Rene Schneeberger, VP, Leisure Supplier Management, Direct Travel recent experience as a US citzen traveling to Europe.
Trip: San Francisco to France
Date: July 22-29, 2021
Purpose: AmaWaterways River Cruise
As this was my first trip back to my home soil of Europe, I consulted Sherpa (our Direct Travel tool to validate documentation) which told me that since I am fully vaccinated, I did not need any testing prior to entry into France. All I had to do was to complete an entry form which I was required to present to the gate agent at my connecting hub in Chicago. Once again, my flight was operated by United Airlines from San Francisco via Chicago to Paris Charles de Gaulle.
My check-in was fast and I was able to do the first leg from San Francisco to Chicago on the app. The flight was handled like any domestic flight is these days – mask required at all times except when actively eating or drinking. Upon arriving at the Paris flight gate in Chicago, I could see that the process was going to be different. We were asked to queue up by cabin class. Each guest was then required to present their documentation. In my case I had to show the CDC vaccination card, the completed entry form for France and a passenger declaration form with address in France. Once it was all validated, I got a yellow sticker on my boarding pass and I was cleared for departure.
Upon arrival in Paris, all passengers were triaged into red, yellow, or green lines. Vaccinated US travelers were stickered yellow and followed the yellow line. Unvaccinated travelers went to the red line and any European passport holders with the digital Covid pass were routed green. As instructed, I followed the yellow line to immigration where a friendly office validated my documentation once again. It took about 45 minutes of waiting due to multiple flights having arrived at the same time. The process was overall easy and efficient.
Since this trip was a river cruise and I was visiting multiple countries, I was curious as to how the different requirements for each country would be handled. Was it my responsibility to figure it out? Would there be testing required?
My cruise was unfolding entirely within the country of France so no additional testing was needed until 3 days prior to returning home. Plus, AMA made it super easy by providing nightly information for the following day’s program and expectations. We had to carry and show our CDC vaccination card many times to enter museums, venues and an indoor restaurant once. It was very easy and we never ran into any problems, thanks to the presence of the amazing AMA crew at every turn.
For my return trip home, I once again needed a viral antigen test. Even though AmaWaterways offered a test by an outsourced testing company on board 48 hours prior to our departure, I chose the now US government approved “self test kit with monitoring” instead. I had ordered it at home several weeks earlier directly from the United Airlines website. It made sense to get one I was sure the airline approved of. The test kit came in packs of 2 or 4 – both options were reasonably priced. The kit was easy to use following the provided instructions and the result arrived 4 hours later in the required PDF letter format needed to present at check-in.
Overall, my first trip back to Europe was easier and smoother than I had anticipated. The entire experience was totally worth it and as you can imagine, I miss France already. One week was not long enough to reap the benefits of such a long flight. That said, I am already planning my next trip over the pond in October without any hesitation.