Only vaccinated to Bahamas. COVID on a Carnival cruise. Some travel insurers won't cover trip interruption in countries rated Level 4 by CDC.

By David Tykol
This item appears on page 4 of the October 2021 issue.
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Musician playing the saxophone near the port of Nassau, New Providence Island, The Bahamas, Caribbean.

Dear Globetrotter: 

Welcome to the 547th issue of your monthly worldwide travel magazine, which is largely reader-written.

If you were about to mail us a travel report or article, take note. We’ve moved! Not far. Just two doors away. The new address is 2122 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818.

When ITN started, all the way back in 1976, it was headquartered at 2120 28th Street. Decades later, ITN jumped next door to a 2-story structure at 2116, and our Subscription Department took over the 2120 building for a while until moving to nearby Carmichael last year. (See back cover.)

With our latest move, it feels like we’ve come full circle. Following a bit of renovation, the 2122 property just suits us a little better.

Let’s get to the news….

On Aug. 18, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) extended the US’ federal mask mandate requiring that all passengers wear masks on public transportation in the US, including on flights both international and domestic. Having been set to expire on Sept. 13, 2021, the mandate now runs through Jan. 18, 2022. It also requires wearing masks in transportation hubs, such as airports.

Regulations on the use of masks on transportation outside of the US may differ, and masks may still be required in some countries even if the US’ own mandate should expire in January, so be sure to check on requirements at your destination before departure.

Whether cruise passengers should be required to be vaccinated for COVID-19 remains a controversial subject in the US, but the discussion will be rendered moot in regard to some destinations.

While the governor of Florida has made it illegal for businesses in that state, including cruise lines, to require customers to be vaccinated, The Bahamas, a popular destination for cruises out of Florida, has mandated that all cruise passengers arriving on its shores be vaccinated. Any ship carrying unvaccinated individuals will not be allowed to stop at a Bahamian port. The mandate was scheduled to last until at least Nov. 1, 2021.

While vaccinations and testing have been quite successful at preventing COVID infections on cruises (Royal Caribbean has estimated that the infection rate on their cruises is less than two passengers out of every thousand, with about 10 people a week being prevented from boarding due to positive test results), there’s still the potential for outbreaks.

The largest COVID-19 outbreak during an international cruise departing from the US occurred in early August aboard the Carnival Vista, sailing round trip from Galveston, Texas, to Belize. In total, 27 people tested positive: one passenger and 26 crew members. The cruise line had all passengers and crew tested in Belize four days into the cruise after the passenger began experiencing symptoms.

Unfortunately, the cruise achieved another milestone, as the ill passenger, identified as a 77-year-old woman from Oklahoma, later died from complications of the disease, becoming the first American cruise passenger to die from COVID since cruising restarted earlier this year. The 26 crew members experienced no or mild symptoms.

A Carnival Cruise Line spokesperson said the company did not believe that the passenger contracted COVID while on the cruise but did not say when or where the crew members may have become infected.

At the time of the outbreak, the ship was carrying 2,895 passengers and 1,441 crew. She was sailing under CDC regulations requiring that at least 95% of the passengers and crew be vaccinated. On this cruise, those percentages were 96.5% for passengers and 99.93% for crew (only one crew member was not fully vaccinated). Each of the infected people had been vaccinated.

It is worth nothing that only 0.6% of the ship’s total population tested positive, despite the close quarters.

After being informed of the positive tests, Carnival immediately implemented a mask rule for indoor areas of the ship, something that had not previously been in place. The company also updated the boarding policy for all of their future cruises to require that each passenger provide proof of a negative COVID test taken no more than three days before boarding, even if they are vaccinated. Before the Vista cruise, Carnival was not requiring negative tests from vaccinated passengers.

Something to keep in mind —

During this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, your travel insurance may not protect you if you’re planning to visit one of the countries with the most serious outbreaks.

The Centers for Disease Control have created a rating system based on the threat of COVID-19 in countries and territories around the world, with Level 1 indicating a low risk and level 4 a high one. Visit www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/map-and-travel-notices.html. (A fifth rating, “Level Unknown,” is reserved for countries or territories where the CDC does not have enough information to accurately rate the risks.)

Similar to how the US State Department ranks the safety of countries in its Travel Advisories (travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories.html), the CDC highly recommends that you do not travel to a country rated Level 4 for COVID, though no one is prevented from doing so by any US government agency.

Travel insurers are paying close attention to these ratings and, in some cases, are specifically adding provisions into their policies stating that any person who travels to a Level 4 country will not be covered for trip interruption, regardless of whether it has anything at all to do with COVID.

When considering purchasing insurance for a trip, check both whether your destination is ranked Level 4 on either US agency’s list and whether the insurance you are purchasing disclaims protection for travel to Level 4 countries.

Note that if your destination is not rated Level 4 at the time you purchase your insurance but becomes Level 4 post-purchase, you most likely are protected unless the policy specifically mentions that your protection is nullified in that case.

Though your insurance may not cover your trip-interruption expenses if your trip is interrupted in a Level 4 country, if the insurance includes medical coverage, then that should remain in effect, even if you need to use that coverage because you contracted COVID. You won’t, however, be able to claim anything except the cost of your medical care and, if necessary, medical evacuation.

In a related note, except for “Cancel For Any Reason” coverage, no insurance allows anyone to make a trip-cancellation claim because of a State Department or CDC travel warning or out of fear of catching a disease. This is true even if a disease outbreak prompts an insured person to cancel because he has conditions that put him at high risk. Several ITN readers discovered this when canceling their trips in 2020.

A CORRECTION to note —

The first part of the Travel Brief “Vaccinated Americans welcome in Canada” incorrectly stated, “On July 19 Canada announced that, starting Sept. 7, 2021, fully vaccinated travelers from the US will be allowed to enter the country by land or air….”

It should have read as follows: “On July 19 Canada announced that, starting Aug. 9, 2021, fully vaccinated travelers from the US will be allowed to enter the country by land or air. Vaccinated travelers from other countries will be allowed entry starting Sept. 7, 2021….”

ITN regrets the error.

ITN readers have always been a special lot.

One of your fellow ITN subscribers, Jonathan van Bilsen, hosts a travel show for a Toronto-based television network. On the show, “photosNtravel,” Jonathan guides viewers around the globe, visiting the Eiffel Tower, exploring Namibia, wandering with Druids at Stonehenge and more.

There are currently 17 episodes available, and you can view them on YouTube by searching for “Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosN travel” or visiting photosntravel.com.

Our subscribers’ trip reports add the color to this black-and-white magazine. Email yours to editor@intltravelnews.com or try out our new address: ITN, 2122 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818. Comments and inquiries are also welcome.

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.
Musician playing the saxophone near the port of Nassau, New Providence Island, The Bahamas, Caribbean.

Dear Globetrotter: 

Welcome to the 547th issue of your monthly worldwide travel magazine, which is largely reader-written.

If you were about to mail us a travel report or article, take note. We’ve moved! Not far. Just two doors away. The new address is 2122 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818.

When ITN started, all the way back in 1976, it was headquartered at 2120 28th Street. Decades later, ITN jumped next door to a 2-story structure at 2116, and our Subscription Department took over the 2120 building for a while until moving to nearby Carmichael last year. (See back cover.)

With our latest move, it feels like we’ve come full circle. Following a bit of renovation, the 2122 property just suits us a little better.

Let’s get to the news….

On Aug. 18, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) extended the US’ federal mask mandate requiring that all passengers wear masks on public transportation in the US, including on flights both international and domestic. Having been set to expire on Sept. 13, 2021, the mandate now runs through Jan. 18, 2022. It also requires wearing masks in transportation hubs, such as airports.

Regulations on the use of masks on transportation outside of the US may differ, and masks may still be required in some countries even if the US’ own mandate should expire in January, so be sure to check on requirements at your destination before departure.

Whether cruise passengers should be required to be vaccinated for COVID-19 remains a controversial subject in the US, but the discussion will be rendered moot in regard to some destinations.

While the governor of Florida has made it illegal for businesses in that state, including cruise lines, to require customers to be vaccinated, The Bahamas, a popular destination for cruises out of Florida, has mandated that all cruise passengers arriving on its shores be vaccinated. Any ship carrying unvaccinated individuals will not be allowed to stop at a Bahamian port. The mandate was scheduled to last until at least Nov. 1, 2021.

While vaccinations and testing have been quite successful at preventing COVID infections on cruises (Royal Caribbean has estimated that the infection rate on their cruises is less than two passengers out of every thousand, with about 10 people a week being prevented from boarding due to positive test results), there’s still the potential for outbreaks.

The largest COVID-19 outbreak during an international cruise departing from the US occurred in early August aboard the Carnival Vista, sailing round trip from Galveston, Texas, to Belize. In total, 27 people tested positive: one passenger and 26 crew members. The cruise line had all passengers and crew tested in Belize four days into the cruise after the passenger began experiencing symptoms.

Unfortunately, the cruise achieved another milestone, as the ill passenger, identified as a 77-year-old woman from Oklahoma, later died from complications of the disease, becoming the first American cruise passenger to die from COVID since cruising restarted earlier this year. The 26 crew members experienced no or mild symptoms.

A Carnival Cruise Line spokesperson said the company did not believe that the passenger contracted COVID while on the cruise but did not say when or where the crew members may have become infected.

At the time of the outbreak, the ship was carrying 2,895 passengers and 1,441 crew. She was sailing under CDC regulations requiring that at least 95% of the passengers and crew be vaccinated. On this cruise, those percentages were 96.5% for passengers and 99.93% for crew (only one crew member was not fully vaccinated). Each of the infected people had been vaccinated.

It is worth nothing that only 0.6% of the ship’s total population tested positive, despite the close quarters.

After being informed of the positive tests, Carnival immediately implemented a mask rule for indoor areas of the ship, something that had not previously been in place. The company also updated the boarding policy for all of their future cruises to require that each passenger provide proof of a negative COVID test taken no more than three days before boarding, even if they are vaccinated. Before the Vista cruise, Carnival was not requiring negative tests from vaccinated passengers.

Something to keep in mind —

During this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, your travel insurance may not protect you if you’re planning to visit one of the countries with the most serious outbreaks.

The Centers for Disease Control have created a rating system based on the threat of COVID-19 in countries and territories around the world, with Level 1 indicating a low risk and level 4 a high one. Visit www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/map-and-travel-notices.html. (A fifth rating, “Level Unknown,” is reserved for countries or territories where the CDC does not have enough information to accurately rate the risks.)

Similar to how the US State Department ranks the safety of countries in its Travel Advisories (travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories.html), the CDC highly recommends that you do not travel to a country rated Level 4 for COVID, though no one is prevented from doing so by any US government agency.

Travel insurers are paying close attention to these ratings and, in some cases, are specifically adding provisions into their policies stating that any person who travels to a Level 4 country will not be covered for trip interruption, regardless of whether it has anything at all to do with COVID.

When considering purchasing insurance for a trip, check both whether your destination is ranked Level 4 on either US agency’s list and whether the insurance you are purchasing disclaims protection for travel to Level 4 countries.

Note that if your destination is not rated Level 4 at the time you purchase your insurance but becomes Level 4 post-purchase, you most likely are protected unless the policy specifically mentions that your protection is nullified in that case.

Though your insurance may not cover your trip-interruption expenses if your trip is interrupted in a Level 4 country, if the insurance includes medical coverage, then that should remain in effect, even if you need to use that coverage because you contracted COVID. You won’t, however, be able to claim anything except the cost of your medical care and, if necessary, medical evacuation.

In a related note, except for “Cancel For Any Reason” coverage, no insurance allows anyone to make a trip-cancellation claim because of a State Department or CDC travel warning or out of fear of catching a disease. This is true even if a disease outbreak prompts an insured person to cancel because he has conditions that put him at high risk. Several ITN readers discovered this when canceling their trips in 2020.

A CORRECTION to note —

The first part of the Travel Brief “Vaccinated Americans welcome in Canada” incorrectly stated, “On July 19 Canada announced that, starting Sept. 7, 2021, fully vaccinated travelers from the US will be allowed to enter the country by land or air….”

It should have read as follows: “On July 19 Canada announced that, starting Aug. 9, 2021, fully vaccinated travelers from the US will be allowed to enter the country by land or air. Vaccinated travelers from other countries will be allowed entry starting Sept. 7, 2021….”

ITN regrets the error.

ITN readers have always been a special lot.

One of your fellow ITN subscribers, Jonathan van Bilsen, hosts a travel show for a Toronto-based television network. On the show, “photosNtravel,” Jonathan guides viewers around the globe, visiting the Eiffel Tower, exploring Namibia, wandering with Druids at Stonehenge and more.

There are currently 17 episodes available, and you can view them on YouTube by searching for “Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosN travel” or visiting photosntravel.com.

Our subscribers’ trip reports add the color to this black-and-white magazine. Email yours to editor@intltravelnews.com or try out our new address: ITN, 2122 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818. Comments and inquiries are also welcome.