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JeffB

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Everything posted by JeffB

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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
  4. .......... 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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
  9. 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
  10. 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.
  11. 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/
  12. 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.
  13. 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/
  14. Just posted this link in the CPAP thread. It's a good discussion regarding the complexities of the two prong to three prong converters. https://www.tripsavvy.com/best-power-adapters-for-european-travel-1508193 I believe the relevant issue is any plug in device that takes the ship's two or three prong power source and splits it into more outlets (three prong or USB) is not going to pass muster. The reason for that is the potential to overload the single source plug's upper amperage limits with multiple electronic devices plugged into it. USB outlets have very low amperage draws but something like a hair dryer or iron presents a high risk of amperage overload on a circuit, a popped circuit breaker or worse, a fire. We travel with one much like the one in the photo above and have never had a problem getting it through security in our checked at the pier luggage. I think the risk of confiscation is higher with carry-on stuff that is going to be subject to the prying and not often well trained eyes of local security staff.
  15. I've been traveling with the ResMed10 CPAP for 5 years. When I first received it, I looked up FAA guidelines on taking it aboard flights and learned it was an acceptable medical device to take on-board as carry on luggage (tagged as a medical device it will not count against any weight limits that might be imposed by an airline. I inquired of the airline CSR that we were flying and they had no clue but thought I needed to fill out a special medical need form. She emailed it to me, I filled it out and sent it back. Never heard anything further, carried it aboard, no one cared - I did not use it during the flight, an 8h translant. At the beginning when I first started traveling with my CPAP, I would notify Celebrity cruise lines at least 30d in advance that I was using a CPAP and would need an extension cord and distilled water. On one cruise, the extension cord and water were in my cabin when we arrived. Once ..... the rest of the times - probably a couple dozen - I stopped wasting my time filling out forms and simply informed our Cabin attendants, when they introduced themselves, that I used a CPAP and needed an extension cord and distilled water. No problem. These items would show up before we were unpacked. Edge class ships have a plug near the bed stands - no extension cord required. On Anthem of the Seas, there's plug under the bed that is easily reachable with the CPAP's power cord. So, needing an extension cord depends on the ship your sailing on. Either way, no need and don't carry one of your own aboard. What you may need is a device that converts a European two prong socket to a North American three prong type. Be careful with purchasing and using these. If the ship's power source in your cabin is 125v or less, just about any inexpensive converter plug will work. Watch out if the main power source is greater than that - usually 200-250v. You'll need a step-down converter if the ship's voltage is greater than 125v. There's a ton to sort through on this subject and I don't want to misinform anyone. Here's a good link that covers the complexity of converting two prong sockets to three. https://www.tripsavvy.com/best-power-adapters-for-european-travel-1508193
  16. Is it a surprise to anyone posting here that the lack of clarity on testing and vaccination requirements is missing? If you're hoping a federal agency (i.e., HHS or the CDC) is going to clear all this up for US ports, forget it. Some important facts bearing on the questions posed here: In the US and the European Common Market (goes beyond EU Member states) guidance on COVID mitigation measures has always deferred to state and local health authorities to make the rules. That has produced a patch-work of vaccine and spread of COVID mitigation measure requirements for public and private settings. It's a mess, has been for over 28 months and still is. Lacking consistent guidance from appropriate authority, I don't blame the cruise lines for their disparate approaches to requiring vaccination or COVID testing to board a cruise ship..... the current environment allows each to his own and IMO, is being driven by liability and cost issues. Go with the flow. Outside the US........ Travel within the European Common Market has required keeping close tabs on each countries COVID related entry requirements. It wasn't easy as travel in Europe started opening up and I've traveled their 3x since cruising restarted in June of '21. Each time it has gotten easier as, consistent with the EUCDC guidance, most country health authorities have now dropped or local officials and businesses don't enforce straggler mandates (clearing passport control usually requires proof of vaccination - your CDC card works for that; it didn't in the past due to forgeries). Just completed 27d of travel in Europe including a Rhine River cruise that transited the Netherlands,, Germany, France and Switzerland. Switzerland (not an EU member state) has abandoned all previous COVID related mandates. Our river cruise on MS Grace, among river boats in Tauck's line, carried 90 passengers, all Americans by design. To board you had to have proof of being "fully vaccinated" and your last vaccination could not be more than 270d old. Boosters are generally not required but the 270d thing almost guarantees you will need a 3rd or even a 4th shot. No pre-cruise testing was required and I believe that is the standard for major EU member states and ECM states. Masks per local regulations but while we carried masks ashore (not required on board), no one in any of our ports of call were enforcing wearing them outside or notably inside including public transportation. If you are cruising from European ports in the next 90d or so, don't expect the situation to clarify wrt vaccination and testing requirements. That's because the EUCDC recommends but does not mandate anything so mandates vary by country. What I did find in Tauck's case is that what I was required to do on the ship and wherever we ported, including fly in and fly out airports was crystal clear. RCL would benefit from simply stating requirements that they are comfortable with placing safety above convenience for their European cruises, like Tauck did, and stick with them regardless of what the EUCDC is doing. I get that it is frustrating for guests already booked on a cruise from European ports. Here's my take: Generally, you will not be required to test to fly into and enter EU or ECM countries. This is going to put pressure on Cruise lines that are still requiring testing to board to drop those requirements. Keep close track of this at your cruise line web site. If you end up needing to test, locate the testing sites at your departure and arrival airports and plan accordingly using the 2/3d pre-test time frame. I've used these on our first trip. It was accessible, simple and reasonably priced. Generally, to enter Europe, you will be required to be vaccinated and your last shot cannot be more than 270 days old. Air travel in Europe is chaotic but manageable. Get your head straight that everything involving air travel is going to take longer and plan your connections accordingly. Connections under 2h isn't recommended. Within Europe, take the trains if you can to avoid the airport chaos. On return to the states, I spent 4.5h in Schipol Airport in Amsterdam checking in, dropping luggage and clearing security. There were thousands of travelers doing what I was doing and staff, already short of them, are just overwhelmed. If you can buy priority boarding as part of your Economy class ticket, do it... or fly Business where it's included. It will get you through throngs in line for security faster. On arrival, you'll have to clear passport control. Major European airports have this down. We went through Lisbon and Amsterdam. Note that when traveling within the Schengen region (e.g., like we did between Lisbon and Amsterdam, you do not need to pass through passport control. It was super quick from debarkation to exit. Expect baggage delays but they aren't awful. On the first leg of your travel from the US to and EU country, book a seat close to the exit used for debarkation and get off the plain and head to passport control ASAP to avoid ques. They will be there, because your flight won't be the only early am arrival that requires passengers to clear passport control, but they seem to move fast. Boarding is a different story. Be prepared for flight cancellations and use your airline's phone app to see what's available when your flight is cancelled and book it ASAP. Get the best travel insurance you can afford to buy. Happy European travel.
  17. I sailed Allure out of Port Everglades last month. What was strange is that we could not book shows on the app or the web site before the sailing. This was a late booking for us, about 3w before sailing so, if we'd booked way in advance maybe that option would have been available. My take is that the entertainment schedule wasn't fixed until just prior to sailing. If you tried to see when a show was being presented in advance and on your app schedule, you couldn't see it. Once aboard and connected to the ship's internet, we could book shows. Our interest was in Mama Mia, the ice show and the water show. We are late diners so preference was for the 7:00 shows. If I recall, we didn't have any problems booking times that allowed us to dine (main, anytime) around 8:30 or so. However, specialty dining was another matter. Because we boarded late (2-2:30), most specialty restaurants were booked (these could be booked in advance and they certainly were it appeared). Getting a seating that allowed us to see a 7pm show either before it or after it was hard. Three points: The way reserved show seating worked on this Allure sailing was that you needed to show up at the door 15 minutes or earlier before show time. 20-30 minutes was better if you wanted to select your seat from many. Staff were present and would check your app/sea pass using QR codes to verify your reservation. At around 15 minutes prior to show time, it's open seating. I found the Diamond Concierge to be very useful in sorting out specialty restaurant reservations. I don't think it is any secret that the restaurants may be understaffed and there's some tables that aren't booked but might be available. That turned out to be the case for the one place we wanted to dine, Izumi. Check the Diamond Concierge hours. Visit at off times otherwise you'll wait a while. The app does not allow you to make more than one reservation per show. We would have seen Mama Mia twice. We planned to walk in to the matinee but it got cancelled as one of the the leads and his/her understudy "got sick." That's all we were told.
  18. We're booked on a Tauck River Cruise from Amsterdam to Basel Switzerland that starts July 13th. We fly from Miami to Lisbon Portugal on July 10th (Arrival date +1), have a day in Lisbon then fly from Lisbon to Amsterdam arriving a day before the cruise on the 12th. Board on the 13th and sail at 4:30pm. There is lots of uncertainty with travel, COVID and Monkey Pox surges in Europe. The way to avoid anxiety over these things is to research them. I thought I'd share that with you. TRAVEL: I have both anecdotal and first hand knowledge (friends who are aircrew flying internationally) of what's going on inside airports and with flight cancellations. There's a lot of frenzy and hype in the media about flight cancellations and disruptions to air travel. Regional flights both in the US and Europe are being affected by personnel shortages at the airlines themselves and every supporting activity for flight ops (e.g. baggage handlers, fuelers, caterers, security and customs). Airports are swamped with travelers and airport check-in C&BP, security, food and coffee services have long lines. Sundays are the worst, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Thursdays better. In most cases, you are going to have to check in at the service counter along with your bags for international flights. Just the way it is these days. International travel is less affected mainly due to the smaller numbers of flights per day of international flights. If you haven't booked already leave days, not hours between connections. That way, you can rebook a cancelled international flight the next day as the airlines flying international rarely have more than one flight per day to European destinations from the US. Leave 3h from the time you arrive at the international terminals to departure time. If it so happens things go smoothly that's bonus. If not, you're ready for it. If you're flying regionally in Europe be prepared for you're flight to be cancelled. Check your airline's booking site before you go and know what subsequent flights you can book if you're original flight is cancelled. Importantly, download the airline's phone app and get familiar with using it before you have to use it. Rebooking a cancelled flight to a later time is going to be time critical. Using the phone app is almost always better than trying to find a airline CSR. Have an international voice and data plan for your phone service. Make sure you know how to set your phone up to roam if this is something you don't do on the regular. Below is a very good link to check up to date COVID related travel restrictions including what countries do you need proof of negative COVID tests, proof of vaccination, visas and specific declaration forms. Yes, it has gotten much easier to travel in Europe since March, 2022 but things can change quickly, check, check and re-check before you go. In addition, your airline web site will probably have a decent section that allows travelers to check arrival and departure requirements for their European itinerary. https://www.iata.org/en/youandiata/travelers/health/ INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Let's get this out of the way right up front. Fear mongering about Monkey pox is rampant. It's in the mainstream press (at least claims are vetted) and in Social Media (not vetted and notoriously inaccurate). My reference for this assessment is from the EUCDC (link below): Monkey Pox: Reports of confirmed infections are rising in Europe. Increased case numbers are modest and are concentrated regionally (by city or locale) opposed to wide spread. The virus predominates in men that have sex with men. It is in this cohort, no others, where the virus is increasing the most. The virus does not cause serious symptoms in most individuals with symptoms lasting up to 2w but usually clear in 7d. Symptoms include high fever and isolated or multiple pustular, 1cm or less skin lesions. Persons with competent immune systems will have isolated lesions. Spread of monkey pox is from contact with the pustules or fluid left on bed clothing or towels. Prolonged mouth to mouth contact can transmit the disease. It is not transmitted by airborne means and rarely from contaminated hard surfaces (toilet seats, counter tops, etc.). COVID: Reports of confirmed cases are rising in Europe. Attack rates (Rt) vary by country and region) So far, as in the US, case counts are not overwhelming medical facilities and recent 7d averages have remained flat. This is the link to the EUCDC's web site. I encourage you to take a look around within it. It has very good sections on Monkey Pox and COVID. From the information you'll gain you can make your own risk assessments for your travel particulars and take considered and appropriate precautions for your travel party accordingly: https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en If you have questions or see something that is incorrect in this posting, PM me and I'll sort it out.
  19. I assume you got this sorted out Keiffer-b ..... Celebrity has the worst, least understandable way to confirm OBC (refundable and non-refundable), packages and perks that are included in "everything included." Does not matter if you book with Celebrity direct or through an agent. The invoices are in code that is hard to sort out. You're not alone and I've sailed almost exclusively with Celebrity since 2001. I've been told these obscure codes are used in their reservations platforms that are then transmitted to billing. The codes fit on a line item that I am told allows them to separate charges in ways that then permits more detailed analysis of income and expenses. Codes - the type that are used to build programs - are a bitch to change once the systems, e.g., accounting and booking, are set up to talk to each other. Here's an example for a booking I have on Equinox in September of this year: Promotions Applied ALWAYINC NRD. SAVOBCOFFER NRD. OB SALE 6to9n There's a separate section for OBCs that's a bit clearer but it still can be confusing. Over the years, I've learned the codes. It's like learning a second language!
  20. The EU's equivalent to the CDC, the ECDCs relaxed health protocols in as step wise fashion beginning in March of this year. At present very few EU countries have any requirements for proof of vaccination or pre-entry COVID testing to enter them. Cruise ships sailing from EU member state's ports follow ECDC's guidelines promulgated through Healthy Gateways, an arm of the ECDC (link below if interested). For all intent and purpose these guidelines for cruise ship operations are identical to those of the CDC's. If you've been watching, the Omicron variants BA-4 and 5 are currently predominating in the EU and in the US and are responsible for increased numbers of infections. To be clear, by other measures such as ED visits, hospitalizations and deaths, most health agencies are not recommending re-instituting prophylactic measures to slow the spread of SARS2. Health agencies have moved from pandemic readiness to emergency readiness to sustainable readiness in the last 9 months. Most prophylactic measures to prevent the spread of SARS2 are now recommendations. https://www.healthygateways.eu/Portals/0/plcdocs/EUHG_Operational_guidelines_CoV_June2022.pdf?ver=2022-06-10-140149-413 I suspect Viking Cruises in this discussion that no longer require pre-cruise testing are doing so based on "attack rate" (sometimes measured by % positive of R values - rate of increase in new cases) for the ports they are visiting. When they are low there are portions of the Healthy Gateways Guidelines that allow some flexibility in imposing or eliminating mitigation measures for boarding. I suspect Viking and Princess are relying on that flexibility to do away with pre-boarding testing. That could change in a moments notice if attack rates in those ports rise. I've talked about this before. Cruise ships are unique in their capacity to harbor a COVID outbreak. We've gotten to where we are in the cruising industry by insuring guests and crew members are fully vaccinated and implementing well tested protocols to deal with the unfortunates who do come down with COVID while sailing. For the most part, few are catching COVID on board and outbreaks (as defined by the CDC) are rare. The reason for that are the steps taken by the CDC and ECDC to reduce spread. You can like them or dislike them but there is some proof in the pudding that is incontrovertible. There are cohorts of cruisers that from a risk standpoint shouldn't be hurrying up to eliminate pre-cruise testing or vaccination requirements to board in US or European ports. It is what it is and we seem to be managing returning to normal in the cruise industry pretty well. In the absence of proven screening and surveillance measures we dislike but nonetheless reduce the risk of COVID outbreaks on cruise ships, I'd hate to see public health agencies see rising COVID infections aboard cruise ships, using the detailed reporting that the lines are using, and believe they have to return to more demanding COVID mitigation procedures and policies and convince decision makers that its time to limit cruising again.
  21. They'll likely take Euros ..... at an exchange rate you may not like but this is only in the casino, at tables, offered to the casino teller, or at guest services. You cannot pay for services or products anywhere else aboard ship - your sea-pass card is your currency. The best way to optimize you're exchange rate is to put a credit card on file, use your sea-pass card for all onboard purchases and pay your CC balance as you would normally pay a CC balance. Typically, major CC companies like Visa or a Via CC associated with your home country bank will offer a decent exchange rate - at least that has been my experience. The ship will calculate your cash account balance in Euros, if you like, and you can settle your cash account, if that is what you've established, in Euros Your charges are not likely to be at a favorable conversion rate. Considering you're not talking about buying expensive perfumes or pieces of jewelry or watches, you may not be bothered with an unfavorable exchange rate in the casino. Croupiers will take you're Euros and give you chips in exchange. I suspect exchange rates are standardized through out the ship.
  22. As for ourselves, the more we cruise, the less sensitive to common annoyances we seem to become - they are part and parcel to the cruising life. One of the nice things about putting many cruises under your belt is that one develops a routine of sorts. It's predictable so that waiting a little longer for that beverage at the bar or a bit more time than we might like between our main course and our dessert doesn't bother us. We're attentive to how incredibly hard working the entire crew is from Captain to pot washer to the crew that chip paint. That helps to put small inconveniences, when they infrequently occur for us, in the proper place. Finally, age and experience brings perspective. One becomes more accommodating, more accepting. The one thing we've said since we started cruising is that we're incredibly fortunate to be in the roughly 1% of the global population that can enjoy an activity like what is afforded to us aboard a cruise ship. We're grateful and therefor, can't find much to complain about. Ever.
  23. Just sailed Allure out of For Lauderdale. It was a last minute booking - like 3w before sail date. It's been my experience that ships are slow to post the daily schedule in the app so it makes it hard to plan dining and shows. By the time I could access specialty restaurant booking, everything was full. This was my first RCL cruise in a long time so, I just might not be tuned into timing for show and dining reservations. If you're far enough out from your sail date, seating for both show and dining my be available. But, yes, I'd be looking at 6pm dining for 8:15 shows.
  24. Although I've not had a claim, I've liked the cost for what you get of Trawick International sold through Squaremouth consolidators. You'll see Trawick come up if you search using the InsureMyTrip web site. We're in our 70s so insurance gets pricey but these days, it is must have as you've already concluded. Trawick offers good bang for our buck. How good your coverage is will depend on service after you make a claim. Trawick has very good reviews (but so do most of the top brands). I did have a post purchase issue on a policy a while back and Squaremouth, the sales company, was very responsive.
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