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Tapi

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  1. Walgreen’s IDNOW tests are free of charge, with or without insurance. When you set up your appointment online, it doesn’t even ask you for your insurance information. When you show up for your test, all you need to provide is an ID. Super easy to do. We’ve done them a few times, including for our cruise in September,
  2. My previous post may have sounded like a joke, but the moment that the OP mentioned comfort food and I read his list, it sounded like what he can easily find on Carnival. I know that a lot of people like to “look down” at Carnival, thinking that it’s a lesser product. But it may be what the OP needs for his dad . 😀
  3. I consider Carnival and MSC to be fairly comparable in terms of quality, customer service, stage entertainment, etc. They both feel like value oriented, mass market cruise lines. Where I find significant differences is in the ships (MSC’s ships are far more beautiful and nicely appointed), the vibe onboard (MSC has a definite European vibe and attracts a more international clientele), cuisine (Carnival is geared more towards the American palate while MSC offers a broader selection, which is appreciated by some but dreaded by others depending on their culinary preferences), and lounge entertainment (MSC tries to cater to a multilingual clientele and relies less on verbal forms of entertainment). I’ve sailed MSC in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, and while I’ve enjoyed all of them tremendously, I think that MSC in the Mediterranean is leaps and bounds better than in the Caribbean. We do appreciate MSC’s pricing. Between their loyalty match program, past guest discount, many promotions (free balcony upgrades, and kids sail free), we’ve sailed for insanely cheap fares. It’s hard to pass up, and at those prices, I’m willing to forgive whatever flaws that they may have.
  4. The trick is to be ready to book your appointment as soon as they become available on the Walgreens website. They usually open right at midnight 3 days in advance. That’s how I got my appointments. I was ready to go right at midnight and had my pick of available times. By the next morning, they were all gone!
  5. Rent a car from one of the car rental agencies that have shuttles at the port of Miami. Go sightseeing and then return your car at the Airport.
  6. We booked both CVS and Walgreens. We did CVS first. It was a crap show. We sat there for over two hours and the person administering the test couldn’t get her act together. The following day, we did Walgreens. Pulled up right to the window, self tested, and we were on our way in 10-15 minutes. The Walgreens results came in before the CVS results even though we’d done CVS first. Is it obvious that our experience with CVS sucked? But yes, I do agree about getting two tests.
  7. I have a feeling that there will be some ships moving. Recently, I noticed that San Juan and Barbados popped up again as departure ports on the Carnival website. However, no ships or itineraries have been loaded which leads me to believe that there will indeed be a ship moving to take over those itineraries. Because there are several ships sailing from Port Canaveral, my gut feeling is that one of those will be heading to San Juan. Now, if you have to choose between Elation and Magic, I would definitely pick Magic. I’ve truly enjoyed Elation’s class of ship, but they are getting old and outdated. Respectfully, here’s a small piece of advice about sailing during COVID times. If you choose to sail at the present time, you need to get yourself in a state of mind where you will be OK with changes….LOTS of changes. Not only with the health and safety protocols, but also with the ship, and itinerary. You need to be willing to roll with the punches. We sailed a few weeks ago, and I can’t tell you how many changes there were between the moment we pinpointed the dates when we wanted to sail and when we actually sailed. We didn’t even end up on the cruise line that we originally booked on. So my advice to you is that you select what makes sense to you right now, but be willing to make changes as protocols and itineraries are updated. It’s the price to pay at the present time.
  8. After reading health and safety protocols for different cruise lines, we chose to sail on MSC, not on Carnival. First, because they would test our children at the port free of charge, second because the itinerary only included their private island which meant that we could go ashore unrestricted, and third because their onboard activities for children weren’t as restrictive. Hopefully, by the next time we sail, a vaccine for their age group will be approved and/or restrictions will have eased which will broaden our cruise line and itinerary choices. But for this first post pandemic cruise with children, sailing with MSC was the right and easiest choice.
  9. When are you cruising? Ship/itinerary? We are also a family of 4 with two children too young to be vaccinated (9 and 11). Like you, I struggled with the decision on whether to go on a cruise or not. Long story short, we did sail during the first week of September and had an absolutely wonderful time. Making sure that we met all the health and safety protocols was the most stressful part about it, but once we got those initial steps out of the way, it was smooth sailing from there. We scheduled NAAT (IDNOW) Covid tests from Walgreens and they were completely free of charge (with or without insurance). We got the results in one hour. At the port, the kids were required to take an additional pre-boarding Covid test (also free of charge) but it was quick and uneventful. We just had to wait 20-30 minutes inside the terminal for the results, but after that, we proceeded to regular check in. There was PLENTY for the kids to do, both on the ship and ashore. The kids club ran a good program with plenty of activities to keep them entertained (although they only attended two times for an hour at a time). Swimming pools, water slides, video arcades, ropes course, etc were all open. At the private island, we were allowed to unmask and enjoy the day with few limitations. We also enjoyed a fantastic waverunner excursion as a family. It was truly the highlight of our cruise. Since this was our first cruise since the pandemic started, I wanted to keep things as simple as possible and to minimize limitations, possible risks and last minute setbacks. After looking at various itineraries, and reading health and safety protocols from different cruise lines, we chose a 3 night itinerary from Miami on MSC visiting only the cruise line’s private island followed by a day at sea. While super short, it was the perfect way to “test the waters” and get back into cruising. The experience was so enjoyable that we’re now planning our next cruise(s). Hope you decide to cruise. I know you may have concerns. I sure did. But once I was there and got to experience how all these protocols come together, and how we were able to have a wonderful time even with those in place, I was glad that we decided to cruise. It was a much needed and long awaited break.
  10. I know that many don’t have to ability to hop on a car and drive if a flight is canceled with no backups, but that was my plan when we sailed the first week of September. We had a flight booked on Spirit, which had a massive disruption to their schedule a few days before our cruise. I was very concerned that our flight from Atlanta to Ft Lauderdale would be canceled. But I figured that, if that happened, we still had time to hop in our car and do the 11 hour drive, even if we had to drive through the night. Flying down the day before the cruise gave us enough time to “activate plan B” if we had to. This would’ve never been feasible if we’d been trying to fly down on the same day of the cruise. Thankfully, our flight operated on time with no disruptions (in fact we landed in Ft Lauderdale early), but I must admit that I was worried until that plane touched down. Still, canceling the cruise never crossed my mind.
  11. I’d feel more comfortable with a bit more time (maybe 11:30am) but a 10:30am is doable if everything goes smoothly, which is not always the case. With that said I’ve been able to get on a 10:00am flight out of Miami and one time as early as 8:35am out of Ft Lauderdale after arriving at the port of Miami. But I didn’t book such early flights. I just happened to be off the ship so fast on those two occasions that I was able to get on those earlier flights as a standby.
  12. I should clarify what I meant on my previous post. We couldn’t do antigen tests for our unvaccinated children. So since they had to do PCR or NAAT, we scheduled the same NAAT test for everybody instead of having adults do Antigen and kids PCR/NAAT. For us, it didn’t make sense to schedule different types of tests with different turnaround times since we had to wait for all of the results anyway. When we received our results, all 4 came in at the same time. I considered that to be ideal. The IDNOW (NAAT) test was super easy to self administer and we had the results in a little over one hour.
  13. Walgreens offers both IDNOW (NAAT) and BINAX (Antigen). They are not the same test. Since we were traveling with children too young to be vaccinated, we couldn’t do antigen tests, so the BINAX was out of the question. Make sure you click on the right test. It can be a bit confusing when making the appointment online.
  14. We did IDNOW to sail on the MSC Meraviglia a month ago. MSC’s health and safety protocols specified that NAAT tests were allowed, and that’s what the IDNOW test is. If Carnival accepts molecular NAAT tests, the IDNOW test will qualify. It was SUPER easy and free of charge. They also didn’t ask for our insurance information even though we had it. We scheduled our appointments online and proceeded to the pharmacy drive thru window. We self tested and were on our way within 15-20 minutes. The results were supposed to be ready within 24 hours but we had them back in one hour. We received the email with the results and the link to the PDF files to be printed to take to the port (which includes all the information required by the cruise line). At the port, we showed the results and they were accepted without a single question. If Carnival specifically accepts NAAT tests, I highly recommend the IDNOW test. EDIT: We did take PCR tests the same day at CVS as a backup, and they came back in a little over 24 hours even though they said that it could take up to 3 days. We still used the Walgreens IDNOW results. We never had to show the PCR results.
  15. We sailed on the Liberty during Thanksgiving. They did have some traditional Thanksgiving selections at the MDR but besides that, it was just like any other night at the MDR. My wife actually ordered from the kids menu that night because she couldn’t find anything she wanted to eat, lol. The one thing that was super nice about sailing over Thanksgiving was that the ship was already decorated for Christmas, and they even had a Christmas themed show at the main theater.
  16. Yes, different cruise line, but not entirely irrelevant since Carnival is not operating at full capacity or with full staffing either at this time. Because of that, some people will get moved or upgraded free of charge as EL Pitman reported above, and as others have reported as well.
  17. OP: My best piece of advice is that you give MSC a try so that you can create your own opinion. I didn't fully understand what MSC was about until I sailed on them and I got to experience what they had to offer. I personally consider their overall product to be somewhere between Carnival and Royal Caribbean but with a European vibe which I love. MSC's larger ships like the Meraviglia have the "wow" factor that you find on larger Royal Caribbean ships. The two comments below show how subjective opinions can be. We found the food on Disney to be OK, and at par with cruise lines that charge a fraction of their prices. They do have some of the best and most polished service we've ever experienced at sea, and their rotating restaurant concept is unique, but we found the food quality and taste to fall short of the hype. As far as MSC's food goes, we appreciate the varied selection at the Marketplace (buffet) which has everything from your basics, to selections catering to a more international clientele (yes, there are some items that may not appeal to everybody, but that's part of the reason why I enjoy MSC since I get to sample new things). At the MDR, I find their offerings to be at par with other mass market cruise lines. Sailing MSC in the Mediterranean was a wonderful experience for us. We had sailed MSC once before in the Caribbean and we found the MSC experience in the Mediterranean to be far superior. In fact, to this day its been one of the best family cruises that we've taken.
  18. Not on Carnival, but when I sailed on MSC a few weeks ago, my stateroom was "upgraded" from a more basic Bella balcony on deck 9 to a Fantastica balcony (with more perks) on deck 12 about two days before sailing. I actually wasn't happy with the upgrade because I had hand picked my original cabin since it had a larger angled balcony and a more desirable (to me) location. Long story short, I asked at guest services when I boarded why my cabin had been changed and they said that it was because, since they were sailing at less than 50% capacity, they had moved some people in order to keep the occupied staterooms together due to the limited stateroom staffing. Basically they "upgraded" everybody who had cabins booked between decks 5-9 to cabins to cabins on decks 10-12, whether they wanted it or not.
  19. I'd go with the Magic - Longer cruise - More interesting itinerary - Not disembarking on New Year's day - Shorter drive - Newer, larger, nicer ship The only reason why I'd take the Freedom would be if I had time constraints limiting me to 6 days, or if there is a significant price difference.
  20. I echo heading to the other side of the island. We rented a jeep and drove over. It was wonderfully secluded, with beautiful scenery. There are a few beach restaurants along the way. Keep in mind that you're going a bit off the beaten path so there are no gas stations, atm's, etc so plan accordingly before heading over. One of the stops we made was at the San Gervasio Archaeological site. If you've been to Mayan ruins on the Mexican mainland, these will pale in comparison, but it was still an enjoyable, easy stop, and not too far from the cruise terminal. Another time we were in Cozumel on a rainy day, we thoroughly enjoyed spending a few hours at the Cozumel History Museum. It's a tiny museum right at the waterfront in San Miguel, but full of great information about the island. We then asked for a recommendation for lunch "where the locals go", thinking that we'd get a local cuisine suggestion, but we were told to go to Guido's (an Italian restaurant not too far from the museum), and we had an absolutely fantastic lunch in a pretty indoor courtyard void of cruise ship tourists. It was very enjoyable.
  21. Hi: I went on the Carnival website this morning and I noticed that San Juan has been added as one of the embarkation ports when doing a cruise search, but no sailings have been loaded yet. Has anybody seen any information, rumors, or insight that may indicate that this may be happening? I would love to see Carnival sailing from San Juan again. Pretty much every other cruise line that was sailing from San Juan before the pandemic will resume sailings from there plus a few more. Even Virgin Voyages will be sailing from San Juan next season.
  22. In my opinion sailing on Carnival is more about state of mind than physical age. Some people never "outgrow" Carnival, no matter what their age is. They'd rather enjoy the livelier, casual atmosphere that Carnival provides than the more sedate, quieter atmosphere provided by cruise lines geared towards more senior cruisers. You will not see as many retirees as on other cruise lines, but the ones you do see will most likely be there to have the kind of fun that Carnival delivers.
  23. Self debarkation isn’t an option on Royal Caribbean at this time? When we sailed on MSC last month we walked right off the ship with our luggage (all we had were small rollaways).
  24. Royal isn’t the only option these days with kids. We sailed a few weeks ago on MSC aboard the Meraviglia from Miami and we had an absolutely fantastic time! Both of my kids are too young to be vaccinated, so in addition to the PCR test that they were required to take 72 hours before departure, they were required to take an additional test right at the cruise terminal before boarding (I believe Royal has a similar requirement). It was a quick test. We had to wait at a designated waiting area inside the terminal for about 20-30 minutes for the results, and once we had them, we were allowed to proceed to regular check in and boarding. Interestingly, we were given a 10:00am check in time to allow extra time for the additional testing step, but that also meant that we were onboard and in our cabin before noon. The kids club was open with a full list of activities. Kids were required to wear a mask and extra sanitation protocols were in place before they could go in. Pools, water park, ropes course, and video arcade were all open without limitations outside of the health and safety protocols. The kids went to the kids club for an hour or two every day and had a good time. We also purchased an entertainment card for them to use at the 4D simulator, F1 race car simulator, bowling alley, and video arcade. The only thing that we noticed was different from previous cruises on MSC was the lack of a few kid activities like the talent show and the parade down the galleria. At the private island, passengers were allowed to roam freely without mask requirements. We enjoyed our day there tremendously and even rented jet skis for the day. The only places that were “off limits” to the kids were a few venues that were designated for “vaccinated adults only”, but none of these had any negative impact on our enjoyment of the cruise as these were not venues that we frequented anyway. Besides the safety and health protocols in place, the cruise felt pretty much like any other cruise, and the kids had a wonderful time. We were also grateful for MSC’s “kids sail free” program which allowed us to cruise for a ridiculously low price. Based on what I’ve read, the current experience with kids on Royal is similar to what we experienced on MSC last month. Our next Royal cruise will be in February and I’m hopeful that, by then, the kids will be vaccinated and/or safety protocols will have eased as well.
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