We are just one month shy of two years since we were hurried off a cruise ship in Auckland and sent packing because of the nascent pandemic. Everyone was scared and bewildered. Now we are panic-weary and longing for a return to some sort of normalcy, which is why we are thrilled to be on a cruise ship again. But we are taking baby steps, not dance steps. “Please note that dancing is not permitted in public areas across the ship.” Viking appreciates our understanding, even if we don’t understand. Is dancing as contagious as Omicron? Has anyone had to visit the ship’s physician with the rockin’ pneumonia or the boogie woogie flu? Have people been shocked doing the Electric Slide? Rick asked if this is a Baptist cruise.
We are sailing up the coast of Norway in search of the Aurora Borealis. We had originally scheduled this cruise for this time last year. Better late than never, right? Everything seems rather normal except we are still wearing masks. We felt pure elation as we exited the jetway in Bergen and saw bare smiling faces. Norway tossed out all Covid rules on February 12, but our joy was shattered as we approached the Viking transfer bus and saw nothing but a sea of masked faces. On the ship, we are required to wear masks when we are outside of our suite. The ship is just over half full; apparently lots of would-be fellow travelers weren’t willing to jump through all the hoops we encountered trying to get to this point.
We were tested within twenty four hours of leaving the USA, completed reams of paperwork, downloaded all sorts of apps, and answered the same questions repeatedly. We were pleased and comforted that all of the forms and websites and apps are concerned about our privacy, even if we don’t believe it for a minute. When checking in at the airport, the agent asked to see our vaccination cards. Rick got a bit testy with her, replying,”Why do you ask? Does Delta require that we be vaccinated?” She replied, “No, but Norway does.” He informed her of Norway’s revised Covid policy as of 12 February 2022, but I really don’t think she believed him. As soon as we arrived at the ship’s dock in Bergen, we had to spit into a tube for a PCR test, which was a terribly humiliating process since we were surrounded by a large group of strangers. We had to proceed immediately to our suite to wait there until we were deemed uninfected. It took six hours to get those results and by then, we had lost total interest in exploring the ship. Rick was fast asleep.
We have three tests to do daily: 1) a PCR spit test, 2) a health questionnaire on our TV, and 3) a temperature check. We have to wear a round white gizmo attached to a lanyard around our neck everywhere. It is magically linked to our passports and, in the event that we come into close contact with someone with the virus, the gizmo will let the ship’s staff know who and where we are. State of the art contact tracing. Just imagine the uses for this technology. OK, don’t do that if you want to sleep tonight. With very little effort, everyone can think of a few applications that are just a wee bit nefarious. And speaking of hoops to jump through and outrages to endure, believe it or not, they actually have two sinks at the entrance to the World Cafe. I simply refuse to wash my hands in front of the crew. Like the late great Meat Loaf sang, “I will do anything for love, but I won’t do that.” If we are “all in this together,” why are adults being treated like children? What’s next? Will someone be checking under our fingernails? Where does it stop?
But I get it. Everyone hates bad publicity. The cruise line doesn’t need days and weeks of headlines telling the world that their ship is a floating super spreader, so we have to comply if we want to cruise. But I think it is important to me to put this in writing so that we will remember this horrible, sad episode when the next iteration comes along, if not in our lifetimes, surely in our children’s or grandchildren’s lifetimes. I think that, for now, we just play along and look forward to the day when Covid-19 is in the global rear view mirror. But don’t forget.
Today we will glide along snow covered trails pulled by a team of huskies. How cool is that? For a couple of Southerners, it kinda makes jumping the hoops worthwhile.