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Monday, November 8, 2021

Unique, Meaningful and Healthy Holiday Travel Gifts for Use at Home and Away: 2021 "It's Travel Time" Edition

 

To say that 2020 and 2021 have been unique years is an understatement. Since the pandemic was declared in March, safety precautions and protocols have become the stuff of everyday life — at home and on the road. With the holiday season upon us, many of us are getting itchy feet to hit the road again. For some, vacationing within the strictures of a public health crisis will be worth it; for others it won’t. LTD comprised this list of some of our favorite gifts for this unusual year that will be helpful both at home and on the road to capture memories, inspire and make life healthier and more meaningful! 






The purpose of our blog is to share with you everything we have learned to make Meaningful and Healthy Travel happen! We only recommend products that we use or would buy for friends! Please CLICK THE PHOTOS BELOW TO LEARN MORE, or BUY or SHARE this post to support our blog and keep it going! THANK YOU!


Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn a commission. In turn, we donate profits to charity.

1.  OOLER by Chili Technologies - This is our number one recommended product because it has been a "sleep changer" for us!




Give the gift of sleep!!!! Our number one recommended product of 2019, 2020 and 2021.  We first encountered Chili Technologies at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas in 2019!  In a matter of no time we became customers ourselves and can't say enough how much the OOLER and chiliBLANKET have contributed to our well-being and healthy travel!  Interrupted sleep is when our sleep is studded with prolonged periods of waking up throughout the night, usually at least four times over the course of eight hours. This condition can be caused by a sudden shift in routine (for example, a new baby in the house), travel, unexpected noises (such as a party at your neighbor’s house or a partner’s snoring), bathroom trips, menopause or other health issues or racing thoughts.  Temperature affects your baseline sleep quality and regulating temperature can help you phase shift your sleep for travel and help prevent jet lag. And do you know what we love best about the company? They stand by their product and you get a 30 day money-back sleep trialSee our full review of OOLER by clicking here! 

Use code HOLIDAY30 to take 30% off this holiday season!






2.  Vuzix Smart Swim



Another product we saw at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show in 2020 and used throughout 2020 and 2021!  We're sure you know that LTD loves swimming for health and this is one of the most innovative products we have ever used!  The Vuzix Smart Swim is a heads-up display for swimmers, providing workout status and information about their swim. This enables users to continue uninterrupted and reach optimum performance. Used for open water and lap (pool) training.  Luxury Travel Doc reviewer, Glenn Paige says, "Vuzix is one of the most unique swim training devices I have ever used. Besides allowing you to view and analyze your swim data real-time, it allows for open water navigation guidance, entertainment and training viewing options during your workouts. Try it to believe it!"

3.  Our Favorite Smart Watch for the Active Traveler just got better with a New Display!



The Garmin Venu has an enormous number of features, a long-lasting battery and an attractive build. The original round version was introduced in 2019 with an amazing response from users and in 2020 Garmin introduced a less expensive square version that has all of the same features at a fraction of the price. For serious outdoor travel or fitness enthusiasts, it's hard to beat.  The GPS features of this watch are unrivaled and work all over the world.  This is a high-performance timepiece that meets big challenges and fits smaller wrists. During the pandemic many Venu users are happy to have their pulse oximetry tracked on their wrist! The new AMOLED vibrant display is perfect for aging eyes and rivals the Apple Watch display! Anyone would love to receive this special gift!

Saturday, October 16, 2021

The New JW Marriott in Uptown Charlotte is Another Great Addition to the Queen City’s growing Luxury Market


Right in the heart of Uptown—the downtown district of Charlotte—sits the JW Marriott Charlotte Hotel. This luxury hotel in Charlotte overlooks Panthers Bank of America Stadium, is mere steps away from the Mint Museum Uptown, Hornets Spectrum Center and Knights BB&T Ballpark, and is surrounded by fantastic restaurants, museums and theaters.


JW Marriott Hotels is one of Bonvoy's lifestyle brands, named after Marriott's founder, and this newer Charlotte hotel and rooftop bar is sure to please travelers of all styles.  Inspired by Queen Charlotte, the city's namesake, the JW Marriott Charlotte evokes the 18th century British queen consort through classic textiles balanced with a modern sensibility. While we loved the Kimpton Tryon Park hotel, there is some new competition in the Queen City. Noticeably absent from the Charlotte luxury market? Hilton Hotels. 







1. Location


This location is outstanding to attend sporting events in Charlotte being directly adjacent to Bank of America Stadium and the Spectrum Center. Not a sports fan? There are plenty of other activities nearby with frequent concerts, live stage productions, opera, symphony and museums. Charlotte is a great destination for foodies and the uptown area is loaded with options within walking distance or a short Uber.  The front auto entrance and valet isn't easy to find so look closely at the corner of S. College Street and E. Stonewall Street on your left on College, immediately before you stop at the light for Stonewall. Since this is a popular location with a small valet, there may be a line to enter! 




2. Check-in


We were greeted promptly and checked in without difficulty from very accommodating employees wearing masks appropriately. The hotel had only opened one month before and managerial staff was everywhere. Appropriately, we were recognized as elite Bonvoy member, and thanked for our loyalty.  The staff oriented us to the hotel and the surrounding area. The hotel itself had COVID restrictions such as not providing housekeeping services, but this was not relayed to us. Finding the check in desk isn't easy if you self park which we attempted initially. We walked everywhere to find the entrance and ultimately found access to an upper floor through one of the restaurants - our advice if you self park...ask directions from anyone you may see because there are no signs directing you to the lobby.  Even better, use valet parking.  The price is pretty much the same but if you want quick access to your vehicle, use the self parking option.  The valet stand was pretty slow and due to the small size of the valet area, we waited for significant time to leave our car or have car brought to us. The hotel is busy with guests and locals visiting the bars and restaurants. 





Wednesday, September 15, 2021

MSC Virtuosa Passenger Dies of COVID-19 after Super Spreader Cruise

"COVID has got a hold of me. I love you": were the veteran's heartbreaking final words before he died from coronavirus after cruise with family on board the MSC Virtuosa.




The MSC Virtuosa had significant outbreaks on board with multiple passengers (counts have been estimated to be over 100) complaining of COVID-19 after returning from their European cruise.  This went virtually unnoticed in the US press since most of the passengers were British. 

Unfortunately one passenger died after this super spreader cruise. 

 

A spokesperson for cruise line MSC said they were "devastated" to learn of Mr Broyden's death and that all members of his party tested negative, in line with their protocols, upon boarding the ship.

The 81-year-old Navy veteran went on the cruise with his wife Carol, 74, her son Gary Shelley, Gary's eight-year-old son, his girlfriend Sue and her two daughters, aged nine and 11.

While they were aboard the MSC Virtuosa - one of the world's largest cruise ships - signs started to emerge that COVID had broken out on board with their children asked to go for tests, staff suddenly wearing hazmat suits, and some isolated incidents of people seen coughing and apparently struggling to breathe around the lift areas.

About five days into the cruise, Mr and Mrs Broyden began to feel unwell, and so spent the final portion of the trip confined to their cabin, although staff were not informed and therefore no tests were carried out.

Mr Broyden, who suffered with Non Hodgkin lymphoma and was classed as "high risk", had been given the go ahead by his physician to go on the cruise after his lymphoma blood levels were checked and found to be good.

Now MSC has announced increased COVID measures on board the Virtuosa. 

Cruise companies have a vested interest to not report cases of COVID-19 to the media or to passengers.  While we sailed on Viking Jupiter in Iceland during July, a passenger tested positive for the virus.  As a result, some passengers were quarantined for the remainder of the cruise due to contact tracing.  Viking never told us as passengers, that there was a confirmed COVID case or that other passengers were in quarantine.  In fact, the rumor was circulated that the case was a false positive and was never confirmed.  We suspect that rumor was circulated intentionally.  The Viking Sky, on the same itinerary, three days ahead of us had the entire second half of their cruise cancelled due to a COVID-19 case. 

Unfortunately the CDC does not require reporting of COVID cases on ships operating outside of US ports. Royal Caribbean recently had a passenger sent to the hospital in Italy due to COVID-19 as reported by an Italian news organization. 

Thinking of cruising? What can you do?

Good luck if you would like to know how many people infected with COVID-19 from being aboard cruise ships. Clearly you won't be provided that information by the cruise industry.  Fortunately, the CDC is making efforts to inform the public. 

USA Today initially reported in early August that the CDC updated its guidance to recommend travelers (departing from U.S. ports) who are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 avoid cruise ships, regardless of their vaccination status. According to the CDC:

"CDC recommends that people who are not fully vaccinated avoid travel on cruise ships, including river cruises, worldwide. That’s because the chance of getting COVID-19 on cruise ships is high since the virus appears to spread more easily between people in close quarters aboard ships. It is especially important for people with an increased risk of severe illness to avoid travel on cruise ships, including river cruises. CDC has issued a Level 3 Travel Health Notice for cruise ship travelers who are not fully vaccinated."

The new CDC guidance applies to older adults (defined as 65 and older), people with certain medical conditions and pregnant and recently pregnant people. Prior to this announcement, the CDC recommended that only people who were not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 completely avoid cruise ships. 

A table on the CDC website, which promises to be updated several times a week, assigns each ship a color status—green, orange, yellow, red or gray. 

The color-coding is based on both surveillance data collected over the previous 7-day period as well as the findings of any CDC investigations. (When cruise ships notify the CDC of a suspected or confirmed case of the virus, the agency determines whether an investigation is needed.) 

  • Green status means the ship has no reports of cases of COVID-19 or COVID-19-like illness.
  • Orange status means the ship has reported cases of COVID-19 but is below the threshold for CDC investigation.
  • Yellow status means the ship has met the threshold for CDC investigation, which includes one of the following criteria:
    • at or above the investigation threshold for crew COVID-19 cases,
    • at or above the investigation threshold for passenger COVID-19 cases; or
    • state or local health department notified CDC of passenger COVID-19 cases occurring within 5 days of disembarkation.
  • Red status means the ship is at or above the threshold for passenger and crew COVID-19 cases. Based on CDC’s investigation, additional public health precautions, such as returning to port immediately or delaying the next voyage, will be taken to help ensure the health and safety of onboard travelers or newly arriving travelers.
  • Gray status means CDC has not reviewed or confirmed the cruise ship operator’s health and safety protocols. This status only applies to cruise ships arriving in, located within, or departing from a port in Florida that chose to not follow the CSO on a voluntary basis.
The major limitation of this system is that it only informs us about cruise ships operating or planning to operate in U.S. waters. For example, we cruised in Iceland during July 2021 on Viking Ocean and data on that line is not available.  Click here to see our series of videos from Iceland on YouTube. 


Click below to check out these combined vaccine card and passport covers at Amazon! You can use them to organize all the documents needed to travel internationally these days! 




Wednesday, September 8, 2021

CDC updates COVID-19 Testing Guidance for Cruise Ship Industry

Check your favorite cruise line! At least four cruise lines have shortened the time that guests have to get a negative COVID test before their cruise, after the Centers for Disease Control made changes to the Conditional Sailing Order (CSO).



Even though the CSO and its accompanying guidance are now non-binding recommendations, several cruise lines have chosen to continue to adhere to its advice on a voluntary basis.

Carnival, Royal Caribbean, MSC, Disney, and Holland America have announced newly-updated pre-cruise testing protocols set to begin on all sailings from the U.S. from Sept. 13, 2021. Princess Cruises will begin implementing its new pre-cruise testing requirements beginning Sept. 19, 2021.

All of these lines are requiring a negative COVID test two days prior to embarkation.  For example if you sail on Saturday, you will need to provide proof of a negative test taken Thursday, Friday or Saturday. The only outlier from this list of cruise lines is Norwegian.  NCL recently updated their policy to PROVIDE  the test to passengers at the port prior to embarking:

"All guests will be required to take a COVID-19 antigen test, administered and paid for by the cruise line, prior to boarding and receive a negative result. Guests are also responsible for complying with all local health and safety requirements which may include additional testing."

Princess Cruise Line has only indicated that they have partnered with Quest Diagnostics to facilitate a pre cruise COVID test, however be prepared that your insurance company will be billed.  Princess has indicated they will provide guests with a COVID test upon disembarking from a cruise vacation if required to reenter your home country. You should note that the CDC suggests ocean and river cruise guests get tested for COVID 3-5 days after disembarking from your ship. 

Many cases of COVID have been reported since cruise ships began operating again.  Carnival Cruise Line has had the significant press regarding their voyages and one passenger passed away after being removed from her voyage in Belize. 

The MSC Virtuosa had significant outbreaks on board with multiple passengers (counts have been estimated to be over 100) complaining of COVID-19 after returning from their European cruise.  This went virtually unnoticed in the US press since most of the passengers were British. Now MSC has announced increased COVID measures on board the Virtuosa. 

Cruise companies have a vested interest to not report cases of COVID-19 to the media or to passengers.  While we sailed on Viking Jupiter in Iceland during July, a passenger tested positive for the virus.  As a result, some passengers were quarantined for the remainder of the cruise due to contact tracing.  Viking never told us as passengers, that there was a confirmed COVID case or that other passengers were in quarantine.  In fact, the rumor was circulated that the case was a false positive and was never confirmed.  We suspect that rumor was circulated intentionally.  The Viking Sky, on the same itinerary, three days ahead of us had the entire second half of their cruise cancelled due to a COVID-19 case. 

Unfortunately the CDC does not require reporting of COVID cases on ships operating outside of US ports. Royal Caribbean recently had a passenger sent to the hospital in Italy due to COVID-19 as reported by an Italian news organization. 

Thinking of cruising? What can you do?

Good luck if you would like to know how many people infected with COVID-19 from being aboard cruise ships. Clearly you won't be provided that information by the cruise industry.  Fortunately, the CDC is making efforts to inform the public. 

USA Today initially reported in early August that the CDC updated its guidance to recommend travelers (departing from U.S. ports) who are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 avoid cruise ships, regardless of their vaccination status. According to the CDC:

"CDC recommends that people who are not fully vaccinated avoid travel on cruise ships, including river cruises, worldwide. That’s because the chance of getting COVID-19 on cruise ships is high since the virus appears to spread more easily between people in close quarters aboard ships. It is especially important for people with an increased risk of severe illness to avoid travel on cruise ships, including river cruises. CDC has issued a Level 3 Travel Health Notice for cruise ship travelers who are not fully vaccinated."

The new CDC guidance applies to older adults (defined as 65 and older), people with certain medical conditions and pregnant and recently pregnant people. Prior to this announcement, the CDC recommended that only people who were not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 completely avoid cruise ships. 

A table on the CDC website, which promises to be updated several times a week, assigns each ship a color status—green, orange, yellow, red or gray. 

The color-coding is based on both surveillance data collected over the previous 7-day period as well as the findings of any CDC investigations. (When cruise ships notify the CDC of a suspected or confirmed case of the virus, the agency determines whether an investigation is needed.) 

  • Green status means the ship has no reports of cases of COVID-19 or COVID-19-like illness.
  • Orange status means the ship has reported cases of COVID-19 but is below the threshold for CDC investigation.
  • Yellow status means the ship has met the threshold for CDC investigation, which includes one of the following criteria:
    • at or above the investigation threshold for crew COVID-19 cases,
    • at or above the investigation threshold for passenger COVID-19 cases; or
    • state or local health department notified CDC of passenger COVID-19 cases occurring within 5 days of disembarkation.
  • Red status means the ship is at or above the threshold for passenger and crew COVID-19 cases. Based on CDC’s investigation, additional public health precautions, such as returning to port immediately or delaying the next voyage, will be taken to help ensure the health and safety of onboard travelers or newly arriving travelers.
  • Gray status means CDC has not reviewed or confirmed the cruise ship operator’s health and safety protocols. This status only applies to cruise ships arriving in, located within, or departing from a port in Florida that chose to not follow the CSO on a voluntary basis.
The major limitation of this system is that it only informs us about cruise ships operating or planning to operate in U.S. waters. For example, we cruised in Iceland during July 2021 on Viking Ocean and data on that line is not available.  Click here to see our series of videos from Iceland on YouTube. 


Click below to check out these combined vaccine card and passport covers at Amazon! You can use them to organize all the documents needed to travel internationally these days! 




Monday, September 6, 2021

COVID-positive vaccinated passenger medevaced from Royal Caribbean's ship Harmony of the Seas in Italy

On September 1, 2021 a passenger on board Harmony of the Seas was transferred to a hospital in La Spezia Italy after he complained of symptoms of COVID-19.  The vaccinated passenger boarded the ship on August 29, 2021 in Barcelona and shortly thereafter complained of symptoms consistent with the virus.    The day following a planned stop by the ship in Palma de Mallorca, it was arranged to have the passenger to be transported to the Sant’Andrea hospital in La Spezia. He was admitted into the infectious diseases ward and was accompanied by his wife who remained with him as the ship sailed on to the next port.  




According to the Italian newspaper Il Secolo XIX who reported this on September 2, 2021, Royal Caribbean required all guests over the age of eighteen to be vaccinated and test negative before boarding. The entire crew is vaccinated. The article states that the guests also “suffered from other important pathologies.” He tested negative for COVID-19 shortly before embarking the ship. No further updates have been given. 

After disembarking the infected guest, the Harmony called on ports in Civitavecchia (Rome) and Naples, Italy. There were no other public reports of COVID-19 infection among the crew or other guests. The ship returned to Barcelona tomorrow on September 5, 2021.

Carnival Cruiseline has had their own issues with COVID-positive passengers and one elderly passenger removed from a Carnival ship in Belize later died of the virus. 

Thinking of cruising? What can you do?

Good luck if you would like to know how many people infected with COVID-19 from being aboard cruise ships. Clearly you won't be provided that information by the cruise industry.  Fortunately, the CDC is making efforts to inform the public. 

USA Today initially reported in early August that the CDC updated its guidance to recommend travelers (departing from U.S. ports) who are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 avoid cruise ships, regardless of their vaccination status. According to the CDC:

"CDC recommends that people who are not fully vaccinated avoid travel on cruise ships, including river cruises, worldwide. That’s because the chance of getting COVID-19 on cruise ships is high since the virus appears to spread more easily between people in close quarters aboard ships. It is especially important for people with an increased risk of severe illness to avoid travel on cruise ships, including river cruises. CDC has issued a Level 3 Travel Health Notice for cruise ship travelers who are not fully vaccinated."

The new CDC guidance applies to older adults (defined as 65 and older), people with certain medical conditions and pregnant and recently pregnant people. Prior to this announcement, the CDC recommended that only people who were not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 completely avoid cruise ships. 

A table on the CDC website, which promises to be updated several times a week, assigns each ship a color status—green, orange, yellow, red or gray. 

The color-coding is based on both surveillance data collected over the previous 7-day period as well as the findings of any CDC investigations. (When cruise ships notify the CDC of a suspected or confirmed case of the virus, the agency determines whether an investigation is needed.) 

  • Green status means the ship has no reports of cases of COVID-19 or COVID-19-like illness.
  • Orange status means the ship has reported cases of COVID-19 but is below the threshold for CDC investigation.
  • Yellow status means the ship has met the threshold for CDC investigation, which includes one of the following criteria:
    • at or above the investigation threshold for crew COVID-19 cases,
    • at or above the investigation threshold for passenger COVID-19 cases; or
    • state or local health department notified CDC of passenger COVID-19 cases occurring within 5 days of disembarkation.
  • Red status means the ship is at or above the threshold for passenger and crew COVID-19 cases. Based on CDC’s investigation, additional public health precautions, such as returning to port immediately or delaying the next voyage, will be taken to help ensure the health and safety of onboard travelers or newly arriving travelers.
  • Gray status means CDC has not reviewed or confirmed the cruise ship operator’s health and safety protocols. This status only applies to cruise ships arriving in, located within, or departing from a port in Florida that chose to not follow the CSO on a voluntary basis.
The major limitation of this system is that it only informs us about cruise ships operating or planning to operate in U.S. waters. For example, we cruised in Iceland during July 2021 on Viking Ocean and data on that line is not available.  Click here to see our series of videos from Iceland on YouTube. 


Click below to check out these combined vaccine card and passport covers at Amazon! You can use them to organize all the documents needed to travel internationally these days! 




Thursday, August 26, 2021

Are Cruise Lines Being Transparent with the Public About COVID-19 risks of Infection or Required Quarantine?

We aren't sure the risk of traveling on a cruise is worth it right now.  One risk is trip interruption due to becoming exposed to a COVID positive passenger or crew member. But now that the CDEC has updated their guidance about those at high risk, exposure to the virus may be a concern too. One clear example of this risk has been with Carnival. Carnival Cruise Lines is having a difficult time with COVID-19 cases on board its inaugural sailings.  Unfortunately Carnival and the cruise industry is not being transparent about the cases.  




A 77 year-old Carnival Cruise Line passenger died after contracting Covid-19, the company confirmed Tuesday. It is the first reported death since cruises resumed in June in the Caribbean and United States.  Carnival CONFIRMED her death after TEN DAYS.  She was having difficulty breathing in Belize on August 4th, and was removed from the Carnival Vista.  The hospital in Belize demanded $5,000 for ventilator treatment. That was when her family air lifted her back to Oklahoma, where she died on August 14th. Carnival Carnival Cruise Line says that the passenger did not contract the virus on board.  



Cruise companies have a vested interest to not report cases of COVID-19 to the media or to passengers.  While we sailed on Viking Jupiter in Iceland during July, a passenger tested positive for the virus.  As a result, some passengers were quarantined for the remainder of the cruise due to contact tracing.  Viking never told us as passengers, that there was a confirmed COVID case or that other passengers were in quarantine.  In fact, the rumor was circulated that the case was a false positive and was never confirmed.  We suspect that rumor was circulated intentionally.  The Viking Sky, on the same itinerary, three days ahead of us had the entire second half of their cruise cancelled due to a COVID-19 case. 

According to Cruise Law News, the Carnival Vista has continued to have crew testing positive: 26 on the inaugural sailing and 16 on the next sailing.  This is according to anonymous sources. Also a second person from the inaugural cruise was hospitalized in "bad shape".  



Carnival struggled to downplay these positive cases.  The question remains, how safe is cruising and how many cases are not being reported?  Should the companies be required to report these cases? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on August 20th that travelers who are at high risk of severe complications from Covid-19 should avoid taking cruises, regardless of their vaccination status.

The updated guidance also recommended that travelers who are not fully vaccinated avoid taking cruises. 

We’re not fans of laminating our cards because you may need to add information about a booster to it later.  Of course you can use a sandwich bag to protect it, but we prefer a sleeve where the card can be removed and updated if booster shots become recommended in the future. Click the photo below to find these on Amazon:

Carnival's troubles continue

At least eight Carnival Cruise Line guests have tested positive during the first two weeks on the Carnival Mardi Gras‘ sailings. This is a totally different ship and as was the case for the Carnival Vista, Carnival Cruise Line has not disclosed all of these cases or other COVID-19 cases on the ship. Carnival was forced to comment on the death of the Carnival Vista passenger, because the GoFundMe page to help cover medical costs for Marilyn Tackett, the retired Sunday school teacher, age 77, from Oklahoma, gained so much attention. 

A guest of the Mardi Gras' posted on Twitter that he tested positive for COVID-19 when after returning home but had now way of notifying the company.  


Carnival implemented the "Have Fun. Be Safe." COVID-19 guest protocols that were updated earlier this month. All passengers, regardless of vaccination status, must present a negative COVID-19 test result from within three days of embarkation. Unvaccinated guests must take another test prior to embarkation and a third test 24 hours into the voyage if the cruise is longer than four days. AXIOS reported last week that Carnival  announced new mask guidelines, which say that all guests are required to wear masks indoors.

However, Carnival’s COVID protocols state that:

“Vaccinated guests are not required to maintain physical distance on board the ship.

It is recommended that unvaccinated guests maintain physical distancing as follows:

Outdoors – Remain at least 3 feet from others when not wearing a mask and not in your cruise companion group.” From various posts on Twitter and Facebook it appears that those protocols are loosely followed

Thinking of cruising? What can you do?

Good luck if you would like to know how many people infected with COVID-19 from being aboard cruise ships. Clearly you won't be provided that information by the cruise industry.  Fortunately, the CDC is making efforts to inform the public. 

A table on the CDC website, which promises to be updated several times a week, assigns each ship a color status—green, orange, yellow, red or gray. 

The color-coding is based on both surveillance data collected over the previous 7-day period as well as the findings of any CDC investigations. (When cruise ships notify the CDC of a suspected or confirmed case of the virus, the agency determines whether an investigation is needed.) 

  • Green status means the ship has no reports of cases of COVID-19 or COVID-19-like illness.
  • Orange status means the ship has reported cases of COVID-19 but is below the threshold for CDC investigation.
  • Yellow status means the ship has met the threshold for CDC investigation, which includes one of the following criteria:
    • at or above the investigation threshold for crew COVID-19 cases,
    • at or above the investigation threshold for passenger COVID-19 cases; or
    • state or local health department notified CDC of passenger COVID-19 cases occurring within 5 days of disembarkation.
  • Red status means the ship is at or above the threshold for passenger and crew COVID-19 cases. Based on CDC’s investigation, additional public health precautions, such as returning to port immediately or delaying the next voyage, will be taken to help ensure the health and safety of onboard travelers or newly arriving travelers.
  • Gray status means CDC has not reviewed or confirmed the cruise ship operator’s health and safety protocols. This status only applies to cruise ships arriving in, located within, or departing from a port in Florida that chose to not follow the CSO on a voluntary basis.
The major limitation of this system is that it only informs us about cruise ships operating or planning to operate in U.S. waters. For example, we cruised in Iceland during July 2021 on Viking Ocean and data on that line is not available.  Click here to see our series of videos from Iceland on YouTube. 


Click below to check out these combined vaccine card and passport covers at Amazon! You can use them to organize all the documents needed to travel internationally these days! 






Saturday, August 7, 2021

Convenient and Comfortable Oasis in the Middle of Reykjavik: The Konsulat Hotel is the Perfect Base for Exploring Iceland


Iceland was one of the first countries to reopen to tourists after the worldwide pandemic with certain requirements for quarantine or proof of vaccination.  Shortly after the reopening, offers for cruises, land tours and low cost airfares flooded our inbox.  We opted for a Viking Ocean cruise for the itinerary and because Viking had set the bar early on for its COVID-19 precautions. Because of the 4 hour time difference with an overnight flight to Reykjavik, we opted for a comfortable stay in the capital of Iceland prior to boarding our cruise. The Konsulat Hotel met our standards for location, luxury and amenities.


We've stayed at many boutique hotels over the years, some of which have bore witness to absolutely amazing events, like the Southern Hotel in Covington, Louisiana, and Reykjavik Konsulat Hotel, a Curio Collection by Hilton, opened in 2018 and is situated in the oldest part of Reykjavík at the junction of Icelandic history and style. The reconstruction of this building, which in the 19th and 20th century housed a grand department store run by Consul Thomsen and his family, was completed in 2018.


The Sun Voyager sculpture on the Reykjavik waterfront





1. Location


The Reykjavik Konsulat Hotel centrally located in the oldest and most-visited part of Reykjavik. The most beloved attractions, like the Harpa Concert Hall and Hallgrimskirkja church, restaurants and day-tour bus stops are within walking distance. They are next to the popular Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur hot dogs (in fact we could see it from our window). Reykjavik is safe and easy to walk.  Reykjavik is located about 45 minutes from the airport and it is possible to take the FlyBus, but we opted for a car service prearranged with Hreyfill

Hallgrimskirkja church

2. Check-in


We were greeted promptly and checked in without difficulty from very accommodating employees wearing masks appropriately. Unfortunately our room was not ready for about 1.5 hours since we arrived early.  The staff told us we could enjoy breakfast in the dining room if we wished, and that was a pleasant place to wait.  Another option was that we could spend time in the indoor bath (geothermal spas are very common in Iceland) and sauna where we could nap or shower if we wished. The entire staff is eager to engage you and tell you about the hotel's history or make you comfortable.  They are proud of the hotel, Iceland reopening and it shows in their enthusiasm. Since it is a Hilton-affiliated property, we were greeted and treated appropriately for our Hilton status. The staff oriented us to the hotel and the surrounding area. The hotel itself had no COVID restrictions such as not providing housekeeping services, and this was a refreshing change from our recent stays in the USA.



Monday, July 26, 2021

How We Dealt with Vaccinated COVID-19 Positive Passenger and Contact Tracing on Viking Jupiter Cruise in Iceland after Viking Sky (updated)

Iceland was one of the first countries to reopen to tourists after the worldwide pandemic with certain requirements for quarantine or proof of vaccination.  Shortly after the reopening, offers for cruises, land tours and low cost airfares flooded our inbox.  We opted for a Viking Ocean cruise for the itinerary and because Viking had set the bar early on for its COVID-19 precautions and testing with the only onboard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing lab at sea.  




The strict COVID-19 protocols Viking has enacted are certainly more intense than most cruise lines:

  1. Our ship is 1/2 capacity since we are the first sailing of this ship since COVID-19 began 
  2. We must social distance and have no large gatherings
  3. Masks must be worn onboard and on buses
  4. Daily temperature checks are performed
  5. Tracking devices are worn for potential contact tracing. 
  6. Daily saliva PCR tests for COVID-19 are performed on each vessel where three technicians conduct the testing. Samples must be provided by passengers each morning before departure.
  7. Frequent hand washing and sanitization is necessary 
  8. All passengers and crew are vaccinated 

We planned a wonderful circumnavigation of Iceland to see waterfalls, volcanoes, geothermal baths, puffins, whales, geysers, glaciers, icebergs and more in the "land of fire and ice."  There were two Viking Ocean ships beginning the journey in Iceland, the Viking Sky who had completed a couple of circumnavigations already, followed three days later by our ship the Viking Jupiter.  It would be the first journey for our ship since the world shut down in March 2020 and we were at only half capacity of passengers: 438. 

What you will see in this article:

  • Viking COVID-19 protocols 
  • Viking Sky COVID-19 positive passenger
  • Viking Jupiter COVID-19 postive passenger
  • Quarantined Passengers due to contact tracing
  • Getting Home
  • What does Viking Say?
  • Updated Iceland COVID-19 Policies
  • Our packing list for Iceland

We will update sections as news becomes available, so check back frequently!

Viking Sky

Of course we are members of cruise critic and use the community roll calls before any cruise to meet and engage with other passengers for discussions about our cruise ahead of time. On day one reports that there was one positive COVID-19 case aboard the Viking Sky and they may not be able to go ashore in Seydisfjord.  Local officials would not allow any passengers off of the ship and seemingly put their locals at risk. No other passengers tested positive and the positive case was isolated.

Oh we were sure this would get cleared up in a matter of hours, but reports on the cruise critic roll calls continued to flow in that there would be no visit and they were moving onto the next port, Djúpivogur as planned. However, the following day, the same thing occurred to the passengers onboard the Viking Sky, and they were denied entry into the port. Clearly there was panic among the locals. 

We felt horrible for those passengers on the Viking Sky. This was a dream vacation for so many. Ultimately what happened to them was that the ship was denied entry at every remaining port and here is what they missed:

  • Seydisfjördur - where Icelandic folklore was born
  • Djúpivogur - glaciers, icebergs and the famous ice lagoon
  • Heimaey, Westman Islands - home to puffins, volcanos and beluga whales

Ultimately, Iceland's coast guard stepped in and ordered the ship back to Reykjavik one day before the passengers scheduled departure, where the passengers were allowed off the ship to explore the capital.  All passengers were able to fly home as planned with a negative COVID-19 test in hand, required to fly back to the USA (we will tell you more insight into this in a moment). No one ever was told what happened to the COVID-19 positive passenger aboard the Viking Sky. We do not know if they were required to leave the ship, if they were put into quarantine on the Viking Sky in one of their special quarantine rooms in the ship's Medical Center or if they were simply quarantined in their room.  Could they fly home?  We do not know but most likely they had to quarantine in an accepted hotel for a required period of time. Attestation to travel to the USA requires one of two things:

  • "I attest that I have received a negative pre-departure test result for COVID-19. The test was a viral test that was conducted on a specimen collected from me during the 3 calendar days preceding the flight’s departure."
  • "I attest that I have recovered from COVID-19 in the last 3 months (90 days), or the time period specified in current CDC guidance, after having previously tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 and have been cleared for travel by a licensed healthcare provider or public health official."

Oh we felt terrible, but it was bound to happen because as of April 30, 2021, 0.01% of vaccinated individuals will test positive for COVID-19 with the highest proportion being over the age of 65.  In the cruise population often you are dealing with individuals who have a higher average age and may have a higher prevalence of being immunocompromised, meaning that they may not have a robust response to the vaccine. Fortunately, in studies, those who do test positive will likely not have severe illness if they are vaccinated. According to the CDC, as of July 19, 2021, 20% of vaccine breakthrough cases of COVID-19 are asymptomatic. These numbers may change as new variants are identified.  These positive tests seem to occur in the first few days after arrival which makes one believe the risk period is during airline travel.



Viking Jupiter

Then Iceland began to close down to the Viking Jupiter. We arrived in the “Capital of the North,” Akureyri, where we planned to visit the majestic Godafoss waterfall.  As we wait to get off the ship to board our tour bus, nothing happens. Silence, then a few messages that we still have to gain security clearance.  A couple of hours pass, and finally a message from our Captain that we had a passenger who had a preliminary COVID-19 positive test, and the local authorities were concerned about our protocols and reluctant to let passengers off.  A later message was that the local authorities were coming aboard to inspect the protocols and that was the last we heard.  We could not leave the ship to see the natural beauty of northern Iceland which was very disappointing.  What was even more disappointing was the lack of updates throughout the day.  Innuendo and rumors flew and knowing that the Viking Sky's cruise was essentially canceled did not make it any easier on us or other passengers.  

We did a series of videos from our balcony documenting our progress during this Icelandic saga, but fortunately for us it ended up being short-lived. In Seydisfjördur the passengers were allowed to go ashore and enjoy walking in the footsteps of elves and ultimately all of our ports. That was not the case for other passengers on board our ship. 

Quarantined Passengers on the Viking Jupiter

The rumor was circulating among the passengers that the COVID-19 positive test was a false positive and all was well.  Maybe that rumor made passengers feel better. That day we were contacted by another passenger, who we will keep anonymous. The fellow passenger told us that they were quarantined in their cabin because they sat near to the COVID-19 positive passenger two days prior on a tour bus. Viking has since made the decision to assign seats on buses and tenders. Remember, Viking requires passengers to wear contact tracing devices. 

The quarantined passengers could not leave their rooms. The doctor provided daily health checks and all tested negative as far as we know. Viking was transparent as much as possible while trying to follow their protocols and maintain privacy of those affected. 

This continued until the end of the cruise and the passengers who came in contact with the COVID positive passenger never were allowed off the Viking Jupiter until it was time to fly home from Reykjavik.  From this we can only assume there were other passengers quarantined like our contact because buses were not empty and it's possible that other close contacts occurred on excursions and/or onboard.  Clearly, the passenger who tested positive actually had a confirmed positive test and it was not a false positive. According to Viking Jupiter staff fewer than 10 passengers were quarantined for the last 5 days of the cruise due to contact tracing, and guest services went out of their way to make those quarantined in their cabins comfortable.  For that, our contact was extremely grateful. 

At a later date we found out additional information on Cruise Critic threads from a Jupiter 7/13 cruise passenger who had a completely different experience:

"The afternoon we had the unexpected sea day at Akureyri I got a call from the nurse saying I'd been contact-traced to a person who tested positive. My husband had not. I was asked to stay in the room, but was only there for an hour or so before the doctor called to say my test from that morning was negative and I was free to do anything I wanted.

The next morning in Seydisfjordur, Guest Services called to say the Iceland authorities wanted all the contacts to stay on the ship, so my husband went out to Skalanes on his own. GS then called back about noon to say I was now allowed off the ship and they'd pay for any excursion I wanted to do. I asked them to put us on the included walking tour of the town, which they did. (They refunded what I'd paid for the Skalanes excursion.)

 I ran into another contact-guest the next evening whose experience was the same as mine: she had to stay in her room for awhile, and then had to stay on the ship the next morning." This passenger was interviewed by the Viking Jupiter nurse and a health official about their whereabouts for the 48 hours before as well. 

Quarantined Passengers on other Viking Sailings

Our sailing or the Sky were not isolated events.  This continues to occur in Iceland as well as Malta. 

On Facebook, Aug 6 one passenger was removed before the Venus even left port: "We were taken off our cruise ship in Malta before we left port because my mother tested positive for covid( my husband and I were in a separate stateroom, and sat on separate rows in the airplane then my parents). We are negative but are having to quarantine for 14 days in a hotel room in Malta. The worst part is- we can’t get ahold of anyone with Viking that knows how this all works. We feel alone." Further updates have not shown their fate as of yet and they are still quarantined in Malta. 

Another posting on Cruise Critic Community was as follows regarding the Viking Jupiter: "I have friends on Jupiter August 10 departure and now they have at least 1 positive case onboard. They called to report, as internet is so slow on the ship right now they cannot use it. My friends were notified they were on the same bus as someone who tested positive but no symptoms. They have been ordered to stay in their room for 7 days. They have tested negative, but are not being allowed out at all. Viking told them they can get off the ship in the next port and fly home, but otherwise they have to stay quarantined in room for a full week(the entire remaining cruise). They were told this is Iceland Protocol now."

Another report from that Viking Jupiter August 10 sailing posted on Facebook: "Well, it’s happened: Jupiter Aug 10 sailing - positive test result from someone on our Golden Circle bus yesterday (we are and have been negative).  We sat at the back of the bus, separated by several rows from others and double-masked. The bus was ~70% full.  Lunch was fabulous but there were 2 busses together, tables for 6 and no possibility to distance.

Our choices seem to be: quarantine in our cabin for remainder of the cruise (it’s Thursday, so would be until Tuesday) or, with negative swab PCR test, fly home with government approval, which we are still waiting on. Either way, the cruise is over for us. We booked our own air and Viking will handle all transfers and flight arrangements for us. 

Beyond disappointed of course, but we accepted the risks that come with traveling these days. We’ll likely leave and are waiting on next steps - specifically regarding whether authorities will allow us to leave after a negative swab and who will administer the swab.  Can’t say we prepared ourselves for this exact outcome but we can’t fault anyone.  However, had it been known that this could happen simply through contact tracing, we would have seriously reconsidered this trip.  But, it’s such a fluid situation and everyone is doing the best they can and we appreciate that.  And even though we isolated the 2 weeks prior to the trip, never stopped masking and had 2 PCR tests, this just illustrates how little is under our own control.  While short, this was an amazing adventure in a fascinating country, on a beautiful ship and with a top-notch crew." 

The update about leaving to go home: "Friday the 13th (unbelievably):  we, along with ~26 others, are on a 6 hour bus ride from Akureyri to Reykjavik.  Viking has arranged a hotel, meals, airport transfers and flights for us.  We have been cleared by the authorities to depart the country tomorrow. Nasal swab PCR tests were done before we disembarked this morning so I’m guessing that, until those results are in, we’re not truly in the clear. 

We’re not exactly able to distance on the bus - first 3 rows are blocked to protect the driver (as they should be) - but it’s not as if we’ll be able to distance on our flights tomorrow either. 

According to the cruise director, we are the first and thus far only group to be disembarked.  We could have opted to stay on board and quarantine in the cabin, but we were stir crazy after 1 day. 4 more would have been tough."

Unfortunately these Facebook posts were removed by the Group Administrator after the poster reported that the quarantine hotel was "disgusting". 

The August 27, 2021 sailing of Viking had trip interruption also. This was seen on Facebook. 



Getting Home

For us getting home was easy. Viking provided us a copy of our negative PCR test on our last day of cruising and we provided that as documentation to board our flight to the USA. Our contact remained content but we believe this good attitude waned at the time of departure to the USA.  Despite the negative tests while quarantined on the Viking Jupiter, those quarantined passengers were required to provide a negative test administered by Iceland and not Viking. This is the only test Iceland would accept to allow these exposed passengers to break quarantine and fly.  If you recall, before July 1 travelers had to take a COVID test on arrival to Iceland and quarantine until the results were ready, often up to 24 hours. The quarantined passengers had to do the same and left Iceland one day after us presuming their tests were negative.  We still do not know what happened to the actual COVID-positive passenger on either ship. We can only assume that the passenger had to quarantine in Iceland at the approved quarantine hotel for COVID positive travelers, Reykjavik Foss Hotel, until a COVID-negative test administered by Iceland was obtained and/or they were cleared by health officials of Iceland. 

Unfortunately the contact traced passengers were subject to protocols that are necessary. We hope they were not treated as pariahs when trying to get home, but it is possible they were. The quarantined passengers were definitely treated fairly by Viking staff. The people of Reykjavik are kind but the uneasiness around the docking of the Viking Sky after being denied access to so many ports was evident when we heard that some passengers were treated poorly at the airport.

In our opinion, positives were and are bound to happen statistically.  Viking should have had action plans in place for each and every port with local, regional and national officials and airport in Reykjavik for departure. This is how they failed their passengers.  The Viking Sky passengers received a voucher for 50% off a future cruise.  Viking Jupiter passengers from our cruise all of whom missed ONE port, and may we say one of the ports we were most anticipating, will not receive any compensation. We do not know how the quarantined passengers on Viking Jupiter will be compensated, if at all.  They received a letter from the guest services manager and the captain and hopefully, they will be fair.  The right trip insurance policy should cover out of pocket expenses for them.  However, what is most concerning to us, and most future passengers we have engaged with on social media, is the lack of transparency of risk of quarantine due to contact tracing.  It is upsetting to hear that multiple Viking passengers were quarantined due to being on a bus with a COVID-19 positive passenger.  Those quarantined in this scenario had the entire trip interrupted 5-7 days early!  


What does Viking Say?

The cruise line stands by its decision to test for COVID-19 daily. “This testing protocol is the foundation of our Viking Health & Safety Program -- and was designed to detect any possible case early so that it can be isolated, and a potential chain of transmission can be stopped immediately,” the spokesman said. “However, with robust and highly-sensitive testing, it is to be expected that there will be this occasional positive test result. This applies even when guests and crew are vaccinated, although occurrences will be significantly reduced.”

Viking even flew in Vice Admiral Raquel Bono, the line’s chief health officer, for discussions with Icelandic officials to, in the words of a spokesman, “ensure our protocols are in sync” for the rest of the summer.

One thing that was disappointing to us was what we found out when docked in Seydisfjördur.  We were out for our marathon training run and an American passenger ashore from an Iceland Pro Cruise ship asked us why all the Viking passengers were wearing masks.  We told her that it was not required on shore but that we felt passengers felt ostracized and like pariahs after our day before and what happened to the Viking Sky.  She asked if we had to wear masks while on the ship and we told her yes and while on tenders and buses except when eating or drinking. On Iceland Pro Cruises, they did not need to wear a mask anywhere, they were not being tested or having contact tracing either. Obviously this news was in stark contrast to what we were doing, and it got us wondering who are the safer travelers and who were being treated as "lepers"?  You decide...

Dr Rachel Bono was interviewed July 25, 2021, but she provided no further insight into how contact tracing is used to interrupt exposed passengers' cruises. 

Viking isn't the only cruise line with lack of transparency, obviously to protect their reputation.  Carnival Cruise line has passengers who have died and made no announcements until forced by the media. 



Make sure you get a cover for your vaccine card!  We love the kind where the card can be removed to add booster record at a later date rather than laminating your card! Click below to check out these combined vaccine card and passport covers at Amazon! You can use them to organize all the documents needed to travel internationally these days! 


Updated Iceland Policies

On June 26, Iceland lifted all domestic restrictions due to COVID-19, one year and four months after the very first social restrictions were imposed due to the pandemic. The country also loosened border restrictions on July 1, allowing travellers with proof of vaccination or previous infection to enter the country without testing or quarantine. Infection rates have rose over the ensuing two weeks, and Iceland reported 371 active cases in mid-July, up from 60 cases 8 days prior.

Since then Iceland has made changes to their COVID policies. 

On July 23, in response to rising cases, Iceland officials announced a 200-person gathering limit to those born in 2016 or before, one-metre distancing, and restricted opening hours for bars and nightclubs just four weeks after all domestic restrictions due to COVID-19 were lifted. Swimming pools (like the Sky Lagoon) and gyms will remain open but may not operate above 75% capacity. Business operators must decide whether it is possible to maintain one-meter distancing on their premises, and if not, masks must be worn.  Thus far our hotel, the Reykjavik Konsulat has not changed any COVID-19 policies. 

The restrictions took effect July 24 at midnight and will remain in place until August 27.

Passengers vaccinated against COVID-19 or recovered from it

Can you visit Iceland? Yes. All travelers – regardless of origin – are welcome to visit Iceland if they can show either a certificate of full vaccination against COVID, or a certificate of previous COVID infection. See What do I need on my certificate of vaccination or previous infection?

Do you need to provide a negative test? Until July 26, GMT 23:59 – No. As of July 27, GMT 00:00 – Yes. You require a negative test (PCR or rapid antigen) before boarding an aircraft to Iceland, taken within 72 hours of departure. 

Do you need to be tested on arrival, or enter quarantine? No. There is no longer a requirement for arrival testing for passengers vaccinated against COVID-19 or recovered from it. However, from July 27, residents of Iceland and others who have widespread social ties in the country are encouraged to get tested as soon as possible after arriving in Iceland, even when they are asymptomatic.

Passengers not vaccinated against COVID-19 and not previously infected

Can you visit Iceland? Visitors holding a passport (or valid residency) from EEA/EFTA countries are welcome to visit Iceland. A growing list of non-EEA/EFTA nationalities may enter, including travelers from the US and Canada. See Who can visit Iceland? below for more detailed information.

Do you need a PCR test? Yes. You require a negative PCR test before boarding an aircraft to Iceland, taken within 72 hours of departure. Rapid antigen tests are not accepted. See information under Do I need a negative COVID-19 test to board a flight to Iceland?

Is there arrival testing and quarantine? Yes. Arriving passengers must undergo double screening and 5-6 days quarantine between tests.

Updated Domestic Restrictions

On July 23, 2021, Health Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir announced new restrictions. They include a 200-person gathering limit, mandated closing time of midnight for bars and nightclubs, and a general one-metre distancing rule between individuals who do not have a close relationship.

Swimming pools and gyms will remain open but may not operate above 75% capacity. Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir stated that mandatory mask use will also be reimposed for certain activities that will be announced later. Katrín stated that the restrictions decided on by the cabinet were for the most part in line with the Chief Epidemiologist’s recommendations.

The restrictions take effect tomorrow (July 24) at midnight and will remain in place until August 13.

On August 9, 2021, the US State Department elevated Iceland to the "Do Not Travel" list due to increasing COVID-19 cases. 


Our Packing List


It was colder and windier than we expected July 11-20.  We used everything we had from lightweight teeshirts to fleece and jackets. We didn't use our hiking poles but we are pretty fit people.  Lots of passengers  used them. Here is what we packed and/or wished we had.  Some have links to find them.  

 

Women’s Fleece pants https://amzn.to/2oGqugs
Eddie Bauer men’s https://amzn.to/3zcIFJf
Fleece jacket full zip to remove easily on hot bus https://amzn.to/3wQkrD4
Rain suit pants https://amzn.to/3iFGQxZ
Rain suit jacket get one size larger to fit over jacket/fleece https://amzn.to/3wTR2aR
I brought my thermoball jacket - lightweight and felt great over a fleece. https://amzn.to/3BeHmv4
Backpack rain cover https://amzn.to/3exXhLm
Gloves with touchscreen fingers for phone https://amzn.to/2UVS6xN
Selfie stick with quick release clips easy to use with gloves https://amzn.to/34rERUE
Backpack https://amzn.to/3irNcAO
Hiking trail sneakers https://amzn.to/3Bt4shV
Long socks
Entertainment for bus ride
Battery with two charging cords for bus https://amzn.to/3zddb5B
Knit hat great for windy days rather than a baseball cap https://amzn.to/3BnKrsY
Head mesh for midges https://amzn.to/3kxlkhb
Covid vaccine card cover https://amzn.to/3rjQh9X
Kiwi camp spray use on question able things before you leave https://amzn.to/2VRvejq

Interested in going to Iceland but not sure what to see?  View our entire Iceland Video Playlist from our and our contributors' recent trips by clicking here!


Remember, if you have questions related to your health, always consult your doctor or medical professional. The information presented here is informative only and is not medical advice.

Find the latest updates about COVID-19 by visiting the CDC website

What do you think about cruising now as the world reopens?  Do you think that Viking is doing things right for their passengers and the port locals? Or do you think they are going overboard? Drop us a comment below to tell us what you think!