What We Found in Returning to Post Pandemic Travel
Time to Jump Back In
Like many people, we have been eager to resume travelling, but we also had concerns. What was the same and what has changed in the world of post-pandemic (Not really post, is it?) travel? Many of you have long since jumped back in, others still hesitate. We thought it might be fun to share impressions learned from our early excursions back into the world.
We were eager to get back into exploration. To discover new things, places, and people. And we welcomed the opportunity to revisit sites we first encountered long ago. The experience of being somewhere completely different, places where we were the odds ones on site is something we enjoy.
Cruising is something we have long enjoyed done right. For us that means a high-quality line, small-medium sized ships, impeccable service and décor, excellent food, and fine wine. We pretty well settled on two lines years ago that meet those standards, so we were confident these expectations would be met (they were).
Everyone has their own preferences, of course. For us, the idea of getting on a vessel with 5000 guests, about half of whom are children, is beyond comprehension. But to each their own.
We had some apprehensions this time out.
One, how bad is the infection rate for COVID? It is on the rise globally and airports are a place to get infected. We were cautious about exposure and chose to isolate ourselves upon return for a week, taking a series of COVID tests. All ended well.
Two, what about all the post-pandemic horror stories about passengers going berserk? One should be careful about assuming one’s experience is indicative of all, but we worked with two airlines, three flights, four airports, in three countries. We saw zero bad conduct incidents anywhere, in airports or on flights. Maybe the madness is finally settling down.
Three, how might we be greeted as Americans? The Trump era left a really bad taste in many countries, much of Europe included. Turned out no problem. People were uniformly gracious and welcoming. To the extent politics arose, we had the impression most thought the previous administration was an odd occurrence and America had fired that crew. They, naturally, are watching our upcoming elections with great interest.
Looking back over our notes, our observations naturally grouped into five settings. Curious to hear if your travels matched any of these.
Passports- People really are surging back into travel. Processing times for passports can run many weeks, months even. NEVER let your passport expire.
TSA Preclearance- These are easy to set up, process quickly, and save time boarding the aircraft. The system is designed to make it easy to apply. Get the clearance.
Flight Scheduling – We usually do this through the cruise line, as it facilitates transport to and from airports. We found this time the cruise lines have very little flexibility with the airlines they are contracted with. We found the time between flights inadequate but could not get them changed. Sure enough, an initial flight ran late, causing us to miss our main flight. As noted below, all worked out, but in the future, I am less inclined to let someone else do my flight booking.
Airlines Staffs – They were uniformly terrific and pleasant. Given their work environment, this was extra commendable. We had to scramble with that first late flight. The check in desk folks for both United and American went all out to get us taken care of. Baggage handling crews we never met got our bags off the late flight and onto the new flight – different airlines, too – in unbelievably quick time. Would not have bet it could be done. Kudos for caring enough to make it happen.
On Board Ship Lessons
Staffing – Cruise lines lost a ton of employees during the pandemic. Seems they are about staffed back up and doing well. The lack of experience on the teams shows on occasion but not a major issue.
Standards – Seem to be holding pretty much in every area. Competition keeps the edge sharp. Word gets out about which lines, even which ships, do it well. Happy to say ours, a ship we had been on before, is doing well.
Engineers- This trip reminded us that a ship at sea is truly isolated for problem solving. I saw engineers trouble shooting everything imaginable, from coffee machines to communications. People were wiring circuit boards, replacing parts, and more. They have a mindset that they need to be able to fix anything and everything. A very focused group, marine engineers.
International Passengers – We had 27 nations on our cruise, one of the delights of such voyages. I noted what seemed to be a large increase in Chinese travelers this time out – a good thing. The more we mix, the better.
Passengers Average Ages – Cruising on quality vessels tends to attract an older crowd, but I noticed a number of younger individuals and couples on this cruise. Good – new generations are joining in the fun.
On The Ground
English is Still Esperanto- English remains everyone’s second language, especially in tourism areas. It makes us lazy travelers as Americans, but sure is helpful. There are some really nice smart phone apps now for translations as well.
Long Live the Dollar (and the Euro) – As in earlier years, you can buy almost anything anywhere with US dollars. The Euro is pretty ubiquitous as well, even in non-EU countries. It is always interesting to see how adaptable and flexible merchants are around the world. They will figure out how to get your business, especially if you offer dollars.
Istanbul Blew Us Away – As did Turkey more generally. The city was much more complex, diverse, and well run than we anticipated. Would happily go back there for a longer visit. The EU made a terrible error not admitting Turkey long ago; we would all be in better positions today had they done so.
Apple Air Tags – We read that putting Apple Air Tags in your bags helped track your bags. How true that was! When we scrambled to make that first flight, we thought there was little chance our bags would make it. Sitting on the runway, I checked the air tags on my phone. The phone said our bags were about 40 feet away. We looked out the window and saw the luggage cart that had our bags.
Upon arrival at the airport coming home, the valet service could not find our car keys. Apple Air Tag to the rescue again! I punched up the tag on the keys and told the desperate souls looking for our keys they were looking in the wrong place. Go to the room on the other side, the keys are about 20 feet inside the door. They were. Amazing.
Alexa, We Miss You- We found that one of the “people” we missed the most on the trip was our Alexa smart speaker set. We use them for everything (controlling lights, making lists, checking weather, etc., etc.). Our first night on the ship, we fell into bed exhausted, only to realize that to turn out that light across the suite, someone had to actually get out of bed, cross the room, and turn off the light. The horrors! Felt like the Middle Ages.
US Customs & Immigration Service – As in the past, we were impressed with the efficiency and friendliness of these public servants.
Home- How sweet it is! Nice when you look forward to coming home as much as you looked forward to the trip itself. First to welcome us back? Our hummingbirds, who hit the feeder within minutes of filling it up. Good to be back.
The Traveling Clontz Family
If you find this blog worthy of your time and curiosity, I invite you to do three things:
(1) Join the conversation. Your voice counts here. If you wish to share COMMENTS anonymously, make the last word in your comment “PRIVATE.” I will assure your privacy via anonymity.
(2) Share the word about this post with friends and colleagues. Share a link in your emails and social media posts (https://agentsofreason.com).
(3) You are welcome to share this post with anyone. It is easy to pass on via email, of course, but also on Facebook, LinkedIn, or other sites.
Let’s grow our circle.