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About Hlitner

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    30,000+ Club

About Me

  • Location
    New Cumberland,PA, USA
  • Interests
    International travel (77 countries at last count(
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  1. Given what is happening in the EU with a surge of COVID cases it might be justified to ban anyone from the EU. Oh my, why not just ban everyone from everywhere in the world. This seems to be the latest strategy. And how is it working for you? Hank
  2. In your State that appears to be true (which is one reason we are soon flying to FL for a few day vacation). But I suggest you go to NYC and drive around this once vibrant city. Despite a relatively low virus rate, two people (the Mayor and their Governor) have driven over 10,000 restaurants out of business! Unemployment in NYC has gone from nearly full employment to over 500,000 unemployed....all because of the decisions (without debate) of 2 people. These same officials allowed thousands to riot and march in the streets but refused to allow 20 people to dine inside a restaurant? All this without due process. In Florida one can go to Disney World if they follow the rules. But in California where the virus is less of a problem then in Fl one cannot go to Disneyland because of the decision of a single person. And it is possible that Disneyland will be kept closed for years (based on the formula that was mentioned today). That huge business was not given a hearing but was simply told, "YOU WILL CLOSE." In New York they were told that all this was necessary "to flatten the curve." But once the curve was flattened they were told that this was still necessary because of "what could happen" if we reopened. And now, many places can no longer reopen because they are gone....forever! So in future years these same officials could use the same logic to shut down restaurants, churches, etc. because of what "could happen" in flu season? You say this suspension of rights is temporary, but when a few folks can simply take away your rights without any due process you no longer have that Right! It has now become a privilege granted at the whim of a few. The cruise industry has been entirely shut down because of the decisions of a few (without due process). Those same few folks could keep the cruise industry shut down for years if they so choose. or..... They could shut down the cruise industry every year from Dec-April because it is flu season ("sorry folks but we are doing this for your own good.") I cannot get the old poem, that begins with "First they came for the...." out of my head. We could now rewrite that poem. First they came for the cruise lines and we said nothing. Then they came for our airlines and we said nothing. Then they came for our restaurants and we said nothing. Then they came for our churches and we said nothing. And finally, "And then they came for me and I was easy to find because I was forced to stay in my basement!" Perhaps the next step will be to set up special "camps" in the dessert with a small circle drawn every 6 feet. Those who question losing their rights will be banished to these camps and forced to stay in their circle. There will be no trial (due process) and these folks will be told "this is just temporary." It is almost like what they have done with the cruise ships many of which are simply anchored (at their circles in the sea) while a handful of unelected officials decide their future. Hank Hank
  3. Agree with the Pompeii comments. DW and I enjoy returning, every few years, to Pompeii to discover things we have previously missed. I should add that Pompeii is not our favorite ruins and that title would go to Ephesus (also a work in progress) along with some other nearby ruins (i.e. Priene, Didyma, Miletus, etc). Hank
  4. No, I do not think so. Using a metaphor is a great way to describe what has happened to our society with folks scared out of their minds and "hiding in their basements." I do understand that our society has put itself into a place where most folks are deterred from speaking their mind (it is called freedom of speech) and quickly become quiet when anyone accuses them of being "insensitive," "offensive," "xenophobic," etc. I am not buying it! So lets add some truth to the discussion. Millions have died (over several hundred years) to win and maintain our freedom and rights. But now, much of society cowers "in their basements" and has readily given away many of their RIGHTS in the name of public health. While this might make sense in light of the seriousness of COVID, history tells us that once you give up your rights they are gone. Politicians and some scientists have now discovered they wield incredible power by simply invoking "it is is the interests of public health." Using this moniker they have taken away some fundamental rights such as Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Assembly, and even our freedom to travel. Anyone who dares to challenge these folks gets labeled as being insensitive? I think not. Yes, COVID is a dangerous problem but there needs to be some balance and common sense applied to how we deal with this problem. Allowing a few to trample all over our rights (without any due process) is just wrong! Allowing a single agency (CDC) without a single elected official to shut down the entire cruise industry (without due process) and most of the travel industry (without any due process) scares me a lot more then COVID. If this rant hurts your feeling please get over it! Hank
  5. I am thinking if you do not know the answer would not be useful. Hank
  6. Only in my mind :). DW and I are only fluent in English although we do OK reading French and Spanish. We both studied French for many years which means we can hardly understand a word :). Having visited over 120 countries I can say that the only place we have had a language barrier problem is in London, England :). I think too many Americans get hung up on the language issue. Intelligent folks can usually find a way to communicate and there are now some great phone apps (i.e. Google Translate) that will translate in real time and even translate written items (using the camera). We no longer even consider language issues as something worthy of concern and it never enters into our travel planning.. I should add that we have lived in Mexico for about 10 weeks a year (been doing this for about 15 weeks a year) and still do not speak Spanish. It is hysterical to watch DW and have a conversation with our maid (DW speaks little Spanish and our maid speaks almost no English). They talk to each other and somehow make it work. When all else fails a hug does wonders :). Hank
  7. I guess the optimal word is "affordable" and N95 masks can be a bit pricy. On the other hand if you get a decent one they do last a while if you are careful. KN95s are easier to find and many places sell them online. Even on Amazon you can buy certified KN95 masks for less then $2 per piece. In our case DD ordered, back in March, several dozen N95s and KN95s and we still have a supply. The thing is that folks will go out and buy cheap masks made of a single layer of whatever and they get something that is not very effective. For a few dollars per mask one can get pretty decent 3 layer N95 and KN95 masks. A good compromise would be to look for multi layer masks that don't have a rating (better then nothing). But it is almost laughable when you see folks wearing knitted masks (you can even see light through those) or single layer fabric. We also bought 100 multi layer surgical-type masks (no rating) that are relatively common and better then nothing. They are relatively inexpensive and most folks use them multiple times even though the experts will tell you to only use a mask once. Even our own physician is wearing that type of mask. Hank
  8. Yes, one can certainly choose to keep themselves in semi-isolation (even in their basement) for the next few years or until COVID is under control (whatever occurs first). However, some of us are getting older and prefer to live our lives. And yes, it is possible to live one's life with COVID by using some common sense. We have already taken some trips (including 2 weeks in South Carolina) and were able to social distance and carefully choose restaurants that minimized risk. This winter we will live in Puerto Vallarta (our usual winter home) where we will certainly modify our usual activities (and restaurant habits) to minimize COVID risk. But staying home and hiding in the basement is just not our style. As to COVID, many folks have completely ignored common sense. When folks crowd into a club or bar or go onto the streets as part of a crowd they are playing Russian Roulette with the virus. Not wearing a decent mask (we only use N95 or KN95) when near other folks is just folly. And hiding in one's basement is very bad for one's mental health! Like most things in life there is compromise that balances risk and reward. Speaking of FL we are heading there for a short (8 day) trip in December! Our plans include flying into FLL, renting a car, and driving down to Key West where we stay at an upscale Suite Hotel where social distancing in not a problem. We know restaurants where we can dine outdoors (or indoors) and social distancing is not a problem. We will then drive up to another hotel (near Ft Myers) that is located on a beach and somewhat isolated. Again we will have no problem social distancing on the beach (and when swimming the sea) and will carefully choose our restaurants for quality and safety. Our major area of risk will by flying, but statistics seem to indicate that flying is not a particularly great risk and we will use common sense while wearing our N95 masks, social distancing to the extent possible, and practicing frequent hand washing. Is this kind of trip risk free? Nope. On the other hand, hiding in a CA basement might get you killed if there is an earthquake or a meteor crashes into your home. Hank
  9. The OP did not specify cruises from the USA! In fact, the way things are going with the CDC and a certain Federal Judge in the 5th Circuit there are some major impediments to cruising even happening from the USA. So, assuming that the European travel restrictions are lifted I would suggest that 18 year old head to Europe (for cruise or land) where they are treated like adults (when it comes to adult beverages). On a ship an 18 year old generally leads an adult life where they form their own friendships, participate in activities to their likening, and set their own social agenda. Hank
  10. We love to cruise and generally book around 100 days per year. But that was yesterday! What we do in the future will depend on the cruise industry, the kind of product that they offer, our ability to travel independently in the ports, and the kind of atmosphere that is created on the ship. If the overall product takes away much of our ability to enjoy the onboard cruise experience and our time ashore then we will cancel/avoid all of our future cruises with one exception. We would likely still take a single Caribbean cruise every year (we like 14 - 21 days) on a higher end ship. In the Caribbean the ship is our destination so we could care less about any port restrictions (we often stay on the ship when in port). If we want a large ship it would be MSC's Yacht Club or perhaps NCLs Haven Suites and smaller ships might be something like Seabourn or Silverseas. Otherwise, we would take independent extended land trips in both Europe (where we tend to rent/lease a car) and Asia. In a sense we have already done this in 2020 (we had 4 cruises cancelled this year) when we have taken some land trips (inside the USA). We would have flown over to Europe, this year, for a few weeks but travel restrictions made that impossible. In 2021 we have 3 long cruises booked (the first one is in April) but suspect that the April cruise (and perhaps the later cruises) will be cancelled by the cruise lines. If so, and assuming that Europe reopens to Americans, we would plan a 4-6 week trip in April that involves flying to Europe, renting apartments in Paris and Prague and spending about a month just driving around France, Germany, and the Czech Republic. If the weather were to be lousy in those places we would shift south and head down through Italy to Croatia. That is the beauty of independent travel.....you can change plans in real time to take advantage of good weather. Hank
  11. I will address a question to the OP. There are two basic types of annual policies, 1. Annual Travel Medical policies- which cover medically related issues and will often include some kind of medical evacuation coverage. and 2. Annual Trip Insurance which cover some medical and also give some coverage for trip cancelation and/or interruption. And then you have the issue of Cancel for a legitimate reason (i.e. health, death, etc) vs Cancel for Any reason. There is often a policy to meet just about any "want" but at a price. The more peace of mind you want from insurance the more you will pay. In a perfect world folks would insure everything for everything and pay nothing :). But it does not work that way. We have often "preached" that folks should evaluate their own "wants/needs," budget, risk tolerance and then act accordingly. What is good for me may be totally unacceptable to you. Because we travel at least 6 months a year (pre COVID) we purchased an annual Travel Medical Policy (with $250,000 of medical coverage that drops to $100,000 at age 70) and then rely on a major credit card, that provides $10,000 per person cancelation/interruption insurance (for good cause) to give us some coverage for that stuff. Total cost per year (until COVID) was $450 for the medical (total cost for 2) plus the annual fee for the high-end credit card. So, my question to the OP is what are you looking to get? Yes, there are annual policies. But to us the bigger issue then cancelation is whether a policy offers medical/evacuation coverage if one gets COVID! My liability for cancelation is only the cost of the trip (which I intended to pay anyway) but my liability for medical is unlimited. I am less concerned about a few thousand dollars for the cost of a trip then the possible $100,000 plus if one faces a major medical problem. Hank
  12. My point is that the safety protocols being used on a handful of European cruises (where the home countries of the passengers were limited) would likely not be acceptable to the CDC! So lets take that MSC cruise as an example. So far, only a single passenger has tested positive. That passenger (along with all the other souls on board) had been tested negative prior to the cruise. Once aboard those passengers mingle so now you must assume that everyone on that ship has been exposed to COVID. Maybe nobody else will get the bug or perhaps a few hundred will eventually get sick. Nobody knows. But the rules in Europe allow all those souls to go home (via public transit) where they are supposed to self-quarantine for 14 days (having already exposed lots of folks on their way home). The CDC will not willingly agree to such a protocol although politics might ultimately force their hand. The point I have been making for months is that even the best testing system is not very good when it comes to screening cruise passengers. And therein lies one of the two biggest problems that the cruise lines do not want to discuss. With testing you have false negatives plus anyone exposed to the virus within a few days of testing will generally test negative! There is currently no solution to this problem! The other issue is what happens if a single person onboard does develop the virus. Unlike what they are doing in Europe the CDC will not willingly agree to simply let those folks go home (via public transit). Hank
  13. I think the "versions" you heard are somewhat wrong (perhaps posted by folks with a pro cruising agenda). Here is a copy of an e-mail sent to everyone who was on that fated MSC cruise: Dear Mrs/Mr: “We are contacting you from the Ministry of Health, as a result of the identification of a CONFIRMED CASE OF COVID-19 aboard the MSC Grandiosa ship that left from Palermo on October 7th and where you were embarked. In the following 14 days from the date of the exposure (October 7th 2020) besides remembering you the classic prevention measures: to frequently wash your hands, coughing and sneezing directly on a paper tissue or in your elbow crease, we ask you to monitor your health conditions, in case you experience symptoms, even if they are mild (particularly cough, rhinorrhea/congestion, respiratory distress, muscular pain, anosmia/ageusia/dysgeusia, diarrhea, asthenia you must immediately contact your family doctor or your pediatrician, and report the possible exposure you could have had on the ship.” As to the Costa ship, at least 8 souls tested positive on that ship and Costa apparently did their best to keep it quiet. In fact one of their passengers needed to be hospitalized (because of COVID) on Oct 14 in Naples but a Statement from Costa on Oct 15 did not even acknowledge this fact. Apparently there is no law in Europe that requires cruise ships to disclose health related information (such as when they have COVID cases) and the cruise lines still seem to have a problem with transparency. But it is true that Costa tried to blame the COVID situation in France for cutting that cruise short in Italy although there is a lot of skepticism about that Statement. There has been no indication that these ships have been required to quarantine the other passengers so I guess (and this is my own speculation) they are free to go back to their homes (in multiple EU countries) and perhaps spread COVID to others. Hank
  14. One could file early assuming they have most of the necessary documents. A follow up 1040X (Amended Return) could then be completed after the cruise. Another option is to simply file for an extension (Form 4868) which even has some provisions for those who are out of the country. Hank
  15. Somewhere on CC there is an old post of mine (must have been sometime in April or May) where I made a statement that "we still do not know much about COVID" and "we do not know what we do not know" only to be challenged by another poster who claimed that we already knew just about everything about COVID. Here we are about 10 months into this disease and we still know very little about the long term morbidities associated with this virus. In fact, there are also remaining questions about how this virus spreads (much of what we hear about the spread is based on speculation and yet to be proven). That is what I find frightening about COVID. To again use one of my favorite old quotes (which I first learned from Dr Fauci during the early days of the AIDS epidemic) which is when it comes to COVID "we do not know what we do not know! Hank
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