I should be on a cruise heading towards Mexico right now. I’d probably be sipping a drink on the pool deck watching the gorgeous sunset on the sea.
But fate had other plans for me and I had to cancel my cruise because I caught Covid before my cruise began.
I was scheduled to sail on the Brilliance of the Seas on January 8 for a 5 night sailing to Mexico. I snagged a super cheap cabin last month. My bags were packed and I was ready to go.
‘Tis the Season
I was happy to spend my Christmas back home in South Dakota with my family. My husband is deployed and this cruise was giving me something exciting to look forward to, which I was desperately needing after my husband deployed. My dad was nice enough to fly down to me in Florida to help me drive 20 hours back with our pups.
I couldn't watch TV or look at my phone without seeing news about rising Covid cases and the new Omicron variant. However, after 2 years of not catching Covid, I was starting to feel kind of invincible.
I went to multiple weddings, bachelorette parties, concerts and music festivals last year. My husband and I traveled to Ireland in October and we cruised to Alaska over the summer. With a combination of vaccines, some precautions and a little luck, we had avoided getting Covid throughout the entire pandemic.
With cases in the Midwest remaining fairly low, I felt pretty safe with our holiday gatherings. Almost everyone in our family was vaccinated and most had received their booster. I still wanted to lay low and avoid unnecessarily risk leading up to our cruise, just to be extra safe.
Cruises in the Media
With the rising cases of Covid across the US, I read many stories of vaccinated people getting Covid. The media started blowing up with stories about cruises getting denied in ports, returning early and sailings getting canceled.
Some family members asked if my sister and I were still planning to cruise. We both agreed that we were comfortable cruising. With vaccine requirements and health protocols, we agreed that being on a cruise is not more dangerous than living our normal lives.
We reviewed Royal Caribbean’s current cruise protocols and felt that the cruise line was doing everything they could to mitigate the spread of the virus. They also had great policies and procedures in place if you test positive onboard.
I made lots of cruise and travel plans over the next few months to keep myself busy while my husband is deployed. At this point, I was more worried about testing positive unexpectedly during my travels than I was about getting super sick.
Just a cold?
The holidays come and go - we’ve been busy with dinners, brunches and even a pretend royal tea party with my cousin’s three little girls.
My mom tells us one morning that she has a stuffy nose and scratchy throat. After a few days though, she is quickly on the mend; so that truly didn’t seem to be more than a cold.
Shortly after New Year's Eve, my sister wakes up with a mild sore throat. This isn’t surprising, as my cousin’s kids are always sick with colds because they’re little. My sister takes a rapid test at home before we see my grandparents for brunch.
Her test comes back clearly negative, so it must just be a cold.
A few days later, I woke up feeling more tired than normal. I hadn’t slept well so I figured that was why. I napped over my lunch break and went to bed early.
The next morning I woke up feeling a tad stuffy with some light congestion. I have allergies, so this isn’t unusual. Being tired for me isn’t unusual either, as I never sleep that great - and the holidays were exhausting.
My sister tested negative so I figured if anything, I had what she had. We’d been sharing some food and drinks before she got her cold.
It’s Tuesday morning. We planned to leave on Thursday to start making our way to Tampa from the Midwest. Our upcoming trek involved a quick visit with friends before flying down to the sunshine state and boarding our ship.
Around 2pm, I started to feel a tad achy in my legs and lower back. It was nothing major, but I have become hyper aware of any symptoms at this point.
I started to get conflicting thoughts about whether I should take a home test or not.
My Internal Conflict
I’ve tested myself for Covid numerous times over the last year. Some of these tests were needed for travel; other tests were ones that I did at home when I didn’t feel well.
I thought back to all the other home tests that I’ve done last year. Honestly, I felt way more sick every other time I took a home test than I did today with these very mild aches. My nose wasn’t even stuffy this time.
I started to feel conflicted.
Was I being overactive? Should I waste a home test that I diligently searched around town trying to find? My sister didn’t have Covid, so why would I have it?
If it was Covid, that meant I couldn’t go on the cruise. Royal Caribbean’s policy is currently that you can’t board any of their ships if you’ve tested positive in the last 14 days.
Part of me just wanted to wait until Thursday when we would start our trip. I would probably feel better by then anyway. I work from home so I could easily lay low and get rest.
Honestly, I was scared to get confirmation of what I feared.
My legs were unusually sore. It’s been blistering cold in the Midwest so it certainly isn’t from being active outside or taking the dogs on their 5-minute walk around the block. I had influenza a few years back, and my legs had a similar achy sensation (although this was much more mild).
I started to think about the worst case scenario. If it was positive, at least I have a few days to cancel everything. I am at my parent’s home where it’s comfortable to be isolated.
I also knew in my heart that it would be best to find out now rather than hope whatever I had would run through me before on the cruise. I didn’t want to risk spreading anything to friends or family. It would be better to find out now at home than potentially find out on the cruise ship.
Home Test Results
Before taking the dogs for a brisk walk, I took out one of my home tests. Luckily, I had stocked up before Christmas in anticipation of the spike in cases.
I swabbed my nose as instructed and also swabbed my throat since that’s where my congestion was.
Every time I’ve hyped up myself that I probably had Covid, the tests always came back negative. I dropped my sample into a rapid test and ran downstairs to change before taking the dogs out.
In the midst of getting the pups ready to go, I glimpse over at the test on the counter. My mom jokes to me that I am not even sick, so why would I take the test?
I looked down to see 2 red lines on the rapid test.
I literally gasped. My heart sank.
It was positive.
I had a flurry of emotions. First I am surprised, as I really didn’t feel that sick. Then again, I guess I am not super surprised, the case rates around the US are rising like crazy. My mind is all over.
Even though I may feel fine now, my symptoms might worsen. I have no idea how long I’ve actually been sick.
I quickly realized there was no way we could cruise. Royal Caribbean’s Covid policy is clear: If you test positive within 2 weeks of your cruise, you aren’t able to sail.
I told my sister to take another rapid test, as I am sure she will test positive too. She takes another test and it comes up negative, again! I had her take a second one; that also comes back negative.
This was very confusing, as she had more respiratory, classic Covid symptoms than I did. Regardless, we wouldn’t be cruising with my positive test.
Luckily, canceling the cruise was very easy. I alerted our travel agent of the unfortunate news. She asks if I prefer a refund or cruise credit. Since this is Covid related, and per Royal Caribbean’s Cruising with Confidence program, we are eligible for a full refund so I opt for that.
The Right Choice
Obviously, it was a huge bummer that we caught Covid and couldn’t go on the cruise. In the end, it was the right choice to take the home test when I started to question if I was showing Covid symptoms.
In the grand scheme of life, we are lucky to have very mild cases, which I am confident is because we’ve had our vaccines and boosters.
My sister’s symptoms have lingered a bit longer than mine. Today, the day we should have been boarding our ship, she tested positive for Covid as well. I am feeling almost 100% today, although I was fatigued most of the week.
But, it was better to be safe and proactive than sorry. Testing positive at home is much more comfortable and easy than having Covid while traveling.