Categories
Cruises

Temptation Cancun Resort and Desire Riviera Maya Resort to Reopen in June

Original Group will reopen its Desire Riviera Maya Resort on June 4 and the Temptation Cancun Resort on June 10. Its Desire Riviera Maya Pearl Resort will reopen on July 1, and any guests booked at this resort will be transferred to Desire Riviera Maya Resort.

Leading up to the reopening, the resort company will implement new sanitation and safety protocols at all three properties.

“We have spent the last month undertaking preparations and consulting with local and international organizations to make sure our enhanced safety measures are up to the highest standards,” said Rodrigo de la Pena, CEO of Original Group. “We look forward to welcoming back guests and are confident that we will all adapt to our ‘new normal’ with minimal disruptions to the Temptation and Desire Experience.”

Temptation’s Sexy & Sanitized and Desire’s Seductive & Sanitized protocols are detailed on each brand’s website in print and in video format.

The new measures include daily health screenings and temperature monitoring of all employees and guests upon arrival; retraining of all employees on new international health and safety guidelines; staff must wear face masks at all times; guests will be given branded face masks upon arrival for optional use; social distancing markers will be set up in common areas such as the lobby for check-in/check-out, and restaurants and bars will have a 50 percent maximum capacity; pool and beach chairs will be 1.5 meters apart.

Sanitation and cleaning will be enhanced to meet new industry standards and those outlined by the Mexican government. Original Group will also be reinforcing all health and sanitation certifications including, Mexico’s Distintivo H and Cristal International Standards.

The company will also be launching new marketing campaigns for each resort: Temptations “Reloaded, Recharged & Sexier Than Ever” and Desire’s “We are Back and More Seductive Than Ever.”

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Categories
Cruises

Scenic scraps summer tours and cruises

Scenic Group
joined the growing list of companies canceling their summer travel season
because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The company has suspended operations for river cruises and
land tours through Aug. 31 for the Scenic, Emerald and Evergreen brands.
Sailings on luxury expedition ship Scenic Eclipse have been halted through the
end of September. 

“Our top priority is to ensure that our guests and crew are
able to travel safely before we resume operations,” Scenic COO Rob Voss said in
a press release. “Although we see some easing of national lockdowns and
progress being made on Covid-19 measures, the restrictions on travel still vary
considerably from country to country, making it difficult to navigate.”

Voss said industrywide health protocols still need further
development.

“Suspending operations through Aug. 31 just makes sense as
it allows more time for those protocols to be developed and gives our guests
enough notice to better plan for their future travels,” he said.

Source: Read Full Article

Categories
Travel

Air France, KLM and Lufthansa make passenger face masks compulsory

Air France, KLM and Lufthansa make face masks compulsory for all passengers – with the carriers stressing filters make cabin air quality similar to that in an operating theatre

  • Air France and KLM say that masks will be compulsory from Monday (May 11) 
  • German airline Lufthansa brought in the new rule on masks yesterday (May 4)
  • KLM has started the gradual restoration of its European network 
  • Filters extract more than 99.99 per cent of the smallest viruses, says Air France
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Three major European airlines have made it compulsory for all passengers to wear face masks during flights in response to the coronavirus crisis.

Air France and KLM say they will be telling customers to wear a mask throughout their journey from next Monday (May 11).

German airline Lufthansa brought in the new rule yesterday (May 4), saying passengers must ‘wear a face mask covering the nose and mouth’.

Air France is to make it compulsory for all passengers to wear a face mask from Monday, May 11

Air France says its face mask policy is in line with French guidelines that say face masks must be worn on public transport.

The airline says all customers will be notified of the new rule prior to departure and will be asked to ‘ensure they possess one or more masks for their trip’. In addition, cabin crew and gate agents will also be required to masks.

Passengers travelling on the airline will also have to practice social distancing at the airport, while Plexiglass screens will also be installed where possible.

Onboard, passengers will be spread out as much as possible, with Air France saying the current low load factors ‘make it possible to separate customers as required’.

Aircraft will also be cleaned daily with surfaces including armrests, tables and screens disinfected. Air France will also introduce a specific procedure for ‘the periodic disinfecting of aircraft by spraying an approved virucidal product effective for 10 days’.

The in-flight service is limited with no meals and drinks offered on domestic and short-haul European flights.

On long-haul flights, cabin service is also limited and preference is given to individually wrapped products.

In addition, the airline says that the air in the cabin is renewed every three minutes as Air France aircraft are equipped with ‘High Efficiency Particulate Air’ or HEPA filters, identical to those used in hospital operating theatres.

Dutch carrier KLM says all passengers will be required to wear masks on its flights until August 31, 2020 

The airline said: ‘These filters extract more than 99.99 per cent of the smallest viruses, including those no larger than 0.01 micrometres, thus ensuring that cabin air complies with quality standards.

‘Coronavirus type viruses, ranging in size from 0.08 to 0.16 micrometres, are filtered through the HEPA filters.’

Meanwhile, KLM’s announced a new face mask policy and the gradual restoration of its European network. 

The Dutch carrier says the mask rules are based on national and international guidelines and must be worn on board and during boarding.

Passengers are responsible for providing their own masks and the rule will stay in place until at least August 31, 2020.

The carrier added: ‘Effective May 4, 2020, KLM will resume service – one daily flight, seven days a week – to the following destinations: Barcelona, Madrid, Rome, Milan, Budapest, Prague, Warsaw and Helsinki.’ 

Lufthansa says passengers are being recommended to wear their masks throughout their entire journey, including in the airport, when ‘minimum distance cannot be guaranteed without restriction’.

Lufthansa says: ‘All Lufthansa Group aircraft are equipped with the highest quality air filters, which guarantee air quality similar to that in an operating theatre. In addition, the air circulates vertically instead of being distributed throughout the cabin’

Passengers must bring their own masks, but the airline also says that simple coverings such as scarves are also acceptable. The policy will be in place until at least August 31, 2020.

Lufthansa said: ‘Despite numerous adjustments to service procedures, it is not always possible to maintain the required distance on a flight.

‘Therefore, this measure serves as additional protection for all passengers. All flight attendants on Lufthansa Group flights in direct contact with customers will also be required to wear a mask.

‘The current regulation of Lufthansa Group Airlines to keep the neighbouring seat free in economy and premium economy class will no longer apply, as wearing the mouth-nose cover provides adequate health protection. Due to the current low occupancy rate, seats will nevertheless be allocated as widely as possible throughout the cabin.

‘In principle, infection on board remains very unlikely. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, no concrete cases of transmission on Lufthansa Group flights have become known.

‘All Lufthansa Group aircraft are equipped with the highest quality air filters, which guarantee air quality similar to that in an operating theatre. In addition, the air circulates vertically instead of being distributed throughout the cabin.’

United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, JetBlue and Frontier airlines have also made face masks compulsory for passengers.  

Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific has not made face masks compulsory – although the carrier says they are available to passengers who want one.

Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific has not made masks compulsory but is handing them out to passengers who want one 

A source at Cathay Pacific told MailOnline Travel that the airline has been making health broadcasts at the boarding gate and recommending that passengers wear a mask.

However, the source explained that 90 per cent of Cathay Pacific passengers are already arriving at airports well prepared and only a small number of passengers need to request a face mask.

Nearly all Cathay passengers are wearing face masks in flight, the source added.

On Qatar Airways, which is still operating between 30 and 50 flights a day, face masks aren’t mandatory – unless they are required to be worn by the destination country.

A spokesman added: ‘We are keeping it under review and following the scientific and health guidelines.’

Other airlines including British Airways and easyJet have not yet taken a position on masks.

A spokesman for British Airways said: ‘Like all airlines – we adhere to industry and regulatory requirements and safety standards. We provide regular updates to our crew on best practise so they can take necessary precautions, and we have put additional measures in place to support our colleagues.

‘These measures are constantly reviewed and enhanced wherever possible and we provide personal protective equipment to our crews on board. Onboard equipment meets UK regulatory standards. 

Airlines including British Airways and easyJet have not yet taken a position on masks

‘We have already made changes on board to reduce contact as much as possible, including temporary changes to our onboard catering, where customers will be offered pre-prepared refreshments, and removing the hot towel service.’

A Ryanair spokesperson said: ‘The empty middle seat measure is wholly ineffective and does not comply with two-metre social distancing rules.

‘We need effective health measures that work, such as wearing face masks and/or monitoring body temperature, which will help to meet health guidelines while allowing airline passengers to travel by coach and train to airports, to pass through crowded airports, and board/disembark aircraft without spreading Covid-19.’

An easyJet spokesperson said: ‘EasyJet is already taking steps to see where we can enhance safety when we restart flights including additional aircraft cleaning and disinfection, procedures in the airport such as social distancing and providing personal protective equipment to our crew.

‘This is being done based on discussions with international aviation agencies, supported by medical advice.

‘We will ensure that we are in compliance with any new regulations set down by the relevant authorities ready for when flying resumes.’

Meanwhile, a Singapore Airlines spokesperson explained: ‘No firm decisions have yet been taken as to additional safety measures that may be required once flying resumes in earnest.

‘There are various options under consideration and details of Singapore Airlines’ plans will be announced in due course.’

Source: Read Full Article

Categories
Destinations

Caribbean Resorts and Destinations Expand COVID-19 Restrictions

Top Caribbean hotels, resorts and destinations followed through with wider closures and shutdowns as COVID-19 spreads globally. The closures come as more destinations across the tourism-reliant region take action to prevent increasing their own coronavirus infection levels.

Two signature Caribbean resort operators were among the most recent COVID-19 victims. Nassau’s Baha Mar resort will suspend operations at 3 p.m. on March 25 until further notice, said company officials in a statement. “We will be working closely with our nation’s government to ensure that we do all we can to support our associates financially over the coming days,” said officials.

“As the global community grapples with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the safety, and well-being of our staff, partners, guests and citizens of The Bahamas are our top priority,” the statement adds.

“During this time, we will be working with reservation holders to refund or reschedule planned stays” at the properties three hotels, the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, Rosewood Baha Mar and SLS Baha Mar. Officials are encouraging guests to “contact your travel professional or the resort directly.”

“The weeks ahead are sure to be trying,” the statement reads, “but we look forward with hope and anticipation to a time when we will welcome our guests and associates back to our property for the spectacular experiences we are known for around the world.”

Sandals Resorts will close its properties between March 30 and May 15, 2020 due to COVID-19, said Gordon “Butch” Stewart, the all-inclusive resort company’s chairman. Sandals operates 19 resort properties in Antigua, Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, The Bahamas and the Turks & Caicos.

The firm’s Beaches Resorts properties will also close during the period, and the company will not accept new reservations beyond March 23. “Never could we have imagined the impact the current global health crisis would have on the world,” said Stewart.

“Now more than ever, the safety and health of our valued guests and team members is of paramount importance.” Stewart said the combination of “recent global travel warnings, coupled with airline carrier cancellations” led to the decision to close the resorts.

Stewart also pointed out that Caribbean destinations and tourism companies have frequently dealt with adversity and have proven their ability to rebound. “The Caribbean is resilient, said Stewart. “We have always come back better, stronger and more passionate than ever. We promise this time will be no exception.

He added, “Our team will be reaching out to you to assist with rescheduling your plans. This way, you can spend less time trying to reach us and more time with loved ones. We will take this time to make further enhancements to our resorts. Soon come back.”

Jamaica’s iconic luxury resort Half Moon also announced it would close temporarily due to COVID-19 restrictions. “We recognize the need to do all we can to ensure the health and safety for our entire Half Moon family: guests, service professionals and community,” said company officials.

“Therefore, we have taken the difficult decision to temporarily close the resort” through May 1, 2020, officials said. Half Moon’s reservations team and website however “remain open for bookings beyond this date range.”

“The company continues to liaise with the government on this situation,” officials add. “We are committed to reopening Half Moon as soon as it is prudent to do so.”

Destination Report

Several Caribbean countries, meanwhile, updated policies and enhanced preventative measures as the illness spread.

The Turks and Caicos has no confirmed coronavirus cases, said officials at the Ministry of Tourism and Tourist Board, yet still implemented new regulations that affect travel to the destination. All air and seaports have been closed and no visitors will be permitted to enter or transit through the Turks and Caicos for 21 days.

Turks and Caicos native and resident returning to the territory are exempt from the border closure, as are emergency, cargo and medical flights and ships. Residents will be required to self-quarantine upon their return.

Martinique has extended earlier-announced restrictions by closing Aimé Césaire International Airport to all international flights on March 23. The same regulations apply to the four other French overseas Caribbean islands of Saint Martin, Saint Barthelemy, Guadeloupe and French Guyana.

In addition Martinique’s hotels and villa rentals “are bringing their activities to a close, while waiting for the departure of their last guests,” Martinique Tourism Authority officials said. New guests will be prohibited and amenities including pools, spa and other activities have been closed.

Additionally, the Martinique Port Authority has halted all cruise calls scheduled for the season and “all maritime transportations are suspended.” Restaurants and bars across the country are closed, and public transportation, along with “all businesses” excepting supermarkets, banks and pharmacies are also closed.

Anguilla also announced a temporary border closure despite a lack of confirmed coronavirus cases. The country closed its air and seaports to “all passenger movements” for 14 days on March 20 “in light of the most recent global developments,” according to a joint statement from the island’s governor and premier.

Source: Read Full Article

Categories
Travel

US and Canada Close Border to Help Stem Coronavirus' Spread

Adding to already-severe travel restrictions in place on international travel, spurred by the global COVID-19 outbreak, President Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cooperatively announced in separate press conferences held this morning that all non-essential travel across the U.S.-Canada border will be suspended.

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There was no indication as to when that ban might be lifted, as the fast-moving threat of the novel coronavirus continues to defy predictions.

President Trump had disclosed in an earlier tweet, ““We will be, by mutual consent, temporarily closing our Northern Border with Canada to non-essential traffic. Trade will not be affected.”

Shutdown of non-essential travel means that both nations’ residents will no longer be permitted to cross the border for purposes of recreation and tourism, as part of a pragmatic approach for limiting communities’ potential exposure to the virus. Trudeau emphasized that “essential travel will continue”, which includes, he said, crossings needed to perform, “essential work and for other urgent reasons.”

Read more about the COVID-19 emergency response package here: https://t.co/u46UZe2x6E

Addressing a media audience, Trudeau also affirmed, “Our governments recognize that we preserve supply chains between both countries. These supply chains ensure that food, fuel and life-saving medicines reach people on both sides of the border. Supply chains including trucking will not be affected by this new measure.”

Just yesterday (March 17, 2020), the European Union likewise announced the closure of its external borders to non-citizens in an increasing effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Source: Read Full Article

Categories
Holiday

Epic luxury holidays near and far in 2020 – A Luxury Travel Blog

There’s no need to avoid making holiday plans in 2020 – and with a slight shift in focus, it might even become one of your best holidays yet. On a luxury yacht charter you are in control of your destinations – where you visit, how much time you spend there and whether you even set foot on land at all. You could spend a week or longer in the romantic Maldives and Seychelles, where it’s only your footprints that are pressed into the golden sands, and there’s no other signs of civilisation for miles.

Instead of trying to fill your short stay with all of the top-recommended attractions, spend quality time reconnecting with family and friends and get to know the environment for its own beauty. There are tons of activities, from water sports and sunbathing to hiking and biking along trails, rock climbing and even paragliding.

Private transportation

From the moment you leave your front door to the moment you return, you can choose to take private transport all the way: A limousine can ferry your group and your baggage to a private jet, and from the airport, it’s even possible to take a helicopter to your yacht. Your personalised itinerary can also have transport arranged for the places you visit during your holiday so that you’re never waiting anywhere for long and have as much time as possible at your destination.

Everything with you everywhere you go

Being away from civilisation doesn’t mean that you are deprived from modern entertainment, and depending on what vessel you choose, you could have much more than just a TV in the cabins: a dedicated indoor or outdoor cinema, a spa massage room complete with sauna and steam room, or even a golf tee with biodegradable balls are all possibilities above and beyond the typical sunbeds and Jacuzzi.

Your yacht is your transport, entertainment centre and accommodation all rolled into one. And with a professional chef preparing every one of your meals while you savour the sunshine or play games together, the only time you might want to leave is to have a private beach party or to explore along the coast with the water toys.

Distant shores

The world of luxury yachting has opened up significantly over the past decade, and there are expedition yachts travelling as far south as Antarctica and up to the beautiful wildernesses of Greenland & Svalbard. When you want to leave all your cares far, far behind, then these destinations are a great way to see rare sights and spend quality time with family and friends.

Alaska is an awe-inspiring landscape home to the stunning blue-white Hubbard Glacier and the incredible Misty Fjords in the Tongass National Forest. Brown bears, otters and eagles call this land home and you can kayak and hike along the coast to connect with this powerful place in-person. Once you’re back on board, warm up with facilities such as a hammam or sauna, or dip into the Jacuzzi on deck to continue gazing at this chilly wonderland in perfect warmth and serenity.

Greenland & Svalbard has its own marvels, including natural hot springs, fresh-fallen powdery snow for dog-sledding and other winter sports, kayaking amongst glaciers and the mesmeric Northern Lights that are best experienced at the end of summer into the early autumn.

Indonesia is arguably the world’s best Scuba diving destination with various sites for all ability levels and richly rewarding encounters with brightly coloured species. The innumerable islands also make it possible to spend time on the beach without ever encountering another group of people, and the same can be said for the archipelagos in French Polynesia.

The Galapagos Islands are perhaps the most alluring: Home to exotic creatures such as the Galapagos Turtle, marine iguana and the unusual blue footed booby. The Galapagos is a treat for photographers and painters as well as water sports lovers who will want to swim with golden cownose rays, king angelfish and possibly even the Galapagos penguins as they explore thriving coral reefs that have been untouched by human habitation.

Doorstep delights

It might be time to dispel the notion that you have to cross the world for a sensational and satisfying holiday, and instead discover why visitors the world over come to your own shores.

The Mediterranean is certainly the world’s favourite yacht charter grounds come summer, but Northern Europe has its own treasures that entice a steady stream of visitors into the Baltic Sea: The Norwegian Fjords have spectacular waterfalls made from melting winter ice, and there are isle and islets where you will be able to rest upon the beach and enjoy snorkelling and other water sports in complete privacy.

History lovers and children with active imaginations will be enthralled by the imposing ruins of castles and watchtowers along the shores, and when you want to step ashore and see more of the towns and cities, there are local beer festivals, markets, and boutique shops to be done. Antwerp is famous for its diamond district – and the delectable Belgian chocolates are enough to tempt you to spend a day in port. Across the English Channel, the Cornish coast is well known to the nation for its picturesque scenery, warm summer weather and golden sand beaches that can compete with any in France. Snorkel and Scuba dive in clean clear seas, and for a treat, have Devonshire scones in one of the quaint Cornish villages.

 

New England is gorgeous at any time of the year, but a visit between summer and autumn will capture the fine weather for time at the beach, and for exploring the Acadia National Park and the art and brewery trails by bike. Fishing enthusiasts and Scuba divers also have much to keep them occupied, while kayakers can use the towering lighthouses as landmarks as they paddle along the coast.

The Caribbean & Bahamas have a plethora of islands to make your own over the summer, however Bermuda is gorgeous alternative laced with pink sand beaches, turquoise waters and fantastic spots for water sports away from the rest of the world.

Don’t miss out on the sunniest days of the year and make 2020 your best holiday with loved ones yet.

Trina Howes is a Director of CharterWorld America. CharterWorld is a luxury private yacht charter company that creates outstanding vacations with excellent yachts at amazing prices – worldwide.

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Categories
Travel

Disneyland and coronavirus: Can you cancel a hotel reservation? What about park tickets?


Disneyland in California and Florida’s Walt Disney World Resort are taking extra precautions against the coronavirus. 

a group of people standing in front of a building: Get Happy at Disneyland

Both amusement parks are open amid concerns about the new COVID-19 coronavirus, although Disneyland properties in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Shanghai have been closed as a preventive measure. Shanghai Disney Resort reopened a “limited number of shopping, dining and recreational experiences” on Monday after closing for a month.

The U.S. parks said they are continuing to monitor the situation and follow recommendations from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Pamela Hymel, chief medical officer of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, wrote a post on the Disney Parks blog detailing how the parks are taking actions against the coronavirus.

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How Disney parks are responding to coronavirus

“COVID-19, commonly known as novel coronavirus 2019, has become a more widespread concern,” Hymel wrote. “As part of our commitment to the health and well-being of our cast, guests and the larger community, we are carefully monitoring the evolving coronavirus situation and are in regular contact with health agencies for information and guidance.”

“Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort are welcoming guests as usual and we continue to implement preventive measures in line with the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other health agencies.”

Disneyland and Disney World are following these safety protocols:

  • Frequent cleaning and disinfection of walkways, queues and other areas.
  • Increased availability of hand sanitizer and more hand-washing stations.
  • Daily sanitation of restrooms, kitchens and other facilities.
  • Ongoing training for employees.

Can you cancel your Disneyland hotel?

You could pay a penalty if you cancel your hotel reservation on short notice.

Guests who cancel at least five days in advance receive a full refund, according to a blog post on Disney’s website. But you will forfeit the first night’s room rate plus tax if you cancel four or fewer days before you’re scheduled to arrive.

If you booked a vacation package, you must cancel at least 30 days in advance to avoid a cancellation penalty. A $200 fee will be charged if you cancel between 29 and two days prior to the reservation. No refunds are given for cancellations within a day’s notice.

Questions? Call the Walt Disney Travel Company at 714-520-5060.

We’ll update this story if any of these policies change.

Can I get a refund for my ticket?

Theme park tickets “and associated features and entitlements such as Disney MaxPass are nonrefundable, nontransferable, revocable and may not be redeemed for cash,” according to Disneyland’s website.

One-day tickets purchased ahead of time online can be used on a date other than the one you selected. According to Disneyland’s website, ticket pricing varies by date and is divided into tiers.

“A ticket is valid for one single-day admission on any date in the tier you select or on any date in a lower tier,” according to Disneyland’s ticketing page.

So, if you had to reschedule your trip, your ticket would be valid on another day that still has availability for tickets at or below your price point. Tickets purchased this year must be used by Dec. 30, 2021; however, the value of an expired ticket can also be used toward the purchase of a new ticket.

The highest pricing option, Tier 5, can be used on any day. Lower tiers have blackout dates. Should you visit on a day with higher tier pricing, the value of your ticket can be applied toward an upgrade at a guest relations booth; you will pay the cost of the difference between the tickets.

The same policies apply to multi-day tickets, which “expire 13 days after first use or on Jan. 12, 2022, whichever occurs first,” according to Disneyland’s ticketing site.

Coronavirus safety advice

More than 100 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in California, with two deaths reported as of Tuesday.

“Mass gatherings and large community events bring people from multiple communities into close contact with each other and have the potential to increase COVID-19,” according to the California Department of Public Health. “One method to slow the spread of respiratory virus infections, including COVID-19, is by increasing social distancing (reduce close contact).”

Good practices include:

  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoiding touching your face.
  • Staying home when exhibiting symptoms of illness.
  • Disinfecting surfaces regularly.
  • Covering a cough or sneeze with a tissue.
  • Washing hands for more than 20 seconds.


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Categories
Travel

How and why I cancelled our trip due to coronavirus concerns



a rainbow in the sky

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As the old Kenny Rogers song goes, “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, know when to run.” These words very accurately portray the scenario that ultimately led us to cancel our scheduled trip to Fairbanks, Alaska, due to the coronavirus and its real and potential implications.

While we acknowledge and respect that some people are still pushing forward with their travel plans, let me tell the other side of the story. I’ll share both some background information on the nature of our trip and the personal and societal factors that came into play that made this a wrong trip at the wrong time situation. While we were confident that Alaska was as safe a destination as any, it was largely the rapidly changing status of the situation and the travel process that elevated our concerns.

The trip that could have been



Artistic rendering of lights that we hoped to see. 


© Painting by C.L. Cope

Artistic rendering of lights that we hoped to see. 

We had considered Finland, Greenland, Norway and Canada as possible viewing destinations, but decided on Northern Alaska because of our familiarity with the area, the comfort of known commodities and name brands, the relative ease of access and good flight values using our American Airlines miles. We booked our MileSAAver round-trip airline travel for only 30,000 AAdvantage miles each on American’s partner, Alaska Airlines. The cash price would have been around $700 per person.

We did our due diligence in acquiring good information and viewing tips to increase our odds for a successful sighting. Dark skies are good, so we looked for new moon phases. Historically speaking, equinoxes are better than solstices for solar activity so we entered that into the equation. Allowing at least three nights statistically increases the chances, as does an area that is far enough north to be included in the preferred auroral zone.

Our personal computer, the Human Brain 2020, came up with Fairbanks, Alaska, for four nights with the dates of March 21–25. We were pleased with our decision and excited for the journey.

And then…

Enter, coronavirus

A new virus, coronavirus (COVID-19), was first reported in China and, well, you know the rest of the story. People are quarantined, travel is restricted, some cruises have waited off the coast with confirmed cases, virus has spread, deaths are sadly in the thousands, states of emergency are being enacted, countries are being locked down, big events are being canceled, unanswerable questions are being posed, uncertainty continues to grow and anxiety levels are rising by the day. We are now two months into this quandary and there are as many interrogative sentences as there are declarative ones.

We, like most others, had become concerned and proactive. We became professional hand washers and hand sanitizers.

We looked warily at those people sneezing or coughing. We avoided big crowds. We opened doors with our sleeves and pushed buttons with our knuckles. We have purchased face masks (here’s what you need to know about their effectiveness) and stocked up on basic foodstuff. You know, just in case. We followed the news and advisories — but all that by itself wasn’t enough to make the call on this trip.

As the outbreak continued to spread from its center of origin throughout our global community, we realized about a month ago that our trip to see the northern lights was in jeopardy.

The days came and went and we put our trip into a mental holding pattern. We wanted to take this adventure but, pardon the pun, we did have reservations.

We didn’t want to either overreact or dismiss the obvious — so, we waited. Sometimes patience is the best course of action. We very much hoped — for everyone’s sake — that the spread of the virus would somehow abate, that the crisis and its accompanying fear would lessen and that calm would follow the storm.

However, over the weekend, the equation continued to tilt toward scrubbing our own personal mission.

Age is a factor

As I’m sure you know, this novel virus strikes those in the most “experienced” age bracket the hardest. This is especially true if there are pre-existing health issues present. All in our travel party are 70+, or very close to it, and one has an underlying health issue. I am personally in my 72nd year on this fine planet, which lands me in the more concerning coronavirus statistics category.

Even with window seats and a game plan to wipe down all local surfaces, we still had doubts about flying for 18 total hours inside the very close quarters of an aircraft’s fuselage. There is no place to run, no place to hide inside the skin of a 737.

Oh, and I’d be lying if I didn’t mention that we had a long layover in Seattle, which unfortunately for all involved, is in an area that has thus far been one of the hardest-hit areas of the country.

Canceling the trip

We knew that if we decided to forego this trip that our hotel and car reservations would be easily cancellable with no financial repercussions. We had deliberately avoided making nonrefundable reservations for everything except the flights themselves.

While all major U.S. airlines are waiving change fees for the most recent flights purchased to encourage the flying public to continue to book travel, the same was not guaranteed for pre-outbreak reservations. We hoped a blanket policy to change all reservations would become a reality. However, we ran out of time to wait and see. (Note that since this writing, Delta has become the first major U.S. airline to formally announce that previously made reservations will be more flexible.)

Not knowing how the call would go, we dialed up American Airlines to discuss our options. We knew there could be a long wait as there often is even in periods of less volatility — and indeed, we were advised that there was an unusually high volume of calls and that all agents were busy helping others. However, instead of being placed on indefinite hold, we were advised we could get a call back when our place in line came up instead of holding an estimated 58 to 120 minutes. 

We got the call about an hour later and I was prepared to relay our story and our concerns. However, Katrina, the customer service rep, advised us that since we booked with miles, we could cancel the trip with no fees involved and the points would be credited as an unused flight.

To keep from losing the miles, we just had to book a trip by December of this year. That was it. Simple and straightforward.

Our traveling partner had booked her flights slightly differently than we had. She had used a mix of Chase Ultimate Rewards and cash to book the same Alaska Airlines-operated flights as us. She had to spend an afternoon listening to some slightly soul-crushing hold music, was hung up on after two hours and started again. Her journey to cancel started with Chase, where she made the reservation, but she was ultimately directed to Alaska Airlines where a supervisor became involved to approve canceling the current reservation without penalty. She will have one year from the date of booking to use the total value of the flight with Alaska Airlines. Getting points returned was not an option.

It wasn’t a pleasant experience, but she was told that the wait time is likely only expected to get longer in the days ahead as the number of coronavirus based cancellations increases.

Bottom line

We are both sad and relieved with our decision to unplug the lights on our Alaskan journey. We are very sad that the situation exists, but relieved that we may have lessened our exposure and vulnerability by hunkering down for a bit. We did not cancel out of knee-jerk panic, but rather with an abundance of caution and an ounce or three of prevention. Given all factors, for us, it was the right call.

We will put the northern lights back on our to-do list knowing that they will still be wafting ethereally long after this virus has taken its proper place in the medical history books. We will be thrilled and excited to stand in the cold, dark Alaskan night gazing at the heavens watching the dancing and darting lights waving at us from on high. It is going to be spectacular.

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay tuned.

WATCH: Should coronavirus concerns keep you from traveling? (Provided by TODAY)


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