Cruising in the Age of Covid-19 — Part 3

Ready for the Robots — Booze at the Bionic Bar

On Wednesday we looked at the various Covid-19 health protocol contradictions on the dining venues (and the elevators) aboard Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas. Today we’ll take a look at how those protocols affected the overall cruise experience in other venues, and I’ll start today with the Royal Theater, in which the nightly entertainment performed. Now, one might think with a ship running below 50% capacity (in the case of Voyage 1, well below), Royal Caribbean might have been tempted to skimp on their comedians, singers, and production shows. They most assuredly did not. The entertainment was what one has come to expect from a major cruise line — exceptional.

Ovation‘s North Star observation platform — protocol limited to four

Seating in the Royal Theater is on two levels. The lower main seating area allowed unmasking and was not socially distanced, although couples/groups were requested to leave two seats empty between them. Unvaccinated children and their accompanying guardians were restricted to the upper theater seating area, and masks were required for them throughout the show. For those shows expecting near capacity crowds, reservations were highly recommended.

“Virtual Balcony” cabin…
… with its 80-inch LCD “Virtual Balcony”

As with Sorrento’s pizzeria, Windjammer buffet, and other non-main dining room venues, bar tables were placarded as unavailable to facilitate social distancing. This became a factor for Ursula and me mostly during the slightly more crowded Voyage 2. But we also ran up against this during the less crowded Voyage 1 at our favorite, Schooner Bar. There were times we could not get a comfortable table, as we both get uncomfortable sitting at tall tables on chairs where our feet dangle rather than touch the floor. After a while it starts to get to you in the back of the legs and in the hips. Whoever came up with this bright invention needs to be made to sit like that for six hours, straight twice a day, for a solid week so as to get a clue. And just to show how arbitrary and at times silly the protocols got, that El Paso couple we were seated next to in Silk? They invited us to sit with them at their table in Schooners when no others were available, but the wait staff would not allow it.

Getting into Schooner Bar could be a challenge, even during Voyage 1

So, social distancing strictly enforced in the bars and some dining venues. But not in… the casino! We found that exception rather interesting. But, then, cruise lines are notorious at making exceptions for revenue-raking casinos, including smoking areas. Sorry, but a designated smoking area in a large room is to me like the designated peeing area in a swimming pool — the concept of segregating either is pretty much meaningless. You see, there’s this thing called diffusion…. but I digress.

Casino Royale — no, really; that’s its name

Then we get back to the bars, which once again have every other table placarded as unavailable. Below are Boleros, a bar and entertainment venue, and Music Hall and Music Hall bar:

Music Hall — lower area
Music Hall — upper level bar

Bottom line on all this: The Covid-19 health protocols were at times a hinderance, and at times amusing in their unequal application. Seldom were they an inconvenience (but then there’s those elevator trolls I discussed on Wednesday) until Voyage 2. Whereas Ovation easily handled protocols at 1,600 passengers, things began to unravel at 2,300. I can only extrapolate that they worsened the next week when the capacity grew to 3,000, but I don’t know that for certain as we were not there. All things considered, I’m glad we went on both Voyage 1 and the slightly more crowded (700 more) Voyage 2. But I’d be really hesitant at seeing what would be in store for a ship at full capacity with these protocols in place. From my experience the elevators would be rendered useless; dining outside the main dining rooms probably impossible without long waits, and the bars nothing more than a venue into which to peer at those lucky souls who found a table. Fortunately, I don’t see full capacity becoming a serious problem for the time being, but at some point cruise lines are going to have to trust that masking and vaccinations will overcome the need to mandate social distancing requirements. And the only way I see that happening is to quit accommodating those who are unvaccinated, which in this case means families with children below vaccination ages.

Beginning next week I’ll present the destinations we hit on these back-to-back voyages. But for now here are a few more photos of Ovation of the Seas:

Izumi Sushi Bar
Wonderland Restaurant (extra cost)
Riding the North Star in Endicott Arm/Dawes Glacier


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