COVID-vaccinated travelers' benefits. Cruise lines selling ships. Tripadvisor's user warning

By David Tykol
This item appears on page 4 of the April 2021 issue.

Dear Globetrotter:

Welcome to the 541st issue of your monthly worldwide travel magazine, “yours” because it is largely comprised of letters, articles and photographs submitted by you and your fellow subscribers.

One regular reader of ITN, Helen Harper of Mill Valley, California, wrote, “Thanks so much for all your work on this magazine. I love it and eagerly await its arrival each month, especially now that we can only dream and plan for travel, which we hope will be possible again one of these days.”

That day is getting closer. Read on.

With COVID-19 vaccination rates slowly climbing (at press time, about 13% of the US population had gotten at least one shot), many people are wondering what being vaccinated, or not, means for future international travel.

While no country has said, outright, that travelers will need to be vaccinated in order to enter, some countries have plans to make visiting easier for those who are vaccinated.

For example, the European Union countries of Iceland, Poland, Estonia, Romania and Cyprus have either begun, or have announced they would soon begin, allowing travelers with proof of vaccination to skip the COVID-19 testing and quarantining those countries require. However, as of press time, this only covered travelers from the EU, since non-EU residents are still not allowed to travel to EU countries except for reasons deemed necessary.

Georgia, in the Caucasus, began allowing vaccinated travelers entry in February, and, off the coast of East Africa, Seychelles also announced it would allow vaccinated travelers to skip its COVID-19 entry requirements.

Travelers who opt not to be vaccinated but are willing to be tested and submit to a quarantine still will have to get to their destinations. At least one major airline, Qantas, has said that when it begins international service again (scheduled for October 2021), all international passengers will have to present proof of vaccination before boarding any of its planes.

Other airlines might follow suit, if the governments of the respective countries in which they are based should require it. The US government, for one, has not shown any inclination to require airline passengers to provide proof of vaccination.

And if you think you can get around all of that by taking a cruise, well, Crystal Cruises, Saga Cruises, Victory Cruise Lines and American Queen Steamboat Company all have announced that passengers must have been vaccinated before boarding. (American Queen sails only in US waters.)

With the new restriction requiring each traveler to present a COVID-19 test showing a negative result taken no more than 72 hours before entering the US, a number of accommodations around the world, particularly luxury resorts, have begun offering on-site COVID tests to their guests. A few have even gone so far as to offer guests who test positive a full 14-day quarantine stay for free.

If you’re thinking about an overseas stay this year, check with your accommodation to see what coronavirus testing and quarantining options, if any, they offer.

Last month I wrote about the effect the pandemic-caused worldwide travel shutdown has had on the airline industry, citing the average number of passengers processed by TSA agents in US airports in 2019 (2.2 million) versus 2020 (880,000). ITN has since come across the comparative numbers regarding air passengers worldwide.

According to the International Civil Aviation Organization, 4.5 billion people flew commercial or chartered airlines in 2019, but only 1.8 billion flew internationally in 2020. No wonder several airlines (which I named last month) filed for bankruptcy in order to restructure debts.

The cruise industry is struggling as well, resulting in a number of ships being sold.

Some of you may have nice memories of sailing in Southeast Asia, Africa or even Antarctica aboard the “Marco Polo” between 1993 and 2007, when it was owned by Orient Lines. On July 20, 2020, that vessel was sold at auction — to be scrapped — for $2,770,000.

Also sold for scrap — the “Black Watch,” originally named “Royal Viking Star,” then “Westward,” then “Royal Odyssey.”

The “Sea Princess” is still in one piece, but in November it was sold by Carnival Corporation to a China-based company and, renamed Charming, now is sailing for Foresee Cruises.

ITN was unsuccessful in searching for a website that lists names of ships past and present and shows their histories and fates. It would be interesting to browse for familiar names.

If you’re in the habit of posting hotel and restaurant reviews, this next item may be of special interest.

In September of last year, an American was arrested and jailed in Thailand for breaking the law. What was his crime? Defamation. He wrote a negative review of the Sea View Resort & Spa Koh Chang, located on the island of Koh Chang in the Gulf of Thailand, on

After spending six days in prison, the man was released and returned to the US once he made a public apology and said that his review was “false and untrue” and “made to maliciously defame Sea View.” He had been facing two years in prison.

However, in light of the situation, Tripadvisor took the unprecedented step of adding a warning to that resort’s page. It states, “This hotel or individuals associated with this hotel filed criminal charges against a Tripadvisor user in relation to the traveler writing and posting online reviews. The reviewer spent time in jail as a result. Tripadvisor serves its users best when travelers are free to share their opinions and experiences on our platform — both positive and negative. The hotel may have been exercising its legal rights under local law, however, it is our role to inform you so you may take this into consideration when researching your travel plans.”

The resort described Tripadvisor’s warning as “misleading,” contending that it “lacks complete information,” but, at press time, Tripadvisor’s warning was still posted, as was the infamous review, which reads as follows: “Unfriendly staff, no one ever smiles. They act like they don’t want anyone there. The restaurant manager was the worst… He is extremely rude and impolite to guests. Find a [sic] another place. There are plenty with nicer staff that are happy you are staying with them.”

The resort described the review as “fabricated, recurrent and malicious.”

For those of you curious about what the American was doing in Thailand during a pandemic when basically all international travel was halted, he was employed in Thailand at the time. After his arrest, he lost that job.

Just take into consideration the regulations of the country you’re in as well as the political atmosphere before posting a review online.

A CORRECTION to note —

In last month’s feature article on Mali and Burkina Faso (March ’21, pg. 6), the author described a visit to Timbuktu. Following that, the line “Our indomitable pilots flew us safely north to Mopti” should have read “… flew us safely southwest to Mopti.” 

We apologize for this editing error.

As the author reminded ITN, “North of Timbuktu is where the unsafe land largely controlled by terrorists is.”

We’re presenting the first of many “Pleasant Travel Surprises” in this issue. ITN subscribers submitted them in response to a request (Aug. ’20, pg. 15) from Ron Carlson of Lakeland, Minnesota, who provided a couple examples of his own, prompting Jon Lafleur of Kent, Connecticut, to write, “After seeing the reference to the Carnevale parade in Viareggio, Italy, which Mr. Carlson experienced, my next step was to hunt for slides that I took of the parade.

“I think the 49th Army Band based in Vicenza marched in the 1967 Viareggio parade because I have slides of us in dress blues, which we never wore unless we performed (except for my wearing them when I took my mother to La Scala, if you please).

“How lovely to have memories of Europe, because I was to have been hiking in England now.”

Jon’s own story of serendipity will appear in a future issue.

ITN staff — with your help — will continue holding down the fort, looking forward to the day when we’re all clutching plane tickets again to some exotic location. To get us there, continue to send us your thoughts and photos.