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JeffB last won the day on June 22 2021

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  1. I've sailed post COVID and recently aboard Allure of the Seas, Celebrity Equinox and Infinity. I've looked at Silver Sea. I found no significant differences between the food quality in the two buffet type venues on AOSv. Equinox/Infinity- both offer varied selections, appetizing presentations and quality foods. Comparing the restaurant dining venues depends on what class of ships you might want to compare. Equinox, a Silhouette class ship, is not at all like AOS when it comes to comparing restaurants. AOS has many more dining options than any Celebrity ship. IMO, the table service within Celebrity's main restaurants is a bit more elegant - at least that is the corporate goal - than on AOS. Over the most recent years, specialty dining aboard Celebrity ships has not been that much better than main dining. That is likely because of cost control measures taken at the corporate level. I can't draw any distinction between food quality on AOS v. Equinox - main or specialty dining. I'm pretty sure sourcing of food on both lines is centralized through RCL. It then comes down to table service and presentation. I'd give Celebrity an edge there but that's just me and is a subjective opinion. I've not sailed on Silver Sea but have done a lot of comparing. If you're looking for smaller ships and what they can afford in general, Silver Sea is a good option when comparing this line to others in a similar niche. The issue for me is sailing nicely for at or below $200 per day, per person on an RCG brand v. sailing on Silver sea for upwards of $600 per day, per person. It comes down to 3 cruises on an RCG brand ship or 1 on Silver Sea or similar. As well, you'll see a different cohort of guests on Celebrity v. RCL and Celebrity v. Silver Sea. Service levels between RCL and Silver Sea are going to naturally be different with Silver Sea having a lower staff to guest ratio than either RCL brand. For me, I'm not willing to pay the higher price of Silver Sea for a higher level of service. I'm satisfied with Celebrity - my go to line since 2001.
  2. As a follow up on my post above.... am now aboard Infinity and, no suprise, when we got to our stateroom a prepared sheet of paper showing the itinerary change was on the bed with our usual stuff. We'll do Key West, then Bimini then day at sea then to Cozumel, then Costa Maya, day at sea, Port Everglades. This is a much shorter route than the one I speculated about that would have gone to Caymans and then Grand Truk, the higher cost fuel route I would have liked to sail. Nope, fuel's expensive. The Captain came on Infinity's info channel and provided a great weather briefing that explained why we are headed to the western Caribbean. He used windy.com which has a very nice and easy to understand graphic presentation. The graphic the Captain showed displayed 100kt winds off shore from Puerto Plata as Fiona moves in a NW direction from PR to Hispaniola to pass by on Wednesday the 21st. In any event, that's a lot of wind, not safely approachable so, no, don't go there, go somewhere else RCL concludes...... and, yes, damage could be done to the port. While Fiona is strengthening, it is turning N faster which is exactly as predicted.......weaker storm would stay more west, stronger storm to bend to the NE. It's already doing that on the most recent Huricane Watcher flights. Hurricane force winds are expected in PR tonight and tomorrow (70+ kts). If things hold, Bermuda is in Fiona's target zone.
  3. I'm sailing on Celebrity Equinox departing Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday, the 17th and heading E to Key West, porting there on the 18th, tracking back NE with a day at sea, then a planned port call in Bimini, Island of Bahamas on Sunday the 19th. Fiona is far enough south through that time period that while it might be a bit rainy, nothing serious associated with Fiona is in the offing weather wise. Fiona will be approaching PR from the ESE and moving WNW on Sunday the 18th, slowing down and extending its presence in that area through the 19th. Starting on the the 20th, we'll have a day at sea, while we cruise enroute to the NE and to Grand Truk to arrive on the 21st. Then we head a short distance in a southerly direction to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. Not looking good! for that. Like, no way as the consensus tracks through day 5 are pretty firm. There is a high likelihood that part of our itinerary won't happen as we'd be cruising right into the path of Fiona as it tracks slowly W over Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) then (maybe) makes a right turn to head out into the Atlantic. Fiona isn't a Hurricane but rather a TS with a ton of rain and winds to 50-60+ kts. Right now, it is not very organized and isn't showing signs of strengthening. It is predicted to do that as it clears Hispaniola and turns to the N (fingers crossed) over open water late next week. I'm going to speculate that after Bimini, Equinox will make a dash to the west passing Havana Cuba to port and making a call in Cozumel.... and that all depends on berthing and the plans of 1/2 dozen or more cruise ships who will be altering E Caribbean itineraries to the western region due to Fiona's track. Lots of moving parts for all concerned to deal with. If Coz works out for Equinox what could happen next is a port call in the Caymans than east via a dash between S Cuba and Haiti then on to Grand Truk. After a day there, back to Port Everglades in FL. Sounds nice and like a decent plan if I were in charge. I'm not so ...... who knows. All very speculative at this point but we're not at all concerned as we've cruised numerous times in the Caribbean during Hurricane season and always had great trips even though we've experienced itinerary changes. It's up to the line to decide what sort of compensation you might receive - port fees and taxes come to mind but even then, the contract doesn't require the lines to offer anything. They usually do though. We just go with the flow. For those traveling to Fort Lauderdale this weekend to start a cruise, it's been wet and stormy especially after 2pm with heavy downpours and lots of thunder and lightening. However, there is plenty of sunshine early, breaks in the PM weather and sunshine between storm clouds. It is typically hot and humid though. It does dry out a bit on Sunday and into early next week.
  4. Here's a fun link. Unless you are really into NHC Discussions the terminology can be overwhelming - like someone posted up thread. I've always liked pictures better than words. You can inarge the dipaly to include the entirety of western Africa where storms, this time of year, usually, not always, originate, see what's emerging then tracking what looks like cirulation out 7d. You can also change the forecast models between ECMWF and GFS (the two most commonly used forecasting models - there are a ton of others). IN a few days, you'll start hearing about another system "coming off the African coast." You can see it on the Windy model and track what the two models say it's going to do ..... head out into the eastern Atlantic. The other salient point about Hurrican Season in the Caribbean is that we are approaching the historic peak of it (September 15th). Forecasting has gotten good enough these days that ships - the big ones - can sail safely during this season. That is because, as has been mentioned, the cruise ships just sail away from them. The best place to be with hurricanes threatening is on a big ship that can do 30 knots if it has to and cruise ships can. They just go where the hurrican is not forecast to go. The worst place to be is tied up in port! https://www.windy.com/?2022090115,-10.522,-41.855,3
  5. .......... in the US. Actually, it is correct to enter some, currently not all, EU member states or board a cruise ship departing from ports within EU member states. The salient point is that in some EU states the "vaccination record" is only valid for 275 days. The broader EU regulations published in February 2022 do not state from from which vaccination date, initial series or booster. However, that varies from EU state to EU state. For example, if your booster was administered on January 1st, 2022 and you are traveling and planning on cruising from an EU state that still requires a valid vaccination certificate after October 3rd, 2022, your CDC vaccination record would only be valid if you had received a booster on or after October 3rd. Admittedly, this issue for EU travel can be confusing. That is because not all member states have the same rules for proof of COVD vaccination. The rules have also changed since I traveled to Europe in April and upon which I based my point of clarification. Few EU states have any proof of vaccination requirement to enter and those that do have varying wording. Here's a link to an EU sponsored web site that allows you to set your departure country and planned country of EU entry and find out what the COVID related entry restrictions are. https://reopen.europa.eu/en/from-to/OTC/ESP What's interesting is that most EU states, as of June, 2022, have lifted the requirement to show proof of vaccination to enter entirely. Spain and Luxembourg, two EU countries that still do require proof of vaccination to enter, use different wording to describe what is and what is not considered valid proof of vaccination. Finally, your correction to my post is mostly accurate for travel in Europe as of the current date - the 275d expiration on the validity of your CDC card, if it has to be shown to enter, is based on the "initial series" or "initial pattern." It is still a very good idea if you are traveling to Europe to pay careful attention to COVID related entry requirements. They can change on a moments notice and if there is another surge in new COVID cases this fall - something that many epidemiologists are forecasting, proof of vaccination will almost certainly be required again.
  6. Point of clarification: Some, not all, European countries require guests who are boarding a cruise ship to be "up to date." What that means as defined by the EUCDC and mostly parallels the US CDC is that you must be able to show proof that you have received the appropriate initial one or two doses of the COVID vaccine AND a booster - the kicker is that the booster has to have been administered within 275 days of boarding. If your last booster was administered outside of that window, you have to get another one. It gets complicated with mixed vaccines ...... you must pay careful attention to the vaccination requirements to board for the port you are departing from in Europe. These will appear somewhere on the your cruise line's web site where health protocols are described. You must also pay close attention to entry requirements for the country of the port you are sailing from. Generally, boarding a cruise ship is more restrictive wrt COVID heath protocols than entering the country itself and clearing immigration.
  7. In general, the older you get, the higher the cost of travel insurance and the lower the cap on medical coverage. It gets to a point where single trip policies are exorbitantly expensive for capped medical coverage. I recommend factoring in your age when considering an annual v. per trip coverage. Equally important is dove-tailing your regular health insurance policy coverage with your annual trip insurance medical coverage. I have an annual policy with GeoBlue. I did a lot of research (as twangster suggests you do) to purchase an annual plan that met my specific needs. I have regular medical insurance that covers overseas travel (Medicare doesn't) so I can accept policies with less medical coverage, saving money in the process. Medical evac coverage is important - it's a low risk that it will be required but its going to cost at a minimum $250K if your evac is from anywhere outside North America.
  8. I can see the sense of it ...... I'd suspect that crew members that are the most encumbered by having to wear a mask all the time are kitchen staff, engineering staff, deck staff and the like. That's a lot of crew so, they went with that. But I don't disagree with you ...... I can make an argument, based on what I know about mask wearing in general as a COVID mitigation measure, that masks for crew members are not likely to be preventing the spread of the virus among them or guests in any meaningful way. That's just me. I'll give credit to RCG for the high probability that they have data on crew to crew and crew to guest infections that support what they have chosen to let Celebrity Infinity and Reflection test out, both sailing form Port Everglades on Caribbean itineraries. But your due diligence point makes sense too as it very well could be presaging the elimination of the requirement for crew to mask in a couple of weeks saying, "hey, look we compared infection rates before and after mask removal for crew and we have the data to back up removing the restriction entirely.
  9. This just popped up on my news feeds: Celebrity Cruise has rolled out a pilot program on one of its ships to test the masks-free policy on selected crew. All nonguest facing crew will be mask free for a duration of two weeks, and if the results are promising this will lead to even more relaxed protocols across the fleet. In order to get more results the cruise line plans to add a second ship to the pilot program in the coming days. I have no doubt that other cruise lines are investigating doing away with masks for crew as various mitigation measures disapper from the cruising landscape.. How they do it is another matter. RCL? https://crew-center.com/celebrity-cruises-starts-no-masks-pilot-program-selected-crew
  10. I posted this yesterday (Sunday) and as well noted that certain links pertaining to testing and vaccination requirements to sail at the Celebrity web site were dead suggesting this might mean change is afoot. It happened. Visiting the Celebrity web site this morning (and per Matt's front page story for RCL), vax and testing guidelines have been updated on the Celebrity web site. For all sailings Starting September 5th the new guidleines apply. The display and user-interface to find the information on vaccination and testing requirements to board is easy to use. The onerous portions, (IMO) the requirement that COVID tests be monitored, has been eliminated for vaxed guests on cruises 9d or less. To me, the best thing wrt the changes are that where COVID testing is required to board (e.g., unvaxed), you can use unmonitored self-tests. I agree with others here that have commented that RCG played rolling out new vax and testing guidelines well - better than those other lines that jumped on the CDC updates, literally within hours, causing a lot of confusion for their guests and TAs. RCG waited to get everything right. Tips hat. I've not looked at how the guidelines are displayed and accessed by guests at RCL's website but here's the link to the Celebrity's well done Health and Safety section at their web site. They've also updated their FAQs for all matters pertaining to vaccines and testing: https://www.celebritycruises.com/health-and-safety https://www.celebritycruises.com/healthy-at-sea/faqs
  11. I get from this chat that to enter the Bahamas, you still must show proof of vaccination. As I understand the flow of posts in this particular thread - What's the Latest on Removing the Vax Mandate - the posts go back and forth between discussing pre-arrival testing and vax requirements to enter various ports. RCG has made testing and vax requirements for all ages to board regardless of departure port and itinerary as crystal clear as possible. I'm not going to repeat the guidelines but if you're planning on cruising, you have to pay attention to published guidelines at the RCL (or Celebrity) web sites They do vary by port of departure and by countries visited. Pre-arrival testing is not required and has not been required for vaccinated visitors entering the Bahamas since June 19th 2022. So, I don't see the point of this post. WRT the Bahama Island's vax requirements, nothing has changed. WRT pre-arrival testing, authorities there removed the requirement for vaxed visitors 3 months ago. If you're not paying attention it's easy to overlook what you and your party need to do to sail. In preparing this post, I visited Celebrity's web site > Healthy at Sea > click on the region your visiting/ports you are sailing from > (in the case of my interests) > Updated Guidance for Cruises Departing the U.S. Beginning August 8, 2022. I can find exactly what I need to do regarding vaccinations and pre-boarding testing and will comply What is potentially revealing here is that on this page, there are links to "for Bermuda guidelines," "for Canada guidelines," and for sailing from Los Angeles guidelines." Only the "sailing from LA guidelines is live. The other two lead to a page displaying "BAD REQUEST." Something in the works for an announcement next week? I posted elsewhere within the last couple of days that I thought we'd see RCG eliminate the need for pre-cruise testing for cruises leaving US ports on itineraries six nights or longer (RCG already removed these for sailings of 5 or less days) within the next two weeks. I'm cruising from Port Everglades on 9/17/22, B2B 9/24/22 so, I'm obviously interested in the removal of pre-cruise testing requirements. There are already no pre-cruise testing requirements for B2B guests with the stipulation that if ports on these itineraries should require COVID testing, Celebrity will provide them at no cost to guests.
  12. I live in Coconut Creek about an hour N of downtown Miami. There is a lot to do in Miami proper. I'd avoid South Beach. There are several museums downtown, and a great aquarium. If you like beaches, there are plenty of them. I recommend arranging your own transportation (Uber, Lyft or rental car) and planning/doing your own thing. Ship's tours aren't going to get you the flavor of the this colorful city. https://www.miamiandbeaches.com/ Vizcaya is a restored mansion of the original developer of Miami Beach. I've been there and it is worth the visit if you like things like this. https://vizcaya.org/ The mansion and grounds is adjacent to Coconut Grove. Lots of eateries and bars concentrated in a couple of blocks. https://miami.eater.com/maps/best-coconut-grove-restaurants-bars-miami Parking can be tight after 5pm and it's all metered. Make sure you pay or you'll get an expensive ticket. I recommend Sapore de Mare. Local owner, small, popular, call ahead, nice wait staff. Go here for cookies, pies or a desert after a meal: https://www.firemandereks.com/
  13. Let's make sure of testing terms here. There are three types of COVID tests available through clinics and select pharmacies: (1) PCR or (molecular) Polymerase Chain Reaction lab testing - the most accurate, also the most likely to produce a positive result either long after COVID symptoms have resolved or in the shortest time frame from infections with SARS2. Sent to a lab. Results in 48-72h. (2) Rapid (molecular) NAAT or Nucleic Acid Amplification Test - accurate enough. On site, machine results in under 2h. (3) Rapid Antigen tests - prone to false negatives but also accurate enough. Results within 15 minutes. Rapid Antigen tests are becoming less and less available at pharmacies and clinics. You can still order monitored home tests, e.g., eMed, Binax now or use the USPS provided Antigen tests and opt for a home monitoring service. Walgreen's claims to have 7000 pharmacies nation wide doing COVID testing. As of August 10th, there is a pop-up when you go to the Walgreen's site to locate a pharmacy near you that does testing ( https://www.walgreens.com/findcare/covid19/testing?ban=covid_vanity_testing ) that states: "You will not have out-of-pocket costs if you meet the criteria for no-cost testing through your insurance or a government-funded program. You should contact your insurer before scheduling to confirm the test meets coverage criteria. You may be billed by Walgreens and, if applicable, the laboratory for up to the full price of the test if your insurance denies coverage or you don't meet eligibility criteria for government no-cost testing programs." Free testing is getting harder to find as a result of recent changes to federal and state COVID funding policies. Whether a state's department of health is still paying for COVID testing depends on how the state is managing it's COVID funds received from the federal government. I've used the Walgreen's drive though Rapid NAAT tests 3X. My last set of tests were easy to schedule (plenty of available appointments but only 3d in advance), obtained by driving through the pharmacy window and free. I live in South FL and I'm pretty certain testing is still free or covered by my insurance. When scheduling through the web site at the link above, you complete a questionnaire to determine if you will have to pay up-front or not. I'm not sure what the upfront cost for the PCR and Rapid NAAT test are if not covered by your insurance. If someone has done a Walgreens PCR or Rapid NAAT test since August 10th, please reply and post your up front payment.
  14. We recently sold our residence in GA and are sorting through boxes of travel brochures that were moved to FL. I came across a souvenir booklet describing the history of the SS United States and the specialty restaurant by that same name on Infinity. The booklet has a hand written reservation and a card with the Maitre D's name on it. All four Millennium Class ships featured ocean liner themed specialty restaurants I found a not to old discussion of these on the Cruise Critic forum (below). One of the posts has links to articles on the four ocean liner restaurants: Millennium, The Olympic (Cunard's White Star liner by that name), Infinity, the SS United Sates, Summit, the Normandy and Constellation, Ocean Liners (generic artifacts from the Golden Age of Ocean Cruising). We were well into our love for cruising when Celebrity introduced it's Millennium Class ships in 2000. All four Millennium class ships entered service between 2000 and 2002. The Ocean Liner themed specialty restaurants were original installations. Over a couple of years staring in 2017, as these M Class ships were refurbished, The ocean liner themed restaurants were removed on all of them and replaced with Tuscan Grill. Sadly, I was told the removals were driven by cost control measures. We've sailed on all four M-Class ships and dined in all four ocean liner themed restaurants - fabulous dining experience. and sorely missed. To say the least, Celebrity's decision to end these specialty restaurants was very unpopular. Tuscan Grill is OK but I'm hard pressed to pay the up-charge when the food and service may only be marginally better than in the main dining room. That was not the case in the ocean liner themed restaurants. Personally, I thought it was a terrible business decision as from what I could tell, these restaurants were very special and immensely popular. The only vestige of these fabulous, Michelin 3 Star level, restaurants onboard Celebrity ships is Murano but they are not on the older M-Class or newer Edge Class ships. I'm pretty sure as costs drive operations, Murano is not as profitable, even with the sur-charges, as Celebrity would like it to be. Murano is still elegant and staffed by wait-persons that want to be there. Most are European and professionally trained in the many restaurant service industry schools available there. In general there is a notable difference between restaurant dining in Europe and in the US. Murano still preserves elegant European level table service. IMO, there's no question that as various cruise lines expanded onboard dining options in their new ships, Celebrity was playing catch-up. Celebrity did do a unique introduction of 4, themed, main restaurants in their Edge class ships. One of them is named Normandy and I believe it is fitted out with some of Normandy's artifacts. As well, the number of eateries on these ships is greatly expanded. It's not all bad but nothing like the real deal of the past. https://creative.rccl.com/Sales/Celebrity/General_Info/EDGE/Edge_Culinary_One_Pager_TRADE_FLYER.pdf For those of you that have enjoyed the ocean liner themed restaurants and miss them as much as I do https://boards.cruisecritic.co.uk/topic/2826970-olympic-restaurant-on-millenium-and-other-historical-dining-rooms/
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