Raise your hand if you enjoy taking a COVID test.
While I can't see what's beyond my computer screen, I seriously doubt many hands went up. But if you want to travel, or have to travel, taking a COVID test has been the price of admission, especially for taking a cruise.
We know first hand about the latter. In the last year alone, Pam and I have had to take almost a dozen tests before boarding ships or staying on a ship longer than a week. While not particularly painful, having a piece of cotton on a stick pushed into your nostrils isn't anybody's idea of fun. Not to mention the anxiety of "what if it's positive?" The fear you may have it is almost as bad as having it.
But that's changing. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is now leaving it up to the cruise lines to implement their own health policies and procedures. Last week, Virgin Voyages announced it was dropping pre-cruise testing, and allowing some unvaccinated guests onboard as well. Small cruise lines Azamara and Palm Beach based-Margaritaville have done the same, as well as Norwegian for some of its sailings.
In the months ahead, it's expected many if not most of the major cruise lines will follow suit. And while we certainly won't miss getting tested, COVID is still with us and not going away any time soon, if ever.
Reactions, as you might expect, have been varied. Many are happy and relieved; others are more fearful that suddenly what seemed to be the safest way to travel isn't anymore.
While you can make the case either way, here are a few points to ponder:
-- A negative test result reflects just a moment in time. Once onboard, you are mixing and mingling with hundreds of strangers, not to mention all the interactions when you leave the ship at a port of call. And just how reliable are test results, anyway?
-- Cruise lines have done a yeoman job of dealing the pandemic, providing extra sanitation procedures, mask mandates, 100 percent crew vaccinations, eliminating self-serve buffets and other measures. When's the last time you read about a norovirus outbreak on a ship? The extra precautions have seemed to stem that tide as well.
-- Testing aside, the best thing any of us can do is get vaccinated and boosted as necessary. I would be a thousand percent okay if that remained a requirement.
Health professionals say everyone at one time or another will have COVID. Like the common cold, it's here to stay. But unlike a cold, getting it on a cruise means your vacation is effectively over, as you are forced into quarantine. That's the new reality travelers have to deal with, and the thought of being stranded in a foreign country or anywhere for an extended period is unsettling to say the least.
What's a person to do? Pretty much what we've been doing for the past two years: Avoid crowds when you can, sanitize and wash your hands often, mask up if the situation calls for it and keep your vaccination current. In short, be accountable for your own health regimens.
Yet even as we try to get comfortable living with COVID, the new virus making headlines is Monkeypox. When does it end?
Yes, I know it's spelled like "Jerry." No, I don't know why it's pronounced "Gary."