Guest Blog: Traveling During COVID-19
November 6, 2020
Curious about what it’s like to travel to the Caribbean right now? Read on to find out more.
One of our Travel Account Managers, Megan Kreitzer, recently traveled to Iberostar Selection Rose Hall Suites in sunny Jamaica. From pre-departure prep to her flight and her time in destination, Megan gave us the lowdown on what it’s like to travel during COVID-19.
Five days before leaving for Jamaica, I had to submit a travel authorization application with the Jamaica Tourism Board. This is becoming increasingly common practice with Caribbean destinations, although each country has their own standards and protocols. I’d recommend checking your destination’s website before you leave, as requirements are constantly changing and you want to make sure you have everything you need before you go.
As a Canadian, I wasn’t required to submit COVID-19 test results with my application. After submitting my application, I was instantly approved and sent an electronic certificate to present to airport authorities and airline employees at my departure gateway.
Next, I downloaded the resort’s mobile app and completed their online check-in. The Iberostar app was a great resource that included everything from their activities and fitness class schedule, to restaurant menus and hours of operation. The app also included a detailed outline of the resort’s COVID-19 safety measures and protocols.
Twenty-four hours prior to my departure, I completed online check-in for my flight.
When I arrived at the airport, I was asked to sanitize my hands and present my Jamaica travel authorization certificate. I showed them my certificate digitally, but since the staff have to document the code, I would recommend bringing a printed copy as well.
My travel authorization certificate was checked again at the security gate, and my temperature was taken. Everyone wore a face covering in the airport, the terminal and while on board the plane. After takeoff, Air Canada CleanCare+ kits were distributed which included hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes and a disposable mask.
Soft drinks were served during the flight, and we could remove our face coverings while drinking or eating. Prior to landing, Jamaican immigration documents were distributed, which included a pre-screening COVID-19 questionnaire.
When I arrived at Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, security were located around the terminal directing travelers to desks for COVID-19 screening. I handed in my immigration forms, received another temperature check and answered some additional in-person questions before making my way through security.
My Air Canada Vacations representative was waiting for me at the airport exit and led me to a small transfer bus that only had two other travelers on board, and we headed out to Iberostar Selection Rose Hall Suites.
After arriving at the beautiful Iberostar Selection Rose Hall Suites, my baggage was taken to be sanitized before being brought to my room. I had my photo and temperature taken by a special device in the lobby and sanitized my shoes on a special sanitizing mat.
Check-in at the front desk was through a plexiglass divider. After getting my room keys, I headed to the concierge desk (also with plexiglass installed) to book my dinners for the week. Every staff member was wearing a crisp white mask.
When I arrived to my room, most non-essential items had been removed to keep things sanitary. Only three soft drinks and two beers were stocked in the mini-bar and there was no in-suite coffeemaker. The lack of coffeemaker ended up being for the best, as I got to enjoy delicious coffee and snacks at their Star Café every day!
Dining options were limited to one restaurant per night (of the six that normally operate), and three of their six bars were closed due to the limited number of guests.
Of the options that were available, the service and food quality were outstanding. The team at the lunch buffet not only noticed my dietary restrictions but also started making me special meals – they even made me ackee and saltfish! I was also a regular at the resort’s beachfront snack spot that offered unlimited jerk chicken, fries and salads – perfect for a mid-afternoon bite.
During the week I was at the resort, I only saw a handful of other foreign tourists, a few small wedding groups and some locals.
Excursion options were limited to mostly water-related activities. My first excursion was an evening at Luminous Lagoon in Falmouth Bay, just 20 minutes east of the resort. The bioluminescent lagoon is one of just a handful in the world, and the water glows a blue-green color when disturbed.
Swimming in the glowing lagoon was a unique experience and one I’ll never forget! My second excursion was a morning at Dunn’s River Falls, the island’s famous waterfall near Ocho Rios. Hand hygiene was taken very seriously at the falls, as they had recently installed lots of handwashing stations and hand sanitizer stands which guests were encouraged to use.
The falls themselves were beautiful, and the rocks are scrubbed regularly for the climber’s safety.
After a week in paradise, it was time to head back home. The return to Sangster International Airport was straightforward, and the same couple that was on the previous transfer joined me. The flight back was easy and occupancy was at around 25-30%.
After disembarking in Toronto, I submitted another questionnaire in the arrivals corridor. There was a short queue to pass through immigrations and I was asked some additional questions on how I would get home, how I’d get food and supplies and whether or not I understood the mandatory 14-day quarantine requirement.
As per current Canadian government requirements, I took my own vehicle home from the airport and didn’t stop anywhere on the way home. I ordered groceries and supplies through contactless delivery to my door and didn’t leave home or have any visitors for 14 days. If you’re currently working from home, the quarantine isn’t much of an inconvenience.
Was travelling at this time worth it (for me)? Absolutely! I am fortunate to be working from home, am healthy and have a living situation that allows me to easily quarantine for 14 days.
Only you can decide what’s best for you – although the week of sun and sand was certainly worth it!