Even when my mother threatened to drop us off at the next rest stop, we refused to stop asking the age-old question plaguing every summer vacation trip: “Are we there yet?”
I often feel a little like that kid in the back seat all over again as I arrange travel in a world pandemic. Yes! I see borders opening, take note of the no-mask wearing and the lack of social distancing and even rejoice that cruises and tours are re-starting all around us. Things are definitely cranking up; my clients are eager to go again. Yet, the question remains: “Are we there yet?”
Without a doubt, It has been a rough road, and there are sure to be more bumps along the way, but my fear is if we wait until all the bumps are smoothed out, we could be waiting for the rest of our lives! When Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of England, announced covid restrictions would be lifted on July 19, he also added, “we are going to just have to learn to live with this virus.”
Maybe he is right: that someday is now.
After all, when the TSA reported that more people boarded airplanes on July 1st than on the same date in July, 2019, it proves ready or not, lift-off is happening! The world has been in the doldrums for too long. Being shutdown did not teach us patience. Instead, it stirred a fervent desire to go, see, and do while we can, and the world is waiting.
No matter whether you choose to step gingerly or head out at full throttle, my fellow travel agents at Monroe Travel Service and I, who want and need your business, are thrilled, but may I share a few travel thoughts to consider on your journey:
*Sorry, there is no Tatoo this summer. Whereas, the wonderful spectacle of the Royal Military Tattoo has been officially cancelled, expect the Edinburgh International Festival to take over the city from August 7-29. The festival will celebrate the country’s best in theater, opera, dance, and music, so, if a trip to Scotland is on your radar, this event might be fun to add to your itinerary.
*If proof of antigen tests are still required to enter bars and restaurants in Denmark, then, you must realize how the pandemic has made all sorts of changes everywhere. For example, consider Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve on the island of Oahu. When covid shut Hawaii down, the sea turtles and Hawaiian monk seals returned and re-claimed the empty beaches. Now that Hawaii has re-opened, the state has created a new reservation system limiting the number of daily visitors from 3000 to only 720 every day to Hanauma Bay to keep the wildlife happy. Like I said before, changes have happened; the world may be managing itself differently. Call Monroe Travel Service. You need to know before you go.
*Ireland has endured one of the longest lockdowns in Europe and is currently experiencing one of the slowest re-openings. Although outdoor dining is now a possibility and pubs can finally be open until 11pm, you need to review the situation. The Green Island is to amazing not to enjoy fully. Just know before you go.
*Fireworks returned to Disney parks on July 4th, so, once again, you can expect to be pyrotechnically impressed again at Magic Kingdom and Epcot again. Unfortunately, there is still no word about the return of the dining or fastpass program for this year. Mickey’s big 50th birthday year of celebrations starts in October, plan your spring break escape now.
*Get ready for some fun: the VelociCoaster, Universal Orlando’s newest white-knuckle ride with a 53 mph barrel roll, is a hit! Sure to take your breath away, this one-of-a-kind roller coaster ride is just what every thrillseeker wants. Plan on adding Universal Studios to one of our Mickey’s birthday fun packages.
*Starting in October, many Vegas resorts will feature “cannibis consumption lounges.” Yet, because marijuana is still illegal under federal law, it will not be possible to smoke, eat, or consume cannabis in casinos or any of the 150,000 hotel rooms in this great city that is alway ready to show you a good time.
*Big news on the hotel scene. Thanks to the grand opening of the new luxurious Ritz Carlton, the Turks and Caicos just got better! On the other hand, if you feel like “wastin’ away” or just want a “change in latitude,” then, the brand new Margaritaville Resort in Nassau is a great getaway. Honestly, with the prices I’m seeing in Gulf Shores, Destin and the 30A area, you really should compare vacation costs in Cabo, Cancun, Puerto Vallarta or the Caribbean. At Monroe Travel Service, we have been able to offer all-inclusive vacations with air from Monroe for less than what the Gulf Coast was wanting for a room only stay over the 4th of July.
*Some more post covid resort additions include the Dreams Royal Beach and Secrets Macao Beach in the Dominican Republic and the new Secrets Resort in St. Maarten. No passport? Then, check out the new Lovango Resort and Beach Club, located a quick boat ride from St. John, Virgin Islands. This private island resort has gotten rave reviews as the newest go-to resort in the U.S. Caribbean.
*The Eiffel Tower– the world’s most visited paid monument with around 7 million visitors every year– is officially open again in Paris. However, there is a catch: no elevators are in use. However, even if you wish to take the 674 floors to the 2nd floor viewing level, you must plan ahead. Reservations to major sites like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and Versailles must be done in advance.
*The start up of cruising from Florida has been so very welcomed, but there could be a bump in the road for the unvaccinated. As you know, politics are a serious matter in Florida, and, while most cruise lines did agree to adhere to the lawsuit won by Governor Desantis and stop requiring all passengers to be vaccinated, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity came up with a game plan for cruising that the unvaccinated might want to review.
In short, the unvaccinated are finding they are currently being separated from the vaccinated. For example, on the Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas’ sailing last week, the unvaccinated were prevented from enjoying some venues, including the casino, the spa, a pool, a couple of bars and restaurants, and a nightclub. They were also seated in a separate area at the shows and given designated times to enjoy the fitness center. Segregation has always been a problem. I fear it could ruin a fun vacation, but, whether vaccinated or not, you must expect to adapt–on the ship and on the ports of call. Things can and will change. Even though we try to make sure you know before you go, the situation is fluid. You must be prepared to go with the flow.
*Good news: Spain is officially open to all Americans– vaccinated or not! As of June 28, all you need to enter this amazing country is to complete a simple a health questionnaire and obtain a secure QR code. No advance covid test or quarantine are required to enter, but, of course, you must not forget our country requires a negative covid test to be taken within 72 hour of your flight home.
*Italy’s new protocol, along with all the countries in the European Union, is called the digital Green Certificate. This certificate can be easily acquired by presenting a fully vaccinated CDC white card certification, a negative rapid antigenic or molecular PCR test taken within 48 hours of departure, or showing proof of recovery from Covid 19. Europe is ready for tourism again, but are you ready to go?
As Bob Dylan sang, “The times they are a-changin.” You may not be “there” just yet, but, as a travel agent, may I offer some more friendly advice? Wherever “there” is for you, don’t just sit back and wait a little longer to make your plans. Until July 31st, if you choose not to travel, last minute covid cancellation policies for most tours and cruises are quite generous. Please call Monroe Travel Service soon and let’s explore the possibilities. We would like to help you be “there” when the time comes.
After all, I learned a long time ago that the longer you wait for the future, the shorter it will be!
Dianne Newcomer is a travel agent at Monroe Travel Service. Don’t talk to strangers! Call one of our travel advisors before you finalize your travel plans this year. Getting you “there” is a job we have been doing for over 30 years. Email [email protected] or call 318 323 3465. We would love to send you away!.