Travel to USA for The Rolling Stones Tour 2021

The Rolling Stones Tour 2021 was announced July 22, 2021. One month later I was in Mexico Cancun, on a long and winding travel that would eventually take me into Stonesland. This is the story about getting there, it is not easy, but it is possible, and you are welcome as a visitor to USA, as long as you follow their current rules.

It took a few days until I realized I had to go on the tour. May be I knew it all the time, because I had booked more than 30 hotels for the entire tour in USA already on July 22. All bookings flexible, so no cost yet. My passport was renewed in July, as it expired in September. I was ready, without knowing anything would happen this year. I have not been on travel by air or outside Norway since I went to London late 2019, to see Ronnie Wood there.

Checking travel rules is essential when you want to visit USA. Rules change, there are separate rules for each country and so on. Norway as an example are completely closed for non-EU visitors, a bit like Australia and New Zealand. So I spent hours and days checking. If you are from EU/Schengen, or UK, or a list of other countries, you are not allowed into USA if you have been in these countries during the 14 days ahead of US entry. This rule do also apply to transit, so there are few options.

Mexico have no rules of entry, except entry form etc. There are a few other options, like Bahamas, Cayman Islands, and a few other places, but as there are very few flights, you do not want to spend a fortune and wait another week to get there. Also, you need a negative Covid-19 PCR test no older than 72 hours on departure to USA. That may be a show stopper if there are delays. I found out Mexico was the safest travel path for me, and as Cancun was closer than Mexico City, I chose Cancun, even if there were more flights from Europe to Mexico City.

Flight booked. Oslo – Zürich – Cancun. A total of 24 hours of travel door to door, an expensive ticket I could, and did, change, and will change more probably. No transit in USA made 80% of all flights by airliners like SAS and Lufthansa useless. I would have been rejected at the airport. Zürich Switzerland by Swizz Air was available for me, with my fully vaccinated status, also, I would just be in transit.

It is 5am early morning at home, mask on, airport train, easy check-in at the airport, waiting time, two hours flight to Zürich, six hours wait, luckily the airport in Zürich do have an outdoor roof area, so I could remove my mask a bit and breath fresh air. Then the long intercontinental flight 10 hours 30 minutes. A smooth flight with Edelweiss Air, part of Swizz, four movies, hardly any sleep. Landing on time, have to drop my tour jacket, it is 29 C / 84 F outside at 10pm in Cancun. I book a taxi inside the Cancun terminal, because outside you have less control of your booking. Then a 20 minutes ride to the hotel. At 10:20pm i.e. more than 24 hours since I left home, I am at the hotel.

As I walk out of my taxi, it is dark. I see the impressive large blue fountain of waterfall in front of the hotel. Inside they welcome me, they are expecting me, personal service, and I am at my room in 10 minutes. I am sleeping within minutes.

The resort was just fantastic. I ended up staying there all my 16 nights and 17 days in Cancun, except for a side trip of two days to Isla Mujeres. For more details about my favorite Cancun hotel see my separate report Sensira Resort – Paradise in Cancun Mexico.

During my stay in Cancun, on Tuesday August 24, just after having lunch at 1pm, I returned to my room, and a close friend is calling me. “Charlie is dead” he says. I don’t understand. He says it one more time. We talk. I go black. I tell him we talk more later. Then I check my messages, lots, even if the news were just out. Before I have time to grief or think my IORR Editor mind kicks in and I have to edit the volume of separate messages and posts and news all over. Then after an hour or two, I can think. I go outside. I am sad and lonely. I go back to my room, and I stay there for hours, trying to find flights home. Lufthansa booking are very helpful, but everything is too late today, and tomorrow the cost is USD 5,000 and up. I want to go home, but I decide to sleep on it. It is hard to sleep. I want to go home.

I call home, sad, lonely, I talk to the friendly hotel staff, but they have no idea of my mind and my worries and my sadness. I eat my food and stay a bit more. I can not work. I can not write. I can not think. All I do is eat, walk on the beach, sleep, eat, wait, think. Then after day two or three, and many phone calls home, I decide to stay. It is painful, but right. I think the tour is on, and I don’t want to be far away from the band now. So I stay.

After some days I pull myself together and make some pages in memory of Charlie Watts. It still hurts, and the pain will be there, but over time I try to remember all the great times I had with Charlie. Some links here:

Charlie Watts In Memory
Memories by Bjørnulf Vik, Norway – Fan since 1971
Stoneslife.org – 27 August 2021

Charlie Watts (iorr.org)

While the Sensira was just perfect, I was told that there were even better beaches at the little island Isla Mujeres, just half an hour by ferry out from Cancun. So after my first six booked nights at the Sensira, I was on the ferry to Isla Mujeres. I had booked a five star hotel, with direct access to the white sandy north side beach. I boarded the ferry with double masks. The entire trip was a nightmare, with other people dropping their masks dropping, doing unmasked selfies. Then the island, a very busy and noisy place packed with tourists, no masks, drinking a lot, hanging bar side with no shirts, loud, riding around in golf cars, it felt bad, the hotel was nothing like I expected, but at the price, I forced myself into staying there the two nights I had prepaid, and booked my following eight nights in Cancun at the “old” favorite hotel Sensira almost immediately after arrival to Isla Mujeres.

Breakfast at 7am, ferry back from Isla Mujeres to Cancun at 8am, then a real good old breakfast at the Sensira at 9am. I know what I do, I know what I like. More on the separate Sensira report.

My plan was to leave after staying 15 nights in Cancun. The rules do say 14 days, so I wanted to avoid any discussions by adding another night. The requirement of US entry for non-USA residents is a complete negative PCR Covid-19 test. Normally they take up to 72 hours from test to result. I took my test early morning at 8am, day before departure USA, and was promised the result by 11pm in the evening of the test day, just in time for upload to the flight pages. The cost was usd 150, if you pay usd 100 it might take longer, up to 72 hours, and then you are close to the limit of 72h.

I got my test result at 9pm, so it took just 13 hours from the test. That would be very important later on. Next day I checked out, went to Cancun Airport, presented my papers and passport to the United check-in desk. It took a while, he counted days on his fingers, again and again, then he asked his colleague to count, they both agreed, I was missing a day. I was not ready to fly. He told me they do not count arrival day and departure day. I told them politely I still had 14 nights in Mexico. With no luck. Then I was so lucky, both of my United tickets to Houston, and the other four hours domestic US flight, were rebooked for next day at no extra cost – by the same check-in staff. I paid a lot for flexibility initially. So next morning at 8am I should be all set for finally getting to USA.

Out of the Cancun Terminal, I feel lonely, but I must stay calm, looking for an airport hotel, in sight or on Google Maps, do not see any hotels nearby. Then I get a taxi, and ask them to drive me back to my favorite place Sensira. One more night. I enjoyed the extra day, nice sunny weather, patiently, packed my little bag, went to bed, slept 2.5 hours, woke up at 2am, worked 2.5 hours with a lot of mess on the IORR Tour 2021 rehearsals thread and other threads. Then at 4:30am I walk down to the lobby. At 5am I am in the taxi, and 20 minutes later I am once more at the check-in desk.

This time check in was easier, no counting of days, just asking a lot for papers, documentation, and mind you, my PCR test was again uploaded to my new flight by me to United last night, it was still valid, but for many, a delay of 24 hours may make the test invalid. There are no exceptions. After half an hour at the check-in desk, I got both of my boarding cards. Next was pre-security medical covid-19 papers and an app form to be filled out, quite a special thing that took half an hour ahead of security. Then finally I was at my gate 40 minutes ahead of boarding. Make sure you do have plenty of time if you want to travel internationally these days.

The rest of the travel was smooth and easy. Two hours to Houston TX USA. I got a warm welcome from the US Immigration Officer. When asked about why I visited USA, I told him I was going to see The Rolling Stones on tour. Big friendly smile on his face, stamp in my passport, I was in USA. Then another flight of four hours, and I was all settled in, ready to follow The Rolling Stones on Tour in USA 2021.

Finally, some advices. If you plan to travel to USA, from abroad, then make sure you check all the rules. You do need flexibility, a lot of time, and it will cost you. Many ask me if I think USA will open up. I don’t know, but I can’t see why, knowing the numbers go up and they are busy handling the pandemic.

Some links and more information about the rules as of today:

Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Non-Immigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus Disease (The White House Jan 25, 2021)

Travelers Prohibited from Entry to the United States (CDC USA April 30,2021)

Order: Requirement for Proof of Negative COVID-19 Test Result or Recovery from COVID-19 for All Airline Passengers Arriving into the United States (DCD USA updated August 23,2021)

Find your travel requirements (United Airlines)

Coronavirus Update For Mexico’s Caribbean
COVID-19 in Cancun, Tulum, Cozumel & More
Updated September 9, 2021

From the current CDC documentation:

With specific exceptions, several Presidential proclamations suspend and limit entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of noncitizens who were physically present within the following countries during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. For a full list of exceptions, please refer to the relevant proclamations in the links below.

Sensira Resort – Paradise in Cancun Mexico

Sensira Resort & Spa Riviera Maya was my choice of hotel when I was going to Cancun Mexico for two weeks, in order to get access for further travel to USA. I booked just six nights initially, but I stayed at the Sensira for two weeks. It turned out to be paradise for me. I needed a home away from home, and I got all of that.

Cancun Mexico was a stop over for me when I went from Los Angeles USA via Mexico City to Havana Cuba some twentyone years ago, for a short side-trip with friends. Since then, I thought of Cancun Mexico as a place tourists from USA travel to, because it is just two hours flying south of Houston Texas, also less than two hours flight south of Miami and the other southern parts of USA.

I knew I had to stay for two weeks in Cancun, as part of my travel from Norway to USA, for the Rolling Stones US Tour 2021. Mexico City was an option too, but then I would have a longer travel from Europe, also a longer travel up to the East Coast of USA, so Cancun was my choice.

How do you find a safe and great place to stay in Cancun Mexico? I use hotels.com for checking hotels, then I look at ratings. If a hotel is ranked high, and also is high priced, it means it must be great. Some cheap hotels are ranked high simply because people feel they get a lot for a small amount of money, so I always look at the total.

Sensira Resort & Spa Riviera Maya came up on my hotels.com searches with a ranking of 9.2. Meaning Superb. Very few hotels do get 9 and above. The best ones do have 8.0 and up. Then I browsed through all the pictures on the web sites. I needed many restaurants outside, due to Covid-19 safety, also, I needed lots of space for walking and moving around, a large hotel, and finally, I needed a hotel with on-site Covid-19 testing, high quality testing with full PCR test, on site, because it is required for US entry.

I booked six nights at the Sensira Resort & Spa Riviera Maya initially, as I did not know if the place was as expected. Some times it looks better in pictures than for real. When I arrived into the hotel just after 10pm, following my 24 hours long travel from home in Norway to Mexico, I had no idea about how this place was. I was so tired. I was impressed by the large blue water fountain at the entrance, and the large lobby area, but I was sleeping just minutes after I was settled into my room.

The next days of my stay at the Sensira Resort & Spa Riviera Maya was simply amazing. It is a large modern hotel of some 350 rooms, right on the Caribbean sea of Mexico, but at the time I was there, probably due to Covid-19, also out of season, very few guests were there. Perfect for me, as I needed to stay with a distance from all other guests, I needed space. Later on in September, I am told they are fully booked, but if you are planning to travel in October and on, try them out, they are the best!

Breakfast at 7am. Lots of great fresh food. Papaya and all sorts of other fruits. Bread. Hot food. Everything you do expect from a four star hotel. I have extensive dietary requirements, but breakfast was no problem, I found what I needed in the buffet breakfast.

The Sensira is an all-inclusive non-smoking hotel. Perfect for me, I never paid or signed for any food or drinks, it was all in my pre-paid hotel stay bill. Also, I get sick from cigarette and cigar smoke, so in two weeks I had absolutely no worries about people smoking near me, due to the non-smoking policy.

Lunch and dinner were my worries ahead of arrival. The lunch buffet was massive, even with the few guests booked, but as I have very special dietary requirements, I ordered fresh fish made for me every lunch and dinner. The chefs and the waiters at lunch and dinner were just seamless, perfect. I am usually sick 3-4 out of seven days per week on travel, from food allergy and intolerance. Meat, onion, milk, butter, grain, garlic, spices, seasoning, broccoli, bread, eggs, almost any normal food will make me bad for 12-18 hours, but at Sensira, they took care of me in a perfect way, seamless, with all the chefs and waiters I was in touch with. Thank you so much to Hever, Federico, Alexander, Christian, and all the others who took care of me. Also, thanks to Nataniel, Carlos, Ana, and all the others who served me during early mornings, lunches, by the pool, at the coffee and sweets area, whick I liked a lot, and at dinner.

Once I was in Cancun, I asked about Cozumel, an island 1-2 hours south of Cancun, because I was thinking about one tourist trip during my stay, if it was safe for Covid-19. Then I was told there was a smaller and more beautiful island just nearby, called Isla Mujeres, half an hour ferry trip east of Cancun. I checked on the web, booked two nights there, following my first six Sansira days. The sand and the five star hotels on the north side of Isla Mujeres looked terrific on the web pages, so I said goodbye to the friendly staff at Sensira, packed my bag, and told them, may be I stay up there at Isla Mujeres for nine days, if they are great, otherwise I come back for one more week at the Sensira.

Isla Mujeres turned out to be a nightmare. See my report in the Travel to USA for The Rolling Stones Tour 2021 pages. So two days later I was back at the Sensira, enjoying every day, every minute, of seamless five star quality of this resort hotel. And due to the airport check-in rejection after my 15 days stay, I came back to the Sensira for one more final day and night.

The staff at Sensira asked me if I had been to Mexico before. Yes, I said. I have been to Mexico every time The Rolling Stones have been performing in Mexico. I love Mexico, people are friendly, the food is fresh and great. During these Covid-19 days I was so happy to see that all of the hotel staff were having face masks at all times. The few guests at the hotel were 50% Spanish spoken and 50% English spoken, so it was very different from the “hotel area” of Cancun and Isla Mujeres, where few had masks of the tourists.

As a Stones fans, I got the sad news about the passing of Charlie Watts during my stay at the Sensira. For the rest of my life I will remember the very moment my close friend from London England calling me in my room at the Sensira, as I was briefly up there after lunch at 1pm locally on Tuesday August 24. The hotel staff had no way of understanding my grief and sadness, but they made my many sad moments less painful through their excellent and friendly service.

One special moment will also be in my memory forever. As I had such special requirements for food, one day the chef brough out all of his staff in front of my table, as I got my dinner meal at around 7pm one evening. They all lined up in front of me, 10-12 chefs and staff, thanking me for challenging them and their proffesional skills. I told them I was the one who should be thankful, having no pain or trouble throughout my entire stay. Then on the last day, for dinner, five of them came out for a picture, this time I wanted to take a picture, as seen below. Thank you chef Christian, number two from the right, and Hever, number one from the right, also the waiter Hever on the other picture serving me red wine and water. Seamless service. That means no matter who is serving you, they all know you, they all know what you need, you don’t have to tell them again and again and again and again. Thank you Sensira!

Charlie Watts In Memory

Memories by Bjørnulf Vik, Norway – Fan since 1971

Charlie Watts, drummer of The Rolling Stones since 1963, sadly died in London Tuesday August 24, 2021. The Rolling Stones and their band members have been an important part of my life for fifty years, since I got their album Sticky Fingers in August 1971. Like so many other fans across the world, I can not find words. Still, I will try my best here, in memory of Charlie Watts. The first picture here is Charlie pointing my way during the final bow in Mexico City 2016.

I was a kid age 16 when I got into The Rolling Stones. They became an obsession for me. Once I am hooked, I never do anything 90%. I got all their records from 1963 and on that fall back in 1971. I was a drummer myself in the local school brass band, and I soon became a big fan of Charlie Watts. I thought Charlie was the coolest guy, and I called myself Charlie. All my notebooks from school that year do have “Charlie” scribbled all over them, front pages, inside, everywhere. Two years later, in October 1973, I went to Gothenburg Sweden to see The Rolling Stones with Charlie Watts live for the first time, and since them, many, many times. The Rolling Stones and their band members feels like my 2nd family.

Charlie was never a rock star in the normal way others look at that term. I have met Charlie many times, every time he was so surprised people were interested in him and his band. I think he loved it best in the background, with Keith Richards next to him for most of the shows. Others could take the spotlights and the interviews. When Mick Jagger pointed the microphone to Charlie during presentations, or press conferences, the typical comment from Charlie would be a single word, like “Yes”. Then Mick would say – with a smile: “He speaks!”

The tears keep coming to my eyes. It is like I have lost a close friend, even if I never really spoke that much with Charlie. As a fan, I have always been shy, and respected their privacy. Just being in the same room, or being next to Charlie, was all I needed, and expected. The shows, the press conferences, meeting Charlie in the streets, in the VIP Lounges, at his own Jazz gigs, or wherever I ended up close by Charlie, it felt like I was sort of family. I guess that is like being a fan, you love the band and their members, and you feel part of a bigger family.

The picture below was taken by me in New York City August 18, 1997, during the Bridges To Babylon Press Conference. I may be shy, but that day, like some other days, I was not that shy. Even if we arrived late, with one of the record company coaches from the Times Square area, I aimed for the front, and I ended upon row one with Jane Rose on my one side and the Sprint Manager (tour sponsor) on my other side. I took the pictures up front with my little pocket camera, and when I look at all the pictures I took, I see the Charlie Watts I have always known – a man of many faces, smiling, wondering, thinking, well dressed, still a rock star in my mind.

Charlie did not have any personal security, not until recent years, when they just grew mega big, and insurance probably demanded security also for Charlie. Charlie was able to take care of himself, and most people would not even bother him. I remember meeting Charlie walking on the Chicago sidewalk between the two shows, on September 24, 1997. I was with tour pal Paul. We had a great chat with Charlie, who was a bit surprised about meeting fans as usual. We told him how much we loved the opening show of the tour last night. Then we told him we were looking forward to the next show tomorrow. He was so surprised, he could not really understand why we would go and see another show, since we had seen the show already… That was how Charlie was to me, he was always a gentleman, polite, still surprised about the fact that some of us just had to see him and his band again and again.

For a private person like Charlie Watts, the way I got to know him, I am so impressed the way he met us all polite and respectful. Thank you Charlie Watts for all the many years with great music and memories.

Below some pictures I took during the final show with Charlie Watts and The Rolling Stones, live at Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Florida USA, Friday August 30, 2019. Then the last two pictures are taken by Jim Pietryga, also from the Miami show, the final bow with Charlie, and then, Jim’s final picture from that show, Charlie in the pouring rain, smiling!

Going home … and … See you soon!

Miami FL USA – Newark NJ USA – Oslo Norway – Asker Norway. That was my final travel of the No Filter US Tour 2019. One short flight of 3 hours to Newark, then the long intercontinental flight of some 8 hours. I was at home Monday morning September 2 at 10am. As I get home, I see fall colours are coming. There are red and orange, yellow and brown, still mostly green. Sept, Oct an Nov are fall months, and fall is coming. Continue reading “Going home … and … See you soon!”

The Rolling Stones in Miami Florida USA 2019

The Rolling Stones were supposed to start their No Filter US tour 2019 in Miami Florida Saturday April 20. Then the tour got rescheduled, and Miami ended up as the last show, scheduled for Saturday August 31. Five days before the show was supposed to be on, as they were to be be performing the Glendale / Phoenix Arena show Monday August 26, I realized the Miami show might never happen at all. There was another hurrican building up in the south, just like in New Orleans six weeks ago, but this time it was the final show of the tour, and the timing was bad. There might not be a show at all. Continue reading “The Rolling Stones in Miami Florida USA 2019”

USA Today – News on tour USA 2019

News and what is happening day to day locally is an important part of life for me. Wherever I go, I do always read the local news. Ideally I want the news as told in a printed newspaper, which I can read during breakfast, lunch or dinner. Most hotels do offer a free newspaper, and for most of my stays, that happens to be “USA Today”. Continue reading “USA Today – News on tour USA 2019”

The Rolling Stones in Glendale / Phoenix Arizona USA 2019

Phoenix is the largest city in the state of Arizona, with 1.7 million people living there. Nearby cities are Glendale, with a population of 250,000, Tempe with 190,000 people, and Scottsdale, with 240,000 people. They are all spread out in the hot and dry Arizona desert. The Rolling Stones have been performing in this area several times, and this time they did a show at the State Farm Stadium in Glendale. Continue reading “The Rolling Stones in Glendale / Phoenix Arizona USA 2019”

The Rolling Stones in Pasadena California USA 2019

California fans got two shows on this tour, just like fans in Illinois (Chicago), New Jersey / New York, and Florida (Jacksonville and Miami). Just like the fans in the San Francisco area, the Los Angeles area fans are numerous, in fact The Rolling Stones could make a residency in Los Angeles and play any venue for weeks and months if they had the time. This time they were ready to perform at the Rose Bowl, a legendary, old, classic stadium, very unlike the modern stadiums around. Continue reading “The Rolling Stones in Pasadena California USA 2019”

The Rolling Stones in Santa Clara California USA 2019

Santa Clara is one of many cities in the San Francisco Bay area, also known as Silicon Valley. Santa Clara is just five miles (8 km) from San Jose, and 45 miles (74 km) from San Francisco. Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Palo Alto, Mountain View, Stanford, Menlo Park, and so on, they are all familiar names of cities and areas in the “valley”, if you work with IT, or if you just go there as a tourist. Continue reading “The Rolling Stones in Santa Clara California USA 2019”

The Rolling Stones in Seattle WA USA 2019

Seattle in the north west US state of Washington was the next stop on The Rolling Stones No Filter US Tour 2019, following the show in Denver Colorado. I added a day with a stopover in Portland Oregon, then took the train the next day to Seattle. One day in Portland OR and two days in Seattle WA made many memories and experiences, which would have taken a long time to experience in other ways than actually being there. Continue reading “The Rolling Stones in Seattle WA USA 2019”