Cunard Queen Elizabeth and covid protocols (Feb 2022)

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  • MartynSinclair
    Participant

    A 7-night cruise on “QE” and the covid protocols. I joined a small party of 5 onboard the QE which involved 3 countries. Boarding in Southampton, visiting Portugal and Spain. My intention is not to provide a ‘cruise review’ but explain covid protocols for a multiple destination itinerary as well as presenting life on board the cruise ship with all the current, Cunard, covid protocols.

    Pre-Departure – it is now common to create wallet files with locator forms, medical certificates, tickets, boarding passes and other documents. Different from flying as the passenger locator form for arrival back into the UK can be applied for before you leave the UK. I was warned/advised, that if I wanted to leave the ship in Lisbon or Vigo, I would have to submit a locator form, 3 days in advance of arrival at each port. There was also talk of lateral flow tests each time you left the ship and each time you boarded the ship. The ‘penalty’ for testing positive, pre boarding at any port, you would not be allowed to re board the ship. That alone was sufficient to dissuade any of my group from wishing to go ashore.

    I went via taxi from London to Southampton. Arrived at 12.00 noon. First stop was the compulsory lateral flow test. Had I driven myself this would have been carried out in the car before I self-parked. As I travelled in a taxi, I was asked to walk around the outside of the terminal and enter the back of the terminal, where you generally collect your cases post cruise. The only problem, it was pouring with rain. There was an attempt by Cunard to provide some protection, but I entered the screening area, soaked to the skin as did most people, including those in wheelchairs. There were lots of Cunard staff at points along the way (naturally, all inside and protected). I was asked for my passport continuously; someone would look and pass it back. The line did move quickly.

    Having suffered multiple swobs in the nose since travelling restarted, this test though did surprise me as the nurse only swabbed the base of my nostril, max ¼ of an inch up. More of a tickle than the sharp pain. The nurse noticed my surprise and just said this is the way it is meant to be done.

    Then up to the departure hall, to wait for the result, which came through within 20 minutes via text. Before I could approach the check in desk, I was again asked for my passport, which was scanned to bring up details on the handheld screen of yet another checker. Here I was asked a further 5 questions about whether I had any symptoms of covid. I can not imagine, getting this far in the boarding process, answering in the positive to any of the questions. Finally check in and yet another scan of all documents. Then on to the end of hall, ready to board. This time though, pre security, it was only the boarding card needed – the cruise card would be waiting outside my cabin (or stateroom).

    I was curious about the number of people who had been refused boarding. I was told the previous days sailing, out of 3,000 guests, only 15 had tested positive and most of them had travelled to Southampton via coach. Less than 0.5%.

    Now a link to Pat Jordan’s thread about security staff. Security had an air of casualness with the person shepherding me through to the machines asking “Which of the Herbert’s behind were part of my group” – I just thought an unnecessary comment, security is meant to be taken seriously.

    All in all from arrival to boarding, it took 1 hour 20 minutes. Not too bad.

    Life on board – covid protocols – please bear in mind these were Cunard’s protocols, not Government rules. In the main they were 100% respected – although there was always the odd person that would need reminding. What was good to see was all staff, in all areas of the ship were not backwards in reminding people of the covid protocols.

    Mask wearing – 100% observed and required walking about all areas inside the ship, except when seated in restaurants and bars. Outside on deck, mask wearing was not mandated.
    Theatre – wow I said no cruise reviews, but the Top Hat show was remarkable. Masks did have to be worn in the theatre and there were staff enforcing this protocol even during the performance. There was always a space between 2 seats, so groups of 3 and larger were not able to sit next to each other. Even in the theatre boxes, where you there was a large plastic screen in front of you, masks had to be worn.

    Disco and Zumba –in the Queens room, the Zumba and keep fit dancers (lots of them) were able to Zumba away with no masks, as were the disco dancers in the area of the Yacht club.

    Lifts – all lifts limited to 4 people max and this was the only area where there was some ‘argy bargy’ with some passengers saying, I only need to go 1 floor up. Most though respected the 4 people rule. However, inside the Cunard terminal on disembarkation, people were being crammed into the terminal lift down to the baggage hall.

    Lisbon/Portugal – I didn’t go onshore and when asked, I did not get a clear answer about what was needed in terms of locator forms and lateral flow testing to come back onboard.
    However…..

    Vigo/Spain – here was the big surprise – I was assured all that was needed was the Cunard cruise card, no passport, no proof of vaccine, no lateral flow, no passenger locator form – presumably the Spanish authorities realised to get a cruise card you would have been checked. Cruise guests (and their dollars) were freely welcomed into Vigo – a pleasant bit of normality returning. I did go ashore for a run, with only a cruise card in hand. That was a first, entering a foreign country with no credit card/passport/mobile phone…. Felt very strange… but in some ways, very normal…

    Senior Officers/cocktail parties – not one senior officer was seen during the 7-day cruise and no cocktail parties. It was explained that the senior officers and the Captain were considered sufficiently important that they needed to be isolated at all times from the passengers.

    Ships tours / chefs’ parade – there were no behind the scenes tours and the final gala evening and parade of the chef’s did not happen. Although, every day in the Queens room there was the usual parade of the waiters serving the cream tea (and not that I attended a cream tea every day!!)

    Drink receipts at bars – the Cunard protocol appears not to provide a drinks receipt unless requested. As it happened, this was not a problem, I checked my bill on the app and I was always charged the correct prices. My end account was virtually as I had imagined.

    Dining – the big change in the (non-grills) dining room was the freedom dining for the second sitting, meaning you were not limited to an 8.30pm second sitting, but could virtually turn up any time from 7.45pm. On the one hand this was great because it did provide dining flexibility which previously was only available to the upper end grills restaurant (Cunard being one of the few ships that maintains a class system on board – with equivalent to economy, premium economy, business and first for dining options). On the other hand, it was difficult to fully create/enjoy a dining experience with the same waiter. My group did manage to maintain the same waiter and dining area for the entire period, and we gladly tipped him and his assistant as they provided service that went beyond what was expected. A smile and getting to know each other always helps with those off menu items sometimes required. For information, I was in the ‘economy’ section.

    Quarantine rooms – navigating through the ship was made harder by several areas being designated, although not marked as such, for quarantine. The give away were the closure of the storm doors and if you did go through, the meal trays outside the rooms. These areas were created, not so much for passengers but for returning staff who were all required to remain in room quarantine for 4 days when joining the ship. As far as we were told, there were no passenger infections during our cruise – however, whether this was correct or not, I had no way of finding out.

    Summary – I may not have agreed with all of Cunard’s covid protocols, but I accepted them as I would entering a client’s office or a friend’s home. The only difficult protocol for me was the mask wearing in the theatre, with so many seats clearly marked not for use, the limited number of people and the vast space of the QE’s theatre, mask wearing didn’t make much sense. It was hard to understand how up to 150 keep fit fanatics were all able to Zumba in close proximity in the Queens room, but them were the rules!

    The ease of getting onshore in Vigo, after all the warnings about testing and firm filling, does show covid protocols can change and very quickly.

    As far as the internet was concerned, sadly, I had to attend a virtual funeral whilst in the midst of the approaching storms whilst sailing around the bay of biscay. The wifi reception, picture and sound quality were excellent, very high quality picture and sound.

    The weather did cause itinerary changes, but all in all a very pleasant 7 days at sea in a cruise line that was only 2/3rds full.

    I did book my favourite 14 day cruise (New York back to back) for next year (on QM2). Cunard do have some very aggressive onboard pricing that came out cheaper than using my usual cruise agents, even though Cunard still give the existing cruise agent a commission for managing the new booking made on board.

    5 users thanked author for this post.

    FormerBA
    Participant

    Martyn

    This could not have been more timely as I am about to embark to New York (Queens Grill Penthouse, in a few weeks) I would hope that by then some of the more draconian requirements might be relaxed, given that the UK regulations have been abandoned.

    Having just got back from Austria I was grateful for the lack of mask wearing here in the UK, but I did like the requirement to show a vaccine pass everywhere.

    Did Cunard make providing Vaccine documents easy and in advance?


    MartynSinclair
    Participant

    Did Cunard make providing Vaccine documents easy and in advance?

    Vaccine certificates were only requested at the pre boarding LFT and at check in. Once on board, the only ‘document’ asked for was my cruise card to charge items..

    Enjoy QM2 – would love to hear how you enjoy the Queens Grill…


    esselle
    Participant

    Martyn

    This could not have been more timely as I am about to embark to New York (Queens Grill Penthouse, in a few weeks) I would hope that by then some of the more draconian requirements might be relaxed, given that the UK regulations have been abandoned.

    Having just got back from Austria I was grateful for the lack of mask wearing here in the UK, but I did like the requirement to show a vaccine pass everywhere.

    Did Cunard make providing Vaccine documents easy and in advance?

    I hope you’re right about relaxation of Covid rules, but as Cunard is American owned I imagine it will be US rather than UK rules which apply.

    Either way, hope you have a great trip.


    FormerBA
    Participant

    A very brief comment from on board QM2 on day 4 of our crossing. There is expensive but poor quality internet!

    Covid testing on departure was reasonably efficient and then the dreaded wait for results. While waiting names were being called and I was advised this was to get confirmatory PCR tests. Result were delivered by text in 20 minutes and you could check in.

    From next week passengers are expected to get private tests done before arriving at Southampton.

    There is no word yet on New York protocols when we arrive on Sunday.

    Masks are mandatory except when eating,on deck or in stateroom. Bit of pain and rigorously enforced.

    My penthouse stateroom is superb and Queens grill is excellent. Ordering off menu has been welcomed,if not encouraged and I don’t think I’ve eaten from the main dinner menu once.

    I am on a table of 8 and it was set for 8 at lunch on Sunday. Now just 6 and we suspect the testing regime filtered them out. Less than 1700 on board and service has been excellent.


    DannyBoy
    Participant

    For anyone new to cruising and needs tips or advice, I strongly recommend watching the Emma Cruises Youtube channel. She has lots of knowledge and experience of cruising around the world and the channel has lots of reviews and Q&A’s.


    FormerBA
    Participant

    No checks on arrival in New York. Off the ship and through immigration in 10 minutes.

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