Last summer my husband and I started talking about taking a cruise, just the two of us. I had attended the Global Travel Marketplace earlier in the summer, and Castle Dreams Travel vendor list was growing… now seemed like the best time to venture out of our comfort zone.
First we needed to decide on which cruise line and which ship, then when are where to go. We are already planning on taking our family onboard a Royal Caribbean Cruise Line vacation this summer, so we ruled them out. We have also already cruised on Celebrity, NCL, and Princess Cruise Lines.
I have toured 2 MSC Cruise ships and on my last tour, fell in LOVE with the MSC Meraviglia. It’s just a beautiful ship with so much to do and lots of small spaces to enjoy live music as well as two Cirque du Soleil shows performed during the sailing. MSC also participates in a Status Match program where MSC matches your loyalty status from other cruise lines, hotels and tour operators. Their loyalty program, MSC Voyagers Club, offers their members onboard credits, a Welcome Back cocktail, complimentary fruit, gifts, thermal sessions, priority embarkation and disembarkation, exclusive parties, and more. Well, we are Platinum Castaway Club Members on DCL, which translates to Diamond in Voyagers Club. At this level we can expect a complimentary specialty restaurant “Tasting Menu” dinner for two, Complimentary spumante with chocolate-dipped fruit, courtesy toweling bathrobe and slippers available during the cruise, a Complimentary dance class, and late stateroom check-out at disembarkation. SWEET!
It wasn’t hard to convince Mike that this was the way for us to go. We booked a cruise during the same week our daughter will be home from college, so she can help out with her younger siblings. That week, there is an amazing cruise on Meraviglia to the Southern Caribbean- it was perfect!
We booked a balcony Bella room with the Easy Drink package. We added spa appointments, Cirque tickets with specialty drinks, excursions, WiFi to stay in touch. About a month before our sailing, we were upgraded to a Fantastica balcony stateroom on deck 11.
Ocean Cay, their private island, also looks amazing…
We even had a bid to upgrade to their Yacht Club Level accepted and we were very excited to board on March 15th and be greeted by our butler in an exclusive lounge onboard, have lunch in the exclusive restaurant on board, and even relax on their private pool deck during sail away.
Fast forward to Mid-March.
Coronavirus hits the news. All day. Everyday.
We were still determined to go.
We are in our forties, healthy, and have no underlying medical conditions that should keep us home. The CDC warns against cruising for those with underlying conditions or who are elderly. My kids might say we are old- but 45 is not the age the CDC is referring to. A recent World Health Organization report on more than 70,000 cases in China found that 80% of all COVID-19 cases were mild to moderate, with people over 70 being the most likely to develop a serious case. Most people who were diagnosed originally have recovered already with little or no intervention.
Yes, we have travel insurance. Castle Dreams Travel has not found an insurance company that will cover cancellation due to “concern” over Coronavirus. Insurance is really about illness of your immediate family or something else like weather etc, that either prevents you from traveling or interrupts your trip. It won’t cover fear. Nor should it.
Then on March 13th, our cruise was cancelled.
We had actually cancelled the night before as the uncertainty of the Coronavirus wasn’t something we felt we could leave our family for and MSC had a 48 hour cancellation policy in order to receive a future cruise credit.
Jet Blue refunded our flights with a future flight credit.
Hilton refunded our pre-night stay as well, to our credit card we paid with.
MSC offered us a 100% future cruise credit as we cancelled before the cruise was officially cancelled. If we would have waited until it was officially cancelled, we would have gotten 125% credit or a full cash refund.
We already booked a cruise next June for our entire family to sail to Puerto Rico, Saint Thomas, and the Dominican Republic aboard MSC Meraviglia- that FCC will come is super handy now that we are all 5 sailing. We booked 2 balcony staterooms at the Aurea level- which includes the easy drink package, massages, unlimited access to the spa’s thermal area, a private sundeck with pool that also a nice bar in that area excusive for Aurea guests and wait service, and a private restaurant- not quite the Yacht Club, but still very special.
This is Top 19, the exclusive sun deck for those sailing in MSC Meraviglia’s Aurea level:
Now that’s the good.
Kinda, I guess.
But what about the bad?
Yup, I cried- I hated having planned this getaway for nearly half a year and it felt like it was time wasted. By the time March 1 came, I was absolutely yearning for this vacation. I was counting the days down, watching videos on line and reading everything I could. First world problem, I know. I am sure the tears were also for all of the uncertainty going on right now. We live in a multigeneration home, our college aged daughter is now home having to finish her 4th semester online, our High School Senior is mourning the loss of her HS Musical and the possibility of her prom and graduation being cancelled, and my 7th grade son trying to navigate online learning. I have had extreme feelings of panic, continuous anxiety, cried, screamed, yelled , and still don’t entirely feel better. Add Mike now working from home…. it’s a lot. It’s a lot for all of us.
We will travel again. I am hopeful our May Walt Disney World vacation will go off without a hitch. We also have a Royal Caribbean Cruise scheduled for this summer I am hoping will be something we can all enjoy again as a family as well. Mike and I will reschdeule some time away too, we just need to be a family unit now and plan things for the future together and appreciate that while we can.
Fun Fact, that first picture in this blog post is of MSC Meraviglia docked in Miami on March 15th. I should have been boarding with my husband that day… we will, soon enough.