Travelers' Intercom

The Celebrity Equinox docked in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. Photos by Wanda Bahde

I took the “Ultimate Southern Caribbean Cruise” aboard the Celebrity Equinox of Celebrity Cruises (Miami, FL; 888/751-7804,, Dec. 22, 2021-Jan. 3, 2022.

Initially, I felt safer on board than I did in our local Walmart. All passengers were required to have received COVID vaccinations, test negative no more than 48 hours before departure, answer a pre-boarding health questionnaire and not have a fever when boarding. Masks were not required on board, and hand sanitizer was everywhere.

Our first two ports — St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands,...


During three months of heavy travel in late 2021, I experienced difficulties when it came to the COVID-19 testing, tracing and reporting requirements imposed by multiple countries. Here are some choice examples of what a nightmare it was to comply with a few countries’ COVID-entry requirements.

The Kingdom of SAUDI ARABIA required visitors to download an app called Tawakkalna. The app, which also acts as a COVID-contact tracer, provided a QR code that had to be shown when entering airports, museums, restaurants, etc. As instructed, I...


I used the COVID-19 travel downtime to renew my passport for planned travel at the end of 2021.

My renewal started totally routine. I filled out the DS-82 form online ( and printed it, as instructed. Then, on Sept. 22, I mailed the form and my passport, with a $170 check for expedited renewal, to the P.O. box address of the National Passport Processing Center in Philadelphia, as instructed, using second-day delivery. (They warn you not to use FedEx, as only the US Postal Service can deliver to P.O. boxes.)


A shot of the Matterhorn taken from our balcony at Hotel Testa Grigia in Zermatt, Switzerland. Photo by Donna Pyle

Flying from Denver to Zürich on Sept. 11, 2021, my husband and I spent 10 nights in Switzerland, then nine nights in Italy attending a photo workshop in the Dolomites before flying back to Zürich for an overnight (and COVID testing) prior to our flight home on Oct. 3.

Observance of COVID protocols was much stricter in Switzerland than in Italy.

In Switzerland, we weren’t allowed to eat or drink indoors without showing proof of vaccination. Proprietors told us they could be fined CHF10,000 (near $10,900) if they were caught violating this rule. Our CDC COVID vaccination...


My wife and I take frequent trips to foreign locations. We regularly travel business class because the additional room and services we receive are worth the extra cost. We also value the fact that, when taking an international flight in business class, we can use the business-class lounge before departure.  

It was therefore a considerable surprise to learn, when we checked in at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport for a flight to Fiji via Los Angeles in January 2016, that we would not be allowed to use the American Airlines Admirals Club lounge there. ...

At 2,351 meters above sea level, the Azores' Mount Pico is Portugal's highest mountain. Photo by our guide Filipe

For our second post-vaccination trip (the first was to Egypt and Jordan [Aug. ’21, pg. 10]), my wife, Susan, and I chose the Azores, a mid-Atlantic archipelago that is an autonomous region of Portugal. We liked the idea of visiting a temperate climate during a hot summer.

The only nonstop flights from the East Coast to the Azores were via Boston on Azores Airlines (, so we decided to drive to Boston and later do a post-Azores New England road trip.

Our round-trip airfare was $1,845. Our flight from Boston to Ponta Delgada, Azores’ capital on...

Inbound kestrel. Photos by Donna Pyle

ITN is temporarily accepting brief write-ups about the US. Information on independent travel. cultural and traditional sites and sources of handmade crafts plus little-known natural wonders are welcome. Avoid touting commercial theme parks, casinos or highly publicized touristy sites.

Email or write to Travelers’ Intercom USA, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818.


Back in the 1990s, I was given a copy of the old WPA (Work Projects Administration) guide to my home state of Iowa. These guides were written during the...

In Samarkand, Uzbekistan, on special occasions, Registan Square is lit at night. Photo by Nick Stooke

While my wife, Michaele, and I traveled with a group through the Five ’Stans with JMG Tours (Lauderhill, FL; 866/548-4238, in April 2017, we came across one of Central Asia’s most impressive restorations of medieval Islamic architecture: Registan Square in the city of Samarkand, Uzbekistan, along the old Silk Road.

Its three madrasas had been the hub of the Timurid Empire Renaissance. The square was a place where royal proclamations were read and where special celebrations (and executions) were conducted.

The buildings had been allowed to...