ST. MAARTEN_After almost two, long, painful years, Pam and I are on an actual cruise. Pinch me — is it real?
Yes, I can see the hotels, buildings and sandy beaches of this dual-nationality nation (Dutch and French) across the blue waves from our balcony.
This is the first stop for World Navigator, a brand new ship from a brand new cruise line, Atlas Ocean Voyages. For the next 10 days, we’ll sail the Caribbean, visiting multiple islands while we get acquainted with all this ship has to offer.
As we all know, taking a cruise these days isn’t as simple as parking at the terminal and walking onboard. With the COVID pandemic came a host of new protocols and procedures. Since this cruise embarked from St. Maarten, that included something else we haven’t done in a very long time: Flying.
Our first order of business was obtaining a negative COVID PCR test result within 72 hours of our departure. This is not only required by the cruise line, but also by the St. Maarten Health Department, which stipulates all visitors must be pre-approved through their online travel portal.
For the test, timing is the tricky part. You have to make sure you get the results back within that 72-hour window. Using the St. Maarten travel portal was also a challenge, since they didn’t include Atlas in their cruise ship dropdown menu. Both were cause for a fair amount of pre-cruise stress.
Happily, we got the results back in time and they were negative. And with the help of the cruise line, navigated the portal requirements and obtained our pre-approval.
With those printouts in hand, the next step was getting from our home in North Palm Beach to the Miami airport during morning rush hour. For international flights, we had to get there two hours prior, so that meant a 5 am wakeup. Thankfully, Atlas provided an excellent car service that, despite the usual I-95 congestion, got us there in plenty of time.
We all have our nightmare stories about getting through airport security, but this time it wasn’t too bad. Just be prepared to show your passport, which we had to do at least a half a dozen times.
The flight to St. Maarten, while uneventful and smooth, was completely full, with even less space for your legs than the last time we flew. Not fun. Then w
We got through immigration with our paperwork in fairly short order. After gathering our luggage, a group of us all going on the cruise assembled at a bus and we off to the terminal.
At the terminal, the ship’s doctor gave each of us a temperature check and another rapid test for COVID (our noses pleading for “give me a break”), and then, finally, we were welcomed on the ship.
While it’s all made travel more tedious and stressful, there is peace of mind knowing your fellow passengers and crew are all vaccinated and COVID-negative.
Now it’s time to explore this beautiful new ship, the first new luxury-category ship built in 20 years, according to Atlas. Their motto is “All Inclusive, All the Way,” and we can’t wait to see what “luxe-adventure” expedition cruising is all about.
PHOTOS: Credit Gerry & Pam Barker
Pam ready to board World Navigator
Immigration check-in at St. Maarten
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