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Everything posted by JeffB

  1. I have a ton of sympathy for Canadians who want to cruise. Your health authorities have made it nearly impossible for you to travel from Canada to a US cruise port and then return without serious risks that you won't be able re-enter your home country. There's been multiple symposia among health experts advising the travel and leisure industries that call for uniform rules for international boarder crossings, travel vaccine checks, and pre-entry testing. Has anything come from this, like, you know, cooperation between countries that have an interest in their own tourism economies? Nope. Sad. If there is one lesson that should be learned in 27 months of enduring the pandemic it is this: Mitigation measures that severely limit personal mobility and social interaction are not going to significantly stem the spread of SARS-CoV2. Importantly they will crush parts of the economies of nations imposing them and impose huge social/mental health costs. Its clear to me that few nations have analyzed the benefits of mitigation measures compared to their costs. Frustrating.
  2. Your is a tricky situation that should be more specifically addressed by RCL. It's not. Unanswered questions for you involve which, if any, monitored (proctored) COVID AG tests available to you in the UK are acceptable for pre-boarding health checks. I think Natalfaz's take above (test in the US if you can) is the most conservative approach. However, timing and ability to obtain a monitored test (in your hotel or in a US clinic) is problematic. I'd offer these options: Because it isn't clear if RCL will accept a proctored AG test for pre-boarding health checks you might take in the UK (e.g., for your flight/to enter the US and within the 2d window for RCL's testing requirement), you could arrange for a health clinic based COVID test once you arrive in the US. Not sure your arrival location (Miami or Fort Lauderdale?) but both cities have lots of clinics that will do a Rapid AG COVID test that you will walk out the door with a printed copy of your test results. Uber/Lyft there and back. Spend some time searching the web for clinics in your arrival city that do COVID Rapid AG testing and make an appointment. Right now, you usually can't walk in. You can try ordering the tests you need ASAP from Optum to be delivered to your hotel. Your sail date needs to be at least 10d away from your order date to allow for delivery delays. If you're closer to your sail date than that it gets risky. You can do this: Perhaps the easiest and least stressful and probably not a whole lot more than visiting a local clinic for your test(s) is the Concierge testing that RCL offers. You get your rapid test outside the terminal using a contracted vendor that administers it. Here's the link explaining this option and walking you through how it works. There's a link on the last page of this site to book an appointment, such test scheduling being associated with the ship/port you are sailing on/from. Best of luck - I know this can be stressful.
  3. You can start ordering home COVID AG tests at the link below starting Wednesday, January 19th, I assume at 12:01 AM. I searched and could not find the brands to be distributed. Several articles mention 8 brands. Hard to know which brands are included in the government program. The second link is to the FDA's list of all FDA Approved/EUA COVID Rapid AG tests - there are 16 approved for home use. Your guess is as good as mine on which of those 16 are in the government's plan. The third link is a list of the 9 "best" at home COVID tests. I read this article and found it to be medically sound. You could imagine the brands in the government's program will include 8 of these nine. Abbott's BinaxNow kit tops the list. No surprise to me. As far as I can tell, the Abbott product is the only AG test on the list that is proctored and meets RCL's pre-boarding requirements. There is a home molecular test n the list (won't be distributed by the government) that might meet RCL's PCR requirement for kiddos as it does have some kind of monitoring that can be done if you sign up for it (???$$$) In the final analysis, using the government web site to obtain free COVID tests is a crap shoot for us cruisers. I doubt the proctored test is among those the government will be sending out. Back to eMed or Optum folks. However, for personal use - and I think there are a lot of good reasons to have these on hand - I'd take advantage of ordering from the Government web site/ https://www.covidtests.gov/ https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19-emergency-use-authorizations-medical-devices/in-vitro-diagnostics-euas-antigen-diagnostic-tests-sars-cov-2 https://www.verywellhealth.com/best-at-home-covid-tests-5208810
  4. Stop bothering with them. Challenge the charge with your CC company saying the promised product was never delivered.
  5. Do you have a link for this information? I sent an inquiry today to Abbott labs asking them to clarify Abbot's history of requests for extensions of the shelf life of both BinaxNow products (proctored and un-proctored) and the FDA's response to those requests. I mentioned there is confusion about the length of time a particular product's expiration date by box code ID has been extended and which products by box code ID have not had their expiration dates extended. I have a copy of Abbott's release on May first, 2021 of a letter that extended expiration dates and by how much and by which box ID. There were 100s of them in a 4 page list attached to the letter. The latest date of an extension was a batch of IDs (1507, 1507A, 1507B) extended to 2/21/22. It makes sense that since May, '21, Abbott has not extended any expiration dates for products that had expiration dates of 11/22/21 or later. The FDA had already approved Abbot's request to the FDA to extend the shelf life of early test kits that originally had a 9 month shelf life. That makes the behavior of eMed in sending products with expected 11-12 month shelf life due to expire in March of 2022 particularly egregious as those tests would have been manufactured as early as May, 1st, 2021, having already used up 3/4s of their shelf life when they were shipped to customers like Pattycruise. At the $30 price tag for each test, you would expect when you buy a 6 as pack for $180 with shipping, you'd expect all of them to be manufactured in late November, early December, 2021 at the latest and be useful for 11-12 months. OTH, it's possible that eMed sees buying 6 tests is meant to meet the immediate pre-boarding testing needs for a party of 6 traveling together not to meet the pre-bording needs of a couple over a year's time. Lesson here is order early but not too early. Lesson for eMed, make it clear that if you order test kits you may receive test kits that will expire not later than 3 months. Plan your purchases accordingly. Optionally and when you don't need 6 test kits over the hsort term, buy the 2 pack from Optum instead.
  6. Well, eMed didn't send you expired tests, they just didn't sent you tests that were good beyond March 16th. You assumed they would send you tests that would be good for 12-15 months, right? My recommendations are that if you have cruises past March 16th, I'd plan on using the test kits (I assume 4 or ?more of them) for the (2?) cruises you have booked that sail on or before March 16th, 2022. Set those aside for that purpose. The next thing I'd do is call customer service on Tuesday and tell them your situation explaining you can cover two (?) cruises with the six pack you received from them but not any of your cruises past March 16th and that you had the expectation that you would be issued test kits with expiration dates at least 12-15 months beyond your order date..... a reasonable consumer expectation. Then ask for an instore credit for each of the test kits out of the 6 you received that you won't use and/or will expire on March 16th. Let's say you have two of them at $30 each that won't work for you. That's a $60 credit for the next purchase you make one month or less before your next cruise and after March 16th. They should do that IMO. Try honey instead of outrage. If they won't work with you, challenge the charge with your CC company. I tend to agree with you sending you test kits that appear to have been manufactured a year ago is cheesy if not questionable in terms of their policies on these matters found here (your CC company will probably agree with us and credit you back the $180 you were charged): https://www.emed.com/terms-of-sale
  7. Got it ...... I'm assuming you used the eMed/Navica web page (on your phone or a PC) and created an account here: https://www.emed.com/app/login?redirect_to=%2Fapp%2Fstart-testing&hsLang=en From your post I also assume you did create an account and then proceeded through the questions to get to connect to a proctor then stopped, right? Good, your on the right track. If not use the link above and create an account (save your password somewhere!!!). Your phone will have a country code that is not the US's (+1) and I suspect you won't be able to download the Navica App. You could try and if you are able, the app is nice plus it keeps a record of any BinaxNow COVID AG testing you do from the time you log your first test (both un-proctored and proctored) right on your phone going forward. Barring the downloading of the Navica App on your phone, the web based process will work just fine on your phone (kinda small print for me) or a PC (better if you have bad eyesight). Sounds like you've got a plan.
  8. According to an article by The Points Guy, Abbott released a letter on Abbott Labs letter head that had a list of all ID numbers of their tests that had been released before May, 2021. It explained that all the Abbott tests included in the list were extended for 3 months. The article, written in November, 2021 noted that the FDA had authorized the extension of all Abbott Labs Rapid AG tests for 3 months past the expiration date on the box so, if you have one dated 12/16/21 as an expiration date, it will expire on 3/16/22. The article commented that Abbott did not respond to an inquiry to clarify extending expiration dates of all their Rapid AG tests. However I found an April 6th 2021 letter from the FDA that appears to me to be an all tests sold inclusive permission to allow Abbott Labs to use a 15 month instead of a 12 month shelf life. https://www.fda.gov/media/147409/download I had some expired tests that I used in July and again in August based on the May letter and I carried that with me just in case. Terminal Staff did not question the dates of the expired tests on pre-boarding screening during both occasions. A photo was taken of both my CDC shot card and the paper test result I presented. Also note that I use the Navica App and it has both a text record and QR code in it. I didn't use that but in both cases the date of expiration of the test you used when you scanned the bar code into the app to start the testing process is in there. TBC, that does not mean someone else screening the testing records (e.g., ship's staff) will not see that the test you used was expired but by that time you are already aboard it might be moot. My take is that if that happened and you were questioned by ship's security staff, I'd plead ignorance. Once you do that the right thing for the cruise line to do would be to test you on board and send you on your way. First, I recommend you carry the a copy of the linked FDA letter with you if you think you have expired (12 months after the expiration date on the box) with you but don'toffer it unless challenged during pre- or after boarding. Based on that letter, your December issued tests should be good exactly 3 months after the expiration date on the text box (in your Navica app or on a printed test result. I can't imagine that between the time you board and the time the ship departs that a staff member is going to screen thousands of those pictures that were snapped of your COVID test results but I suppose it could happen and you could be questioned about it ..... but you have the FDA letter with you, right? Show it and head for the bar. Follow practices you are comfortable with and don't ever mention, some guy posting on the RCL message boards said you could use expired tests because they were extended! Through March you have proof they have been.
  9. Smokey, did you mean to post this on the other thread discussing the end of the CSO? I know DOE does get involved with the Cruise Lines but to what extent and as to how this pertains to the CSO, I have no clue. Clarification - or maybe i'm missing part of the thread you posted this in???
  10. Yes, those are the correct tests and the correct pricing for Optum. I would recommend that you check the eMed web site. If you need 6 tests, with tax and shipping they are $180. I ordered from eMed 3 weeks ago and had them in my hands (FEDEX 2-d and that's the only shipping option) in 5 days and two of those were over a weekend. I've placed 3 orders without any problems from eMed. One during the current rush. No problems although instaGator reported delays for him using eMed in another thread. You are not required to use Optum products. I recommend you download the Navica app (iphone or Android) and use it to run your tests. You initiate the proctored test by scanning your barcode on the test package into the Navica app, once you do that follow the instructions. It takes about 20 minutes to do each test - they must be done separately. Once done, results will be uploaded to your Navica App to show to anyone who is asking in digital print format and a QR code that can be scanned by officials. You'll also get an email with an attached results sheet. Print these out. Thatway you have both a hard copy in your hand and a digital copy on your phone. https://www.emed.com/products/covid-at-home-testkit-six-pack Good luck.
  11. ...... a continuation of my post above about the https://www.findacovidtest.org/ web site. Over the last week, I've read several scientific articles (they're in the lay press too) about the value of COVID tests using saliva as the test medium. Obvious advantages apply but the one I noted that makes sense is that a saliva test is more likely to catch Omicron earlier than the now in favor anterior nasal swab commonly found in most of the available at home tests and FDA/EU approved. Saliva tests are PCR tests and they take the standard up to 72h to get results so, these may not be needed by you. For kiddos they are an option although going to a clinic (assuming you schedule your clinic appointments far enough in advance to lock one in (usually 2 weeks or more) may be easier and starting today, your insurance will cover them. If you want to go the home test route, they'll be covered but you'll have to submit a claim for reimbursement. This is the cheapest one I found ($89) and it's equivalent in price and function to the Lucira products I mentioned above. https://vitagene.com/products/covid-19-saliva-test-kit/
  12. GeraldoO86, you have a solid plan. I'm assuming you are ordering your tests from eMed or Optum. RCL will link you to Optum. The test you want is the proctored Abbott BinaxNow Rapid Antigen test, not the un-proctored test of the same name. You can also google search for eMed, get your tests through them, but the down side of eMed right now is they only sell a 6-pack of the proctored tests ($180). You can get a 2 or 3 -pack from Optum for much less. proctored AG tests are one test per box. The Home, un-proctored tests are 2 tests per box. Abbott BinaxNow test results (either one) can be completed and uploaded using the Navica App (Apple or Android Play stores) that is linked to eMed. I'm not sure how Optum does this but you can use any Abbott COVID test you have with the Navica app - a bar code is a bar code and you use your phone to scan that in to the Navica app to start the testing process. I recommend this or Optum's app if they have one. It's pretty slick but you'll need a good wifi (e.g., hotel) connection to use it and get through the proctored test on line...proctors are typically Asian and they are hard enough to understand with a perfect signal. You can use data, the local network, assuming you either have an international roaming plan from your telephone service provider and can gain access to the network or a sim card (ATT, Verizon, others) you can slip into your phone for travel with phone access in the US, subject to the vagaries of data network's signal strength. Hotel wifi will probably be your best bet. After you complete the test in the Navica App, results will uploaded directly to the app as a result of you scanning the bar code to start the test. It will then be digitally displayable (print and QR Code) to anyone you wish to show it to. You'll also get an email with your results and all the info on it for the test as a hard copy attachment. Print this out. That way you have both a digital (QR and print) and hard copy record of your test result. Good luck and happy sailing.
  13. I'm providing a link to a very useful web site that allows you to select the kind of COVID test you want (15 of them listed and I'll get to those in a minute) along with selecting the usual distributors/vendors (a bunch of them) and find out when the one's you're looking for are in stock. I found the web site - Find an At-Home COVID Test On-Line - last night, picked out the two test kits I was interested in (Abbott's BinaxNow ($19-$23 for a two pack) and Lucira's AG test ($26 for a two pack) not the Molecular version, one test, which is expensive at $85 - this one is similar to tests being used in point of care, airport travel centers and elsewhere. It is not a PCR test and I'm not sure if RCL will accept a molecular test in place of a PCR. I tend to think they will for your unvaxed kiddos you may need them for. The web site apparently is connected to the distributors of the tests and queries stock at 5 minute intervals 24/7. When a distributor shows product in stock, you get a text. I set mine up last night around 9pm and went to bed at 10:30. At 11:02 (I was asleep) I got a text saying they were available at Walmart. By morning they were gone and the web site says, demand is so high for the BinaxNow tests, product is usually gone in 5 minutes. Lo, at 8:30am, I got a text that the Abbott test kits were available on-line at Walgreens, jumped on it and got 3 test kits at $23 ($79 w/tax, free shipping) into my basket, checked out, got order confirmation immediately and a shipping (FEDEX Standard - 3-5 business days) notification about two hours later. As I mentioned up-thread along with others, the "shipped" email means the test kits have probably been boxed and a FEDEX label prepared. That does not mean that the box is in the hands of FEDEX and has left the Walgreen's warehouse. That takes a day or most of one. So, you can't track the FEDEX number right away. BTW, afterI got my 3 from Walgreens, I went back to check and not in stock was displayed. So, yeah, gotta be quick. On the 13 FDA/EUA COVID test kits available, I have only studied the Abbott and Lucira Rapid AG test and Molecular test products. I can recommend these because I know they are easy to administer and they have high sensitivity and specificity probabilities (90/98% respectively). There's about a 2% false positive rate on any of these test kits. I'm reading that creeps up with Omicron but isn't a show stopper IMO. The Lucira molecular test would be great if RCL will accept it in place of a PCR (technically PCR and Molecular tests are similar in how they work and what they are measuring within the SARS-CoV2 virus). Other tests such as On/Go seem to be available - I'm not so sure about these; InteliSwab and Ellum I'm more sure of but I recommend you do your own research on these test kits to see if they work for you. An important lesson here is that there are 15 COVID test kits available through this web site. Look beyond BinaxNow. Also, the distributors and vendors are legit. You've probably read about phoney web sites pushing COVID test kits. Stay away! Good hunting! https://www.findacovidtest.org/
  14. Here are my thoughts on test kits: A six-pac of BinaxNow, proctored, Rapid AG tests from eMed costs $180 including "next day" delivery from FEDEX. It's seems that "next" day means within 3-5d not including weekends. I suspect delays mentioned above are from the distributor of the tests issuing a shipping label then not getting the package in the hands of FEDEX quickly enough, also mentioned above. That's $30/test that will last you and your partner for 3 cruises in about an 11 month period. Tests ordered and received in January 2022 seem to have November expiration dates. Mine did and others have seen the same. You may be tempted (due to lack of the un-proctored self tests that are available) but don't use these tests except for travel where a proctored test result is required. The proctored tests are expensive compared to the un-proctored model. Those will will either be free by Saturday or in a week or so both models will be covered by health insurance. Abbott Labs test production is scaling up and both proctored and un-proctored tests will be more readily available over the coming weeks. Don't panic buy, don't horde. Use un-proctored tests (when you can get them) to test if you have COVID symptoms and are worried about spreading it/think you need to isolate or insuring you have cleared the infection after 5d. Don't test needlessly and without symptoms unless you are positive you've been in "close contact" with an infected person. Be aware that testing too early in an Omicron COVID infection will produce a false negative result. Avoid testing before 48h from symptom onset or exposure. As well, don't rush post symptom testing for return to work/normal routine. Wait at least 5d from symptom onset or exposure and no fever. If you push it, you'll get a positive result and wasted a test. Be patient. The hallmark symptoms of Omicron induced COVID are a sore throat, fever > 99.0F and in some cases, body aches. These hallmark features will be accompanied by a runny nose and paroxysmal sneezing. Cough, if there is one, is dry and unproductive. A constellation of symptoms that doesn't match these is probably influenza, your common cold induced by the every day coronavirus or a mucous productive cough caused by the bacterium M. Pneumoniae that quickly resolves with a Z-Pk and a 5d course of prednisone. Know the differences. The Navica app (available at the play store for Android and Apple for Apple phones) is nice and will store all your BinaxNow proctored and un-proctored test results for you to display to officials checking for negative COVID tests but recommend you print hard-copy results. A loss of network connection or availability of WIFI will make it impossible for you access the app just when you need it. You will be THAT PERSON in line that is holding up boarding.
  15. I assume you're cruising with RCL. It is very important for you to visit their web site and determine what health protocols are in effect for your ship. They can vary based on your departure port and your ports of call. I'm sailing with Celebrity out of Fort Lauderdale (I live there) on February 5th and I was just notified last week of the pre-boarding and health protocols on board. RCL, like Celebrity, is very good about notifying you, usually starting about 30d before your cruise of information you need to organize your plans for travel to the cruise port and board the ship. Royal has a very good phone app that lets you do everything you need to do to check in. Locate download instructions at the web page from your phone then download it to your phone. You still have enough time to order Rapid Antigen tests from Royal (they use a vendor - Optum) but do it soon to avoid potential shipping delays due to scarce supplies. Another web site is eMed - this is the vendor that you get linked to to obtain your AG tests from the Celebrity Cruise line web site. Both sites will provide you Rapid AG tests that are monitored and these are the only home tests RCL will accept as proof of a COVID negative test. There are self tests without monitoring - these won't work. The box the test comes in has easy to follow directions to make your phone call to the monitor. The whole process takes about 20 minutes and is easy to do. You must do these tests not more than 48 before you board. If you are boarding at noon on Friday, the earliest you can take the monitored test is noon on Wednesday. Taking it any time after that is fine. If you want to get a PCR test (or that's all you can find) you will have to find a clinic that specifically does travel PCR tests and will provide results within 12h. Make use of a web search to find what you need. There are usually travel medical clinics at most major airports that do these tests and you'll have the results by email and/or text. As we move into the Omicron period of the pandemic, getting a PCR test instead of a Rapid AG test may make sense. If you can do that and the timing works, I'd recommend it but don't knock yourself out. The AG tests half a very low false positive rate. It's the false negative rate that has increased slightly with Omicron around - the last thing you want to happen is to get a false negative pre-boarding COVID test then feel a cold and sore throat coming on early in your cruise. If that happens, you must mask up and go to medical to report your symptoms. Do this early in the period you start to experience COVID like symptoms (that's when you are most contagious) - they'll test you. Do your part. If you test positive you'll get quarantined. The other thousand or so guests and crew will thank you for that, the cruise ship will take good care of you in your cabin, once your ashore and you'll get free stuff from the cruise line for being responsible and not dodging the inevitable if +. Your post makes it sound like you might be new to this. Your welcome here with any and all questions. Lots of knowledgeable people to answer them and get you pointed in the right direction to get the help you might need. I'll add if you are going cruising in these times, you have to be very flexible and not get flustered by changes or delays. I hope you planed to arrive at least one full day before your cruise leaves, more if your the nervous type. That gives you wiggle room if a flight gets cancelled. If you're not in a position to do that, e.g., already booked for same day arrival, I'd consider canceling and re-booking if that works for you. That is especially true if you did not insure your travel. If you did insure, gut it out, hope everything falls in place and if it doesn't get what you can from RCL and file insurance claims for the rest.
  16. I think you're right. Celebrity pursued a different course than Royal did at the start-up from US ports back in June and made the choice about wanting families to be able to return to cruising public. They also pursued the recommended CDC guidelines for "Test Cruises." Celebrity didn't and went with the, "we will get to 95% vax rates for both crew and guests. The word was that corporate pursued that goal aggressively by limiting capacity that had the impact of limiting the likelihood that families with untaxed (ineligible at the start point in June) children would sail. Most of the cruises I've been on - all 7 of them since June 26th - have gotten to 98% guest vax rates and 100% crew per onboard announcements usually on the 2nd day of the cruise. No cruise had more than 1500 guests with capacity between 2800 and 3000. Most were less than that and several less than 1000. I didn't see even a 1/2 dozen kids - all ages - on any of those 7 cruises With the advent of lowering age eligibility for vaccines, Celebrity is still requiring Children 12 and over to provide proof of vaccination to sail. 2-11 year olds, although now eligible, are not required to be vaccinated but must mask and their access to certain areas and events is restricted and so are their traveling companion/parents of the children. If vaxed, this group of kids and their traveling companions/parents can follow the health protocols for those that are vaxed. Boosters are not required. As of last week, Celebrity now requires masks indoors for all guests regardless of vaccination status except when eating or drinking. Prior to that and as of May of last year, the policy was no masks/physical distancing required on board. The announcement was made given the risk Omicron is posing. That policy will be reviewed regularly implying it will be ended when circumstances allow.
  17. I know RCL and Celebrity - both part of RCG - are separate business entities developing and following their own health and safety protocols but I find it odd that RCL is requiring masks on board when Celebrity isn't. Both lines, for all intent and purpose, have identical vaccination status policies. Does one set of health advisors know more than the other and what do they know? Celebrity's from their web site: Following CDC Guidelines, masks will not be required for vaccinated guests. Masks are required for unvaccinated guests under 12 years old while indoors when not in their stateroom, eating or drinking.
  18. I wouldn't go that far. I believe the lines are in a wait and see mode. The anecdotal evidence regarding Omicron is encouraging and seems to be getting better with time. It should be about another 2w for hard data to either support or refute the encouraging trends. You wouldn't know that from COVID information available in the public domain as presented to us by social or main stream media. I can see why you would worry about cancellations. There is also evidence that governments are becoming more reluctant to impose overly restrictive mitigation measures or if they do impose them, they are of short duration. As well, the argument that SARS2 is not going to be eradicated and will probably be around for the long term, perhaps forever, is causing governments to take positions that SARS2 and the disease it causes - COVID - is manageable.
  19. This has been my position since July although I think the death rate is also useful.... and also stable both in the face of Omicron globally and Delta in the US. I've read in my study of Omicron that Its about 2w early to draw conclusions on the disease impact. Anecdotally, while Omicron is more transmissible (about 5X . than Delta) symptoms are less severe in the unvaccinated and leads to more asymptomatic to mild positives in the vaccinated; those who have been boosted with either of the mRNA vaccines seem to be well protected. Emerging data over the next 2w will either support or refute the anecdotal trends. I addressed the many false claims appearing in various news sources and social media platforms wrt the Sympnony COVID situation at the link below. This was part of a response to a question asked about the visit restrictions of Caribbean ports of call. I'm currently posting from Celebrity Equinox on a 12n S. Caribbean itinerary. https://www.royalcaribbeanblog.com/boards/index.php?/topic/27040-things-i-learned-about-celebrity-sailing-out-of-port-everglades-fort-lauderdale-fl/&do=findComment&comment=295320
  20. Judging the impact of Omicron on RCL's operational plans is speculative but I don't think there is any question that corporate is looking at this. Based on our experience on Equinox right now, port status changes day to day. When we boarded 9 days ago, only 1 port out of 7 allowed touring on your own (Antigua). Today, in St. Kitts, we can tour on our own. Go figure???? We've also not been advised to mask indoors or alerted by email that a cruise we're taking in February aboard Reflection will require masks indoors. I'm suspecting that will change. I can make a case that while masking was arguably only minimally effective in preventing the spread of SARS2, given the 5 fold increase in transmissibility of the Omicron variant compared to Delta, masking indoors makes sense, I'd say less so outdoors. Personally, I can deal with this. I believe we're in a wait and see mode with respect to Omicron and more importantly on the disease impact it will have. I feel the masking steps Carnival, NCL and RCL are implementing, with a known end-point date reflects that. The lines will continue to assess rates of infection given established health protocols and disease impact on board their ships and decide what easing or tightening of health protocols will be required. Ports of call will be doing the same, hopefully not in the panic mode. Unfortunately, the world is in panic mode wrt Omicron. Increased transmissibility is behind it. Context, no surprise, is absent. The lack of it in the public domain does not mean it is not available to public heath officials yet lock-downs and boarder crossing closures, intended to reduce human mobility and contact, is on-going. Apparently, there is no real cost/benefit analysis being done before taking these more draconian steps. Does the disease impact measured by hospitalizations and deaths warrant tight restrictions to mobility and social contacts? Clearly not yet. Well see. The cruise industry is going to come under increasing pressure to stop or significantly reduce operations to ostensibly curtail the spread of Omicron without any substantial evidence that cruise ship movement is a source of it. In fact, the evidence is strong that it is not. No matter. I do see some evidence that government officials are more reluctant to impose lock-downs and shutter businesses or direct cancellation of events where there are people congregating and risk of spread is increased. Caribbean governments have been highly conservative while at the same time providing windows for their tourism based economies to operate. For example, unrestricted access to a port and surrounding areas may not be allowed but certain areas, usually areas in contact with the port itself can be accessed by cruise ship passengers. I'm also finding that "government approved" tours can be booked at the port. Yesterday in Barbados, you could debark into the port area and shop there and it looked like grabbing a taxi tour was easy. I suppose there is probably a government defined process for a taxi to get a port pass and then hire passengers. My point is that Caribbean governments are working to protect tourism by being sensible about COVID risks. As well, with the COVID circumstances in short notice flux, the cruise line may not be in the loop. One additional comment on Friday's fake cruise news appearing in USA Today about 50 COVID positives on an RCL ship embellished with the headline from the source used in their story, "cruise lines suppress information." https://www.cruiselawnews.com/2021/12/articles/disease/covid-19-cases-increase-on-cruise-ships-as-lines-suppress-information/ Patently false. First, I've been on seven Celebrity cruises since June 26th including the first revenue sailing on that date from Piraeus (Athens Greece) on Apex. On 3 of those 7 cruises, there were announcements by the captain of positive COVID cases aboard. All of them involved one positive case obtained from self reporting to medical and up to 7 close contacts identified through security cameras all of whom reportedly were tested negative. Protocols were followed, no out breaks occurred on board and ships embarking in ports of calls, according to the lack of press reports of such events, surely something that the press would have jumped on were not the cause of spreading SARS2 infections. Second, RCL or Celebrity have no duty or responsibility to tell the press anything about COVID cases aboard. If the press wants factual information about the numbers of cases on board any cruise ship currently operating it's available at the CDC web site. Where's the "surge?" There isn't one and the reason is because cruise industry COVID protocols are better at preventing the spread of disease than any place on the face of the earth. Is there a possibility that cases will increase? Yes. IMO, how COVID cases are handled per guidelines by the cruise industry is a spectacularly effective example of how to do it. You're going to hear a lot of misinformation about COVID in general and about how the cruise industry specifically is dealing with Omicron. If you want to take a look at the factual numbers for any cruise ship in operation, here's the CDC link to the section that provides it. At the link, you have to scroll down to the chart you want to use. You also have to study what comes before it to understand what the chart data means - that's one of the reasons the MSM doesn't use it. Too much work. Just lie, it's easier. From the chart at the link, Symphony embarked an assumed 60% of capacity or about 3500 passengers - I suspect it was less than that. There are probably 1300 crew aboard. Symphony was designated "yellow" status by the CDC on Friday, the 18th (the chart is current as of the 17th). To cross the threshold from green to yellow, 0.7% of travelers (includes crew and passengers) have tested positive for COVID. That's roughly 34 COVID positives aboard. To cross the threshold from "yellow" to "red" requires a number of factors be present such as medical facilities being overwhelmed - obviously that never happened. So, maybe 34 cases tops. Not a "surge", not 50, not 44 among other erroneously reported numbers of positive cases on Symphony I've seen reported today. No "suppressing" information on COVID cases by the cruise lines. It's all right there at the CDC web site but, wait, requires some digging to find it. https://www.cdc.gov/quarantine/cruise/management/technical-instructions-for-cruise-ships.html#green-ship The most important lesson learned out of the Symphony COVID cases is that SARS2 and all it's variants cannot be eradicated; the virus will be present for the long term, perhaps forever. But it CAN be managed. The ship and shore facilities followed protocols to protect other passengers and crew from becoming infected. By the prompt isolation and transport of all the positives on board ship, the community was protected. Think you'll hear that from the MSM. Nope.
  21. .......... interesting observation: About a week prior to this 12n, S. Caribbean sailing on Equinox, I received an itinerary update. As I'm in the remain flexible mode, I paid little attention to the modifications which involved COVID measures implemented by local health authorities in the ports to be visited. One of the changes was new restriction on going ashore on your own in the 7 ports of call on this sailing. Only way to go ashore was with a Celebrity curated tour with one exception that allowed you to go ashore but a restriction to remain within the port shopping area. Within this area, you could book "government approved" tours by local vendors. I had a private tour booked with a local vendor in Barbados. After contacting him, he told me he was not "a government approved" tour operator and I had to cancel. Of the 7 ports visited on this itinerary only one allowed you to disembark at the port and explore on your own (Antigua and Barbuda). All ports stipulated masks to be worn indoors and outdoors regardless of vaccination status. I find this both troubling and these kinds of COVID measures to become more common and more restrictive. While there is a trend within western governments, not including Canada and others that are already returning to very restrictive containment measures in the face of Omicron, to recognize that managing SARS2 and it's variants can be done more wisely than imposing the draconian, costly and largely ineffective mitigation measures of the last 15 months. I doubt that is going to happen in Caribbean governments. What will be interesting is how the cruise industry will engage local public health officials at all the ports cruise ships call on, both in the Caribbean and globally, in an effort to continue cruise operations going forward in this emerging reality of persistent SARS2 and COVID presence.
  22. Sailing on Celebrity Equinox out of Fort Lauderdale on a 12n S. Caribbean Itinerary as I write this. This isn't going to be a cruise review. See the subject line. We live in Fort Lauderdale. We're lucky and have friends that will drive us to the port (Terminal 25). You can park steps away from the Terminal 25. Convenient but expensive ($10/day). Come a day or 2 early, park in your accommodation's lot and take a shuttle or Uber/Lyft. That's going to be cheaper unless your cruise is 5d or less. Don't bother arriving before your scheduled boarding time. Boarding times are enforced by terminal staff (not Celebrity employees). The boarding process is organized, plenty of staff to guide you (and herd the guests). They are good at what they do. Follow instructions. Have hard copies of you boarding pass, vax card and test results. Organize them for easy access and display to staff when they ask for them. Don't count on finding that stuff on your phone! Guests behind you will appreciate that. Check in is entirely digital. It helps if you do everything you're asked to do before boarding ..... Celebrity will send you lots of emails to insure you know what to do. Do it. Other guests wanting to board expeditiously will appreciate that you were prepared. Terminal staff use tablets and scan documents. Your Sea Pass card (room key) will be in the holder at your cabin. Avoid the elevator (1 of 4 blocks of 4 cars) adjacent to where the gangway brings you to the ship's entry way on deck 5. Go all the way forward or aft and use those elevators. Avoids all the guests standing around the entry way wondering where to go. You'll have local network (4 or 5g) connection on your phone until your around 6 miles off shore. To connect to the ship's wifi to use the Celebrity App aboard, select wifi in your settings and click on the Celebrity Equinox Wifi link. Follow the on screen instructions to connect (You can select your internet package here) to set up your account and pass word. Once you've done that and had a look at the Celebrity App, you can use your connection to the 4g/5g local area network to make phone calls, texts etc. Don't forget to put your phone in Airplane Mode as you sail out of the port and leave the range of the local area network. If you don't you'll connect to Cellular at Sea for phone and texts. Unless you have a huge bank account, you'll want to avoid connecting to it. After switching on the airplane mode, go back to settings and turn your wifi back on. Connect to the Equinox wifi and sign back in. The ship's Wifi is OK for most things you will want to do on the internet. You can't stream with the standard package. I don't think it is worth it to buy the streaming upgrade. It's not cheap. (pricing and that option will appear when you set up your onboard wifi account I described above). I learned that just recently, crew from countries previously denied access to the US because of the vaccinations they received in their home countries were not approved by the US CDC. That's been resolved. Accordingly, crew staffing has improved dramatically and Equinox was being staffed for a full passenger load (about 2800 guests). Before the sail date, there were 2200 guests who had booked this sailing. within the last three weeks before the sailing there were in the neighborhood of 400 cancellations (Fears of Omicron?). The ship sailed with roughly 1800 passengers and a full compliment of around 1260 crew members. Circulating wait staff in the restaurants bars and lounges were notably more numerous than when we sailed Apex in July, Equinox in August and Millennium in November. We've sailed aboard Equinox maybe 6 or more times. Staff friendliness, engagement and service were outstanding as usual .... partly because of increased numbers of crew but mostly because Celebrity in general and Equinox in particular pride themselves in delivering excellence. Hope you learned something new here. I'll post again if anything new comes to me.
  23. You might also like the Celebrity App ...... I'm aboard Equinox on a 12n S Caribbean itinerary currently ported in St Croix, USVGI. Yesterday my wife's new Android phone (Galaxy A52, 5g) was having problems withe the Celebrity App. Part of the problem was that the App requires you to select your current cruise if you have more than the one you are on registered at the Celebrity Web site under "future cruises." The App interfaces with the Celebrity Web site and the steps in changing between cruises on the Celebrity App isn't clear or straight forward. If you only have one cruise scheduled, the App defaults to it. If you have more than one, to get to the scheduled events for the cruise you're on, you have to select the one you are currently sailing on in the app on a list that appears (hard to find) in the app. Fixed. I had to speak to the Digital Manager to understand the process and it's importance in making the app functional while on board. The Digital Manager told me that it is corporate policy that a ship's events, like evening chic (formerly formal nights) and the kind of events you are asking about within the app 4w prior to the sail date. Not all ship's digital managers meet that policy directive but eventually, the by-day schedules for the ship you are getting ready to sail aboard become accurate. The schedules are quite complete. I think you will find what you need. I recommend you download the Celebrity App - in fact, you have to in order to complete much of your pre-boarding requirements. It takes a while to get used to the features (unless you are under 40 and grew up with this technology). It's a great app and has improved since it was introduced maybe 3y ago. You can upload photos of your vax cards, pass ports and pre-boarding test results. It speeds up the boarding process if you are able to do this. I always recommend you print out hard copies of everything and have them organized and easily accessible. If your phone fails or you lose connectivity with the local area network, hard copies come in handy. You will also complete most of your pre-sail safety brief and life boat drill on the app.
  24. The problem that is probably giving you fits is going to be a reliable network either 4g or, if you have a cell phone and plan for 5g. Your PC is likely connected to cable or fiber internet with a much more reliable and fast download speeds. Even with a decent 4g network connection, video can be problematic. If you can get to a location where you can connect to the internet on your cell phone wirelessly, it will probably work fine.
  25. From the CDC web site busting myths and vaccine misinformation. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/facts.html?s_cid=11353:testing positive after covid-19 vaccination:sem.ga:p:RG:GM:gen:PTN:FY21
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