Many months ago, when COVID was something occurring in other countries, we thought fall of 2021 would be a good time to see some new parts of France and then make our way up to Amsterdam to take a transatlantic voyage home. The first step in the process was to book the Holland America cruise from Amsterdam to Fort Lauderdale. As COVID started to ravage Europe and the US, we lost interest in the pre-cruise explorations, but kept our HAL reservation thinking they would cancel and we would get a big credit. We went ahead and booked our flights through HAL to arrive several days early to spend a little time in Amsterdam.
Our cruise was on the Rotterdam VII, a brand new ship that was to have several months of cruises before ours. First, HAL moved our cruise back about two weeks so it would enter the US after the ban on foreign cruise ships entering the US would expire. Then they started canceling the cruises prior to ours, making ours the first sailing of the ship with passengers. Next the Netherlands decided to require visitors arriving from high risk countries (such as the USA) to quarantine for ten days on arrival. It made no sense to arrive early to spend the time in quarantine, so we changed our flights to arrive the day of the cruise departure. Shortly after we changed our flights, the Netherlands cancelled the quarantine requirement, but we decided not to change our flights again.
The other source of worry was that HAL advised that all passengers would be given a COVID test at the pier. If the test was positive, you would not be allowed to board. Also, only fully vaccinated passengers would be permitted on the ship. This made us think we would feel safe on board, but what if we tested positive at the pier??? We decided for sure we would get a test before leaving the States to minimize that risk.
At the time the Netherlands announced the quarantine, they announced the following requirements to enter: proof of vaccination, negative COVID test taken no more than 48 hours before first flight, quarantine declaration exemption for less than 12 hour stay in country, health declaration that we had no COVID symptoms in last 14 days, and a COVID test result document that contained all their required information. Needless to say this was all very stressful.
We took a rapid PCR test on Sunday and had the negative result an hour later. We filled out forms and uploaded them to the United Airlines website where they were quickly approved. At the airport in Wilmington they only looked at our passport and our CDC vaccination card. At our stop in Chicago, they checked all of our documentation and put a red sticker on our passport when we passed.
The Netherlands immigration looked only at our passport. They relied on the airlines to check all the other required documentation. HAL transferred us to the pier where eight booths were set up to take the samples for the rapid antigen test. We were then seated in groups of about 80 people to await our results. When everyone in a group passed, they were released to board the ship. Everyone passed in the three groups we saw released.
We have to wear masks at all times when we are indoors on the ship except when we are eating or drinking. As if you don’t eat enough on a cruise, we are really motivated to be eating and drinking now!
Our first port of call was to be Bruges, Belgium, which is a city we loved seeing on our first transatlantic cruise about 7 years ago. Unfortunately, bad weather forced us to skip that port. Thus our first port, was LaHavre, France. We are presently on the Atlantic crossing. We now have wifi, so I will be posting about our earlier ports.