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JeffB

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Everything posted by JeffB

  1. My experience with medical practitioners I speak with is that there is wide variance by community practices throughout the US on prescribing Paxlovid. Here in Broward County, FL up until about a month ago, there were multiple test and treat clinics. If you were tested COVID positive at the clinic, you could get an RX if you meet the criteria for dispensing it; in some cases where a clinic had an adjoining pharmacy, dispensing was immediate. Those have declined with declining availability of Paxlovid along with questions among this community's practitioners about it's efficacy in ambulatory patients in other than high risk COVID patients headed for hospital admission with an antiviral potentially preventing that. During our Celebrity Equinox cruise, both our friends who tested positive and ultimately developed mild symptoms (husband over 80 infected first, symptomatically recovered after day 7) both were fully vaccinated. The husband was closely monitored by the ship's doctor after he was placed in an isolation cabin. Visited every day for the first 3d, measured pulse O2 and listened to his lungs on exam. IMO, there is no question his vax status prevented serious illness. His symptoms amounted to a runny nose, dry cough and noticeable fatigue. HIs wife (70) developed the exact same symptoms after debarkation and now at home. She felt improved on day 4 from her first positive test on board (she was ID'ed as a close contact, tested immediately in her cabin but it took over 6h for her to get her NAAT results. She had been given the option to isolate with her husband or in her cabin. She chose the later. IMO, care from onboard medical staff was excellent but that was delivered by one MD and a few RN types (although they are foreigners with different training and licensing from US). All the testing and isolation management is done by a contractor with medical and guest services in a supporting role. I wasn't impressed. I do not know how many NAAT test machines the contractor had onboard but that it took 6h for our friend (the wife) to be resulted after being swabbed suggests they did not have enough NAAT testing machines to quickly test all guests that required it - either by close contact or presenting to medical with symptoms. The other problem was debarkation confusion. Both our friends were told they would be escorted to a lounge area then guided to a separate debarkation area at 7am. There was a lot of confusion in doing that. The husband and wife, in different cabins, were supposed to be escorted to the Passport Lounge and then processed off the ship early. The husband wasn't escorted until after 8am and deposited at the Passport Lounge which is fully open to the main Foyer of the ship. By around 8am with regular debarkation in full swing the wife still hadn't been escorted off - I actually did the escorting to get her to the designated area around 8am where there were probably 6 other pissed off people, presumably positive, waiting to be escorted off the ship. Her husband was already off the ship. She and her husband were finally joined up after a lot of confusion about where she was. The testing and management contractor's plan was to Uber them at Celebrity's expense to the airport; that was the only option for them. They live in Stuart FL and had parked their car at our house in Coconut Creek. The Uber driver said he could take them both to our house at their expense instead of going to the airport. They elected to do that. When we debarked you could look down the gangway and see all the limos and Ubers lined up. I'd estimate there were more than 10 of them.
  2. Booked this yesterday. We are Celebrity Loyalists just off Equinox on Sunday but we have 5 RCL cruises under our belts, last one to Cuba, aboard Majesty of the Seas in January 2019. This will be our first cruise on an Oasis Class ship. Cross-over points give us Diamond status. I've read all the RCL benefits for Diamond but there are a lot of changes and I'm not sure I've got the current ones. Any help here appreciated. We love entertainment, especially Broadway and are excited about a production of Mama-Mia being offered on this ship. How does seating work for this? I've heard reservations are made for these. Is that correct? Also comedy shows and the ice show require reservations??? I've read I have access to Diamond Concierge. Is this of any use in arranging our evening entertainment schedule? The web site or the app don't allow me to select dining times. I assume they've taken all the advance reservations that they can handle. Hopefully I can visit the Matre-D' shortly after we board. I'm trending toward fixed seating at 8p. We've done Select and Fixed on Celebrity. Recently select has been rather chaotic. I'm thinking Fixed may be a bit smoother. Celebrity has the same kind of deal with drink vouchers for Elites (Diamond equivalent) except the happy hour times are shorter on Celebrity (5-7 as compared to 5-8). Looking forward to that experience and we'll be sans a drink package thinking I don't need one. Thoughts? We are not big drinkers but enjoy a cocktail before dinner and wine during the day. Celebrity has Cafe Al Bachio (Starbucks!) and all coffees without liquor are included for Elites. Not sure how that works on Allure. Would appreciate some insight there. Any and All Allure tips regarding boarding (our late booking had 2:00pm boarding as the earliest) or tricks of optimizing the Allure experience would be great.
  3. Just cruised on Celebrity Equinox 5/6 - 5/15. Our friends traveling with us both tested positive on days 4 and 5 respectively. The husband (a high risk person), after I urged him to do so, queried the ship's doctor on the availability of Paxlovid (an antiviral medication considered effective if taken within 72h of symptom onset). The answer was a simple "no". Ships' he was told, identify the illness, evaluate severity over the course of the illness/cruise (and Equinox's medical staff was very thorough in that regard) and act accordingly based on that (immediate transport to a shore based hospital if required treatment exceed what's available on the ship is an option) The general approach by the medical community is that due to limited availability of the drug and questions about it's efficacy in the clinical setting (as opposed to lab testing of the drug done by Pfizer), the drug is being reserved for hospitalized patients and after that those hospitalized patients that are high risk for serious COVID complications. On the sewer testing. I've read that the CDC may be doing this selectively aboard cruise ships but it is not a protocol being widely pursued. Why not? First, it's purpose to identify community presence as early as possible and prevent outbreaks. Second, a recognized alternative to sewer testing for the presence of COVID viruses which can be complicated is lots of AG testing followed by confirmatory NAAT (PCR) or PCR testing. The cruise lines are very heavily invested in this. That approach fits perfectly in the congregate setting that cruise ships offer. Guests do-pre cruise testing and they are encouraged to get tested at no charge on board if they develop COVID symptoms. Vaccinated crew members, upon joining ship's company, are quarantined for 7d, tested on day 7 and all crew are tested at 7d intervals and also encouraged to report COVID or flu like symptoms.
  4. Just a point of clarification ...... A polymerase chain reaction test (PCR test) uses the process of Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) to detect SARS2 viral particles. The test Walgreens uses is machine processed in the store using NAAT technology; results within 2h - 1 hour is common). Its not sent out to a lab (2-3d is common). Accordingly, these are called "rapid" PCR tests. PCR tests are also known as molecular tests A PCR or molecular test is highly accurate and has a 1% false negative rate. Rapid Antigen (AG) tests take 15 minutes to process using a card with a control line on it. These tests detect antibodies to the SARS2 virus. They have a 3-10% false negative rate depending on the product - still pretty accurate. Abbot Binax/Now claims a 3% false negative rate. Unless you're pre-boarding testing requires a PCR test, I'd recommend against getting one of these. It is not rare for your body to harbor SARS2 viral particles long after you caught and recovered from COVID. You are not infectious under this circumstance but if you pop positive on a PCR test, you'll be denied boarding. A driving factor for which test you get could be the lessened availability of clinic based AG testing. CVS in South FL where I live no longer offers the AG tests, only PCR (drive through). You may also find your health insurance won't cover a clinic based (monitored) test. Do your research. Check with the pharmacy at which you plan to get your pre-boarding testing done and make sure they have and will administer the test you need/want. AbbotBinax/Now monitored home test remain, IMO, the best option for pre-board testing.
  5. Hello from aboard (again) Celebrity Equinox. This is a 9n ABC cruise from Fort Lauderdale. This is day 3 and we're in the Caymans. Some interesting developments. First, there are around 2100 passengers - up from under 1000 on our previous cruise since June, 5 of them on Equinox. You can feel the difference. At certain times the Ocean View Cafe is unusually crowded and table space in short supply. Seats at the Martini Bar? Forget it. It is my understanding that a large crew change-over occurred just before the preceding cruise. You can feel this too ..... things just don't seem to run as smoothly. The combination of new supervisors, new dinning and bar staff, many of the new crew still in quarantine, shows up in the level of service. That feeling seems limited to food and beverage operations. Hotel operations seem unaffected and maybe this department didn't have any crews changeover. We ate in Murano on day 1 - It's a good idea. First, it's discounted. Second, on the first night, select dining is chaotic. You can avoid this by dining in a specialty restaurant on evening 1. I had a short talk with the matre'de about how supply chains disruptions might be affecting food services. He said the impact it's massive. He orders, say coffee, and the truck doesn't show up. He actually went to every grocery store he could find and bought as much coffee as he could. Wine availability of popular wineries is also a problem. You can ask but they don't have it. Suppliers can't get it let alone get it delivered in quantity. Beef prices are off the page as are fresh vegetables. I think it's well known among posters in this forum that COVID protocols for crew have an impact on staffing. IF - frequently a big IF - Celebrity can manage to re-hire previously laid off crew members and get them aboard (varying vaccination and COVID country requirements) they still have to follow Celebrity's ship board policies for new crew. They are now down to 7d, from 14, for testing and quarantine. Anyway it's a big deal. Depending on when you board in this crew cycling schedule, you may notice long waits to find a bar server and long waits to get served. Patience is the by-word. A complete generalization from one experience, not the best situation to draw a conclusion from, but I'd offer that the cruise lines are - at least in Celebrity's case - bringing passenger load factors up faster than staffing can provide the level of service that I probably became used to up to around March 2020. Now the big news: All our pre-cruise testing worked smoothly. One exception - one of the Abbot BinaxNow test kits we planned on using was defective and could not be used. It's a good thing we have extras. Two lessons learned (1) buy back-up test kits. (2) have a back-up clinic based test plan. Because we had extra tests to replace the defective one, we didn't need the back-up Walgreen's Clinic test I'd scheduled and cancelled but it was there if I needed it. I got an email from Abbot saying a replacement kit for the defective one was on the way, That was nice. Also, on the morning of Day 2, I awoke with mild URI symptoms. I've preached here that if you develop URI symptoms during a cruise, go get tested. Another option - and I thought of it but forgot to pack them, bring self test kits. So, I donned a mask and went to medical. I announced that I had URI symptoms and was placed in a back room. There was only one other person in the clinic at the time I presented. Overhearing the nurses and MD, I deduced he had intractable diarrhea and had become dehydrated. If you seek COVID testing for URI symptoms, your evaluation and care, if needed, are at Celebrity's expense. The clinic does Rapid PCR tests. They are more accurate (less false negatives) and there is some basis in using these instead of bringing your own AG tests that have higher false negative results and you are potentially walking around aboard ship spreading the more transmissible Omicron variants. After checking in and having my vitals taken (about 20 minutes), I got the brain swab of the PCR tests, then waited in the clinic for exactly one hour to get a negative result. Medical also called my wife, advised her to isolate, then went to our cabin and tested her with a PCR brain swab. She was also negative. So, great, we're free, right? Not so fast. Ship's protocol requires isolation and retest in 24h. So, as I write this, I'm in my cabin , with my wife, isolated until, I am told, medical will come to our cabin around 2:30 (24h after the PCR test was started) today to retest both of us. BTW, room service for last evening's dinner and this morning's breakfast was great. We're traveling with friends and we had plans today in Grand Cayman. So, we'll miss that. We also missed a production show last night - one of our favorite events on a cruise. Being honest about recognizing my URI symptoms could be COVID and getting tested was disruptive but, you don't want to be "that person" who was person #1 starting an outbreak on a cruise ship. SARS2 in it's more infectious variants is still out there, if not producing much less illness - which is one of the reasons if you get even mild URI symptoms on a cruise, assume that you have COVID until proven otherwise.
  6. To be clear, for US citizens wishing to enter Europe from the US, there is no simple, one answer fits all European countries wrt applications to enter, what will work for proof of vaccination, time limits for vaccination and COVID mitigation measures in place. The rule is, things change constantly and rapidly. There are a bunch of web sites that track this stuff for US citizens wanting to travel to Europe. The one below is pretty good. For each country being listed here, you'll get a summary of "what's new" with COVID related travel and a link to a country web site where more detail is available. DOn't miss this. It is intended to inform and encourage travel into and within the country you choose. The EU has done a decent job of creating a single mechanism - the EU digital COVID pass that's an App on your phone. It contains a QR code with your COVID/Vax status that is kept updated by you as you receive COVID vaccines or recover from COVID. Problem for US citizens wanting to travel freely within the EU and European Common Market region is that you can't get one. Because of that, US citizens have extra hurdles to cross when entering Europe and crossing boarders within it on your way to your cruise port. Not insurmountable. Workable if you're paying attention. https://www.euronews.com/travel/2022/04/14/what-s-the-latest-on-european-travel-restrictions
  7. Pattycruise makes a good point regarding the availability of rapid antigen (ag) tests at CVS. Many CVS pharmacies in my area (Fort Lauderdale, Coconut Creek) no longer do the rapid ag test. The still do a drive up PCR test and these are covered by most insurance - no clinic visit. In our area, Walgreens clinics are connected to the University of Miami Health System. I'm a patient in that system by virtue of several visits for testing and that makes it supper easy to book an appointment about as far out as I want. So, far, my ag hasn't been billed as a clinic visit but this is going to vary as state funding (from federal programs) of testing is different everywhere (confusing). So, what works for me in FL may not work for cruisers seeking testing in Illinois. It also pays to call the Walgreen's pharmacy you plan on visiting for a clinic or drive through test and verify that they have and are administering the ag tests. I've found that the testing process varies and some pharmacies aren't doing or are out of ag tests. I've used the Abbot BinaxNow monitored home test 9x for required pre-boarding COVID testing since June, 2021. I use the NAVICA App that you can download to your phone at Google Play (Andorid) or the Apple Store (iPhone). I've done the tests on-line via the web site and using my android phone via the NAVICA App. I prefer the later. There's already been a comment that Abbot Labs makes a home self test (2 tests in each kit) and a monitored home test (one test in each kit). The test you need to clear the bar for COVID screening is a MONITORED test either at home/via your phone, on-line at the web site or in a clinic by a HC Pro. There was also a testing related post a while back where a poster claimed all you had to do was use the free tests you can get through the USPS service. To my knowledge the USPS testing service ONLY PROVIDES AN UNMONITORED SELF TEST - these won't clear the bar for pre-cruise COVID testing. I've never had a problem doing the test on my phone via the NAVICA App, getting it resulted, printing a copy of the results (everything needed is on it) and having it accepted by Celebrity both in Europe (Athens and Barcelona) and Port Everglades. I recommend, as have others, that you have a digital copy of the resulted ag test test on your phone and a hard copy that you've placed in an accessible location for check-in. I put the date I need to do the monitored home test on my Google Calendar (2d before the cruise) and schedule a back-up test at my local Walgreens the day after (1d before the cruise). If everything goes smoothly with the Abbot Home test, I canel the Walgreen's appointment. I've used the back-up once because I took the test inadvertently 3d before my cruise.
  8. I'm on a 9d S. Caribbean itinerary aboard Celebrity Equinox from May 6th - 15th. Bonaire is one of our ports. The Equinox sailing on April 15th with the same itinerary as mine, cancelled Bonaire on 4/20 and added an extra day in Curacao. Here's the pertinent part of the letter to guests on that cruise: Due to potential berthing issues and port congestion in Kralendijk, Bonaire we’ve decided to modify our itinerary. On Wednesday, April 20th, our visit to Bonaire will be replaced with an additional day in Willemstad, Curaçao, thereby allowing us an overnight experience in this beautiful destination. Since the restart in June '21 and 9 cruises, I've had "port issues" causing a port stop happen once before. It's not widespread, but it happens. I've not received any notifications of itinerary changes for my Caribbean cruise that embarks from Fort Lauderdale on May 6th. If itineraries have been changed on any of my previous cruises, I've been notified at least 2 weeks in advance. That's passed. Of course it could still happen between the cruise start or during it.
  9. This particular ruling by federal Judge Kimball Mizelle involves the CDC's mandate on federally regulated transportation facilities and equipment. It may result in an appeal that won't go quite like the last one CDC initiated after Judge Merryday enjoined the CDC's cruise ship no sail order. The reason for that is that the CDC's mask mandate applies to federally regulated transportation facilities and equipment, not privately owned cruise lines. Certainly, there is room for interpretation on whether the federal government (HHS/CDC) is within it's congressionally authorized legal authority in both challenges. Clearly, there was with the Desantis challenge of the CDC's no-sail order but the interpretation favored the litigants that were the aggrieved party. I thought Judge Merryday's ruling enjoining the CDC's no-sail order was legally and constitutionally solid. The CDC argued that the concept of "free pratique" extended to it's authority to shut the cruise industry down. Merryday articulately opined that it didn't because the cruise lines were privately owned businesses. His opinion prevailed and the no-sail order was abandoned by the CDC for creating the voluntary one - which the cruise lines, en mass, decided to comply with. A nice face saving route for the CDC granted by the lines that alternatively could have sought blood revenge..... retrospectively, a very smart move by the lines, IMO. I'm less sure that the CDC's authority to mandate masks in the case of appropriately regulated transportation facilities and equipment case is unlawful. I think the ruling by Judge Kimbal Mizzelle is on less solid ground. It may not matter as Judge Kimball Mizzelle has opened the pandora's box of "the public will." There's no question the public hates masks in most settings, justified or not, based on the science or quackery. There appears to be an identifiable drift towards letting organizations impacted by the narrow case of mask mandates to make them optional at their discretion. That is likely to be the appeals and court's and the USSC's default argument.
  10. I just did a search and can't find anything disqualifying any FDA approved monitored home test. Caveat, I speed read and could have easily missed that the Abbot test is the only accepted one. A sample of one or two guests who got through check-in with a non-abbot monitored home test isn't enough to assume you can use any FDA approved monitored home test even though that would seem to make sense. One other important thing. To my knowledge, you cannot select the kind of AG test you get via the USPS web site set up for that purpose. You'll get what they send you and it may not be the iHealth monitored home test.
  11. Are you insured? If so, nothing. If not, it is a chargeable office visit in the CVS Minute Clinic and the cost of the test. It runs around $140 per visit wi/test and that includes all the documentation you need. You'll leave the CVS with that in-hand. Comforting. You can make advance appointments at a CVS that has a Minute Clinic near you if the timing works out. I'm not sure if RCL is still doing "concierge testing" at the port. It doesn't cost anymore than going to CVS last time I looked this up but they don't take insurance. Cash or CC only. Very convenient. https://www.cvs.com/minuteclinic/covid-19-testing
  12. I live in Fort Lauderdale and cruise extensively from Port Everglades. You don't mention your rental care company or identify where you have to drop the rental car off outside the port. I assume you know that the rental car company operates a shuttle from their place of business and tp the terminal you're cruising from (18?). Rental car company shuttles do drop offs at multiple terminals so should be no problem. As others have stated, in your rental car, enter the port through the main security gate - there are tow of them (they will check your passport and boarding pass sometimes but not always, so have these handy). Follow the signage to get to your terminal. It can be a bit confusing - don't panic. There is plenty of signage to tell you which terminal your ship is docked at. Port Everglades is huge. You will be nervous about finding the right terminal. Follow signage and the traffic flow. There is a 4-wqy stop-light where the signage identifying which ship is at which terminal is angled and it's confusing on whether you turn left or go straight ahead. You'll figure it out. One ou reach the terminal, there will be uniformed police directing traffic. Follow there direction to your drop off point (buses and cabs go one place, private vehicles another). Once you're curb side, a porter will approach you. You should already have all your bags tagged. If you don't, they'll tag them for you based on what your boarding pass says. Have that accessible if your bags aren't tagged. The porters are unionized, port employees and are all very friendly, helpful and its not at all chaotic. In advance, have a tip appropriate for you out of your bill fold in your pocket. The more bags you're dropping off the higher your tip should be. Jump out of your rental and open the trunk. My preference is to give them everything except your wife's purse - I have never not had my bags, back-packs, etc. not arrive at my cabin. The less you're carrying when you board, the better. If your wife is squeamish about being alone at the drop off point and waiting for your return (I kinda get that), take her with you to the rental car drop off and she'll ride back with you to the same terminal you just dropped your bags off at via the rental company shuttle. The shuttle will go through security with you and your wife on board. As I said, security may or may not check your boarding pass and passport but don't leave those docs with your porter!!! After the shuttle drops you off at your terminal, it's over. Calmly stride to the terminal entry and get ready for a great cruise not having any encumbering bags with you! First stop once on board ..... the bar preferably on deck and outside in the sunshine. Second stop, the lunch buffet. Have fun!
  13. NAVICA does not care who takes a test. You have to create a NAVICA account and register the test in the account for the person being tested, Each person being tested has to have a separate account. To do this download the NAVICA App on your "travel companion's" phone. You don't mention his/her age or if he/she is or is not a minor. Here's what I found when asked the question can a minor establish a NAVICA account: How does a user get a test for a child or other dependent who doesn’t have their own email address to create a NAVICA account? In the NAVICA app or at www.mynavica.abbott, once a user has created their account, they can create Managed Profiles for children and other dependents who might not have a separate email address or are otherwise unable to create a separate NAVICA account. The account will display separate NAVICA IDs (used for obtaining a test from a distribution site) and NAVICA passes (used to show test results) for each profile on an account. When a user initiates a test through ohio.emed.com, they will be asked which person on the account is being tested, and the results will be reported for the appropriate user. My advise is to have your travel companion download the NAVICA app on his/her phone and set up a separate account using his/her own email if he/she has one. If that doesn't work in your situation then refer to above. Download the NAVICA App to your phone (Android or iPhone) and create the account for your travel companion from there.
  14. The simple answer is no. You must have a supervised antigen test. I would recommend against taking a PCR (NAAT or, molecular test). The process to go about obtaining the required supervised antigen test depends on where you are originating from and which countries you are traveling though in Europe in your travels to sail from Barcelona. If you'll provide your travel itinerary, I can help. I've sailed on Celebrity Apex from Barcelona to Fort Lauderdale recently.
  15. No question. We too have had some great cruises at remarkable value on Millennium class ships. Something I've noted is that suites remain in great demand on these ships and that is mainly because when the itinerary is released and available for booking, suites get snapped up at low introductory prices and that demand drives the prices of suites not yet booked up. There's a net benefit overall though. Intermediately priced cabins - e.g., Aqua and Concierge class cabins go unclaimed early on and are often the same or slightly lower in price than say a Veranda where demand may be a little higher. As always, inside cabins are an especially good catch on introduction and these too get snapped up by cost conscious cruisers quickly but my experience is that there is still availability at only slightly increased fares for inside cabins well into the pre-sail time frames. I do think this is going to change as capacity Celebrity increases from 50% to 75% and on up based on demand. Shopping what are called the "shoulder seasons" e.g. after Thanksgiving and a week or two before XMAS (there are others), you'll find some very low fares.
  16. Thanks for your post cruise report. On our last Equinox Cruise in December - a 12n S. Caribbean too - we became aware that there was going to be a large crew rotation in February. In my experience that almost always precipitates the kinds of issues you reported. I don't think there is any way of knowing in advance when these are occurring so you can book to avoid them. I do know that the Operations Department at Celebrity and RCL HQ tries to stagger these so stuff you mention doesn't occur. It's very hard on supervisory staff when a large number of new workers show up in their section all at one. Equally hard for head guy in a section - say the food and beverage manager or Chief Engineer - when a lot of supervisors switch out. COVID and health protocols have, I'm quite certain, thrown a huge monkey wrench into "the best laid plans ......" Also just looked it up and Equinox, lunched new in 2009, was refurbished in 2019. A lot of that was structural and I too noticed some of the same things you noticed on furniture and upholstery but nothing was unserviceable, dirty or unseemly. I'd speculate that most of the money went into structural changes and upgrades. The Solstice class ships are now the second oldest ships in Celebrity's fleet (Solstice in 2008) behind the Millennium class ships (Millennium, 1999). Lot's of emphasis being placed by corporate on the Apex class ships and given budgetary constraints I'd expect Millennium and Solstice class ships are going to start looking a bit long in the tooth. Fares are going to be lower on these ships and in some cases, quite a bit older. There's a limit though on how low they can get and still produce a profit with older ships being technically less efficient and more costly to operate than the newer Apex models.
  17. Boy, do I agree with this. However, I'm very persistent and have found TAP, post COVID and with a new CEO, is working hard to promote and provide good customer service. I had a translant flight COVID cancelled by TAP in October 2020 and was given a voucher. I had the two voucher numbers and tried to apply them during an on-line booking for July 2022. It didn't work and I abandoned the booking to try another way of booking the next day. I knew full well, calling TAP US results in hour long plus waits to talk to a CSR. Surprisingly, I received a call the next day from a TAP CSR who noted I had abandoned an on-line booking and asked if was still interested. I was. He found the vouchers, applied them to the early booking and low fare and I booked with him in about 10 minutes time. Pre-COVID I could fly to Geneva one way via LIS for $500 pp. It's more now and the RT ticket I just booked for October 2022 was in the $1200 pp range. Got an email confirmation followed by the details of the booking. I was very impressed. That never happens with American or United. They don't care and thier fares are unjustifiably higher than TAP's. TAP has issues one of which is a restructuring of debt undertaking that occurred recently to avoid COVID related bankruptcy but they have the backing of the Portuguese government and as far as I'm concerned, "they try harder." They have my business getting to the continent from the US.
  18. A I started at the beginning of this thread and read through it, I was going to post this very important consideration when flying intercity in Europe. They do have very inexpensive airfares ..... if all you're carrying when you board is a briefcase or purse. If you're combining a cruise with transatlantic airfares and intercity flights in Europe, you're going to have a bag. Depending how frugal you are with packing you can get away with an "international carry-on sized bag" at no additional cost on most transatlantic flights. However, once you jump to larger sized "checked luggage" on an international flight flight your fares go up. f you then book the so-called "cheap" intercity flights in Europe with either a carry on or checked baggage, the price of that formerly "cheap" flight goes up a lot. Weight requirements are strictly enforced within Europe and internationally. Get a hand held scale to weigh luggage as you pack. The overweight charges are astronomical. I don't recommend taking international flights on economy fares where you don't have an assigned seat. On an 8+ hour trip, that is a personal disaster waiting to happen. Families with small children tend to book these fares and if you like spending 8 hours in a nursery of misbehaving and wandering in the isles children, fine with me. I frequently fly and recommend TAP Airlines, Portugal's flag carrier. They originate out of Miami flying to several cruise port cities in Europe. We do a no-extra-cost stop over in Lisbon enroute to Amsterdam. Then in 2-3d, fly on to Amsterdam or Geneva where, from either of those two cities, you can fly anywhere in Europe or catch a cruise out of Amsterdamn. If you book early you can find RT transatlantic fares in the under $800 range, basic economy and under $1500 for premium cabin which includes seat selection and two checked bags. TBH, airfares to port cities drives what cruise I'm going to take. Destination of Athens and Barcelona tend to have lower fares. Rome is OK sometimes but Civitavecchia (Rome's cruise port) is an expensive 1 hour haul from FCO these days. Amsterdam and Venice can be expensive port cities to fly to. TAP flys the Airbus 330NEO. The cabin seating configuration is 2-4-2, with a nice entertainment screen in the back of the seat in front of you, a plus as far as my travel is concerned. The A330NEO is also my favorite long-haul aircraft in it's class. To be frank, I'd avoid United and Delta translant flights (they still operate Boeing 767s on transatlantic flights, the worst aircraft from a comfort standpoint ever built). Swiss Air and KLM are nice except for price. Luftansa has a new fleet of Airbus aircraft flying transatlantic routes. I've not flown them in a while (747 my last Luftansa flight to Frankfurt), JMO. YMMV.
  19. I took a quick look through the message boards to find a dearth of commentary on the impact of Russian's invasion of Ukraine on us cruisers and the cruise lines. We haven't seen anything yet. Putin's Stalinization of Russia is going to essentially remove Russia from the global economy for years if it ever returns. Even though it only provides a small amount of oil and gas to the US, that is not the case in Europe. The larger problem is Russia's export dominance in key metals and the combination of Ukrainian and Russian exports of grains. Why haven't we seen price volatility at the retail level except gasoline? It's because probably a months worth of stuff is in transit and will be delivered saving that which western buyers won't touch (e.g., oil and gas) for fear of secondary sanctions. The cruise industry, like the airlines sign futures contracts for energy products months in advance so, those deliveries will be made (except as above) for probably the next 60-90d. After that the proverbial sh** will hit the fan. I appreciate the sanguine comments that the lines will probably reduce sale offers before tacking on a fuel surcharge. That would be nice but the fuel costs of operating a cruise liner at the current cost of fuel - just one - is about $185 per passenger per day. Hmmm quick napkin calculation? 2000 guests, x $185 = $370K/d x7 = $2,570,000 in fuel costs for a week long cruise. So, tell me that the cost of a barrel of fuel going from say, $60pb to over $200 (what some experts think the PPB will get to this summer) won't produce drastically higher fuel operating costs that will get passed on to the consumers. It's going to be a rocky cruise experience for a while.
  20. As it appears that the pandemic is easing in North America and pretty much globally and as we get back to cruising, I thought it important to bring to the attention of cruisers here the tools the CDC has recently provided for you to assess your own risks of traveling for any kind of vacation be it cruising or something else. They've been mentioned in this thread but, below I'll provide the links that can use to: Find out what the COVID risk level in the state and county your are traveling to or from, e.g., Port Everglades is in Broward Co., FL. The country risk of transmission is medium (based on cases/100k population and 10% of hospital admissions are for COVID), viral prevalence is below 5% (controlled). Based on your personal health and vaccination status, then finding a county's risk level, you can find what mitigation measures are recommended for you personally. Using the Cruise Ship Color Status link, you can see what the vaccination status of guests is and a rough guide to onboard viral prevalence. This might be useful for last minute cancellations where you're just not comfortable about this. For at least a year, I've been railing about the CDC's inability to provide objective based guidance that recommends how we should protect ourselves, or not, in the pandemic. I object to being told by government what I should do and how I should behave. I've also railed about the inaccuracy of using case counts as a risk assessment tool without context. Well, the recently released guidance is here now and you can make your own decisions on when and where you feel it's safe to go given your health and vaccination status and how you might want to protect yourself if and when you do go. IOW, for the most part, you decide, not government.** ** To this statement I want to be clear. Federal regulations for masking in certain places under federal jurisdiction, e.g., airports, airplanes, cruise terminals, are still in place. They are set to expire on March 19th. Not sure they will be renewed and if they aren't it is further evidence that government paternalism is giving way to self determination - this is a very good thing, IMO. Also, nothing has changed with respect to a private business stipulating things like no shirt, no shoes, no service. IOW, RCL can skip a port, tell you not to go ashore on your own or tell you to mask onboard. An order like that is based on RCL's own assessment of health risks to guests and crew. There are also still some regulatory requirements issued by the CDC that have legal standing as long as a ship opts in to the Voluntary Program. An example is masking and testing requirements on board a cruise ship sailing in US waters when viral prevalence is high enough (red status as defined by the CDC) to warrant these measures. Still, we're getting there. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/science/community-levels.html https://www.cdc.gov/quarantine/cruise/cruise-ship-color-status.html
  21. The entire COVID experience, it's attendant health protocols as it relates to infection control, has very likely been a completely positive one for the cruise lines. I don't have access to any details but am pretty sure that all kinds of GI and respiratory illnesses that were common and acquired aboard ship have been considerably reduced. I think most of us feel a whole lot better about cruising with what is very likely a steep reduction in Norovirus infection and "cruise cough" both having come along with layered protective measures v. SARS2. People I associate with have a reasonable appreciation for the value of personal hygiene and good personal sanitation measures when in group settings. OTH, we've all seen segments of the cruising public who don't appreciate that at all. Because of that, I'm all for a continuation of the layered levels of health protocols - one of which is no self service at the buffets - among a whole host of others including masking when objectively based conditions warrant - and I can almost guarantee you we're not done with SARS 2, COVID or any new virus that presents the same kinds of risk to personal health in the congregate setting that cruise ships are manifestly and correctly characterized.
  22. The world is overwhelmingly signaling that Putin's invasion of Ukraine isn't "necessary" as he has characterized it. Performances by Russian artists are being cancelled. Cultural and sporting events around the world are banning Russian participation. Organizers of these events are doing what they think is right, sending a message to Vladimir Putin that what you have done in undertaking an Invasion of Ukraine is not only unnecessary and wrong but we are going to hold you personally accountable and shame and punish you in any way we can for doing it. I support RCL in their decision and I don't care if it is based on safety concerns, fears of social media backlash, or that insurance companies won't insure their ships if they sail in the Black Sea. I don't care if it is a politically motivated gesture in support of Ukraine. I want the Russian people who are going to get hurt economically by Putin's actions, the ones who don't by any measure hate us or wish us ill will to get so fed up with what Putin has wrought that they fearlessly rise up and get rid of him. The rest of the free and democratic nations of the world will cheer them on - one long overdue step in the right direction for freedom, human rights and mankind.
  23. It's well past the point of pressing Celebrity to at least address the inconvenience you experienced. IMO, and as you have described it, this is no small matter. Celebrity is very sensitive to guest inconveniences where guests feel that these were not acknowledged to the satisfaction of the guest involved. Form your post I'm going to assume this occurred at Terminal 25 at Port Everglades. Under normal circumstances, boarding at this terminal is a breeze and the staggered arrivals work well. Where were you in your travels when you were notified of the 4-5h delay and how did you get notified? It sounds like you were enroute to Terminal 25 and had already checked out of your hotel or arrived same day at the airport and shuttled to terminal 25. Did you book transportation from the airport with Celebrity? If Celebrity was late in notifying you - IOW, you were already on your way to the terminal - I feel confident they would have recognized that and worked with you to insure your concerns were addressed. For others reading about this, do not hesitate to speak to Guest Relations as soon as you board if you have been inconvenienced in anyway during the boarding process and let this department sort out the problem and give you an explanation - this isn't about getting compensated although you may be. This is about communicating to this department that your experience was not the best way to start an anticipated vacation. Celebrity wants to know about problems so that they can be corrected in the future. The best way to do this is to request a meeting with the Guest Relation's manager. You may not actually get a sit-down with him but you will be seriously listened to by one of his assistants. If you are dissatisfied with the response, ask to speak to the Staff Captain. If there is an identifiable problem that Celebrity is responsible for, you will get, at the very least, an apology and explanation.
  24. There's been some discussion on "best" time to book a cruise. One point made was that you should book as soon as itineraries are released by the line/ship/region you want to sail. Well, yes. That's a very good idea. Here's why: My TA is alert for new releases and emailed me while I was sailing on Celebrity Reflection of the 2024 Caribbean sailings. I immediately went to the Future Cruise department to check out pricing. An Edge class Sky Suite (S1, everything included with Retreat access) on Celebrity Beyond sailing for 11n in the S. Caribbean and departing Fort Lauderdale on January 8th 2024 was priced at $4399pp with a $300 CC for booking an S1 suite on board and another $800 CC Retreat incentive ($1100 total CCs). I also am eligible to receive a military discount and that was worth $1000. Booking on board reduces your down payment to $100pp. The total price with taxes and port fees was $7922. If you then back-out the value of the CCs and calculate a daily price pp, that comes in at under $265/day pp. That is veranda level per day pp pricing these days for a suite and all the perks that come with that. I booked the same suite on Apex sailing the S. Caribbean for only 10d in January 2023 a month ago, also while on board Equinox at a price of just over $10K! That's a $2K difference in pricing by grabbing a cabin as soon as the itineraries are released. Plan accordingly. Book on board if you can.
  25. IMO, these ships are betting on not having a circumstance where a guest exposure results in locking those guests and their traveling party in the same cabin down for 10d. My take is that the probability of an exposure isn't low enough for me to make that bet. Guests will be livid and the press will be all over that. The cost to the company joining into this ridiculousness if it goes down like I just suggested it could, would be enormous ......... ........ "you mean if I cruise with Disney and a guest gets tested positive for COVID, I sat next to him at dinner and that gets me locked into may cabin and ends my cruise? NOT GOING!!!!
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