How do travel advisors and cruisers keep up with the constantly changing worldwide travel rules and regulations these days?
On the latest episode of the Folo by Travel Weekly, Vicki Freed, senior vice president of sales, marketing and trade support and services for Royal Caribbean International, Penny Rushing, the owner of Four Points Travel, an Avoya agency, and Gene Sloan, the cruise editor at The Points Guy, offered tips on how to avoid potential delays and hiccups when it comes to cruising in the pandemic world and the best ways to stay current with the varying and everchanging protocols.
“Cruisers need to know going in that there may be some hassles just in the process of the days leading up to the trip, just to get where they’re going,” said Sloan, who has been on six cruises since June. “More and more countries have added testing requirements …. And at least where I am, and in some parts of America, as Covid cases go up there is a strain on testing sites. It’s harder to get appointments and the results take longer to come back.”
Rushing said that she makes sure that before her clients leave for a cruise, she both verbally discusses rules and requirements with them and sends all the information to them via email.
“I want it in front of them,” she said. “I want them to be able to click on the links and see exactly what the current protocols are for the cruise lines, for the airlines, for the countries that they are getting ready to go and visit.”
Rushing said that she finds the cruise lines’ websites to be “the best form of updated information.”
“I have to educate myself, as do my agents, and keep up with what’s going on with the changes,” she said. “It’s important to keep the client informed as much as you can. We sell all the cruise lines. They are all doing an excellent job keeping things updated to help us as much as they can.”
Freed said that keeping up to date is not easy.
“We keep it up to date on Cruising Power, and it changes all the time,” she said, adding that those changes are discussed in a daily meeting at Royal Caribbean and that what might be talked about in the morning can change by the afternoon.
She urged travel advisors to send their clients’ emergency contact information to the cruise lines so that when last-minute requirements need to be communicated, it doesn’t fall on the travel advisor alone to alert clients. As an example, the U.S. Virgin Islands changed its entry rules so nobody unvaccinated over the age of 12 could cruise to the islands and gave the cruise lines four days’ notice.
“We don’t want to put the responsibility only on [travel advisors] to communicate that,” she said. “We want to communicate directly to the customer.”
Rushing said such help was welcome. “Nowadays it takes a village to get through this,” she said.
One area of travel that is much easier for cruisers then other travelers abroad is fulfilling the testing requirement prior to returning to the U.S. Sloan said the cruise lines have been excellent at providing testing to cruisers, usually for little or no cost.
“For people on land tours, we’ve heard so many stories about how people are scrambling to find out where to get the test,” he said. “So that’s a great service.”
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