I booked a cruise vacation with Celebrity Cruise Line for what was to be a ten day Caribbean cruise with 5 ports of call. As the date for my cruise approached I could not help but pay attention to the evening news when they flash headlines about a cruise ship with the outbreak of norovirus on its last sailing. That ship is the Celebrity Mercury, the same ship I expect to be on a few short weeks. I dismissed the outbreak because of course, they will clean up and all will be well when my time to board comes. BOY WAS I WRONG! Three cruses in a row prior to my scheduled cruise had hundreds of passengers and crew alike sick with this virus. Since I had already had vacation time off approved at work, I decided to roll the dice and go on that ship anyway.
The Mercury docked early from the cruise prior to my cruise. The C.D.C. took an active role by inspecting the clearing and certifying the thoroughness of the ships disinfecting before lifting the quarantine so Celebrity could board the next group of passengers. While I waited in Charleston for the ship to be cleared I saw daily news programs reporting of the virus outbreak, the number of passengers and crew affected, and the on going clean up. The long and short of it is that instead of leaving port Friday March 19 as scheduled, the ship was not cleared until 4:00 pm Sunday March 21. We could not even start the check in process until that clearance was given by the C D C.
As one would imagine, check in was disorganized and confusing to say the least. There were at least 3 groups of people acting as if they are in charge and none seemed to know what the others were doing; or of what instructions either group was giving. Charleston Police direct me one way only to have the Port Police stop me and direct me another, then the people from Celebrity had something else to say about where to go to get checked in. Do you think that this is frustrating? You bet it was. As if I needed another obstacle to deal with, it was raining. Finally, after what seemed to be an eternity, the car is parked and I board a shuttle from the parking area to the terminal where the ship is docked.
This building is a cubbyhole of a building, barely large enough to house the security equipment much less than a thousand people with their carry on luggage. Celebrity employees were trying to direct people into one of three lines that snaked back and forth two or three times. Security personnel from both the Port Authority and Celebrity roamed the area keeping a 國內集運 watchful eye out for anything out of the ordinary. The goal at the end of the lines was to get in front of one of a dozen or so people who were entering information into a computer and issuing the boarding card. Now I did mention that there was more than one line. Passengers with a handicap that required assistance entered from my right and went directly to any open position at the computers; the only time they waited was for another handicapped person. To my left is another line that seemed to have four positions dedicated solely to the people in that line. My line fit in using the rest of the agents as they became available.
Now that I have navigated the maze in the terminal and given Celebrity my completed paperwork and credit card information, I finally get my room card in hand. This card is used for everything; getting on or off of the ship, purchases on board the ship, as well as the key that opens my cabin door. Now I head off to the last stop before I actually walk up the gangway and board the ship. I had to insert my card into the security terminal and have my photo taken.
Once on board it seemed as if I had stepped into a fantasy. I’m greeted with smiles and Hellos from the ships staff. Waiters and waitresses walk around giving arriving passengers a glass of champagne. I also got what turned out to be the first of many squirts of hand sanitizer I would receive on this trip. Yes, hand sanitizer and sanitary wipes every time I entered a community area, along with no less than 2 public announcements each day telling me to wash my hands and how to wash them. Talk about going overboard with prevention. No doubt, Celebrity did everything possible to prevent another outbreak.
Upon entering the restaurant or buffet area, each passenger got a squirt of hand sanitizer and a hand wipe. On exiting, passengers got a squirt of sanitizer. Even shopping on board passengers got a squirt upon entering a shop and exiting every shop and upon entering and exiting the theater.