This has been a busy week in travel news, and today I share the significant highlights that may be of interest to you…
Covid Travel News – The Dominoes are Falling…
There’s been a palpable shift in the mood about Covid – a positive feeling of getting back to normal – that is reflected in recent news in the area of travel.
Obviously, the news last Thursday of the CDC relaxing mask guidelines was the huge news of the week, but there were numerous other articles related to travel you likely didn’t see, yet show this dramatic shift and how travel will be possible this year.
Here’s a recap of some of the key news in regard to a shift in travel rules and capabilities.
CDC Cruise Guidelines
While the prominent news from the CDC was Thursday in regard to masks, the day before they provided some updated guidance related to cruising, as previously the CDC had issued very stringent guidelines for cruising to resume. Prior guidance said they would require cruisers to wear a mask outdoors on cruise decks, and they had requirements that only shore excursions run by the cruise lines could be used to create the ‘Covid bubble’.
As of last week, these restrictions were relaxed for vaccinated passengers, so no masks on deck, and vaccinated cruisers can take independent shore excursions or wander in town, within the guidelines of the destination.
Since pretty much all of the cruise lines that are sailing again are requiring that passengers be vaccinated, those guidelines theoretically apply to all cruisers. It is my personal opinion that we will see Thursday’s relaxed mask guidelines for vaccinated people soon translate into another evolution of CDC guidance on cruises, related to wearing masks inside.
Greece is THE place to be
In March, Greece indicated they would be open in May to travelers with a negative covid test, and on April 19th they made the announcement official, after securing unique arrangements with top cruise lines to open cruising around Greek ports.
Cruising is back in Europe this summer, specifically around the Greek Isles, with sailings on Celebrity’s brand-new Apex starting June 19, followed by Holland America, Seabourn, NCL and Azamara. While other European countries are planning their opening, following Greece’s lead, the fact that Greece is open right now makes these cruise options more likely to actually happen.
My husband and I will be celebrating our 40th Anniversary this September, and I’ve been looking to plan something special that we can really count on. I just booked a two-week Seabourn cruise around Greece at the end of August, as I am fairly confident that Greece will be very focused on making all these cruises successful with appropriate port support, and I know Seabourn will be a fabulous way to celebrate.
Greece’s decision to open for the summer has increased their tourism business beyond cruising. Delta is launching a new service route for an Atlanta to Athens nonstop flight starting July 2.
Greece was the first domino to start the chain reaction of other European countries opening. While Croatia has been open for quite a while, Greece is a much bigger force in tourism. Because they jumped ahead of the rest of the European Union in declaring Greece open in May, the rest of the countries have been playing catch-up. We’ve now seen France announce opening June 9, and Spain also has said they will open in June. But the next significant opening announcement is…
Italy is open to Americans right now!
You can get on a plane today and fly to Rome, and just start exploring Italy! IF…
You fly on one of the Delta ‘Covid-tested’ flights.
The Italian Health Ministry announced last week that Americans arriving on one of the Covid-tested flights are welcome in Italy, effective this past Sunday! Delta started these flights in December on nonstop flights between Atlanta and Rome by creating Covid-testing protocols that would permit travelers to arrive with no requirement for quarantine; their proactive stance now puts them at the forefront of getting travelers back to Italy. Delta will be expanding their Italian routes this summer to include US hubs of JFK and Boston, and Italian cities of Venice and Milan.
The Covid testing requires a negative PCR test up to 72 hours before departure, a rapid test at the departure airport and a rapid test upon arrival. With all tests negative, travelers are free to explore Italy.
Other airlines will be adding similar offerings, but for now it’s another good sign of ways to adapt and move back to travel.
Italian sites are open again with controlled number of visitors and social distancing. The Colosseum, Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel Pantheon, Borghese Gallery, and St Peter’s Basilica are all open. Some museums will require advance bookings in order to control visitor numbers.
Breaking News Today
Just today the European Union has announced it will open its borders to vaccinated Americans, although the timing of the opening is not clear. Each country will still have flexibility to choose their own guidelines, as the EU guidance is not binding. But this announcement is designed to get some amount of summer tourism season going in Europe.
This demonstrates a key lesson – things are constantly changing (and lately, in a good way), and the rules in each destination are different, so proper research is important. Note that today’s announcement is about vaccinated Americans, yet Greece and Italy also allow folks with a negative covid test. So, it’s important to review the details of each country’s guidelines.
CDC approves home test for US reentry testing
Back in January, I told you about the CDC requirement that any traveler arriving in the US on an international flight must have a negative Covid test conducted within 72 hours of departure. This includes Americans returning from a trip abroad.
When I went to Los Cabos a few weeks ago, I had to have a covid test the day before departure, which I had at the resort the day before departure. The folks in the resorts in Mexico have worked out this testing issue well and have various methods for providing the tests to its guests. But for other destinations around the world, you may have a more difficult time finding a place to be tested before returning home.
The news that the CDC has approved a covid home test to meet the US entry requirement solves the problem of finding a place in a foreign country to provide the appropriate testing. The home tests are now eligible as long as the specific test has been approved by the FDA.
So, clients can order the home test before they leave, pack it in their bag, and then use it on vacation – as long as they connect to a telehealth advisor for proper supervision. Please note this home test approval only applies to the US reentry requirement, and testing for going to a destination will have its own set of rules.
Senate passes legislation to enable Alaska cruising this year
Cruising in Alaska this summer has been jeopardized, not just from the cruising Conditional Sail Order, but primarily because of Canada’s cruise ban through February 28, 2022.
While it may seem logical to think the cruise lines can just skip that port visit in Canada, there is a law called the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) that requires foreign-flagged ships, which most large cruise lines are, to stop in a foreign port when sailing between US ports. The PVSA was passed in 1886 to protect ship builders and operators and is the reason why Alaska crew ships stop in Vancouver or Victoria. Because Canada had declared the ban on cruise calls, that basically said there would be no Alaska cruising.
The Senate unanimously passed legislation, the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act, that temporarily lifts the requirement of the PVSA. This is significant for multiple reasons – first, did you notice the word ‘unanimously’? Second, it gives cruise lines the ability to sail Alaska this year, but it could also have some long-term ramifications for Canada, so it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out.
A positive shift
It’s amazing how much the mood about travel has shifted in the last month. Folks are more encouraged about making plans, and I’m definitely seeing interest in travel this summer and fall, in addition to folks locking in plans for next year.
While we’ll continue to see changing guidelines and destination requirements which will need to managed and monitored, travel opportunities now abound within the United States and in the international community.