This past September, I travelled to Greece and enjoyed a seven-night cruise on board Azamara. It turns out the biggest hurdle wasn’t navigating the new travel requirements, it was getting myself ready to be part of the world again. For the past 18 months, I had been following government guidelines by limiting my contacts and activities. To travel to Greece felt surreal.
Travel Documents and Check-in
Documentation required for travel continues to evolve and entry requirements vary. When I travelled to Greece, fully vaccinated travellers needed to show proof of vaccination and complete a pre-entry Passenger Locator Form (PLF). While at a glance the PLF seems like an additional or new step, the reality is this electronic form merely replaces the paper forms that was previously filled out onboard prior to landing. Once completed, the traveller needs to either print the documents, or save them electronically. I recommend doing both. There wasn’t a pre-departure test requirement, nor was there a mandatory test upon arrival.
The check-in at the airport was a little longer than in pre-covid travel. This was because of the need to manually check vaccination documents and verify that the PLF had been completed. I had my vaccination receipts, both printed and saved electronically. Our arrival in Athens was smooth, as was clearing customs. The official checked my vaccine documents, PLF, and stamped my passport.
The New Hotel Athens, a Design Hotel
The newest Virtuoso hotel in Athens is The New Hotel. Perfectly located in the heart of the city, its steps from Ermou Street, one of the city’s main shopping areas and from The Plaka. Athens’ most famous attraction, the Acropolis, is an easy fifteen-minute walk away. The hotel also has spectacular views of the icon from both their roof top patio and their penthouse suite.
Funky art installations accent the New Hotel’s boutique feel. The designer of the hotel used wood, fabrics, and other materials from the hotel that originally stood in this location to decorate the interior.
Urban Adventures Twilight Foodie Tour of Athens
Is there a better way to experience a destination than through its food? I don’t think so! This led us to take Urban Adventure’s Twilight Foodie Tour of Athens. We met our guide, Theo, a short walk away from our hotel at Syntagma Square. For the next three and a half hours, we sampled the local food, such as gyros and drinks like the infamous Ouzo and my personal favourite, Aperol Spritz, a cocktail made from Prosecco, bitters, and soda. While we indulged, Theo explained the role of cuisine within the Greek culture and gave us a great overview of central Athens. Again, the reduced number of tourists allowed us to have experiences that normally would be elusive. For example, we got the best seats in the house at our last stop, and enjoyed a spectacular view of the Acropolis.
Azamara Luxury Cruises
When we pre-checked in for our cruise, we had to select a time to arrive at the ship and register for a pre-boarding rapid antigen test. This process allowed Azamara to minimize the number of guests arriving at one time, ensuring a smooth embarkation process. From curb side to climbing the gangway, the entire operation took under 30 minutes.
Our seven-night cruise with Azamara through the Greek Islands was the perfect restart vacation. The ship only had 278 guests on board, so we felt safe and pampered for the duration of the cruise. In terms of covid protocols, there were ample hand sanitizer stations throughout the ship and masks were worn in all public areas when not eating or drinking. No where on the ship was it crowded and seats in the theatre and other areas were set up to ensure social distancing. Everyone on board the ship was vaccinated. These precautions in no way detracted from the enjoyment of the cruise. They were a mild inconvenience, but no different than at home, and the bonus was we got to be on a cruise!
Azamara arranged either an antigen test or a PCR test for those who needed it to return home and included it in our cruise fare. Once again, it was a seamless, stress-free process. Testing took place the day before debarkation before we left for our shore excursion, and the results were dropped off in our stateroom that evening.
Return to Canada
As a vaccinated Canadian, to return to Canada I needed my proof of vaccination, my negative PCR test from Azamara, and to complete my pre arrival information via the ArriveCan app. This app effectively replaces the paper arrival document normally completed on board. Travellers upload their proof of vacation and passport details then, show their electronic receipt various check points like checking in for our return flight and Canada Customs.
Similar to when we left Canada, checking in for our return flight was a little longer than in pre-pandemic times, but smooth because of having all the correct documentation ready. There were no delays at customs in Canada and they did not select me for random testing.
Many potential travellers have expressed concerns about testing positive and having to isolate while in their destination. Greece understands this and will provide accommodation free to those who need to isolate and will also provide free medical care to those who need it in relation to Covid-19. Whether travelling to Greece or any other destination, speak to your Travel Advisors regarding Travel Insurance options and what is and is not covered in relation to Covid.
During my time in Greece and with Azamara, I felt safe at all times. Other travellers were respectful. There were excellent safety protocols in place and due to the low tourist count, there were no crowds. Most of the trip was outdoors because of excellent September weather, and I could always throw on a mask if I felt I needed it.
Travelling is always a transformative experience, no matter if it’s a return trip to an old favourite, or an epic new journey. This one was particularly special as it reconnected me with the world. I can’t wait for the next one!
This incredible travel experience was shared by Vision Travel’s Direct of Marketing, Meredith Burbidge in her recent trip to Greece. For more Information, speak to your Vision Travel Advisor today.