Alaska. Off season. Way off season. Yes, Ursula and I just returned from just such a voyage — our first since returning in mid March 2020, shortly after the beginning of the pandemic and the shutting down of travel and closing of borders. This week I will be presenting to you my perspectives on life aboard a cruise ship in the midst of health protocols necessitated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The cruise line is Royal Caribbean. The ship is Ovation of the Seas. The destination — Alaska, round trip from Seattle, over the course of back-to-back seven-day cruises. The sail date for Voyage One was Friday, 24 September in an inside “Virtual Balcony” cabin. Itinerary for both was sold as follows: Seattle, Day at Sea, Juneau, Skagway, Sitka, Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier (cruising), Day at Sea, Seattle.
The second cruise began 1 October, but weather necessitated a change in the itinerary. Ketchikan was substituted for Sitka, and the port order was changed to: Seattle, Day at Sea, Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier, Day at Sea, Seattle. No great disappointment here, as both Ursula and I adore Ketchikan. Sitka is charming, but much smaller with less to do unless you venture onto a tour.
These voyages were two of the last three before Ovation was slated to depart the Alaska market for warmer climes. Capacity for the Ovation is 4,180 at double capacity in the staterooms, and the maximum capacity is listed as 4,905. Ovation had very stringent protocols. Negative antigen test results had to be shown, and the tests had to be conducted within three days of the boarding date. Vaccinations were required of adult passengers. Unvaccinated children were prohibited from leaving the ship in ports of call. Masks were required unless seated in a vaccination area (theater, lower seating area; other entertainment venues), or after being seated for dining, in the buffet, or at a bar.
Our first cruise would have 1,600 passengers. Voyage 2 would come in at 2,300. The last voyage of the season, which would occur immediately after our Voyage 2, was slated to accommodate 3,000 paying passengers. So, how did this all work out with pandemic health protocols in place? Tune in Wednesday for what happened. Until then, here are some more photos of the Ovation, taken shortly after boarding before the crowds arrived: