Testing the Waters on a Celebrity Millennium Cruise
By Sharon Whitley Larsen
"You can be our guinea pigs!" veteran cruise friends exclaimed to my husband, Carl, and me when we told them we had recently booked an eight-night cruise on the Celebrity Millennium. The cruise would take us from our San Diego hometown up the coast to San Francisco (docked overnight), then on to other stops in Catalina and Ensenada -- including a few sea days, which I always enjoy -- before returning home.
What especially appealed to us was that we live just a 15-minute taxi ride to and from the pier. And no airport hassle!
We have been on 25 cruises around the world and normally take a couple each year. In 2020 we had four cruises booked -- and you know what happened with those plans. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a couple were canceled with full refund, and we were given a 125% future cruise credit on the others. We decided to do this one along the California coast since we would not be far from home and were covered with ample trip insurance.
During the pandemic, we both had read the page-turner "Quarantine! How I Survived the Diamond Princess Coronavirus Crisis" by Gay Courter. After finishing this ultra-dramatic story, I wondered if I would ever have the nerve to board a cruise ship again. Cruising had become one of my favorite things to do.
Two cruise friends related that their new, young physician recently warned them to stay away from ships: "If you were my parents, I would tell you not to cruise," he said. "Ships are like petri dishes."
But Celebrity kept us informed via their app and emails of the newly established health protocols, which included that "all guests 12 and over must be fully vaccinated prior to sailing and must provide documentation of full vaccination prior to boarding." Passengers also had to have proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 48 hours of boarding. And the popular self-serve buffets were now manned by gloved, masked staff members who plated the food.
The day of departure, we strolled into San Diego's cruise terminal and were warmly greeted. We had to wear masks while checking in but could remove them once on board. However, the ship's vaccinated crew had to wear masks at all times. Signs throughout the ship, including in the elevators, reminded passengers to socially distance.
"We can't be 6 feet apart," one woman pointed out as several of us squeezed into an elevator. "But at least we're all vaccinated!"
There were mostly baby boomers onboard, and I spotted only two small children.