Covid travel this week: 10 things we learned

Saturday is here — which means that it’s time once again for CNN Travel to check the destination barometer and tell you where’s hot, where’s not and where you’ll need your two shots.

Here are 10 things we learned in pandemic travel this week:

1. There’s going to be a honeymoon boom

Bad news for lovers of sweatpants and corporate logo T-shirts: You might be forced into formal wear sooner than you think.

The wedding industry is rebounding in the United States, with some jewelers reporting that sales of engagement rings have quadrupled year-on-year.

Customers are on the hunt for engagement rings now because they can “finally travel” and propose on vacation, Kyle Simon, co-founder of New York-based jewelery company Clear Cut, told CNN Business this week.

Time to get those suits and gowns to the dry cleaners ready for those destination weddings.

2. There’s still time to escape a return to the office

How far are you prepared to go to avoid microwave chit-chat with your colleagues? Sicily perhaps? Maybe Sri Lanka?

The Italian town of Sambuca di Sicilia has just put a fresh batch of abandoned homes on the market and a Sicilian getaway can be yours for just €2. There are plans to open remote working hubs to lure digital workers, deputy mayor Giuseppe Cacioppo tells CNN Travel.

Sri Lanka, meanwhile, has jumped on the digital nomad trend by launching long-term visas of up to one year to attract foreign visitors looking to work remotely while enjoying Sri Lanka’s sunshine and scenery.

4. Ireland will finally reopen on Monday

It’s had one of Europe’s toughest lockdowns and a cyberattack delayed its introduction of the EU Digital Covid Certificate by almost three weeks, but Ireland will finally roll out the green carpet for international visitors on July 19.

Fully vaccinated travelers from non-EU countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, won’t have to undergo any testing or quarantine. (A 14-day self-quarantine or hotel quarantine will still apply to those without valid proof of vaccination or who are arriving from an “emergency brake” country).

Indoor hospitality — and yes, yes, that does include pubs — is set to reopen by July 23.

5. Two old rivals are back in business

From 1884 to 1889, the 555-foot-tall Washington Monument — a white stone obelisk in the District of Columbia built to commemorate first US President George Washington — was the tallest structure in the world.

And then along came Gustave Eiffel and his fancy new 984-foot wrought-iron tower on Paris’ Champs de Mars. The Eiffel Tower held the title for 41 years, until the honor returned to the New World with the completion of New York’s Chrysler Building.

Both iconic structures reopened to the public this week, with the Washington Monument welcoming visitors on Friday and the Eiffel Tower getting back into business on Friday.

6. Qatar is open to fully vaccinated travelers

Football fans mourning the end of Euro 2020 can console themselves that the host of the next major international tournament, World Cup 2022 in Qatar, has just opened to fully vaccinated international travelers.

Visitors who’ve completed their shots of Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson more than 14 days previously will be able to skip quarantine but will still be required to do a pre-travel Covid test and get authorization through the government’s Ehteraz website.

Once in the country, tourists can check out attractions such as the “ghost towns” of the northwest coast: abandoned 19th-century fishing villages showing what life was life before Qatar’s spectacular oil- and gas-fueled economic boom.

7. Caribbean paradise vacations just got a little easier

The classy Caribbean islands of Anguilla and St. Kitts & Nevis have swung their luxury doors open a little wider.

Anguilla is now allowing entry to fully vaccinated visitors — and only the fully vaccinated. That means doses of Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Johnson and Johnson Covid-19 completed at least 21 days before arrival.

St. Kitts & Nevis has reduced its self-quarantine period — or “Vacation in Place,” as they style it — from nine days to three, with testing on day four. Results should be within 12 hours.

The Cayman Islands, meanwhile, will extend a cautious welcome to fully vaccinated travelers from September, under a five-phase plan. Cruise ships are not expected to call there, however, until at least January 2022.

8. Thousands of Australians are still stranded overseas

While the rest of the world was enduring lockdown after lockdown, Australia has been one of the pandemic success stories. By closing its borders, it was able to largely block out Covid-19.

The price paid for keeping the virus at bay is that thousands of Australian families have been separated since early 2020. There are around 34,000 stranded Australian citizens who have registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as being stuck overseas and wanting to come home.

Now that Australia’s limit on international arrivals has been halved to just 3,000 passengers a week as of July 14, and air fares have soared, their prospects have got even more bleak. CNN’s Hannah Ritchie reports.

9. Venice has — once again — banned cruise ships from the city center

Cruise ships are the bad-boy ex that Venice just can’t seem to quit.

First there was a ban. Then there was a pre-ban. And then — like Dolly Parton’s “Here You Come Again” — they were back in the city until further notice.

The latest twist is that cruise ships will now be banned from sailing through Venice city center from August 1.

Rather than sailing past St. Mark’s Square and up the narrow Giudecca Canal, they’ll be rerouted through the Venice lagoon, and dock on the mainland, at the industrial port of Marghera.

10. Oil wrestling is back, baby

Last year’s contest was canceled because of the pandemic, but you can’t hold greased men down.

Thousands of Turkish wrestling fans headed last weekend to Edirne Province on Turkey’s northwest border with Greece for a 600-year-old oil wrestling championship.

The competitors, clad only in olive oil and leather pants, grappled for three days in the hope of winning the title of Baspehlivani, or chief wrestler. Antalya’s Ali Gurbuz retained his title for another year.

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