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Everything posted by JeffB

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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!!!!
  13. Here's the link to the dashboard. It's interesting looking at it. You can select filters that allow you to look at a company, line or ship. What I see is that "opting in' appears to be a ship by ship process. What suggests that is that NCL has a cruise line product, Oceania, that has one of it's ships, Marina, that has not yet opted in. There are other examples line by line, ship by ship. Another thing I see is that it appears the companies/ships that have opted in aren't going to give a rat's patoot that they won't achieve this BS "Vaccination Standard of Excellence." While my preference would be to have the cruise lines give the middle finger to the CDC on this one, it doesn't matter to me if they opt in. Cruise line execs are probably asking, how many serious cruisers are paying attention to what the CDC is saying about cruising? How many newbees to cruising are going to find and then look at this dashboard? Not to mention everything, including this dashboard is hard to find on the CDC web site but it takes a good deal of study to understand what the color coding and vax status thing actually means. As I write this the whole voluteer program is laughable but that the CDC thinks it's not is both sad and scary. https://www.cdc.gov/quarantine/cruise/cruise-ship-color-status.html
  14. Since I missed this (the top vaccination status requires 95% of guests to be boosted) when I posted in response to a Smokeybandit, I'm assuming the 17th changes now drop the booster requirement and a line can achieve the highest vaccination status by simply having 95% guests and crew "fully vaccinated." Clearly, the 17th changes are a result of the lines pushing back on this "up to date" includes a booster thing. IMO, the CDC has once again made things a mess by issuing unnecessary, often confusing guidance and definitions that are driving health compliance departments at the state and private business levels nutz.
  15. Let's assume all the lines opt in. There is nothing in the voluntary program that I'm aware of that says a cruise ship can't sail if they are not in compliance with components of the program. They'll just get a certain color rating and vaccine status classification. The CDC learned it's lesson in that regard. What's gained by opting in is a sort of CDC endorsement. In that the lines have sought cooperation with the CDC instead of confrontation, it remains a strong possibility they'll buy into this silliness. But they will be asking what is the cost to them of opting in? It seems to me this presents a marketing challenge in that one line can crow it sails at the highest level of COVID related health safety at the risk of loosing bookings among people who either are unvaccinated, refuse to get boosted or simply don't want to deal with the hassle of jumping through all the hoops to cruise. IMO, the risks of lost revenue would exceed any gains the company might obtain by selling this higher level of COVID related health safety to the cruising public. The public in general is numb regarding COVID warnings and not likely to be moved in a positive direction by anything the CDC says. I think it is clear that the administration is using the CDC and this program to obtain higher vax rates among a very small group of citizens in what amounts to a "no-shoes, no shirts, no service" approach that is so wrong headed as to once again raise the specter of government over-reach I agree, this WILL be interesting to see how this plays out. I think revenue gains and the potential these will be harmed is a factor in whatever path the lines choose to take. In a related story, the CDC reduced its travel warning for cruise ships from level 4 to level 3. CLIA praised the move. The CDC said: "Cruise ship travel is not a zero-risk activity," the CDC said. "The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads easily between people in close quarters on board ships, and the chance of getting COVID-19 on cruise ships is high, even if you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines......... and told cruise guests to check the color and vaccination status of the ship they plan to sail on." I really have a problem with the CDC's statement that the "risk of getting COVID on a cruise ship is high." If a .0065 risk probability is high, the CDC might want to check the risk of serious injury from a host of other routine activities that people undertake everyday without worrying about risk.
  16. If I'm not mistaken, a lot will. See the link to current vaccine and testing requirements in my post. RCL pursued a family friendly policy from the start. Currently, vaccinations are not required for 12 and under guests. If they are vaccinated, they don't have to comply with the additional layer of protocols the unvaxed have to comply with when sailing on RCL. Celebrity is sailing with 98% fully vaccinated crew and guests on a consistent basis. No requirement yet for boosters on Celebrity but about 50% of crew have received them. I think that's coming for guests on most lines based on what we're hearing with the drop in protection from serious COVID illness after 4 months. Several lines already require boosters (no time limit, yet). See the list at the link above. Getting rid of PHEs - and only a few states still have them in effect - is not going to change much for the cruise industry. The SARS2 pandemic solidified a slew of health protocols for cruise ships that are going to persist. Whether you agree with them or not is immaterial. It's like "no shoes, no shirt, no service." Requiring that you meet requirements established by a cruise line to board is legal. What will help will be global acceptance from the WHO that SARS2 has reached an endemic state. Once that happens, there's a good chance vaccination and testing requirements will be gradually, if not too slowly for us, dropped. Nobody's getting tested for influenza or required to get a flu vaccination. We're headed in that direction with SARS2. We'll take one step closer to that if, in the next 6 months, we don't experience another sharp increase in new SARS2 infections and a run on hospital space by patients sick with COVID. Even if we get a bump, if the disease impact is decreased by higher vaccination rates, emerging treatments and improved testing approaches to curb spread precisely instead of with a club, we'll be fine.
  17. This is the best summation of what it means that I've seen in one place: https://www.cruisecritic.com/articles.cfm?ID=6754 I wouldn't count on it. The problem lies with the onerous, now codified on the basis of existing maritime law, quarantine requirements in the voluntary program for close contacts. There's no getting around this by working out "a functioning approach." On ships with a Vaccinated Standard of Excellence (95%), close contacts of passengers who test positive for COVID-19 must be tested immediately, quarantined for five full days after their last contact with the infected person, and then retested. NB: Not all RCL ships are going to reach this standard. Here's a current list of what the testing and vaccination requirements are for cruise lines operating out of North America: https://www.travelagewest.com/Travel/Cruise/Cruise-Lines-COVID-Vaccinations-Requirement On Highly Vaccinated and Not Highly Vaccinated ships (<95%), close contacts must quarantine for 10 days and may only end quarantine if they are asymptomatic and test negative. There are no exceptions to this program -- and no clarity as to whether this 10-day quarantine must be completed onboard, ashore, or both. If your sailing on RCL, this is the standard you'll most likely face. In addition, I too once thought removing the federal PHE would reduce the powers of the CDC to dictate cruise line health protocols. First, it was made clear in Judge Merryday's District Court (upheld by the USSC) that the NSO and CSO exceeded the powers granted to the CDC by congress and enjoined the CSO. Second, what the new voluntary program does is carefully structure it's cruise line health protocol dictates within the scope of the applicable maritime laws that provide a basis for CDC's regulatory authority .... at least CDC's lawyers likely think the voluntary program is legal. Merryday in his opinion on FL's suit seeking injunctive relief suggested the CDC should consider a rewrite of the CSO ..... this is it. I think the thing is coercive regardless of how well CDC's lawyers think it is based in existing law. A federally declared PHE has more to do with authorizing the executive to release funds or eliminate red-tape in an emergency. The state's control what happens on the ground. Not the feds (or the CDC - unless congress passed laws authorizing them to do things). The Constitution specifically grants special powers to the states. Governor Desantis was pretty clear about most mandates that restricted mobility or dictated behaviors were not happening in FL. Cruise lines got around the no vaccination mandates by making disclosure of vaccination status voluntary - it's a personal choice to cruise or not cruise - pretty much what Desantis wanted. I do think if RCL opts in by Friday, on scheduled review (March 18th), the CDC may adjust some of the sticking points I mention above depending on how hard RCL pushes for it. The quarantine after a close contact will be a real cruise killer for a lot of cruisers already booked or those considering booking.
  18. An update ...... the B2B process between our two cruises went off smoothly. For those familiar with Port Everglades you'll know that Terminal 24 is RCL's and 25, right across the street is Celebrity's. Reflection is birthed at Terminal 29. It's old, far away from parking but seemed to handle embarkation and debarkation easily. Still a bit weird feeling as Terminal 25 is new and filled with technology that's not available in terminal 29. Most notably the facial recognition technology for C&BP that speeds passage through that check point considerably. It was done by one agent viewing each of the 50 or so B2B'ers passports manually. Took a while. One of the frustrating aspects of cruising the pandemic inflicted Caribbean is port cancellations. A new one to me is ship sponsored tour cancellations. When the only way to leave the ship is on a ship's curated tour, experiencing a cancellation of a ship's tour you booked can be a bummer. It happened once on our first 7n itinerary and again today on the 2nd. Both, ostensibly, for operational considerations on the part of the tour operator. We were offered alternatives at a dicounted price but we're picky about itineraries and the number of people on a tour. None of the alternatives were appealing. We're in Falmouth, Jamaica today ...... stuck on the ship in a port that does not allow debarking except for with a ship's tour. We've not been to Jamaica in a long time so, were looking forward to this tour. The immediate port area is beautiful and looks new - like built in the last 1-2 years. It's frustrating to not get off and walk around in this nice area. It's just another pandemic related inconvenience where patience and a good deal of tolerance is required of the ports and cruise lines. Arm yourselves for unexpected cancellations of tours you book sponsored by the cruise ship you are on. One positive thing to consider is that if you are able to debark and book tours independently, right now, with vendors short of cash and potentially skipping or putting off necessary maintenance, you might want to think twice about going it alone. If your transport breaks down during your independent tour, the ship's not waiting for you to get back aboard. Normally, this would be a minimal concern. These days, maybe not.
  19. I think the motion to dismiss filed by FL is a technicality. There is a difference between a motion to dismiss and withdraw. Dismissal means the initial complaint is dropped and cannot be brought back. Withdrawal, means the original complaint cannot be pursued unless a certain set of conditions happens for one year and if such conditions do not occur, the original complaint is set aside, not dismissed. HHS has to agree to the motion which, again, a technicality, they will. One possibility is that FL doesn't want to deal with some of the unintended consequences of enjoining the CSO (now expired) but there may be liability issues for FL associated with their actions. I don't know of any specifics. Its also possible this is a prelude to another legal challenge by FL, or whomever (CLIA?), of the voluntary CDC Program. I mentioned up thread that I thought this voluntary program, if it was reviewed by Judge Merryday (or another federal judge) would be seen as "arm twisting," more appropriately coercive in nature. I also mentioned that the CDC was careful to couch this voluntary program within the authority granted to them in the applicable maritime health regulations - these already with legal standing. That was something that Merryday's court suggested the CDC should do. The CDC has to want to reestablish their authority to do what is necessary to prevent the introduction of infectious pathogens by ships that was curtailed and would probably remain curtailed by virtue of a finding that it was not in the CDC's authority to shut down ship's operations for extended periods - what the NSO and subsequently the CSO effectively did. As I think out loud about this second possibility, it seems to me that the cruise industry simply needs to not opt in to avoid the kind of entanglements the voluntary program seems to offer for very questionable health benefits - such benefits already obtained over the last two years by the cruise industry themselves. I guess we'll see which track the cruise lines will take by Friday - the drop dead date to volunteer to participate.
  20. Aboard Celebrity Reflection now departing Port Everglades on a 7n W. Caribbean itinerary today. Grand Cayman port call was eliminated and a sea day added in place of it. I can confirm the no mask policy is in effect aboard reflection. We did a B2B. On Friday of the preceding cruise, a 7n E. Caribbean, there were rumors of the no masks required indoors on this cruise policy but not officially confirmed by any staff that we asked about it. When B2B'ers gathered at 9am in the Tuscan Grill to be processed off and then back aboard, still no announcements or official confirmation despite that the change was published on February 11th at the Celebrity web site (see link above). Ample opportunity to do that was present and I had the web page with the change in protocol on my cell phone. Not my place to say anything and I didn't. As we walked off the ship around 9:40am, I heard the cruise director make an announcement to crew that guests would not be required to mask except in the theater and casino. Not sure why in the theater - there were rarely more than 50 guests at either the 7 or 9pm performances. Plenty of room to distance. May have been a production cast protective measure but this one is a bit strange. I'd say 80% of newly arriving guests were wearing masks indoors as they boarded. An indication that the policy change was not widely disseminated by email or text to booked guests before the cruise. At 12:30pm the cruise director made an announcement regarding the new policy. That dropped the masks for a few but still a lot of folks were still wearing them. Hard to tell if by choice or that they didn't know about the change. We also heard a server in the Ocean View Cafe tell a guest who had approached a serving area to put on their mask. The guest turned to my wife who was unmasked and asked her if the mask policy had, indeed, changed. She affirmed that it had and noted the word may not be out yet among crew. Probably should have been but there is always the 10% We left it for supervisors to deal with that. Not my place to say anything and we didn't. Celebrity's change in masking policy was included in the notices placed in our cabin. It is carefully worded: "required in the theater or casino, optional and encouraged elsewhere for the protection of everyone's health." Placards are conspicuously displayed outside the theater and the casino stating masks required to enter. TBC, there is both medical and scientific research support for and against masking as an effective means of preventing the spread of SARS2. It is however, highly situational with varying degrees of protection provided depending on multiple factors. I think the community of biomedical engineers and virologists that look at this stuff have concluded that in indoor congregate settings like cruise ships where social distancing and limited contact between persons cannot be maintained, AND, there is circulating virus, viral spread is diminished with masking. Reflection had a documented COVID positive guest on our preceding cruise. That was announced. Contract tracing results were not released. Is there circulating virus on board this ship? Unknown. I would assume that ship's medical staff found that (1) the exposure took place in the casino or theater where close contact > 15 min existed. (2) casino and/or theater staff were exposed by the guest. That is what probably precipitated the masking requirement in the casino and theater but no where else. JMO.
  21. Speaking of that, we're seeing the basis of a potential legal challenge to the Voluntary program from CLIA here: https://www.cruiseindustrynews.com/cruise-news/26770-clia-blasts-new-cdc-cruise-program-as-discriminatory.html Cliff Notes: it's discriminatory. See my discussion of this above in the post I made earlier.
  22. The world is in the process of a pandemic paradigm shift that will ultimately change major government's COVID related PH policy. Major and disruptive demonstrations are occurring world wide opposing vaccination mandates, most COVID related mandates, for that matter. The folks are fed up with and tired of the exhaustive and confusing web of protocols regulating thier lives. PH experts are speaking loudly through research papers and public appearances showing governments how to not think in binary terms. IOW, SARS2 disease impact is not defined by one outcome over another as if it was a sure thing. Risk of infection, illness or death is not defined by one set of data is rarely fully objectifiable and involves a good deal of subjective analysis. They are also pushing the reasonable approach that questions how the huge amount of generally unreliable data is being used to decide when to lift or impose COVID mitigation measures (e.g., masking in schools). Meanwhile, the CDC continues to operate as if this were March, 2020. I offer the new Voluntary COVID-19 Program as evidence of that. I'm personally getting behind a cruise industry effort to decline participation in the CDC's antiquated approach and thank them for stopping by.
  23. I don't know about you all but I've read this new program the CDC just released along with the many views posted here about it. As is most COVID related PH guidance that the CDC releases it is so complex that it defies understanding and clear concise guidance. My only qualification to make the following observation is that I followed FL's civil suit that requested and then prevailed in court that the CDC's CSO be enjoined. I'm not a lawyer let alone skilled in interpreting maritime law. I did read carefully Judge Merryday's opinion in his ruling against the CDC. It was complicated, involved complex aspects of maritime law applicable to the cruise industry and slammed the CDC for exceeding it's powers to regulate cruise ship operations in US waters granted by congress. Nothing has changed with respect to Congress's authority granted to HHS. Yet, here we are. Another set of what I believe are regulatory standards issued by the CDC that exceed their lawful authority. The problem lies in what I perceive are punitive measures directed at the cruise lines for not "opting in" to the voluntary program. I think it's pretty clear that the CDC is saying If you don't do this, then we will label you as this and that amounts to being punished. You may recall that Judge Merryday (3rd District Court of Middle FL), after finding in favor of FL and granting a temporary injunction of the CSO, gave the CDC the opportunity to return to the court with an updated CSO. They tried but failed. The CSO they presented, according to Judge Merryday and the arguments of FL attorneys, applied restrictions (punishments) that amounted to law making that the CDC did not have the authority to impose. Another aspect that pissed off Judge Merryday was that the CSO "targeted" the cruise lines. The CDC argued that the CSO was designed around applicable maritime law that didn't apply to any other similar industries. If I recall, this argument carried some legal weight and I note in this new release, the CDC is careful to point out that maritime law authorizes this new voluntary CSO. I think this may be an open legal question best left to attorneys skilled in interpreting applicable maritime law. While all this was going on, CLIA remained in the background for reasons that none of us are privy to. There seemed to be a general consensus among industry health and safety protocol policy makers that they preferred cooperation with the CDC rather than confrontation. They left that to FL. Well, FL's argument that the CSO was unlawful prevailed all the way to the USSC. I believe Merryday, who may be called upon to review this new CDC order, would find it too is unlawful for the same reasons the original CSO was found to be unlawful. How the industry reacts collectively via CLIA or whether they navigate their COVID paths forward independently remains to be seen. Stay tuned. That the new CSO may obtain the same fate as the old one may all be wishful thinking and you can be sure the cruise lines are looking at their options. My view is that it makes perfect sense for the lines to not opt in to this thing and let the chips fall where they might. IOW, they would rather live with whatever punitive measures the CDC may impose in order to preserve the ability to regulate themselves using health protocols they have proven to be successful in mitigating COVID.
  24. Yep ...... I'm getting the feeling that after the CDC got told to pound sand with their CSO, they're trying to weasel their way back in to running them where maritime health protocols are involved. We know that the reality here is that cruise ships, when it comes to COVID, have proven to be the safest congregate setting on the planet. There is no need for additional regulatory schemes of any type regarding COVID. Because the CDC's authority to dictate health and safety protocols has been found to have no basis in the law, the lines would be completely within their rights to say, no thanks to CDC's overtures to voluntarily comply with this new CSO they just issued.
  25. CGTLA, ChrisK2793 & HBCcruiser, I think there's an out here for the lines. Namely the approach I mentioned above. Lines simply won't advertise they are NOT at a "vaccination standard of excellence." They will continue to advertise, as they have been doing for a year now, our guests and crew are fully vaccinated. I agree the CDC sees these two definitions as different. I don't think that matters to the cruise lines. They can be in voluntary compliance even though they may choose not to try to achieve this excellence status BS. It's unnecessary hair-splitting to me and probably to consumers. The lines feel they have achieved an adequate level of COVID mitigation with their current polices and as I also said, proof's in the pudding. They work. Another key issue here is the dwindling prevalence of Omicron, while nothing is guaranteed with respect to this variant, future surges of it or the emergence of other variants, the research community is in almost universal agreement that we can't boost our way out of this. The future of vaccines involves the development of one that covers a wide rage of coronaviurses - won't prevent infection but will keep people who get infected from becoming seriously ill or dying at higher rates than for other diseases like influenza. As usual, the CDC is behind on this or, more likely, knows it but for whatever reasons won't provide recommendations based on it. Same old shit. The CDC is NOT an agile agency. The cruise industry and their H&S Panels are. I feel confident that this announcement of the voluntary program will not alter the cruise line's plans and how they approach and implement H&S policies. I think we will see the dropping of indoor mask requirements on the 15th. Sort of a sign that the lines are moving along in dealing with the pandemic faster than the CDC is. Re Debstr66's post ......the CDC's authority via the CSO to direct cruise ships to implement indoor masking requirements have been in question since the Federal District Court in FL temporarily enjoined it. Subsequently, HHS and the CDC appealed to USSC and then withdrew the appeal leaving it permanently enjoined. It is generally believed that the CSO and by extension, its masking requirements are unenforceable for ships sailing from both FL and other US ports. I also believe the USCG has said it will not enforce either outdoor or indoor masking requirements. The recent addition of masking requirements indoors and on board some cruise ships was a cruise line initiated protocol. It was based on the increased infectiousness of Omicron, the increasing numbers of COVID cases emerging on cruise ships and is now being rescinded as of 01/15/22 as those numbers decrease to near zero. Masking decisions are within the H&S policy domain of the cruise lines. That was a concession made by the CDC not too long ago. As well, all this if's ands and buts that stratify mask wearing requirements indoors are a product of cruise lines electing to re-start revenue sailings using the CDC's protocols for restarting either above or below 95% vaccination rates. Lines that went operational with 95% or greater vax rates don't have any of that confusing stratification stuff.
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