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Taking the Kids: On a cruise in Greece during the pandemic

Eileen Ogintz, Tribune Content Agency on

Talk about piling on vacation stress.

How about traveling abroad during a pandemic, and then boarding a cruise ship, perhaps for the first time?

“We’re vaccinated. We didn’t have reason to be nervous, but I was anxious,” said first-time cruiser Allison Granger, from Austin, Texas.

As we wound our way through the very organized health and security protocols to board the new Celebrity Apex, there was that tiny fear in the back of all our minds — What if we tested positive on the test administered port-side by the cruise line? What if we had to quarantine in Athens?

Luckily, no one tested positive, Celebrity officials said. “All of the testing and protocols made me feel safer,” said Kelly Dunkling, here with her husband Koby on their honeymoon from Breckenridge, Colorado.

“I’m feeling safer than in many places,” said Carol Blondon, a retired flight attendant from Canada.

 

By the middle of the week-long cruise, though, a vaccinated guest had tested positive for COVID-19, distressing passengers, including Blondon and Granger. He was isolated in a special room with a separate ventilation system and left the ship in Dubrovnik to be quarantined, according to Christophe Belaubre, the Celebrity Apex hotel director, noting that Celebrity had introduced sophisticated facial recognition software to identify those who had been near the guests who tested positive in the previous 48 hours.

The last morning of the cruise, when everyone was tested — as is Celebrity’s protocol — five more passengers tested positive, though they were asymptomatic.

Those on board gave the cruise line high marks for the way they handled the situation. Three positive guests were identified before they left the ship for excursions in Santorini and placed in the isolation rooms. The others were quickly brought back to the ship. The next morning, they disembarked in Athens before the other passengers and would be in isolation there for two weeks.

The good news is there haven’t been many COVID-19 cases on board since the ship’s inaugural sailing last June and none among the more than 500 kids and teens who sailed Apex this summer.

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