After driving several times around the Southampton Cruise Terminal car parks to be Covid tested, we finally arrived at check-in. Thereafter, we were treated not as adults capable of making our own decisions on acceptable levels of risk, but as naughty 5-year-olds unable to function without orders or correction. We had entered a regime of mandatory (and strictly enforced) face mask wearing in all public spaces - except when eating or drinking - mandatory hand washing before entering any dining area, more testing and restrictions on activities. Rather than the 4* plus hotel experience we had in the past with SAGA, the joyless Spirit of Adventure came to resemble a prison ship with our cell (cabin) the only refuge.
I could exercise in the gym without a mask, but “line dancing” required both a mask and social distancing. I could read a book in the Library without a mask, but only while drinking a cup of tea or coffee. Once the cup was drained, I would be ordered to put on my mask - despite there being ample room for social distancing. How do I become more “dangerous” with an empty cup? Went to The Playhouse once and was forced to sit in a mask, although there was nobody within 20 feet. Did not go again. The evening entertainers in the Lounge, the Supper Room and the Dining Room must be draped in a face-mask, although they are not within 20 feet of a passenger. But the classical quartet could perform unmasked in the Britannia Lounge. And on the penultimate night, the waiting staff suddenly appeared in industrial issue face masks - without explanation. All minor inconveniences on their own, but adding to a cumulative feeling of incarceration - not cruising.
There was also the growing belief of being kept in the dark regarding Covid on the vessel. Passengers joining the next cruise reported on Facebook that SAGA Head Office had assured them there were no cases of Covid on Spirit of Adventure. Then why was there an almost daily roll-call of passengers ordered back to their cabins “until further notice”? Why the tables outside cabins with room service provided meals? One waited with trepidation to be “pinged”. And why those industrial issue face masks, which made the waiting staff look like extras from a very early (and very bad) Doctor Who episode.