"" Writer's Wanderings: Testing...Testing...Clear to Cruise!

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Testing...Testing...Clear to Cruise!


Our flight to Fort Lauderdale landed a bit before noon and our special "Uber" driver picked us up. She was accompanied by four young back seat drivers. My daughter-in-law is a gem and in addition to getting a ride to our hotel for the night, we had the opportunity to visit with her and our Florida grands. 

By the time we got to Miami we were all hungry. We parked in the garage at the Bayside Marketplace which is a large area with all sorts of shops, restaurants and opportunities for boat rides around the Miami Harbor. We chose to have lunch at Bubba Gump's since they had never been there and we thought it would be a much quieter place where we could catch up on everyone's life. 

Following lunch, we got ice cream and sherbet and strolled around a bit checking out the various street food vendors. Lots of good looking ethnic foods. All too soon it was time to say goodbye and after a round of hugs, they left us at our Hampton Inn nearby.

We met Bob's brother and sister-in-law who had traveled from Ohio as well for the cruise and found a nice place for dinner that had outside dining. It was too cold for that back home. 

The next morning we killed some time walking down to the water and watching the boats and ships that we could see from our vantage point. Then, when it was near our boarding time, we used the hotel shuttle to get to the cruise terminal.

Masks on, we had to show our vaccination cards outside since all passengers and crew are required to have COVID vaccinations. The next step would be antigen testing. There was quite a crowd and we learned later that it was because a lot of people did not adhere to their assigned embarkation times. We sat and waited a bit while filling out a longer health form than the usual one we'd had in past cruises. Mostly COVID related symptomatic questions. 

When our numbers were called, we went forward to be registered on the computers and then directed behind a screen where the tests were given. We had taken antigen tests on our own at home just to see what was involved so that helped with the nervousness. One, we knew what to expect with the procedure and two, we had tested negative at home so we were relatively sure there would be another negative test.

The procedure was simple. A swab of each nostril (gently done and not deep) and it was put into the little cardboard test kit to be carried over to the section that took care of watching for results. We sat and waited in a different area for the results. The test is supposed to take fifteen minutes for the results to show. If you haven't had one, there's a little window in the cardboard that displays two lines. One needs to disappear. Sort of like a pregnancy test. 

It took a long time for our names to be called but even before they were, an email message showed in our inboxes that we were negative. The extra time came with those in charge having to hand out wrist bands to show we were good to board. From there we went to another table to turn in our health forms and they directed us to board the ship. 

We wound our way through the terminal past the photographer and to the gangplank. Procedure was becoming a little more familiar. At the entrance to the ship, our picture was taken for security and at the check in table we were issued a tracker band and told that they needed to be with us whenever we were not in our room.

The trackers flash a blue dot until you are next to someone else with a tracker for more than fifteen minutes. The dot then turns red. If anyone were to contract COVID aboard the ship, the QSR codes on the back of the watch would then allow the health providers to check who may have had contact with that person. No. It is not a way to track your every movement. It is just for your safety. I kept mine in my pocket or purse. It was a little bulky on my wrist.

Once on board, we were informed that masks were optional for guests except when going ashore. The Bahamas required masks be worn at all times unless eating or swimming. The staff is still required to wear them. Optional masks, I thought to myself, after all the time we spent looking for something comfortable because we thought we would have to wear them inside the ship. I wasn't complaining. I was relieved.

Knowing everyone was vaccinated and had a negative test made us all feel very comfortable. Add to that, the ship was only about two-thirds full. The biggest crowds we encountered were in the terminal and that would have been lessened if everyone had stuck to their boarding times. 

From start to finish it took about an hour and a half for our boarding procedure. I opened the door to the veranda of our stateroom and stepped out. I was ready to cruise!

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