Richard Turen
Richard Turen

Well, not very much is going on this week. We have this election thing, but we all know that will run smoothly and we will, once again, gain the admiration of much of the world for the mature and insightful manner in which we handle our political differences. In a few hours, it will be over and we will be left to relax and plan leisure travel for the few clients who still think that travel is even possible.

Of course, we're not worried, because we can still count three hotels, two national parks and a few RV rental locations that are still bookable.

Covid travel restrictions are not a major worry for travel advisors, because we are a sturdy lot, and we're rather adept at explaining the impact of outside events on our clients' travels. That is why we have unofficial degrees in time management, climatology, psychology and the meditative arts along with economic macro analysis, geography, social media in all its forms, world history and an understanding of the leisure tribes as they set about exploring life outside their caves. 

Given that, we believed we were prepared to handle the new protocols designed to get cruise ships back to sea. We could understand and explain even the 74 detailed recommendations presented to the CDC by a panel of health and industry experts. You likely already know what many of them are: The need for some sort of valid Covid testing for crew and guests, distancing, half-filled restaurants and entertainment venues, masks and the tragic loss of our beloved buffets. We can handle all of that. But ...

A luxury line I have frequently booked, in its latest announcement updating its Covid protocols, joined the ranks of those lines issuing a directive that only guests who have purchased its own, in-house shore excursions will be permitted to disembark at ports of calls. "Buy Ours or Stay Aboard" is going to hit some of our cruise guests hard, and it is, once again, going to fall on us to explain.

Here is the exact wording. Look for it to appear under the logo of your favorite cruise line:

"Guests will only be permitted to disembark the ship in ports if participating in [our] shoreside activities/excursions. Guests who do not comply will not be permitted to re-board the ship." Shuttle bus transfers into town? Also eliminated.

On more mainstream lines, guests previously might have booked comparable shore excursions through third parties. But for luxury lines, it appears that, at least in the short term, guests who want agents to book private shore excursions can no longer do so. No more private-driver tours, something 50% of my guests on this line have chosen at least once. No more options for guests who want to beat the lines at the Hermitage or wander around London on their own if they've already been there several times.

We'll have to explain why excursions arranged by a cruise line are inherently safer and more Covid-free than shore excursions we, as agents, arrange through our long-established, trusted sources. 

But no worries. We're good at explaining things. One suggestion: Cruise lines should ramp up their "private driver and  guide" options to accommodate the large number of guests who will feel safest with that level of real social distancing. 

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