Friday, March 13, 2020

Coronavirus shakes travel industry: go, stay home, cancel, plan a trip?

 Italy is taking a terrible hit and is nearly closed down.  Here, at the Colosseum in earlier times, crowds admire the ruins. The coronavirus lockdown has left the building deserted and the entire country in quarantine.  

In San Diego, a virus testing tent was set up Friday in rain, preparing for next
 week's testing at Anderson Outpatient Clinic, near Scripps Green Hospital. 
Editor's Note: In response to readers' requests asking how our own travel plans are impacted by coronavirus, here goes.


A usually busy hotel pool in southern California stands empty.
AS TRAVEL JUNKIES, who spend four months a year on the road, the coronavirus gives us pause.
We have 11 trips on the books between March 2020 and autumn of 2022.  Seven are international. What to do? We're staying
calm. We travel with the normal amount of caution and concern, but we have an extra concern:  Bruce Keller's compromised immune system.  Our award-winning photographer's near three-year recovery from liver transplantation means he takes anti-rejection drugs. Without those life-saving potions, he could experience liver failure in two days.  A lengthy quarantine or the virus itself could prove fatal. (Sure, we travel with
Although cruise lines have curtailed travel, a future booking 
can be a bargain now. We hope cruising will be back to normal in
 a month or so. You'll find extra precautions on board, including 
plastic gloves in the galley, buffets curtailed, sanitizing heightened. 

travel with as much extra meds as insurance allows. Even so....)
World travelers Sue and John Speight
 of York, England, dodged a bullet this
 week when their Princess ship was
 quarantined and their cruise out
 of San Pedro cancelled
moments before they were to board.
Actress, model Naomi Campbell
was full out this week at LAX. 
OUR BRITISH friends, John and Sue Speight, flew from chilly England recently to spend a week with us before they hoped to board the Royal Princess for a warm week on the Mexico coast.  We helped them into the baggage-check  queue at the Los Angeles World Cruise Center in San Pedro and drove north to Santa Barbara, only to find they were in a hotel, arranging a premature return to the UK. Ship
Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line were on board
early with refund and cancellation changes, and a hold on cruise travel.
quarantined. Cruise cancelled. Full refund including air. Hotel and meal reimbursement. Future cruise credit. They're sad but relieved.
THREE WEEKS ago, we regretfully cancelled a seven-week, three-cruise trip to Australia, New Zealand and China. Too many variables.
Jazzercising at home may be a reality
for the next few weeks -- or months.

The U.S. State Department  recommends travelers defer cruise ship travel worldwide since the virus -- like all viral respiratory illnesses -- spreads more easily in close quarters. Although we cancelled our March, April and May cruises, we're hoping by August, things will be back to normal so we can resume cruising and honor bookings. Meanwhile, six booked plays have been cancelled, two concerts, a black tie party and my writing workshop. In San Diego, Legoland and SeaWorld are closed. So are Broadway and Disneyland.
AT MY Jazzercise workout, only two of us showed up. No weights. No mats. Jazzercise is working on a video to extend to people who don't want to come out.
Cookie and Keller have many trips on the books and are
continuing their "day by day, keep it calm" methods.
Our friends were prepared to brave their Mexico cruise on Princess as respite from their cold Yorkshire winter. They're now safely home, disappointed but grateful not to be in quarantine or unable to return to the UK.
Our Center for Disease Control and Prevention's official recommendations are really nothing new. They're tips savvy travelers and people who wish to stay healthy use all year: avoid being around sick people (or forcing healthy people to be around you if you're sick), avoid touching your face, clean frequently touched objects, wash hands, use  sanitizer. We've long wiped down our airline seats and tray tables. We wash hands regularly, avoid buffets, carry sanitizer.
Bridge tours were once a part of shipboard life, but have been cancelled
on those cruises that are still operational. Handshaking is curtailed, too.

Because it's sold out in many places, here's a  recipe to make your own: Mix in a sterile jar, three parts alcohol to two parts aloe vera. Optional: a few drops of scented oil.
*Amtrack and major airlines waived change fees this week, but cut back routes.
*Cruise lines are cancelling for 30 days, with new, liberal guidelines. If you're already booked beyond the "no cruise" dates, call to make sure new guidelines apply to your booking. Consider making a hotel or cruise reservation. Take advantage of reduced fares, new guidelines. Instead of the usual sliding refund scale based on closeness of cruise -- most lines now allow cancellation up to 72 hours before sailing, with full refunds. Why not wait, though, and see what happens in the next couple weeks.
*A proposal submitted to the White House by a leading cruise trade organization would deny cruise ship boarding in future to anyone over 70 without a doctor's note verifying fitness, once cruising is restored. Hang on to your carry-on! Stay safe.

Friends in Montana have heard the distinctive call of the sandhill cranes.
Keller caught these beautiful birds in a meadow near Fishtail.
UP NEXT:  This column specializes in travel, art, concerts, plays, and nature. Thus, many of our scheduled stories feature events and venues closed and deserted until month's end. Publishing those stories now would frustrate readers, so until the world returns to "normal," we're sharing some of our favorite nature photos, with ideas for lifting the cloud, dispelling the gloom, challenging fear. Nature will continue to provide solace and strength, so take a walk, listen to the birds,, keeping a safe distance from others and being grateful for beauty. Remember to explore, learn and live. We'll be here Fridays:


  1. Interesting account of creative peoples' reaction to crisis. Well done.

  2. Wow. The ripples seem endless....we, too, are impacted and so nervous with new cases in San Francisco. You made this a fun read anyway!

  3. Chicago Train BuffsMarch 15, 2020 at 10:35 AM

    Nice to see photos of happy times, which will come again.

  4. Tennessee TravelersMarch 15, 2020 at 2:59 PM

    The world shifts, spins and turns.....the sun will rise and the moon will set....we are interested in future such insightful postings, and always enjoy your travels.

  5. Great calming approach to this complex and troubling time we're all sharing. THANK YOU. Keep it coming. Fun photos, too. We will bounce back.