Cruising during COVID – travel smart!

I am so excited to be back at sea, but getting to the ship is now a little more complicated than before, and there are a few more potential obstacles that may upset your smooth sailing with a rocky start. Here are my tips to help you get to your ship on time.

Fly smart
It used to be that flights are only canceled due to weather delays or mechanical issues, but now we have to deal with flight crew shortage - whether they aren’t enough of them back to work or they are out sick with COVID. I am now advising all cruisers to arrive at their port of embarkation at least one day - preferably two - in advance. Missing the ship is now a very high possibility if you are flying in on the day of departure and your flight is delayed or canceled.

Always book the first flight out and fly nonstop wherever possible. The fewer changes of planes, the lesser chance of flights being canceled/delayed or your bag misconnecting. Now is not the time to save $50 by taking a double connection.

If a connection is a must, allow at least 2 hours, and more if you need to clear customs in between flights. I used to think 4 hours was too long, but now I shoot for that - especially on my way back to Canada in case I am randomly selected for the arrival PCR test. [Yes the border rules have relaxed but the random arrival PCR test still remains.]

Be prepared for your flight
Check-in online 24 hours prior to your flight and get your boarding passes. If you can make do with a carry-on, go for it, as you will save on bag fees, plus if your flight lands late, you can dash off with your luggage. However, overhead bin space is SO tight nowadays, if you are in the late boarding zone, you may run a risk of the bins being full.

My Tip: Book exit row seats as they usually get early boarding. Also, I noticed Air Canada boards window seats before aisles. On the last few flights I took, a window seat was in Zone 3 and the aisle in the same row was in Zone 5. So, book the window to board earlier. Lastly, 24 hours prior to the flight, check to see if there is an upgrade offer to the premium cabin. Sometimes it is reasonable and you’ll get priority boarding, offloading, and inflight perks.

At the airport
Arrive at least 2-3 hours before your flight. I’d much rather have extra time at my gate for a coffee or snack instead of sweating about whether I’ll make my flight.

Airline staff is checking for proof of COVID vaccination, negative COVID test result where required, and (for returning Canadians) ArriveCAN receipt. Have these items ready. Always carry paper copies in addition to digital ones (in case your phone dies!). I find paper copies are much easier to read.

Customs and security are never fun, your patience will most likely be tested here as there is always that person who didn’t empty their pockets before going through the x-ray machine or can’t find their boarding pass to show the agent. A Nexus card will expedite you through these lines. If you don’t have one and plan to travel more, get one!

Buy travel insurance
Did you know Manulife in Canada now sells COVID medical insurance to vaccinated travellers going on cruises? The policy will provide emergency medical coverage in case you are infected with COVID on your way to the cruise or while abroad.

Purchasing cancellation and interruption insurance is also a must to cover unforeseen emergencies. Having coverage offers peace of mind, and if you really do miss the ship for a covered reason, you'll have protection and a course of action. Don’t leave home without it!

Bon voyage and happy cruising!