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Everything posted by Psoque

  1. We've never been to Basel, but we are planning to be there later this year. We did look for a Hilton property there, and found out that the only Hilton in town (which, I think was near the train station) is now closed.
  2. Crystal announced this afternoon on their website that the remaining 2021 cruises on Crystal Bach and Crystal Mahler have been cancelled. Now that they have ran out of cruises to cancel for these two vessels, I'm hoping that this is the end of all cancellations for the 2021 Crystal river cruises. However, I'm not holding my breath, and have not purchased the flights for our cruise that was re-booked on Crystal Debussy.
  3. I don't know for sure, but I have been told by my TA (who, until very recently, was doing most of his business with Crystal) is selling a lot of river cruises, and having trouble finding alternatives for some of his customers who, for some reason or another, is interested in re-booking their river cruises with other lines. On a related topic, I would be very curious to know if other river cruise lines are doing what Crystal is doing with their river vessels. Are they consolidating their cruises by cancelling some of their ships (almost??) altogether for the 2021 season? If this is the case industry-wise, I can envision both passengers and travel suppliers (hotels, tour operators, etc.) being flooded with need to do a lot of rescheduling/rebooking. I'm sort of glad I am not in the travel/leisure industry, but just merely a consumer of their services.
  4. Another announcement for more cancellations on both Bach and Mahler were made today. Nowthere's only one cruise each still not accounted for Bach and Mahler. I'm not sure why they didn't include the last two in this announcement. Crystal's strategy to announce additional cancellations every 2-3 days makes no sense to me, and it is concerning to me that they have to consolidate their river cruises from 4 ships to 2. I was assuming, incorrectly, that they were selling their river cruises well, just like the other lines. Hopefully Crystal does not run out of cruises to cancel after they cancel the remaining two for December, and start cancelling those on Debussy and Ravel in the next 4-6 days. I've already made changes to my plans, and I'm not sure if I want to make more.
  5. I know the current news cycle can only report on KNOWN mutants of this virus, but what should be acknowledged by the public is that this outbreak is consisting of every-changing mixture of known and unknown mutants, and the fact is that the we (not just the US, but everyone else) are rather behind on knowing the exact mixture or the emergence of any new mutants in the mix. This kind of work requires an international consortium of molecular virology labs around the globe with transparent data sharing, and that costs a lot of money to do this. The WHO, with its tiny budget, is unable to fund this. This family of viruses (coronavirus family of viruses) are known to have a very unstable RNA genome, and that’s one of the reasons they comprise about 25 % of common cold cases worldwide. The slight changes to the genome of this virus is the rule, not the exception. Not all mutations will result in more virulent strain, and not all mutations will result in a change in its immunogenicity in the context of the vaccine, but both are possible, and the selection pressure can favor different mutants based on the host’s immune system. As far as we know, the two mRNA-based vaccines appear to be effective in protecting (to some extent) people from most of the KNOWN mutants of the virus, but what we don’t know is whether this will continue to be the case forever, and for that matter how long would it take for something VERY different from the current repertoire of the mutants to arise and spread rapidly among the vaccinated people. I’m not trying to say the sky if falling, but this fact is very indicative of the fact that there are a lot of unknowns regarding this disease even more than a year into the outbreak, and there is a good reason to think that there will be a need for frequent (yearly/quarterly/monthly??) vaccinations with ever-changing vaccines targeted to an ever-changing mixture of new and old mutants of this virus. This is very different from the concept of requiring booster immunizations for tetanus, etc. The purpose of booster immunizations are to re-invigorate the immune system to the exact same pathogen. In the case of this novel coronavirus, the more correct term is perhaps “update vaccination,” just like the operating systems on our computers would need additional software updates every now and then. So, it is good that a total disaster has not occurred on current cruises as of now, but it is by no way a reliable prediction of how this will unfold. I think it is somewhat premature to say what has been reported from Celebrity as “good news.” I think it is better to classify this as another promising data point FOR NOW. The problem with cruises during this outbreak is multiple. I think the risk of the disease to those who are properly vaccinated is not that high (for now), but even a small outbreak among those who are unvaccinated (and those who are immunnocompromised because of health issues including advanced age, even after being immunized properly) could shut down the entire season of cruises. Also, as we are approaching the next influenza season for the northern hemisphere, even a small outbreak of influenza could result in a logistic nightmare for the cruise ships, at least until everyone is tested. The same thing with measles. We have been getting reports of mini-outbreaks of measles associated with air travel/amusement parks/resorts, especially in the US for the past few years, and with our increased awareness and screening, we might find more of this in the next few years. So things are very complex, and hopefully we will eventually figure out a way to find ourselves into a new normal with a good balance between adequate safety precautions vs. ability to to enjoy international travel. I don’t think we are quite there yet, though.
  6. If that is the reason, I have no idea why Crystal is still selling the same itineraries on the remaining two river ships for the same time period. Something is not quite right. At best, Crystal is trying to consolidate passengers to fill their ships to higher capacity. That scenario is a bit unlikely, based on my (perhaps incorrect) assumption that other river cruise companies are selling their fall 2021 berths like hotcakes. Or they have other reasons to not want to use Bach and Mahler this season. Or maybe Crystal is trying to cancel all river cruises for 2021, and this is their way of doing so in their own terms (to prevent sudden requests for refunds). I guess we will find out the real story when we do.
  7. The original e-mail sent to the affected passengers (including the one to me) had no information about what options are available other than to take what is offered (to switch to one of the cruises, or to accept an automatic transfer, depending on which itinerary the passenger was on). No mentioning or refund (which I would think we are entitled to) or future credit. The letter basically said to fill out this online form to let Crystal know which cruise we would like to roll over to. No other option, at least to me, was offered. Apparently, this e-mail was sent to me bypassing my TA, and my TA was less than pleased to hear this from me, not from Crystal. Along with the fact that the notice to me was sent to me at 11 PM last night from a "do not respond" e-mail address did not sit well with my long-time TA who has done a lot of business with Crystal for many years. He is apparently discussing this and other behind-the-scenes problems he has been having with Crystal lately. My understanding is that the currently employed Crystal staff members are not exactly capable of handling this situation well. Sigh.
  8. I personally don’t think anybody has a good way to guess when the mask requirement on airplanes and airports will be removed. I guess you have to assume that you will have to be wearing a mask, and be (pleasantly?) surprised if that is not the case. But with vaccination rates not anticipated to be that high in most parts of the world, I would be very surprised if the requirement will be dropped anytime soon.
  9. It is unfortunate that Crystal is being rather opaque about exactly what they are planning to do with these two ships for the 2021 season. They really should make their entire plans public, instead of making these partial announcements every couple of days or so, really adding to the confusion. I see that they have already cancelled most of the 2021 cruises on Mahler and close to that on Bach. Looking at this, I am personally very doubtful that the rest of the cruises on these two ships would occur. I can't imagine deploying these two ships just to do a few cruises before the end of the season in December. I'm very curious what is being offered to those passengers on cancelled cruises that could not be automatically accommodated to another river vessel. It would be nice to know what is being offered, so that we can have some expectation when/if this happens to us (We are also on the Nov. 21, 2021 cruise on Bach). I would really like to know exactly what is going on with Crystal, in regard to these ships. Perhaps this is purely based on demand vs. supply, staff shortage, etc. but we have no way to know if this is something else (Crystal trying to downsize their river operations temporarily or otherwise, for example).
  10. Now, as of 12 PM today, there is a new announcement that more Crystal Bach and Crystal Mahler cruises have been cancelled for September/October 2021. On a more selfish note, we hope our November 2021 cruise on Crystal Bach will not be affected too badly (a switch to another ship or a slight change in itinerary would be just fine, but a big change in dates would require some planning on my part). Though it is entirely possible, I would be surprised if there is substantially decreased demand vs supply for these river cruises, based on the reported demand for the Bahamas/Caribbean cruises on Crystal Serenity/Symphony for this summer, and my assumption (perhaps incorrect) that Crystal was voluntarily reducing the capacity on all of their ships, including the river ships.
  11. Hi. I grew up in Birmingham area. I moved from there in 1992, and my parents also moved from there about 5 years ago.
  12. My husband and I, a same-sex couple, took our first Crystal cruise about 15 years ago in November of 2006 when I was in my 30's and he was in his 40's. That was a 12 day Panama Canal cruise from Caldera, Costa Rica to Tampa on Crystal Symphony. At that time, Crystal passenger mix was much older than now, and we were some of the youngest passengers on board. We still enjoyed the experience onboard, partly because the ship was just big enough but not too big. Also we felt like Crystal really took care of all of their passengers well, regardless of the class of cabin we booked (this was definitely NOT our experience on Celebrity, Holland America, Princess, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean). Since then, we have noticed the passenger mix get younger and younger (or are we just getting older and older???), and noticed that the passenger demographics have also changed in many different ways. I think it is hard to know exactly what the passenger mix would be for the 2021 summer cruises, since we are in a very unusual situation. But in our opinion, the question is not whether you "fit in" to the mix, but whether if you enjoy the experience or not.
  13. I was just poking around the Crystal Cruises website and noticed that cruises from late August through most of September on both Crystal Bach and Crystal Mahler have been cancelled and some, but not all, of the cruises were consolidated into similar itineraries on Crystal Debussy and Crystal Ravel. I wonder why Crystal is doing this? I can think of a few possible reasons, including staffing shortage or perhaps Crystal is planning to downsize??
  14. I received the final installment of my refunds for the September 2020 cruise today (June 5, 2021), a little over 11 months after Crystal cancelled the cruise, and also a little over 11 months after we requested the refund.
  15. I am quoting you because you clearly disagreed with my assertion and I am just politely stating the point that this particular statement by Crystal, like many others in the past is, to me, still disingenuous, even in the context of the information in this public announcement, and definitely insulting to many customers especially in the context of how Crystal has behaved in the past 14 months. I am also quoting you because one of your previous comments directed to me sounded, to me, a bit dismissive. But of course, I do want or need you to agree with me.
  16. If what you mean by “the context” is that Crystal is still very short of cash, that does not give them a good reason to say that they have “not rested...on their financial obligations.” Whether this is because of excruciating circumstances or not, Crystal has been failing to meet it financial obligations so far to many of their customers.
  17. It's entirely possible that I still think that the placement of the sentence in the announcement is definitely inappropriate, though perhaps possibly not entirely false, maybe. But the fact that Crystal (whether intentionally or unintentionally...we would never know) has been woefully derelict on meeting its financial obligations regarding issuance of refunds in a timely manner is grossly inconsistent with the positive sentiment Crystal is trying to communicate with that sentence. In fact, I personally found the sentence insulting and patronizing at best.
  18. Yes, whoever that wrote this for Crystal should have used the verb waver instead of the word waiver, which is not even a verb. I just quoted what was posted online.
  19. It's interesting to note that the last sentence of this public announcement says "The Crystal team remains committed to resolving all monies owed and we will not rest or waiver on our obligation." Maybe this is just "business-speak," but the final sentence sounds grossly disingenuous to me. I am convinced that their seemingly indefinite delay on our refunds is nothing other than "resting on their obligation."
  20. I cannot tell from your writings if you are someone with good scientific background, or someone who reads a lot, both, or neither, but in my opinion, the issue of whether to vaccinate those who have recovered from previous infection is a very complex and multifaceted (immunology, epidemiology, human behavior, economy, etc.) issue. So I apologize if I am repeating something you already know. We still don't know how long the naturally acquired immunity from this virus lasts, and for that matter, we don't know exact variation in the efficacy of this immunity within the population. The same can be said for the vaccine-induced immunity, but for that, we are capable of collecting the data much easily, and this continues to be collected. So far, it appears to be effective at least 6 months on the Pfizer vaccine. And it is the case with the observational study we discussed, I insist that the current data does not prove that immunity from either infection or vaccines are long lasting (beyond 6-7 months). I certainly hope they last longer, but we just don't know. And for practical purposes, since the safety data from the currently available vaccines are very good, I personally don't see any reason not to vaccine those who recovered from the infection, whether they recovered from it 3 months ago or 9 months ago, as long as the supply/distribution infrastructure allows it (and it is now the case in the US). The reason CDC initially discouraged vaccination of those who were within 3 months of recovery from the infection was that the vaccine supply and distribution infrastructure was limited. But as we start having more available vaccines as well as we start building a population of people who has been virus-free for a longer period of time, there is a good reason for everyone to be vaccinated because the assumption, based on how immunity from infections from other viruses (including coronaviruses similar to this one) could wane over time. This issue is even more complicated by the fact that the antigenic profile of the virus population appears to be changing. Issues like what I outlined above are not widely discussed in regular news outlets, and they are not explained in papers published in professional journals either because it is assumed that those who read it know it already. In regard to whether we should be vaccinating those who are at a lower risk of death/hospitalization, I insist that they should be vaccinated as long as the supply and distribution infrastructure allows it. I don't think it is all-or-nothing issue. In the population where the mortality/morbidity is a real problem among those with preexisting conditions, giving more of the vaccines to the elderly/co-morbid may be a good idea to help the healthcare infrastructure from becoming all bogged down. However, to break the cycle of rapid spread of the virus, there should be some amount of targeted immunization to those seemingly healthy individuals because they are the ones who are actually doing the most of the spreading. The public health community in the US did not think about this issue when they initially encouraged the influenza vaccines to just the elderly/co-morbid, which resulted in less than satisfactory results. This recommendation has been scrapped a while ago for a good reason. And finally, unless we have a good grasp of the data on the real incidence (number of symptomatic AND asymptomatic cases in the population), it is extremely difficult to really make any meaningful estimate of the several important numbers, including the rate of re-infection, and if that is contributing to the reservoir of the virus in the population.
  21. A few relevant points from this particular observational study are the following: 1. This is an observational study that comes with various limitations inherent to the study design. For example it is hard to really know the distinguish between re-infection and persistent infection unless previously infected and certified to be virus free for sufficient time (and we don't know what that time is, by the way) is intentionally inoculated with the virus again. 2. The immunity gained from infection lasted the average of 7 months, meaning that the duration of natural immunity was not very long (the authors describe the duration of immunity as "short to medium term") for many of those observed in this study. So, my assessment of this issue (the reliability of immunity from actual infection from this coronavirus, and how long does the immunity last) from this particular study and others is that. 1. Yes, many people who recover from (symptomatic) infection do gain natural immunity for some time. 2. The duration of natural immunity from this infection is not necessarily very long, meaning that a history of symptomatic infection in any given individual does not always guarantee immunity. Furthermore, I don't think this study or any other study I know of support the notion that immunization of relatively healthy and younger population is counter-productive. I also don't think that some of the smart people who are actively studying this and other viral diseases are ignoring the fact that acquired immunity is negligible. My professional opinion is and has been that those who are vulnerable to severe illness AND those who are capable of acting as reservoirs of this virus/effective spreaders of the virus should be vaccinated. I think the real challenge is knowing what is the best way to accomplish both goals, especially in countries with limited vaccine supply and/or delivery infrastructure.
  22. Without knowing how many of seemingly healthy and asymptomatic people are getting infected and/or re-infected, it is impossible to prove or disprove what you are trying to say. I do not know of any studies that estimates the rates of re-infection, especially among those who are asymptomatic. Perhaps you can share this information with us??
  23. We still don’t know the effectiveness of acquired immunity from actual infection by this virus. Our knowledge about this is much less than that about the acquired immunity from vaccines, since that can be studied much easier. (It would be really difficult to justify a randomized study to intentionally infect some of the volunteers with this virus.). However, there are real-life viruses (some strains of cold viruses, for example) to which we are not capable of becoming sufficiently immune from natural infection. Yes, there are some “experts” that say immunization of those who are already immune may result in net harm, since these people may get zero benefit and just the side effects from the vaccine. Though this argument is technically valid, it is only valid if immunity from actual infection is overwhelmingly effective. And as far as I know, there has not been any reports of enhanced side effects of the vaccine in those who were previously infected by this virus. This was in fact a theoretical concern when the vaccines were being introduced to the population, but this effect, so far, has not materialized. I am afraid that most “ordinary” people are bombarded by a huge amount of information, some of it hard to understand and/or misleading.
  24. I also agree I also agree that you should dispute the charges with the credit card now. There's no benefit in waiting. I personally don't think filing a dispute with the credit card means you are somehow playing "hardball" with Crystal. Credit card companies provide the dispute mechanism as a service to their cardmembers for occasions exactly like this. Also, if you wait too long, credit card companies can refuse to process your dispute, calling the charges "too old." It is a shame that you have to go through the process instead of refund occurring in a timely manner. But that's clearly Crystal's fault, not yours. I gave Crystal maybe 3-4 weeks after I requested a refund for the cruise Crystal cancelled on us to file my disputes, and I got everything back except for the deposits, which were charged to me outside the time period defined by the credit card company (these charges are considered "too old" by the credit card company).
  25. I think, from a scientific perspective, the concept of a population “reaching herd immunity” is a very problematic one, since herd immunity is not something absolute, like a nuclear reactor reaching critical mass. It’s a relative term, and the closest thing to something absolute is protection of an immunized population from new infection, instead of control of rather widespread infection. I really hope that the news people will stop saying “reaching herd immunity” or “achieving herd immunity” because they are both rather nonsensical. It is better to say that we may “start benefiting from stronger herd immunity” as more people are vaccinated. What we don’t know, especially now, is whether herd immunity from vaccination is going to exterminate this virus for good. That may or may not happen.
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