Friday, August 7, 2020

Trek through Yellowstone Park, Covid times, yields familiar pleasure

NATION'S FIRST AND OLDEST NATIONAL PARK TREASURE DRAWS NATIVE DAUGHTER BACK AGAIN

 Bison grazing and the steam of geysers in the background, two classic Yellowstone attractions.Covid can't diminish the pleasures. 


STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER 

 Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers in Yellowstone.
The two make an annual trip now for the 14th year.  


Ranger Don demonstrates a new extendable arm prototype at Yellowstone's South Entrance
An extension "arm" is used by rangers to share Park maps.

A PILGRIMAGE through Yellowstone National Park in "Covid times," takes adjusting to. But the nation's first national park is still glorious.
First, though, you'll be greeted by a masked ranger.  Instead of handing park maps and updates with a bit of welcoming chit chat, he or she slides the papers through an opening with a special extension arm, and appropriate distancing.
We missed some of the most visited attractions of the park, hoping to make another trip later when autumn casts its golden cloak over this beautiful part of our world.
THE UPPER Geyser Basin is part of every visit, since Yellowstone has nearly half of the world's geysers.
It's still a wonder to behold, even though one approaches with a mask.  We miss making pleasant eye contact with happy people from all over the world. It's fun to observe the surprised expressions and satisfied smiles. Covid masks hide them but we know they're there.
A drive up to Lake Hotel and a stroll to the lake is a must for us, even when we're not staying there. The beautiful lobby usually features live music and the restaurant is the most elegant in the park. Lovely Lake Hotel was built in 1891 and is the oldest operating hotel in the park. Some rooms are closed, but we found one for $365, if you're interested.  There are cheaper places to stay, though, including the nearby Lake Cabins. 
 

 The graceful 1891 architecture of Lake Hotel captivates, here the veranda.


   

 An elk gives a bird a ride and a rest near our favorite Roosevelt Arch

COVID-19 mitigations at Old Faithful
 Masking is part of park protocol, here at Old Faithful.
ONE OF OUR favorite Yellowstone spots is  that colorful exit through Mammoth and Gardiner where we always pose by the iconic Teddy Roosevelt Arch. This triumphal north entrance arch symbolizes to me the enduring aspect of the park, even with  Covid.   We also visit Grand Canyon's Artist Point view of the Lower Falls, always full of cars and campers, but we find fewer people at Lookout Point, a stunning vista of the falls, closer to Canyon Village with an active osprey family.  We enjoyed a hike into Fountain Pots near day's end, when crowds thinned.  Early morning and late afternoon are the best times to see the wonders,  including bison aplenty.
GUESTS ARE for the most part practicing physical distancing, but that's tough when people are eager to see the waterfalls, critters or geyser spoutings.
The park's management, Xanterra, has  implemented extreme hygiene protocol in the lobbies, at registration desks, counters and food areas.  We saw sanitizers all around, at check-in stations, reception areas, hotel lobbies, restaurant entrances, elevators and exercise areas. Hard surfaces and public spaces are cleaned twice as often, we were told by a reception worker.  Room cleaners at Lake Hotel spend particular time with high-touch areas.  Unlike past summer before the virus, it is possible to book a "short notice" room.   
CHECK WEBSITES though, because offerings are changing daily. As of this posting, select lodging is available at Old Faithful Inn, Canyon Lodge and Cabins, Lake Yellowstone Hotel, Grant Village, Old Faithful Snow Lodge, Old Faithful Cabins, Lake Cabins, and Mammoth Hot Springs. Gateway towns offer lodging, too, in West Yellowstone, Big Sky, Cooke City, Red Lodge, Livingston and more. Check usparklodging.com/yellowstone/ or hotels.com

 The Sibelius Monument in Helsinki honors the famous composer.

UP NEXT: There are  plenty of places hurting from the decline of the travel industry. But Scandinavia is opening up and Finland will begin admitting foreign travelers again next week. On Aug. 11. Many restrictions are removed or lessened. With that good news, we take you to Helsinki, Finland’s southern capital. A highlight for us is the Sibelius Monument, honoring the great composer. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a fresh look at travel, nature, family and the arts: whereiscookie.com

Friday, July 31, 2020

Home on the range, COVID style: Montana's changed, nature remains

 
In the distance, center stage, Cookie greets the morning sun, mowing the lawn at High Chaparral, flanked by the mountains.
BACK AT BELOVED COUNTRY PLACE WITH ONE DOG, TWO SUITCASES, AND 250 MASKS

Nick is an only child now, and much 
cherished by Cookie since Nora's passing.
Oh give me land, lots of land, and the starry skies above
Don't fence me in
Let me ride through the wide open country that I love
Don't fence me in
Let me be by myself in the evening breeze
And listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees
Send me off forever but I ask you please
Don't fence me in-- Cole Porter

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

MONTANA IS WRESTLING with the changes wrought by the COVID virus.  But it's still possible to ride through the wide open country that we love, listening to the murmur of the cottonwood trees.
We were waiting for the state to mandate the wearing of masks, so when that finally happened a few weeks ago, we packed our bags and headed home.
We set off from San Diego, leaving the Pacific behind, headed east to
"the real west," our wonderful Montana, COVID-19 precautions,
 hoping for considerate encounters enroute.

Leaving the Pacific Ocean behind, we drove into eastern California, through verdant irrigated farmland, into the prairies and desert of Nevada, up into Utah's red rocks and craggy canyons, then through Wyoming with its familiar brush and sunburned hillsides of Lander and Riverton.
Finally, we navigated the welcoming curves of the Beartooth Mountains, into Bear Creek, Red Lodge and home to the West Fork of the Stillwater River. Home.
Young robins await the return of their mother, in a nest
their parents built in our cabin's breezeway.
FOR THE FIRST time in 15 years, we made this annual pilgrimage with only one Yorkshire terrier, Nick.  His twin sister Nora's ashes rested in the back seat next to Nicky, in her little urn, along with her favorite fetch toy and her dog tags.  They will join other beloved four-footed family members in our "Pet Cemetery" when we find the right moment.
A honey bee and pink hollyhock
greet the road weary warriors.
As we unpacked, checking on plants and trees to see how they survived winter, we admired the faithful hollyhocks whose colorful blooms greeted us.  We found apples on the trees and butterflies in the berm, baby robins in a nest by the door.  All good signs.  The chickadees and finches chirped impatiently, recognizing we were back and reminding us to fill the many feeders.
A drive through the countryside anchors us after four days on the road.
Butterflies and moths in the flowers add color to our return.  
FAMILY AND friends had mowed the lawn a few times, weed-wacked and spruced up the place for our coming.  We paused by the memorial to family members who have passed, dusting off their bronze plaques and greeting their spirits.  We walked down to the west fork of the Stillwater River, whose main branch rises in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness south of us.  This gorgeous stretch of the Beartooth Mountains is only about 70 miles as the crow flies from  Yellowstone National Park. We hope to make a cautious annual drive through the park, and wonder how masking and distancing will happen there.
RETURNING to the mountains this year has special meaning for us with the constraints and concerns wrought by the virus. It's been a long time away from home for me, and for Keller, a long absence from the mountains he
has grown to love. Tourists and natives alike love Montana's mountains. Writer John Steinbeck said they were the kind of mountains he'd make if mountains were ever put on his agenda.
Apples on the tree -- only a few high ones.  
The deer helped themselves, too.
Four years ago, as we climbed the transplant list, we did not know if we would be back. Now, having celebrated the three-year post-transplant anniversary, the Beartooth view is a daily blessing. We don't take it lightly. But how things have changed in a year.
Tippet Rise, our internationally known performing arts center, cancelled its season. We're disappointed because we were lucky enough to score tickets, so we donated the modest cost to the Food Bank, as the venue suggested.
OUR ANNUAL trek to the world famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival is also cancelled. The entire season went up in smoke, so we'll miss our sacred pilgrimage to Ashland, with its award winning docket of plays in three beautiful theaters. For me, the first miss in 47 years 
Keller and Cookie celebrate each day, even with COVID to contend with.
NORMALLY, we would be entertaining guests at High Chaparral this time of year.  In past, we've welcomed visitors from all over the United States -- friends and relatives from the United Kingdom, the Middle East and several European countries.  A planned visit from friends in Australia was cancelled. 
Critters, birds celebrate life
   Birthday parties and barbecues gone.  But we can still hike and bike and drive those winding country roads, where we admire  
.horses and cattle and deer grazing in the fields. We're not fenced in 

    


UP NEXT: Yellowstone Park beckons our road warriors, who have witnessed the splendors of our nation's first park for many years. Find out what's new in the park, and enjoy a quick but satisfying trip through this natural wonder with tips for enjoying this splendid gift to the people. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a fresh look at nature, the arts, travel, family and more at whereiscookie.com

Friday, July 24, 2020

Hygiene in hotels: Hilton leads the parade with new strict cleanliness standards


Honolulu's Waikiki Beach hotels are introducing new hygiene measures.  The major brands are all developing programs
to insure that people who brave the world of travel are as safe and protected as possible in these stressful times. 

ROAD TRIPPING HAZARDS ARE LESSENED BY CONSCIENTIOUS HOTEL PROTOCOL


STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER
and hotel marketing departments


Hotels are raising their sanitation standards to meet COVID-19.
Closets will be disinfected in many U.S. properties.
TRAVEL IS ALREADY entering a brave new world, and the hotel industry is making sweeping changes (no pun intended) in its hygiene protocol. So say goodbye to breakfast buffets and bellhop service, and get ready for temperature screening and keyless check-in.
Even before they travel, guests will find a new landing page at many hotels, detailing what they can expect during their stay. Property websites are updated as new cleaning protocols and procedures are implemented. 
If your hotel offers valet parking,
the attendant will be masked.
According to Riverton, Wyo., Hampton Inn and Suites general manager Ryan Preston, his property is one of Hilton's 6,000-plus properties and 18 brands promising state of the art clean stays for guests willing to travel in these trying times.
"We have partnered with RB -- makers of Lysol and Dettol -- to deliver an even cleaner stay for our guests," says Preston, noting that Hilton's standards are widely respected in the industry.  The popular chain has created the Hilton CleanStay program which Preston says builds on Hilton's already rigorous cleaning standards. "We want people to have complete peace of mind when they stay with us," he says, promising "the same level of reliable and friendly service you’d expect from Hilton,  but with the added confidence of industry-leading hygiene practices to keep travelers safe."
Besides Hilton, Wyndham, Marriott, Choice Hotels, InterContinental and Hyatt are also developing extreme hygiene protocol.
PANDEMIC-ERA policies are being developed internationally at hotels around the globe. They will vary, but it's safe to say that guests worldwide will notice huge changes the next time they check in anywhere. Heightened cleaning protocols are in place in many properties for high-traffic areas such as the front desk, fitness centers and pools, as well as other high-touch surfaces in the hotel. Hilton is using hospital-grade disinfectant approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to combat the spread of the virus. 
A housekeeping “on-demand” option is being introduced in many places.  Guests who desire no one else enter the room can request delivery of additional toiletries, towels, linens or coffee without having a housekeeper enter. They'll be placed outside in sterile wraps.
Many hotel restaurants as they reopen will feature socially distanced
tables, and separate paneled cubicles to keep guests apart.
BREAKFAST buffets are a popular feature in many hotels. There will be massive changes there as well as in food service in general. Buffets will be replaced with pre-packaged breakfast items and grab-and-go options.  Tables and chairs will be spaced to ensure proper physical distancing. Biodegradable, disposable dishes and utensils will be available upon request.
MANY HOTELS have discontinued room service, but where it is provided, guests will experience contactless delivery, with orders and single-use serviceware placed outside the guestroom door.
Pools will be frequently cleaned, and numbers of guests will be limited 
around the pool area, to observe distancing. Masks will also be required.
Hilton is proud of its new "no contact" arrival experience.  Guests can check in, choose their room, unlock the door with a digital key and check out using their mobile devices, through a free Hilton Honors mobile app. This option is available at more than 4,700 participating Hilton properties worldwide for guests who book direct via the Honors app or at Hilton.com. 
For guests who prefer a traditional check-in, physical distancing measures will be in place directing guests on how to move through the in-person check-in and check-out process in a safe way.
ENTERING THE room will be a departure from what we've come to know.
Hotel housekeepers in the major chains are using
hospital-strength disinfectants to clean.
At Hilton, the first point of contact with the guest room will be with a Hilton CleanStay room seal, placed on the door after the room is thoroughly cleaned. The service person will have used extra disinfectant on the most frequently touched guests room areas – light switches, door handles, TV remotes, thermostats and more. Guest rooms will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected between guests, doubling the measures of pre-Covid times.
ALL MAJOR chains are revamping their public spaces, with socially-distanced furniture and increased cleaning. Some fitness centers will be closed for cleaning multiple times daily. 
Equipment will be properly adjusted and placed to enable physical distancing, and the number of guests will be limited. Pools and pool areas will be cleaned frequently throughout the day, and physical distancing measures will be in place there, too. Stations with hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes will be available throughout the property at entrances and in key high traffic areas.
MARRIOTT IS combating the virus with its new
Hilton Palm Springs is among the many Hilton brand properties with
an ambitious new hygiene protocol  in place for travelers. www.hilton.com    

Global Cleanliness Council which, like Hilton and other major chains, requires the use of “hospital-grade” disinfectants in public spaces and guest rooms.
Hyatt's program is called its Global Care and Cleanliness Commitment, using a cleaning, disinfection and infectious-disease-prevention accreditation program. By September, the brand also plans to staff hotels with  a trained "hygiene manager." That person will oversee more-frequent hotel cleanings, make sure hand sanitizer is easily available for guests and employees  and distribute masks to staff, among other duties. Brave new world indeed.


Montana's rivers are one of its most seductive attractions.  We're fortunate
to have the West Fork of the Stillwater River nearby, and the source of
the Stillwater within an easy drive, for beautiful hiking and picnicing.
UP NEXT: Back in Montana! With masks in tow and cooler packed to avoid unnecessary human whereiscookie.com
contact, we made it from San Diego to Montana in a leisurely four days, staying in safe, sparkling clean Hilton properties (see above for their state-of-the-art hygiene protocol.) We'll share our re-entry to The Treasure State, "Big Sky Country," as A.B. Guthrie aptly named it.  Masking, distancing, and dealing with COVID-19 has changed our Montana experience.  But we're finding both friends and strangers are mostly masking and treating one another with the respect this critical time demands. We'll report on our trip and share Montana photos and observations. Remember to explore, learn and live, and please wear a mask. Catch us each Friday for a new take on travel, the arts, nature, family and more at

Friday, July 17, 2020

Masks play a critical part in the fight to stay healthy with COVID-19

Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers wear their masks for their daily bike rides, here on to a masked gathering
with proper social distancing at a friend who lives in the neighborhood.  Small masked gatherings help ease the isolation.
Bruce Keller's post-transplant blood work is necessary,
and the blood draws are conducted by masked technicians.

HELP STOP THE SPREAD OF THE VIRUS BY DOING YOUR PART: WEAR A MASK BOTH TO PROTECT YOURSELF AND OTHERS


STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS

PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

WE BELIEVE in science and the power of great medical minds to find a vaccine to combat COVID-19.  The two of us lined up as grade school children for our polio shots in the 1950s, and both knew friends afflicted with the disease.
Today's virulent virus is our polio.
Masks are essential at airports, here LAX, where extreme
caution is taken by some, both workers and passengers.
It distresses us that some question the need to wear a mask.
It's a matter of life and death, especially for people like us who are considered "high risk."  That's because in May of 2017, Bruce Keller underwent successful liver transplantation.
This column's talented photographer is recovering nicely, but because of the necessary anti-rejection drugs, his immune system is compromised.
A masked Bruce Keller picks out produce at a San Diego market.
Most businesses monitor entrances to enforce masking.
That makes him vulnerable, along with millions of others who have underlying health conditions. This includes our niece, who has Type I diabetes, a neighbor who is in cancer treatment, elderly friends in nursing facilities, a brother with COPD, and many more.
THERE IS PLENTY of data out there to convince us all to "mask up."  Two compelling case reports suggest that masks can prevent transmission even in high-risk scenarios. In one case, a man flew from China to Toronto and subsequently tested positive for COVID-19.  He had a dry cough and wore a mask on the flight. All 25 people closest to him on the plane tested negative for the virus.
In another case, two hair stylists in Missouri had close contact with 140 clients before they knew they had COVID-19. Everyone wore a mask, though, and not a single client tested positive.
WE USUALLY avoid politics in this column, but we are sad to see the mask issue being made political when it is simply a matter of science, health and common decency.
Home Depot purchases take a bit longer with distancing.
But both customers and staff are respectfully masking.
Research and scientific facts show that the virus spreads through the respiratory system.  Sneezing, coughing, even talking and singing can spread it.  Our chances of being exposed -- or exposing -- are greatly multiplied if we don't wear masks or encounter unmasked people.
So we mask up whenever we go out -- to stores, to the doctor, on errands of all kinds.
Asians have been wearing masks for decades, to protect themselves and others.
Since it is possible for a person to spread the COVID-19 virus without actually having symptoms, the mask becomes key in preventing an affected person from endangering an innocent person with whom he makes contact.
CASES ARE spiking, in both states we call home.  In California, the beaches and restaurants opened a few weeks ago then many closed again, when during Memorial Day and Fourth of July, people abused the distancing protocol and new cases were documented at an alarming rate. In my native Montana, where many don't mask, numbers have risen exponentially. Finally, just this week on July 15, Gov. Bullock mandated that masks be worn. Good news for us, as we plan a trip back.  Researchers predict that if 80 per cent of us were to wear masks, we could
A man doing his banking must wait for
the security guard to authorize his entrance

so that social distancing is enforced. Small
offices and cafes monitor the numbers.

greatly  reduce COVID-19 spread.  It would be more effective in accomplishing this than a strict lockdown. 
Aside from following state and medical edicts, shouldn't a mask be worn as a matter of respect, of being a good citizen?  In many states, including here in California, wearing a mask in public means adhering to the law.
A conscientious father helps his children get into their masks before
a shopping expedition in San Diego where it's a requirement to wear masks.

Lenin Gutierrez made news when he declined to serve
an unmasked Starbucks patron in San Diego.
Her indignant FaceBook post backfired.












One recent news piece hit home.  Just two blocks away from us, a Starbucks barista, Lenin Gutierrez made international news a couple weeks ago when he stood his ground with a female customer who defied the mask edict and entered the coffee shop without wearing a mask. When the clerk  offered her a mask, she declined and became verbally abusive.  So he refused to serve her -- she stormed out, cursing at him, causing a scene, then returning to take his photo, threaten him and continue the verbal abuse. 
A reader of her subsequent FaceBook post was unsympathetic to her. He started a GoFundMe "tip jar" for  Gutierrez, an aspiring dancer.  Quickly, it raised over $20,000  for the young man who was simply following company policy when he challenged the woman.
IF WE ALL wear masks, we could kick the virus numbers way down.    The latest forecast from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation suggests that 33,000 deaths could be avoided by Oct. 1, if  95 per cent of us wore masks in public.
I DON'T ENJOY wearing my mask.
Shoppers in San Diego wear masks.

A security guard keeps an eye on the crowd flow
in this San Diego store, and also prevents hoarding.
I wear glasses and the masks make seeing and breathing difficult.  But I do it -- for many reasons including health, courtesy, and concern. Most of us have never had to wear a mask -- certainly not when shopping or running through the park.  I'm a fourth generation Montanan, and independence and even rebellion are an accepted -- sometimes admired -- way of life. But folks, this is not about your "rights."  It's about health. And you don't have the "right" to potentially infect me. So let's think of masks not as forced conformity, but as an important and necessary act of solidarity.
Wearing a mask might stop one unknowing person from infecting another innocent person.  That person could be me, a loved one -- or you! 
And if you want to make a surgical mask even safer:
https://www.travelandleisure.com/travel-tips/face-mask-fit-trips



Hotels are opening to new, strictly monitored hygiene protocol. Here
Hilton Palm Springs awaits travelers, with new healthy procedures.

UP NEXT: What are hotels doing, now that cruise lines are opening up, and people are beginning to drive and take road trips again? We're following the hospitality industry's new guidelines and find that Hilton brand properties lead the parade when it comes to new high standards. From check-in without front desk contact, to a seal on the door to insure a spotless room for each guest, there are strict hygiene guidelines to make a road trip or pre-cruise stay safe. We'll give you the latest.
Remember to explore, learn and live, and see how it goes next Friday, at whereiscookie.com




Friday, July 10, 2020

The return of cruising: what to expect and when we might set sail again

Cruising is making a slow comeback, since this popular mode of travel was abruptly halted in the early days of
the COVID-19 virus. Here, in St. Thomas, cruise ships large and small move in and out of the picturesque harbor.
 

The Mediterranean will be opening up for cruising in late autumn, at
least with some lines. Each line has a different policy, so do homework.

CRUISING'S CAUTIOUS COMEBACK: INDIVIDUAL STATEROOM AIR FILTERING AND MANY MORE SANITATION PRECAUTIONS

Editor's Note: This story contains projected sailing dates from various cruise lines. Please note that cruise line suspensions can be extended at anytime. Our research is based on  interviews and websites, but the volatile changing times require each traveler's daily research.
Keller and Cookie aboard the Celebrity Century. Some sailings
resume Aug. 1. Celebrity and other lines cancelled sailings
 in Canada, Alaska, and New England following a
 ban on cruise ships from the Canadian government.

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

THERE'S GOOD NEWS for lovers of ships and cruising. But it's slow to emerge. When the industry lurched to a halt in March, a result of COVID-19, millions of dollars were lost, thousands of cruises cancelled and legions of travelers were nervous and disappointed at radically changing travel plans. Slowly, the world's embattled cruise lines are making a comeback and passengers will again be riding the waves -- as soon as this weekend.
Paul Gauguin, which corners the Polynesian market, will resume sailings July 11, with two voyages for the local market. International passengers may sail as of July 29. Many new guidelines are in place.
Paul Gauguin offers a ring-side view of the Polynesian Islands aboard
a 332 passenger luxury ship booking now for late summer and autumn.
The industry has spent more than $40 billion to prepare ships and train crews for the new "Covid protocol."
American Cruise Lines' small, sleek ships can access ports and coves not
available to larger vessels. Its New England cruises resume in August.
A leader in the "Covid precaution" arena is American Cruise Lines, offering the attractive possibility for Americans to reach a cruise ship without flying and exposing themselves to airport crowds and recycled cabin air. Cruising close to home is the line's specialty and bookings are brisk.
American will be back on the waters in August, with cruises scheduled around New England.  An earlier date of July 22 was scratched just before this article's publication. With its liberal refund policy, the cruise line is creating good will.  Travelers disappointed at the postponement will receive a 100 per cent cent refund or a 125 per cent future cruise voucher if the line cancels. This liberal policy also allows 24-hour pre-cruise cancelation with 100 per cent voucher for a 2021 cruise. The line also navigates several of America's prettiest rivers, with leisurely transits of the Mississippi, Columbia and Snake Rivers.
Keller and Cookie aboard Cunard's Queen Elizabeth.
The revered line will resume some sailings in November,
including Elizabeth and her sisters, Queen Victoria and
Queen Mary. Do check with your travel agent or website.
Those cruises will resume, too, in 2020, with the line's popular Alaska cruises back on the 2021 docket.
American's river and coastal waterways cruises operate in over 25 states so many guests can skip flying entirely and drive straight to the ship."We are doing our best to keep adjusting as things progress and change," says Alexa Paolella, public relations manager for American Cruise Lines.   American's popularity -- especially now, with the virus fears -- is high, in part because it offers guests a 100 per cent cruise voucher credit and the ability to cancel for any reason 24 hours before a cruise. Further enticement is, says Paolella, "We visit only small U.S. ports and cruise within sight of land." This appeals to cruisers concerned about the possibly having to leave the trip for medical care. American’s ships are also small -- 100-190 passengers max -- and sail at reduced capacity of 75 per cent or less.
LIKE AMERICAN, many other cruise lines are introducing independent air systems to staterooms, so there is no shared duct work in cabins and some lounges. One of our booking agents said her balcony rooms are going first, which is usually the case.  Now more than ever, though, balconies are appealing for the fresh air and privacy. Lines are also making properly distanced outdoor cafe tables available. Indoor dining will have distanced tables.
Here's a partial list of cruising's revamped schedules:
Favorite view for veteran cruisers: a sail in from a comfy stateroom balcony.
Viking resumes Oct. 1, followed by Carnival's Spirit for Hawaii and trans-Pacific cruising. On Oct. 7, Holland America, Disney, Princess and other popular mid-priced lines continue staggered resumptions which are slated as early as late September. Norwegian Cruise Line announced an Oct. 1 resumption, as did upscale lines Regent and Oceania. Seabourn's Sojourn is back on the water Oct. 14 and Crystal's Symphony is booking for an Oct. 23 sailing. Cunard's Queen Victoria resumes operation Nov. 2.
Keller and Cookie in Europe, awaiting a tour on a sunny
day off the ship. Europe is slowly opening up to cruising.
INTERNATIONALLY, many countries are opening domestic cruise and ferry lines to their countrymen. Genting Cruise Lines restarts operations for its Asian luxury Dream Cruises with Explorer Dream, July 26.
The 1,867-passenger ship offers two and three-night "Taiwan Island-Hopping" itineraries, departing from Keelung and calling at Penghu, Matzu and Kinmen islands -- just for the domestic Taiwanese market at the moment.
COVID-19 caused many countries to impose travel restrictions and close their borders to outside visitors. Early on, dozens of cruise ships were turned away from various ports  as countries acted aggressively to prevent ships from docking. While passengers were brought home, crew were stranded for weeks and some are only now getting returned to their homes.
Cruising into northern Europe's capitals, including Oslo, along with 
Copenhagen, Helsinki, Stockholm and the Baltic Republics, is resuming.
SO WHICH other lines are back in business?   Norway's Hurtigruten is offering enticing savings to book a lovely Norwegian coastal cruises, or venture to Antarctica. It restarted its coastal sailings July 16 for Norwegians and Danes, on vessels carrying 500 passengers.Sea Dream also resumed cruising from Norway with just 112 passengers.
THE INTERNATIONAL cruise industry, including Royal Caribbean Cruises, is making radical changes to adjust to COVID-19. The line's marketing department calls the changes "evolutionary," aimed at still giving passengers a consistent experience, according to CEO  Richard Fain.
Cookie often plays piano during dinner on the couple's frequent cruises.
She hopes to be back on sea and at the 88s within the next few months.
RCCL has four cruise lines:: Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara and Silversea Cruises. All are currently on pause, due to a "no sail" order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Celebrity, Royal Caribbean and Azamara have suspensions through Aug. 1, while Silversea has taken a ship-by-ship approach to resumption.  'EVEN IF there had never been a COVID-19, cruising would be different today than it was a year ago.  One of the things we're proudest of is that the industry is constantly changing and adapting to people's needs," said Fain.

Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers don their masks for all outings
and hope their fellow humans do the same. It's a mater of safety and manners. 
UP NEXT: Should you wear a mask or not? Of course! Really, it shouldn't be an issue.  It's healthy, respectful and necessary. As we travel, shop, traversing new territory, we find it essential to wear a mask -- for our protection, and others'.  We appreciate that most of our comrades follow suit, for it's mandated in California that masks be worn and distancing observed in all public places. We explore masking and how it's helping fight the virus. Remember to explore, learn and live, and please wear a mask for your sake -- and for the rest of us. Meanwhile, explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a fresh look at travel, nature, the arts, family and fun. www.whereiscookie.com

Friday, July 3, 2020

Some, not all, Southern California parks, zoos reopen for July tourism

Part of Legoland is open for business and family fun.  The park's popular Sea Life Aquarium is reopened, and the rest of the park is planning to announce its reopening soon. Reservations are required, admissions are limited and masks are required. 

COVID CONSTRAINTS INCLUDE MASKS, DISTANCING, LIMITED NUMBERS, SANITIZING STATIONS AND MORE

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER
The new cubs are a big hit at the reopening of San Diego's
world renowned zoo, now once again welcoming tourists.

PLANS FOR reopening
California's popular theme parks change by the minute, as Covid numbers rise and families anxiously await returning to traditional summer activities.
California's famous zoos, theme parks and other outdoor diversions have been closed since mid-March and after these long closures, a few of these popular attractions are up and running again.
Many, though, including Disneyland, have been forced to reschedule, or postpone reopenings, based on spiking of the spiking virus and changing guidelines. Reopening dates in mid-July were cancelled by Disneyland, SeaWorld and other enterprises, to the disappointment of both vacationers and bored locals.
Mickey and Minnie will have to wait to greet Disneyland fans.
The good news, though, is that two much loved San Diego animal venues are again receiving delighted guests and showing off some rare newborns. Guests at the reopened San Diego Zoo are getting a first look at a pair of two-month old endangered Amur leopard cubs. They're exploring their outdoor habitat with mom, Satka, and zoo goers are delighted as fewer than 100 Amur leopards are believed to exist in their historic range in Russia and China.
While Legoland's Sea Life Aquarium is open, the popular Sea World
(see above, the famous dolphin show) has delayed its reopening.
Since mid-March when the zoo and its safari park closed, a limited staff has been caring for the animals during the zoo's first closing in its 103 year history.
MOST VENUES that have reopened have limited shopping, dining, and other experiences available and are operating on reduced hours, limited capacity, temperature checks, enforced masking and installation of hand sanitizing stations.
At the Safari Park, guests cannot feed animals as they once could, at least until further notice. At Legoland's Sea Life arm, extreme distancing and hygiene protocol is in place as visitors step aboard a moving walkway to
Sea Life at Legoland is open, but the rest of the
park  is not yet reopened. The aquarium can monitor
distancing on its moving walkway. 
 view 4,000 sea animals inside its aquarium.
 During the closure, the Sea Life arm at Legoland has welcomed baby cuttlefish and is awaiting the birth of ocean tank baby horn sharks. Guests can again explore the 200,000-gallon ocean tank as they walk below sharks, rays, tropical fish and other sea animals.
Another "seafaring" enterprise, San Diego's world famous Maritime Museum reopened this week.
The classic Star of India at San Diego's Maritime Museum
awaits visitors and masking is part of the "reopening" act.





The museum specializes in collecting, preserving, and presenting the area's rich maritime heritage and historic connections with the Pacific world. It opened its doors again Wednesday so limited guests may again admire its bounty of historic vessels, all lovingly restored and maintained by volunteers. On view is the world’s oldest active sailing ship, Star of India. Other interesting vessels await inspection on the waterfront including the classic Berkeley steamboat, but the submarine is temporarily off limits, along with the gift shop. Self-guided tours are available.

THEME PARKS in Europe, China, Texas and Florida have reopened, but California is taking a cautious high road. While Legoland's aquarium is
Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse greet crowds at Disney World in Florida,
which will reopen July 11.  California's Disneyland opening date is unknown.
open, the larger part of the theme park's opening is delayed, along with reopenings of Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood, Six Flags Magic Mountain and SeaWorld San Diego.
Knott’s Berry Farm has not yet set any reopening date, the only southern California theme park not to do so.
   DISNEYLAND's July 17 reopening date was squelched in part by a coalition of unions representing 17,000 Disneyland cast members who picketed and sent a letter to Gov. Newsom to stop the Anaheim theme park from reopening. Disneyland's editorial content director Thomas Smith confirmed Wednesday that the world's first theme park's reopening is waiting for new instruction from the State of California.
Disneyland performers successfully picketed,
persuading California to delay the reopening.
"We're told California won't issue new theme park reopening guidelines until after July 4," Smith said. Given the time required to bring thousands of cast members back to work and restart business, the delay is unavoidable.
  Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida is reopening July 11, and in California Downtown Disney will reopen July 9, as planned.  The food extravaganza complies with restaurant opening rules.
Penelope Ganner spreads her wings by the frolicking whales at
Birch Aquarium in La Jolla, California. It reopens this week.
BECAUSE AQUARIUMS and zoos also fall into a separate category cleared for reopening, Birch Aquarium in San Diego is reopening. The popular aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, opened to donors and members July 1, and will begin its public reopening on July Fourth, with sharks and rays, native to La Jolla's waters, in a 13,000-gallon tank. We love taking our little guests to the ocean view tide pools for close-up views of sea stars, hermit crabs, sea cucumbers, lobsters and more.
California is experiencing surges in the virus, including nearly 8,000 new cases of 240,000 cases and over 7,500 deaths. Visit with care.
legoland.com/california/sea-life-aquarium/sea-life-aquarium-attractions/
sdmaritime.org; zoo.sandiegozoo.org;
 aquarium.ucsd.edu/
Cruises are booking again, and one of the lines, American Cruise Lines,
is appealing to many because its options are close to home. 
Designed to navigate the inland waterways of the Pacific Northwest, the new
  American Constellation brings guests to lovely ports larger ships can't access.
UP NEXT: While theme parks and zoos are cautiously reopening around the world, cruising is also making a "Covid comeback." American Cruise Lines is leading the return with its attractive docket of American based river and "close to home" cruising allowing many travelers to drive rather than fly to  a departure port. We'll share what American and other international cruise lines are doing with start-up dates and itineraries worldwide for those of us who love cruising. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch whereiscookie.com for a fresh look at travel, nature, the arts, family and more.