Q&A: COVID-19 & Planning Your Cruise Aboard Northwind

How was the 2020 luxury crewed charter season during Covid-19?
Most of us know that the Coronavirus has had a debilitating effect on the travel industry. As a successful sailing charter business in the San Juan islands for over 30 years we were certainly impacted by the downturn. Yes, we had cancellations and rescheduled some trips, but ultimately we were able to complete our season with some modifications. Because the Canadian border was closed we did not offer any 12 day charters on the Inside passage but concentrated our trips in our home waters of the beautiful San Juan islands within Washington State.

What we did different…
In many ways we had to start over and re-examine the way we did our trips. We implemented new cleaning procedures to sanitize the boat between charters, we screened our guests prior to leaving home and more comprehensively once they arrived at the boat. We changed how we served our meals, wore masks, and distanced ourselves from our guests as much as possible. We can report back to you positively that we had no issues with the virus on the boat or with any of our guests after the trip ended.

So where does that leave us with the Coronavirus for 2021 and how safe is it?
We only take a maximum of six guests each week so the risk is minimal when compared to a cruise ship that takes thousands. We also spend all but one night of our trips anchored out, so this greatly reduces exposure to crowds of people in busy ports. In addition, many of our guests have already been or will be vaccinated by the time they sail with us. If you are considering chartering with us in 2021 we can’t think of a safer vacation for you and your loved ones than to spend six days sailing and relaxing in quiet coves in the islands. With a private group of friends or family, this is a safe option to consider for your vacation. If you are a couple wanting a private trip for two and you don’t mind paying more to have the boat to yourselves, our vessel is perhaps the perfect solution to having a safe, romantic, and carefree escape during the pandemic. Finally, if you’re interested in just taking one cabin and welcome joining others aboard for your adventure, then trust us to have the procedures in place to make your time aboard stress free while still enjoying beautiful scenery, fine food, and the comforts of Northwind.

What is your new cancellation policy during Covid-19?
• Up to 60 days prior to departure- Cancel for a full refund*.
• 60 to 30 days prior to departure- No refunds, but for a Covid-related reason only, you may reschedule within one year and we will apply the full amount of trip to the new charter dates.
• 30 days or less: No refund, no rescheduling, no exceptions.
*Cancellation from a credit card will incur a 4% cancellation fee to cover our processing costs. If Sail the San Juans needs to cancel your trip for a Covid related reason on our end, then we will contact you to reschedule your trip.

Should I purchase trip Cancellation Insurance?
We have always been strong believers in trip cancellation insurance, now even more so due to Covid-19. We highly recommend purchasing trip cancellation insurance with a supplemental “cancel for any reason policy” (CFAR) policy. This extra coverage should reimburse you for up to 75% of your charter fees and generally costs about 50% more than the regular policy. This can be purchased online from many sources and offers great peace of mind during the pandemic if you have to cancel last minute.

What happens if your charter company is shutdown by a state or federal agency for Covid lockdown during our scheduled charter dates?
If Sail the San Juans needs to cancel your trip for a unforeseen Covid-19 related reason on our end, then we will contact you to reschedule your trip.

What you can expect during your sail with respect to Covid
• Health screening questions just prior to you leaving home.
• Temperature, pulse oximeter checks prior to boarding.
• If all of the charter party and crew have been fully vaccinated from Covid-19 by an approved vaccine, then masks may be optional.
Otherwise, face masks will be required for guests and crew in all common areas except during meals. (No masks required on foredeck, within private cabins, during kayaking or hikes ashore)
• Socially distanced dining areas for passengers on “Join a cruise trips”. (not required for private trips) Not required if all vaccinated.
• Cabins, bathrooms, seating, and high touch areas disinfected prior to boarding with EPA “N” list disinfectants.
• Crew required to regularly wash hands (guests highly encouraged)
• Hand sanitizer available to guests in common areas.
• Tables disinfected between meals.
• Masks available to guests