Who would be crazy enough to go on holiday during a) A pandemic, b) A Tropical Storm and c) A National Lockdown ? Oh! That would be us then!
We booked this holiday to St Lucia in its original guise in June. I remember the evening well. We were having a nice drink after work in the conservatory, enjoying the early summer sunshine, and November seemed a very VERY long way away. Coronavirus was obviously a consideration, but things were opening up again and life would be a lot more normal by THEN we thought….Yeah right.
As the time got closer and cases were rising again in the UK, I was sure it would be cancelled, but St Lucia remained low in terms of their numbers, and we knew that If WE cancelled the holiday, we would not get a refund.
As the holiday drew near, I studied the St Lucia website avidly, working out what we needed to do to ensure we could get in to the country. The first thing of course, was testing. You have to show a negative coronavirus test to gain entry. Quite rightly, these have to be paid for privately, and they have to be done so that the result shows within 5 days of your arrival. STRESS! I found a company, (Let’s Get Checked) ordered them (£125 each), and then waited for the right time frame to do the test. The test wasn’t too bad, definitely nicer than the one I took in June when I actually had COVID symptoms, which was a gag down the throat and push the swab up your nose until you feel it’s going to come out the top of your head. This one was a more gentle ‘up the nose’ job, though still not what I would call a pleasant experience.
Having done the tests, following all the instructions to the letter, we sent them off, and then I paced the house for 24 hours waiting for the results. Would they come back on time? Would they be positive? Would they get lost in the post? Andy and I tried to come up with a couple of Plan B’s if any of those scenarios actually happened, but Plan B seemed to consist of staying at home for 2 weeks.
Finally, a little text came up saying the results were in. Oh the suspense as the page loaded on the website! Negative! Phew! Andy and I had already filled in the registration info that St Lucia authorities require, I had done all the BA admin stuff and I was starting to feel like this holiday was actually going to happen. Then I read that someone had been denied entry into a Caribbean country because they didn’t have the RIGHT sort of test from the RIGHT sort of lab. WHAT?! Were our tests from the “right” sort of lab. It was too late to get any others …so we just crossed everything and hoped.
On the morning of our flight, Gatwick airport was quiet. Check in was a breeze compared to the usual mile queues, and there didn’t seem to be any issues with our paperwork. So far. Our flight was quite busy – about two thirds full, but we had nice seats and settled back to enjoy a routine eight hour flight. The flight had been a bit bumpy, but I love flying and turbulence in a big plane never worries me. And then we started our decent into St Lucia.
The cabin crew had done the whole “ten minutes to landing” thing, but that ten minutes seemed to be going on and on and on…and 45 minutes later we didn’t seem to be much nearer the ground. The flight attendants didn’t seem bothered and even though the landing gear came up and went down a few times, I wasn’t feeling particularly worried. Then the Captain came on the tannoy and told us that the storm conditions were SO bad outside, (and to be fair to BA and the pilot, no one inside had really noticed), that the pilots COULD NOT SEE THE AIRFIELD!! Eeeek! So having tried a couple of aborted landing attempts, the plan was to fly to Grenada. Grenada? Andy and I (and the rest of the flight) were quickly consulting phones trying to establish where Grenada was. About half an hour from St Lucia as it turned out, and as sunny and calm as St Lucia was stormy! So we flew to Grenada, to wait out the storm, (and various flight plans and security checks) which took a couple of hours. It didn’t help that the chap who turned up in the fuel vehicle to refuel the plane, didn’t have a licence to actually refuel the plane, so the co pilot had to hop out and do it instead. And no, I promise you, I am not making this up.
Finally took off again, and the trip back to a much calmer St Lucia was uneventful. Yay! We had arrived! Though our joy was a bit muted by the size of the queue as we waited to be processed. It was apparent why when we turned into a huge silver covered quarantine marquee which looked like something out of a science fiction movie! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, the St Lucia approach to keeping Covid out of their country is comprehensive to say the least. And quite right to. Time consuming yes, but perfectly understandable and who can blame them. So far they have NO deaths in this country and only about 6O or 70 cases. The process consisted of temperature checks , three queues to see three different officials who checked different aspects of our documentation, (and thankfully our lab tests were acceptable) …and a final temperature check again for good measure.
The resort is very near the airport and we arrived exhausted, but happy to finally be in the hotel. Even more so when someone helpfully put a glass of rum punch in my hand. Of course we had to wait for another ten minutes or so, while everyone in our minibus taxi was…. you have guessed it, temperature checked again, but like I say, I really can’t blame them.
Watch this space … A Pandemic Holiday Part 2 is coming soon, including the drama of daily temperature checks and the stirrings of vague unease about how we are going to get home during a national lockdown…..😬 But at the moment, watching a new storm brewing outside, I am just very happy and grateful to be here. ❤️