Dispatch, World Navigator: The reality of cruising during a pandemic

Peter Knego is aboard Atlas Ocean Voyages’ new World Navigator for the cruise line’s maiden voyage.

ABOARD THE WORLD NAVIGATOR — I was writing about the culinary options aboard Atlas Ocean Voyages’ new World Navigator when the captain made a sobering announcement. 

As the ship navigated the swells between Heraklion and Alexandria, it was revealed that one passenger tested positive for Covid-19, and all guests and staff who had been in contact with that person were isolated and retested. Thankfully, the results for the contacts have thus far turned out negative. 

What this will do to the remainder of our voyage remains to be seen, but the ship is still scheduled to arrive in Alexandria for an overnight port call before heading off on a full day tour that is slated to end with a spectacular light show at the pyramids of Giza before homeward flights.

Needless to say, this would be a good time to recap what the Covid protocols have been for the ship and this voyage in particular. The first step was to meet the Greek travel requirements of either having proof of a complete vaccination procedure or negative results from a PCR test 72 hours before arrival. 

Since Atlas began selling space on the ship earlier this year, we were told that it could not retroactively require mandatory vaccinations for all guests but it has required the negative PCR test results within 72 hours of boarding the ship in Piraeus.

As an extra precaution, all guests were subjected to another rapid PCR test at the Piraeus cruise terminal and had to be cleared negative before being allowed on the ship. A hand sanitizer at the gangway was the first of many we would see on board, all strategically placed at the public room entrances and throughout the ship. Masks are also available in many areas of the ship for those who occasionally forget to don them before leaving the cabin.

An extra special touch is that when we arrived at our cabin, there were Covid kits with N95 masks, hand sanitizer and paper hand soap. 

All staff have worn masks and guests have been instructed to wear masks in public areas except when seated. The seating in public spaces is interspersed with “please do not sit” signs that are intended to keep guests socially distanced but as the cruise has gone on, this has been somewhat relaxed as people feel more comfortable or have a few drinks. This has been especially evident in the evenings during gatherings at the Dome observation lounge, a lively, fun spot with loud music and convivial vibes that might have guests getting too casual during a pandemic.

With Greece having just entered a Stage Four Covid restriction phase, everyone on shore excursions has been instructed to wear a mask. Even on self-guided tours, the locals have been encouraging mask-wearing in order to protect themselves and their livelihoods.

On the World Navigator, the safe, socially distanced flow in stairwells and passageways is encouraged with a system of arrows that are sometimes not seen (understandable) or ignored by guests. 

Other protocols include all public bathrooms on the ship being closed. That rule isn’t so challenging on a 9,930-gross-ton ship where anyone’s stateroom is within close proximity.

Of course, there are those who do not believe in vaccines, and I’m sorry to report that some are onboard for this trip. Those same people have been spotted not wearing masks. We have been doing our best to avoid them and even refused to be on the same tour bus with them in Heraklion. 

If anything, it is a sober reminder that everyone needs to keep their guard up until this crisis has finally abated so that we can keep cruising on.

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