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The South in times of COVID-19 – An account of an all-inclusive stay

To the point

Swapping boots for sandals this winter is causing controversy. Is it safe to indulge in a week on the beaches of the Caribbean? I share with you my experience, which was in November 2020.

Editor's note

The milesopedia editors do not recommend going against government guidelines, namely:

The Government of Quebec also advises against non-essential travel and provides a number of travel advisories.

We are among the first to encourage industry action to accompany these guidelines as:

And we would like to see the various levels of government working together to test all travellers on arrival in the country, as is done in many countries. We see, for example, Doug Ford, the Premier of Ontario, wanting to put in place a testing infrastructure at the airport exit (which is under federal jurisdiction).

However, it is clear that travellers are no longer the main cause of transmission of COVID-19 in Canada. According to Ottawa, only 1.8% of cases of COVID-19 in Canada are the result of travel outside of Canada.

This means that 98.2% of the cases are the result of community contamination. 98,2%.

Since mid-December, the media has been reporting on abuses in the all-inclusive sector, suggesting that the behaviour of a few individuals is being generalized to all travelers.

We obviously condemn this type of behaviour. However, we also want to restore the balance: the actions of a minority are not the image of a majority. The one that respects social distancing and quarantine measures upon return. A silent majority.

If we do not encourage travel abroad at the moment, we can however relate the experience on the spot, far from the excesses as caricatured by some to make sensation. La Presse interviewed travellers reporting the same facts as our author below.

The South in times of COVID-19 - An account of an all-inclusive stay

Far be it from me to recommend travel at this time. I did it, personally, because I work from home, don’t see anyone anyway (except my dogs!) and could afford to quarantine without a problem. I followed the Canadian government’s quarantine measures and recommendations, and I did not cheat.

In early November 2020, I had the opportunity to travel to Mexico with Air Canada Vacations. I took the opportunity to spend a week at a new 5* adults-only resort, Barceló Maya Riviera, which opened in December 2019.

As you can imagine, few guests have stayed there since!

I share with you my experience of travelling in these times complicated by COVID. I will talk about arriving at the airport, flying on Air Canada in economy class, the security measures there and the quarantine on the way back.

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Overnight at the hotel and YUL experience

The Montreal Marriott Airport Terminal Hotel

My connecting flight from Quebec City to Montreal was scheduled to leave YQB at 6:00 am, leaving about 90 minutes before the YUL flight to Cancun (CUN). Air Canada cancelled this segment a week before my departure, putting me on a flight the day before instead.

So I had to find a way to sleep in Montreal. Knowing that my credit card insurance would reimburse me for the night (up to $200), I chose to sleep as close to the airport as possible! My choice was simple: I booked the Montreal Airport Marriott In-Terminal Hotel.

I was able to save $10 just by being a member of the Marriott Bonvoy program, and I was able to earn points for the overnight stay.

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The room was perfect, very comfortable and well soundproofed. I slept very well! I especially liked the ability to check in from my phone in the Marriott Bonvoy app. The products offered (shampoo, conditioner, shower gel) were of great quality.

But the best part? No need to take a shuttle to the airport. Once out of the elevator, just go down to the departure level, without stepping outside. And that’s it!

Montreal-Trudeau International Airport

The airport was almost deserted. At the entrance, an employee takes the temperature of all travellers with a contactless forehead thermometer.

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As explained in this article on the experience of a trip to YUL during the pandemic, the airlines have instituted various safety measures to promote social distancing.

Among these, we can check in our own baggage using automated machines that scan the previously printed label.

Flight in economy class

Waiting and boarding

At the boarding gate, every other seat is marked with a cross to respect the physical distance. Many people wait standing up, without worrying too much about respecting the two-meter distance, but without exaggerating either.

The boarding process is somewhat different in that those seated on the row side are allowed to board after everyone else, to minimize physical proximity to the passengers in the middle row.

On the Air Canada plane

On each seat is a small plastic bag; each contains a small bottle of water, an individually wrapped mask, a mini bottle of disinfectant, a wet wipe, safety instructions and a small bag of pretzels.

I thought this was a great initiative. It is part of CleanCare+, Air Canada’s industry-leading health and safety program.

cdg-yul – air canada eco – covid-46

The flight was almost full. I was lucky enough to have no one directly next to me, but the vast majority of passengers were sharing their space with a stranger. As we now know, transmission on board aircraft is extremely rare. Here is what is found on the Air Canada website:

Cases of disease transmission in an aircraft are very rare. The reasons for this apparently low rate of in-flight transmission are not clear, but could include a combination of factors, such as the inherent featuresof the cabin airflow.

Various government agencies have confirmed that the risk of transmission on board an aircraft is minimal, which is consistent with scientific studies of communicable diseases and air travel.

The additional measures implemented by Air Canada, such as the pre-screening questionnaire, the taking of temperatures and the mandatory wearing of face coverings, are also considered effective.

I have never felt at risk. Everyone kept their masks on board, no one made a scene to try to remove them. All in all, it was a smooth flight. I settled in with a novel and the four hours of flying went by very quickly.

Arrival in Cancun and transfer

Cancun Airport

Once I arrived at the airport, the measures seemed even stricter than when I left Montreal. Of course, all employees wear masks and gloves, and the suitcases are disinfected with a spray bottle before they are put on the conveyor belt.

People are respecting as best they can the distance while waiting for customs. As there are few travellers, everything goes very fast. So far, I am satisfied with the measures Mexico is taking.

Private transfer

I had heard from others that the buses used to transfer people to their hotels were not very safe (no distancing, no mask enforcement, selling beer, etc.). So I had taken the initiative to book a private car transfer to my hotel, an hour away (Puerto Aventuras).

I strongly recommend that you do so during the pandemic. It’s more expensive, yes, but to ensure your safety, it’s worth it.

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My stay at Barceló Maya Riviera

First impression of the hotel

As for my experience at the hotel, I have only good words to say. The purpose of this article is not to promote the hotel per se, but rather to reassure some who dare not leave for fear that the measures will not be respected.

Upon arrival, our suitcases are again disinfected by the porter. They are then placed out of the way to prevent others from touching them before someone brings them to the room.

Checking in takes a long time. There are three people ahead of me (waiting within the recommended distance), and since the staff takes the time to explain the steps to each person, it takes about 10 minutes per person or couple. I still prefer to wait and be well informed of what is and isn’t open during my stay.

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The services

So, I learn that the gym is open, but at a very reduced capacity. By the way, the hotel could accommodate 60% of its usual total guests, but is only 30% full during my stay. Nice!

The restaurants are open, by reservation only. To get in, you have to give your name and room number, and wait for the employee to take your temperature.

The buffet (with its particularly delicious and varied food) is also open, but you cannot help yourself. You have to ask an employee to do it. It’s a little less pleasant, but it allows you to control your portions… You have to look on the bright side!

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The staff

All the Riviera employees were very attentive, courteous and careful. I didn’t see anyone without their mask, even during the aqua gym and zumba sessions in the 35 degree sun!

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The customers

As far as the hotel guests are concerned… Well, there were people from all over, but mostly from the United States, as Mexico is one of the only countries that allows Americans to enter. Let’s just say that the Quebecers we met there were much more compliant than the others.

Outside the hotel, wearing a mask is not mandatory. It is very easy to stay away from the others, as the beach is huge and the pool is almost as big.

That’s how I spent the week: reading, resting, clearing my head and recharging my batteries before returning to the routine at home.

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Return and quarantine

Return flight with Air Canada

The time spent at Cancun airport for the return flight was just as safe as on arrival. I didn’t see anyone without their mask on, even when I was sitting by the gate waiting. The people were, all in all, very respectful of the measures, and of each other.

The flight was as full as the first one, but again, it went well. We all received another small bag with a mask, disinfectant and (again!) pretzels.

Passage through customs

At customs in Montreal, I was asked how I had planned for my quarantine. The customs officer wanted to know if I shared my living space with anyone else, if I had a balcony to get some fresh air (or a private yard), and if I planned to have food delivered.

Before my trip, I had downloaded ArriveCan, the app on which to report our symptoms (or lack thereof) every day during quarantine. It’s a very simple process that literally (I swear) takes 15 seconds.

Yul Arrivals Featured

My quarantine

Tips for a quarantine…

  • Order your groceries in advance. It saved me! The day after my return, a delivery man came to bring me beautiful bags full of food. I also took the opportunity to order a box from Goodfood for the second week!
  • Go out and get some fresh air every day on your little balcony, or at least by the window. It feels great. You don’t always realize that you’re locked in… but once you’re out, it wakes you up.
  • Organize virtual aperitifs (or coffees) with your family and friends. I’m not teaching you anything – we’ve all been doing it since March. But it made it easier to isolate myself. Besides, you have to show off your tan to someone! 😉

Conclusion

As I said at the beginning of the article, the idea is not to convince you to go to the South.

However, I wanted to show you that it is possible to go on holiday in the sun while respecting health measures. Of course, you must have a good insurance policy that protects you in case of a problem (especially if you contract COVID-19 at your destination).

The most important thing, however, is to fully respect the quarantine. This means:

  • go out only on your own balcony or in your own yard
  • not to receive anyone in the house, even outside and at a distance of more than two metres
  • disinfect all surfaces used and wear a mask at home if sharing the residence with others
  • do NOT take your car for a “ride”.
  • accept that these two weeks of isolation are the price to pay for travel in times of pandemic.

It’s up to you to see if quarantine is possible for you!

Come to discuss that topic in our Facebook Group!

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