Back in May, I posted an entry ranting about the conflicting regulations related to COVID-19 screening for my vacation. I’m now back from that vacation and thought I’d post a follow-up entry. There was more drama…some of it easily preventable, alas.
Boarding the Disney Magic
After months of suspense, my traveling companion and I were in London, two days away from getting on the boat, before we were allowed to screen ourselves for That Frickin’ Virus (TFV). Disney or its third-party screening company required a laboratory-administered or online-monitored COVID test. Admittedly, this would have been a bit easier if we had not arrived in the UK four days early to do some sightseeing. However, it did mean scheduling some time out of our jaunt through London to take an early-morning COVID test.
The proctor(?) interacted with us via my mobile phone, and I had to save an extensive number of emails from our previous discussions to ensure we had the correct information on hand and prove we were who we said we were…not passports or IDs, but emails from the screening company. One email had the test number, another had our registration number. The good news was that we passed the test and eventually received a message confirming that we were, in fact, COVID-free. It was a tad nerve-wracking to have one person’s approval received, but not the other. However, eventually all was well and we had our electronic proof, and we were able to board the boat two days later. I suppose I understand the need for timeliness, but there’s nothing quite like waiting until the very last minute to learn if we were going to be able to take our vacation or not.
The process at the Port of Dover was not much less stressful. There was some chaos as we passed checkpoint after checkpoint, each Disney(?) person requesting a different piece of paper or email. Some signage would have been helpful in telling people what they needed to present at each station. The problem was further compounded by slow internet at the Port, making it nearly impossible to pull up the email information they required. This sent us to a troubleshooting desk to find our information, which begged the question: if Disney had information already, why did we need to present it again? While in the troubleshooting line, I found a working wifi network (Disney’s own network was the slow one), and got back in the regular line. As we were nearing the last checkpoint, we saw a large holding area where people who lacked paperwork or tested positive sat, feverishly trying to sort out their status. We were very close to ending up in that group. Anyhow, mission accomplished: we were allowed to board the boat.
Getting into Bermuda
Our last port call, Bermuda, required us to test in proctored form two days before visiting the island. We were worried about being able to talk to someone in real time when we were in the middle of the Atlantic. The wifi on the Disney Magic was not great, and did not handle videos at all…at least not that we could tell.
Eventually, Disney posted a notice in our room informing us that the cruise line was providing in-person COVID screening in one of their dining rooms. There, the process was pretty straightforward: there was a makeshift queue to show our paperwork, collect our test, conduct the test with what I presumed was a medical professional, and then wait for our results before we could get our approval to visit Bermuda. Once we tested negative, we were let go and told that our status would be passed along so there would be nothing we had to do at the port. That process went pretty quickly, and my traveling buddy and I were through it–with a COVID-free result–in 30 minutes, tops.
My questions about that efficient process were: why didn’t Disney Cruise Line just say that they were going to do in-person testing onboard in the first place? Why all the suspense and confusion?
Technical Writing Thoughts
As COVID becomes as much a part of life as the flu, I’m hoping that the processes will be simpler and more informative next time I vacation. Timeliness of information is as important completeness of information. This timely information sharing would have prevented some stress in mid-trip. I wonder what the rationale was for not mentioning the onboard testing. Perhaps that was a last-minute addition? Again, we didn’t receive a lot of answers and dealt with uncertainty right up until nine days into a 13-day cruise. Bottom line for travelers: allow extra time for any screening and be willing to exercise a little patience while waiting for the process to work itself. Bottom line for technical communicators: If your organization has a process that will make the customer’s interaction easier, that information should be shared as soon as possible to reduce frustration with the transaction.