Pre-Cruise PrecautionsIt's important to bear in mind two things ahead in understanding how cruising can safely return to Europe at this time. First, Greece has had one of the lowest infection and mortality rates for COVID-19 of any European country -- 4,048 with 197 deaths (compare that with the U.K.'s 54,000 deaths and counting).In other words, Greece appears to have handled the pandemic extremely well, which is a reassuring message for cruisers.The second thing is all tourists have to fill in a questionnaire for the Greek authorities, which then auto-generates an email with a QR code the day before you fly. Travelers are required to present this code at all stages before they arrive (one man was taken off my flight, as he did not fill in the form correctly).At the airport, we had to scan our QR code, then were told either to go left for a COVID-19 test or straight on, which from what I can gather was entirely random. I was sent left. Someone in full personal protective gear stuck a swab down my throat and told me: "If you don't hear from us, then you're fine." (I didn't hear from them.)
Life Onboard the ShipThe ship has a maximum capacity of 49 passengers but is capped at 31 during this period, with two cabins put aside for isolation. Normally, Galileo would be sailing with 75 percent U.S. passengers, but because they are not allowed into Greece, the line has had to pivot toward European markets including Spain, France, Germany and the U.K. as well as the domestic market to make up the numbers.That represents the makeup of our group, with the addition of a Ukrainian family. Most of us work in travel or write about it, with about a third "leisure" passengers.Variety has put in place a strict set of health protocols onboard. Here's what you can expect:
- Before you cruise, you'll fill in a health declaration form and hand that in at check in;
- You'll undergo a pre-cruise temperature and oxygen-level check, both of which will be done daily;
- All crewmembers wear half-face masks, covering their mouth only, including outside and on the Zodiacs that bring passengers from the ship to shore;
- Cabins are sanitised with a cleaning system called "Pure Space" more typically used in hospitals. A water-based machine uses filters to draw in air-based bacteria and germs, sterilising the cabin in three minutes. As well as that, cabin stewards also place a UV lamp (also usually used in hospitals) into each cabin for 20 minutes, eliminating all surface germs.
- There is constant cleaning of all surfaces;
- No self-serve buffet is available. Instead, you point to what you want and crewmembers wearing gloves serve you.