacial lakes, wildlife spotting, open-air bus rides on steep mountain roads, walking on a glacier, and more, there were also some additional activities available to the group.

Rose and I booked a helicopter tour with Neela and David, one of the other tour guests. It went from Canmore over the continental divide and around mountain glaciers thousands of feet in the air. We booked a river rafting trip down the Athabasca River in Jasper along with 11 of our new tour friends. Ginny and David even had the chance to do the rowing. The other highlights included getting stuck on a rocky shoal and watching our new friends Alfonso and Dave (brothers) get soaked. We also hiked the Maligne Canyon trail with most of our tour group. It was fun seeing people older than my mother climbing steep hills on the rough trail, sometimes steadying themselves down slick stone paths. I enjoyed talking with Sally as we boated across a lake high in the mountains. She was one of the tour guests and nervous about traveling alone as a widow, but not the only solo traveler in our group. Others ventured up gondolas in Banff from town at the bottom to a peak high above. And while in Jasper, no one was worried about the nearby wildfire sending smoke drifting through town. We were all too busy walking around the town trying to find some of the elk and grizzly bears that had been making their way through. So, definitely every one of these “old” people were young at heart. They were adventurous and fun and not only keeping pace with everyone, but often setting the pace. I’m talking about you, David, as you bolted out of the bus at each stop and often surprised us, like when you took the captain’s seat and drove a boat we were on or jumped up right away to steer our river raft. I was especially impressed with Melissa, a lady who walked with a cane and sometimes used a walker. She was maybe slowed, but she was not going to be stopped. She did everything the rest of us did, and often faster. I loved seeing that and being inspired by her.

In the end, my eyes were opened. It didn’t matter that I was on a bus full of strangers. It didn’t matter they were mostly older than I was. It didn’t matter I couldn’t just decide at a moment’s notice to change my vacation and do whatever I wanted. None of those things mattered because I was having a great time. Everyone was fun and nice and adventurous. And one day, I expect to be one of those “old” people surprising some ignorant, younger bus tour newbie. Neela made everything easy and simple. It was everything I loved about vacationing on a cruise or at an all-inclusive resort. All I had to do was enjoy myself. And now that I’m home, I’m ready to plan my next Globus tour. My only regret is I can’t go again with Neela, our driver Genesis, and all our tour friends.

Schedule time to talk with me about booking your next vacation.

Book Now or Miss Out

Do you ever experience FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)? Well, get ready to have a bad case of FOMO if you aren’t booking your 2022 and 2023 vacations now. If you aren’t, you’re missing out on some of the best prices you will see for the next year. I know you’re probably thinking I’m saying this just to boost sales. I am a Travel Advisor, after all. But, I am confident I will have sales, so that’s not really a worry for me. In fact, in the first two weeks of January, I’ve quoted nearly as much as we sold in all of 2021. And there are good reasons for it. We’ll get into that, but I don’t want to miss a chance to repeat this call to action…BOOK YOUR VACATIONS NOW. I’m telling you this because I love to travel and love helping others travel, and I’m getting concerned that many won’t be able to enjoy the vacations they want this year if they don’t take action now.

So why am I so concerned? There are a number of converging, related factors that are simply going to eat up the capacity. Those factors stem primarily from COVID’s impact the last two years and its impending demise. That’s right, it will be ending soon, or at least that’s what I’ve been reading and hearing a lot lately.

COVID’s Last Hurrah
As a Travel Advisor, I attend a lot of webinars and read a lot of industry news. Over the last couple of weeks, I have attended multiple webinars in which travel industry executives or scientists have said the same thing – COVID infection rates will likely start to improve by the end of February in the U.S. and continue to drop until it is a minor concern as the year continues. Dr. Scott Gottlieb is a former FDA Commissioner and is currently a Pfizer board member, COVID-19 advisor to multiple state governors, and serves as Chairman of Norwegian Cruise Line’s SailSafe Program. Based on the information he shared that has been echoed by others, there are a number of new therapeutics coming and new vaccines taht will help make COVID more treatable and survivable. He also said Omicron has been so contagious that a lot more people now have the antibodies. That coupled with vaccination rates (including boosters) should lead to fewer infections in coming weeks. He shared that, historically, pandemics last three to 5 years and we are entering year 3 now. Looking at South Africa, where Omicron was first detected in late November 2021, peak infections seem to have passed and Dr. Gottlieb expects we will soon see the same occur in the U.S. On Jan. 9, Dr. Gottlieb said on “Face the Nation” that data indicated infection rates in the Northeast and Florida may be hitting their peaks, but did indicate rates could still climb in other parts of the U.S. Nevertheless, he has also suggested that all U.S. regions may see better numbers by the end of February.

More Demand than Capacity
Also, remember how COVID began in 2020. There were no vaccines and a COVID diagnosis was scary, a death sentence for far too many. As of now, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports more than 5.5 million people have died from COVID around the world. Early on, the reaction around the world was to enter lockdown and close borders. There was no travel for several months. Travel suppliers issued future travel credits (FTCs) and most need to be used by the end of 2022. While 2021 bookings were better than 2020, they still weren’t back to pre-pandemic levels considering many resorts and cruises operated at partial capacity. In particular, cruise lines kept many ships out of service and sailed anywhere from 40% to 70% occupied. As we start 2022, some of those cruise lines have had to cancel sailings again due to the high rates of infection that come with Omicron. As their crew members test positive and port destinations close, they simply don’t want to sail and give customers bad experiences or further spread infection. The result of all this is that we have people with pent up urges to travel after two years of COVID and people who have FTCs that need to be used by the end of 2022. It’s very possible that those who wait to use their FTCs simply won’t find a vacation available to use them.

Borders are Reopening
International borders have been reopening over the last few months and more continue to open. While keeping track of each country’s requirements can be difficult, working with a good Travel Advisor should help. Some countries require testing or vaccination or both. Many require registering ahead of time, submitting test results electronically, and being approved for entry. Some are doing random spot testing upon arrival. A small number may require quarantine regardless of vaccination status, and there are some with no restrictions or requirements at all. But, the overall trend is to get borders opened and keep them open.

2021 Provided a Preview of Travel’s Rebound
Last summer as more Americans became vaccinated, confidence grew that we were nearly done with COVID. Of course, that was before Delta and later Omicron presented themselves. But, during those few months of relief, people began booking vacations again. The travel industry quickly found itself grappling with a surge in demand, but limited capacity to meet it. Travelers who did travel learned to be flexible and adaptable. Many who visited Caribbean resorts found some restaurants and bars at resorts closed or service levels diminished due to reduced staffing. Cruisers found the opposite – amazing service on ships that were fully staffed, but had fewer passengers. We cruised ourself on Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady and loved the reduced capacity sailing. We never waited for anything and it was like having much of the ship to ourselves.

People traveling to Europe found they had to limit their visits to fewer countries due to the various restrictions they had to manage. We had clients land in Berlin in December only to learn their hotel was shutting down. Thankfully, they were able to move to a better hotel across the street at no additional cost. And all these travelers had to contend with pre-travel testing, pre-departure testing, and navigating all the challenges with that. We had clients travel to St. Lucia last fall and their test results didn’t meet requirements. Once we were able to help them fix that, I had to track down government officials in St. Lucia to get their entry approved hours before their flights took off. While travel should get easier in 2022, flexibility and adaptability will continue to be incredibly important. Travelers who may struggle with that may want to refocus attention on domestic vacations instead. But, even that will continue to be difficult. Before the end of last year, over 85% of the southwest Florida vacation rental capacity had been booked through the first quarter.

If travel executives and scientists like Dr. Gottlieb are correct, people will soon see infection rates improving and grow much more confident, leading to even more of that capacity getting booked up. You have a chance now to get in early and beat the rush. And remember, the longer you wait, the more expensive your vacation will likely be. As limited capacity gets tighter, there will be less incentive for travel suppliers to offer promotions and sales for 2022 and 2023 bookings.

We Already See Booking Trouble Brewing
Earlier I mentioned a family wanting to travel to Italy this coming summer. They are wanting a custom itinerary that covers nearly 3 weeks in Northern Italy. I have designed a plan for them that they love. They prefer to stay in private villas rather than hotels, so that’s where I want to focus my attention first. I need to know the dates for their villa rentals so I can plan all the other components around that. They need villas for 7 days in Tuscany and 5 days around Lake Como. And they want four bedrooms. So far, I’m finding very limited availability with the suppliers I use. My concern is I may not be able to help them and they may have to try booking them on their own using Air B&B. I don’t like that option because it can be tough to get insurance coverage or it may require multiple insurance policies to cover the rentals and then the rest of the vacation separately. But, I need to make a determination this week and advise my clients so there is time to get a booking done before all the suitable properties are booked.

I quoted clients a guided tour in Spain and we have a range of dates, but all within about 2 months next Autumn. There is still availability, but we did find two of those weeks don’t have enough capacity for all 3 travelers. I can book 2, but not the 3rd person. So, we’re now limited to a narrower range. My clients will need to decide on a date quickly or risk missing out.

We just booked clients traveling to Alaska in July. We quoted them a price with flights on Tuesday evening. They contacted us Wednesday morning and told us to book it. But, by then, the flights were more expensive and less optimal. The original flights quoted were all booked up.

Even for ourselves, we’re finding 2023 to be challenging. We have two graduations to celebrate. Our son will graduate from high school and one of our daughters will graduate from college in May 2023. We going to celebrate by spending much of the summer in Hawaii. We are booking at a resort, but because it is for multiple weeks, we’re being advised to schedule it now so we don’t have to worry about switching bresorts as other travelers book their own vacations. We also want to take a cruise around the islands for a week. While there are still cabins available, they’re getting booked quickly. I’m giving myself a deadline to have my bookings made by the end of February to ensure I won’t have trouble. That is 16 months in advance of travel. That gives you an idea of what you can expect – book early or risk your vacation.

So Finish Reading and Book Now!!
If you’ve made it this far in this lengthy blog post, then you surely have interest in traveling. Hopefully you can understand now why I’m concerned that many will miss the opportunity to have the vacation they want. Many will instead have the most acceptable vacations they can get, and some won’t vacation at all. As better COVID treatments enter the market in the next 2-3 months and infection rates drop, people will become more confident and want to start booking vacations. Along with growing confidence will be loosening travel requirements and restrictions and easier international travel. This, in turn, will lead to greater travel confidence. COVID confidence combined with travel confidence will be all that is needed to open all the booking floodgates. When that happens, people will find the vacations they want will be less available than they expect and likely cost more than they expect. If you are someone with FTCs, you may even find you can’t make use of them when you want for the vacation you want.

Of course, we could all be wrong. A new problem could develop and surprise everyone. But, I’m less concerned about that because I’ve had the benefit of reading many articles and sitting in on a few webinars lately where multiple experts have all said the same thing – we’re nearing the end of COVID. So, you can wait for the data to prove it, which will be a lagging indicator. And if you lag too long, you will likely miss out on the current low prices, great promotions, and available capacity. Good luck, everyone!

Cruising is Safe and the CDC is Wrong

Chris Lay

Cruising is one of the safest things you can do in the age of COVID and you are making a mistake if you dismiss it as a reasonable vacation option due to pandemic fear, despite what the CDC may say.

On Dec. 30, 2021, the CDC raised its travel warning to Level 4, the highest level possible, due to recent infections on a number of sailings during the Omicron wave. The warning doesn’t prohibit cruising, but strongly advises against it. According to the CDC, the virus spreads easily between people in close quarters onboard ships. Cruisers that do go ahead and travel are encouraged to be fully vaccinated and boosted and to quarantine for five days after the cruise ends.

Stock photo acquired on Pixabay.

What else does the CDC think we should avoid? Apparently, nothing else should be avoided since the agency continues to apply its warnings and strict monitoring to only the cruising industry. The CDC has not announced warnings for air travel, concert attendance, holiday shopping, subway riding, etc. and it is encouraging public school attendance in person because “students benefit from in-person learning.”

Before its warning level change, the CDC announced it was monitoring 92 cruise ships. That monitoring was triggered when a ship experienced positive test results with 0.1% or more of its passengers within a seven-day period. In Georgia, where I live and the CDC is headquartered, the Georgia Department of Public Health reported a 7-day positivity rate of 21.7% as of Dec. 29, 2021. If the CDC treated its own environment the way it treats cruise ships, why aren’t we hearing warnings to avoid entering the state or warnings encouraging those of us here to flee for our lives?

As of Dec. 30, 2021, Royal Caribbean says it has sailed over 1.1 million passengers with 1,745 positive cases, resulting in a 0.02% infection rate.

Royal Caribbean International

Even without the CDC’s bewildering warning, recent news outlets would have us all believe the infection rates have been much higher and that cruise ships are petri dishes or COVID incubators. The same was said years ago when cruise ships suffered from rhinovirus outbreaks. Following those highly publicized stories, the cruise lines became hyper-focused on hygiene, sanitation, and controlling infectious disease. Since then, any regular cruiser has become fondly familiar with the words “washee washee,” meant to remind you to wash your hands before entering dining halls. And for years, the cruise lines promoted regular use of hand sanitizer with stations setup across ships, long before COVID made it a common practice elsewhere.

Nevertheless, COVID is presenting a new challenge to cruise lines as, once again, they seem to be called out as the only environment for contagion. However sensational the news stories may be, the data proves cruises do not present significant risk. As of 12/30/2021, according to Bermello Ajamil & Partners’ Cruise Recovery Dashboard, there have been 467 documented COVID cases aboard cruise ships since cruising restarted last summer. That is a small number compared to the more than 5.6 million people who sailed during that same time, for a 0.008% infection rate. You don’t hear that on the news, unfortunately.

The Bermello Ajamil & Partners data is not perfect or precise. It is based on news stories and not from the cruise lines, health departments or other sources. So let’s look at another measure – this one from Royal Caribbean International, which has provided data specific to it’s sailings. As of Dec. 30, 2021, Royal Caribbean says it has sailed over 1.1 million passengers with 1,745 positive cases, resulting in a 0.02% infection rate.

The pause in cruising that began in 2020 inspired the cruise industry to take aggressive action to make further improvements to sanitation, implement measures to promote social distancing, and take measures to limit exposure and manage infections once they develop. Examples include reduced-capacity sailing in which 60% or fewer births are booked, requiring vaccinations and testing before boarding, use of masks on some ships, limiting reservations and seating in dining halls, restaurants, and shows, conducting virtual muster drills, and enhancing the medical offices on board.

Think about it – in your day-to-day life, where do you go that requires you to prove you are vaccinated and requires a negative test before entry? You and thousands of others visit grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants, gyms, movie theatres, sporting events, airports, and more every day, and none of those organizations employ the strict controls in place that cruises do. So why do we hear about infections on cruises? I think it’s because in all those other scenarios, people enter with infection, spread the infection, and leave within a short time. There is no way to contact trace when a stranger breathes too closely to you next to the dairy case at the grocery store and then you both walk away carrying the disease to your next stops or back home to your families. But, on a cruise, you are there for a few days or more, all together. If someone does get on board with the start of infection (that may still test negative) and it then spreads, they, and maybe you, could develop symptoms before the cruise is over. So, it’s not that cruising is less safe than all those other things we all do each day; you just don’t have the opportunity to leave the ship and never be seen or heard from again, like you do just about anywhere else. There is just greater monitoring and awareness of what is happening on a cruise ship and greater ability to isolate those who test positive, contact trace, and quarantine others who may have been exposed. In reality, cruising is being picked on because the cruise lines have the data whereas no other organization does. They are doing the right things that no other organization is doing.

What non-cruise environment may be the most similar? How about public schools where our children spend hours each day, five days a week, with the same people in “close quarters,” the situation concerning the CDC about cruises? Sure, the CDC thinks kids shouldn’t go to school either, right? Well, actually they think differently about that. And they have used data to justify their position that kids should be in school.

Just one year ago the CDC shared research on its website, which is still there, to support its recommendation for in-school attendance. Among that research was a finding that, of 17 rural Wisconsin schools, the rate of infection was 0.035%, which was lower than the county’s overall infection rate of 0.055%. Additionally, “…only 3.7% of the cases identified in those schools were linked to in-school spread. (I bolded the word only for emphasis). So, the CDC is okay with our children being in environments with as much as a 3.7% rate of infection, but the agency is not okay with fully-vaccinated and tested adults in a controlled cruising environment with much lower infection rates.

So why does the CDC take contrarian views on schools versus cruises? The only explanations are that they either don’t know what they’re doing or they are making policy recommendations based on political factors. I am not suggesting they are bad at their true jobs – studying disease. I am suggesting they are bad at the public policy part of their jobs, or at least they are doing poorly at it right now. They clearly have lost credibility with many of us when they make policy recommendations that do not seem to be based on data or are contradictory at best. The result is that we all must instead make the best decisions we can with the information we have since the CDC is not proving it has the integrity to be a good broker of information.

Think about it – in your day-to-day life, where do you go that requires you to prove you are vaccinated and requires a negative test before entry? You and thousands of others visit grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants, movie theatres, sporting events, airports, and more every day, and none of those organizations employ the strict controls in place that cruises do.

For me and my family, we are going to keep cruising. Our next cruise is a river cruise in Europe in just a few weeks. And I’m eager to try and fit in a short Caribbean cruise before then. I realize I may be considered biased as a Travel Advisor, and during this pandemic, our travel agency has suffered lost business and lost opportunities, but most of those were self-inflicted. My customers have eagerly wanted to travel for the past two years. In some cases, borders closed and forced cancellations or reschedules. But, in most cases, I encouraged customers to cancel or postpone vacations because I didn’t want to help put anyone at significant risk. But, at this point, that caution no longer makes sense. The vaccines have been available for all, except small children. The cruise lines have implemented strong controls and management practices. In fact, because there are such great controls and monitoring, cruising is one of the safest things you can do right now, other than being locked down at home, and there is data to prove it.

On the weekend the Omicron news broke out of South Africa, I was on a plane and sitting across the aisle from a passenger who struggled to keep his mask on properly. At the end of the flight, he triumphantly declared he was finishing a very long trip home…from South Africa. Standing at the front of the plane waiting for the door to open, a flight attendant and I both stepped back and looked at each other with concern. That’s about all the protection the airlines were affording – wear a mask and good luck! Despite the breaking news, there was no testing required, no vaccination required, and certainly no CDC warning.

Quite simply, the CDC’s singular fixation on cruising is weird and shows how questionable its credibility is right now as a policymaking body. In all facets of our lives, we are free to be as responsible or irresponsible as we want with COVID. The CDC isn’t warning anyone to stop anything, except cruise. Ask yourself if that makes sense. Then decide what makes the most sense for you. You can listen to weird or you can choose to use real data and make an informed choice. For me it’s continue cruising because I know it is safe and I know the CDC is wrong to say otherwise.