This cruise to Canada, New England and New York leaving from Southampton promised to be almost a repeat of our earlier cruise on Sapphire Princess in 2019. The itinerary was slightly different and this cruise was one day longer.
Preparing for the cruise
Just like every recent cruise there was a certain amount of confusion and lack of information of the health requirements. Even worse we were receiving conflicting requirements from both Princess Cruises and various websites.
Our Canadian and US visas were all in place and we had started to “load “all that information onto the Princess Cruise’s MedallionClass app. In the past all this information would have been loaded onto the web. The only information we needed off the website was our luggage tags and a paper copy of the itinerary.
Despite all the advice to the contrary, we decided to book a supervised lateral flow test for the day before we boarded. Earlier, we had been told over the phone by Princess Cruises that this was not necessary. Much to our amusement our travel agent emailed us an advisory email that told us to check the “necessary websites” for information on travel requirements. However, the email did provide a link to the now discontinued UK passenger locator forms! Yet another reason that we now book direct with cruise companies.
After further research, we had added yet another app onto our phones. This was the Visit Canada app (ArriveCan.) This not only covered medical requirements but also entry requirements for cruise passengers. Our Canadian visas were not needed.
On the Sunday before we boarded we received a message in the Princess Cruises MedallionClass app that gave an update on the requirements from the Canadian government. However, sending the message in the app meant that none of the links were clickable!
As well as the Canadian government links Princess Cruises helpfully provided a link to a very useful two page guideline on how to fill-in the ArriveCan app. And reminded us that a supervised negative lateral flow test was required before boarding.
On Wednesday we filled in the ArriveCan app by the loading of vaccination certificates, scanning our passports, entering the ship’s details and all the requested associated ancillary data. The app then displayed a QR code and our emails received an email to confirm success along with a copy of the QR code.
To add further insult, overnight Sky News was reporting that some of the Canadian conditions of entry would be changing at the end of the month. As we were leaving on the 24th we had to assume that these changes would not be applying to us.
A visit to the DAM Covid testing shop in Reading was painless. We were early, no one else was in the shop, so our tests were quickly done and we were on our way in less than 10 minutes. While we were having lunch negative test confirmation emails arrived and we were negative.
We printed the DAM results “just in case“ they were needed at the port. This paperwork was added to our our already printed vaccination certificate, our Canadian visas, and our US visas etc.
We then had to scan the DAM “safe to travel” paperwork into our MedallionClass apps. This then showed a green circle saying we were good to go!
Saturday 24th September 2022: Southampton
So our “paperwork” was:
1. A completed Medallion app showing “Green”
2. A completed ArriveCan app with a QR code showing all in order
3. Our printed NHS Covid vaccination records
4. Our printed US ESTAs
5. Our Canadian visas (not needed on a ship it turned out)
6. And printed versions of the QR code from ArriveCan app
Ocean Terminal, Southampton
The traffic on the M3 was as bad as we had feared. The jam added 40 minutes to our journey. The good news was that the M27 all was clear and we were soon at the Southampton dock gate 20.
After dropping off our suitcases we joined the long queue outside the building. Once inside, we were herded into a Disney style set of barriers with no regard for social distancing. This happened without anyone bothering to look at the “green “boarding status on the Medallion app.
Mask to be worn for at least the first 7 days
As we went up the ramp into the hall we were handed this letter telling us to wear masks on the ship for the first seven days.
24th September 2022
Dear Princess Guest:
Welcome on board Sky Princess. We look forward to sharing this voyage with you.
Here at Princess Cruises, the health and safety of our guests, team members, and the communities we visit is our highest priority.
Due to the length and itinerary of our voyage, out of an abundance of caution, we will be requiring guests on board to wear face masks while indoors for at least the first 7 days of our voyage. We also recommend wearing masks while indoors when ashore on tours and on public transportation.
We recommend you use the complimentary surgical masks we’ve provided at check-in and in your stateroom. If you need a replacement mask, please ask your Stateroom Steward, make a request using CrewCall™ Chat using the MedallionClass app, or call or visit Guest Services.
Please refer to the health advisory from our Chief Health Officer and the other materials in your stateroom regarding the precautions we recommend to safeguard your health. If you develop any COVID-19 symptoms, please immediately notify the Medical Staff by dialling 911.
We appreciate your cooperation. On behalf of all of us at Princess Cruises, we wish you a bon voyage.
Michael Van Nikerk
Senior Doctor, Sky Princess
Check-in at Ocean Terminal
We were then handed masks and herded again into a long queue with again no one looking at the Medallion app. This was the app that we had spent so much time loading all the requested information into. This queue wound its way up and down the hall Again there was no care being taken for social distancing or even mask wearing.
There were lots of staff crammed together both behind desks and behind lecterns. After about seven or eight minutes in the queue we started our processing at one of the lecterns. I was fascinated at the range of checking that took place and the questions that we were asked were so varied. Again no interest in the MedallionClass app!
“Show me your passports”
“Have you a US Visa?“ (But we were not asked to show them)
“Can I see your Canadian Visas from ArriveCan app?“ (This the printed copy of the QR code from the ArriveCan app)
“Let me see your vaccination records “ (At this point I was also fascinated that a page with our third vaccination was not sufficient and we had to show the pages that had our first and second vaccinations!)
“Show me your negative tests “ (Again paper copies)
Note all of this was done using paper, none of the information that we had so painstakingly loaded into the Medallion app that had given us the “Green” status was even looked at!
Throughout all this time we were wearing a mask. The young lady who was so diligently checking us in was less than a meter away was not. As far as I could see none of the folks processing passengers were wearing masks. Even worse we were all crammed together, staff and passengers alike.
After this processing we received a slip of paper and were told to head further down the hall to pick up our actual Medallions.
Security was the usual hassle with the staff pushing us through very impatiently despite the fact that there was nobody behind us. This time I did take off my watch and passed through the security gate with no problems.