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About Hlitner

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    New Cumberland,PA, USA
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    International travel (77 countries at last count(
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  1. Our worst tendering experience was not due to the weather but rather due to the stupidity of Princess cruise lines. Last year Princess sent the Caribbean Princess (one of its larger ships) on a cruise to Greenland. There were about 3400 souls aboard. Two of the Greenland ports are very small villages (far less population then our ship) that are tender ports without any decent tender facility. Nanortalilk can only handle one tender at a time and even this is a problem since any of the boat excursions also uses the same pier. So, Princess needed to tender ashore 3400 folks which meant about 40 tender loads (each way). Because many of the passengers were older (including me) it took 10-15 minutes to simply off load (and re-load) a single tender. So, if you simply do a little math (which the cruise line should have done) it would take nearly 10 hours to simply get everyone ashore (we were not even in the port 10 hours). It was a fiasco with folks having to wait over 4 hours to board tenders on the ship. Many gave up even though Greenland was the primary reason many took the cruise. Princess, in their infinite wisdom, did again schedule that same cruise this coming August although it has since been cancelled due to COVID-19. Hank P.S. If you are thinking about going to Greenland on a cruise make sure to choose a smaller vessel.
  2. I completely agree with Marazul. The idea of transferring between Rome, Florence and Naples via airplane is insane! Train connections between all 3 of those cities are excellent (faster then flying when you consider the time needed to go to and from airports, check-in clear security, etc). Unfortunately, Naples and Florence are opposite directions from Rome which does add some transfer time. Also keep in mind there are frequent trains between these 3 cities so there is little need to make train reservations far in advance. However, reservations will guarantee you a seat on the train of your choice and might get you a lower price. Another advantage of the trains over flying is that you do get to see some of the countryside when on a train. It is an enjoyable way to travel and gets you from city center to city center. Consider that Rome's airports are some distance from the city while the train stations (they have several) are located relatively close to the main tourist centers within the city. It is the same in Florence and Naples where you can even walk between the train stations and many of the desired tourist areas. And hotels are generally arrayed relatively close to train stations. Hank
  3. I like anecdotal information. What you really mean is that tendering WAS not a problem at a certain time in 2017! That has absolutely no bearing on tendering today, tomorrow, next week, etc. Having spent over forty years cruising extensively around the world there is one piece of anecdotal information that never changes. Sea and weather conditions are always changing and never guaranteed. To the OP I would just echo what a few others have posted which is that nobody can predict what will happen on your particular cruise. If you are cruising the Greek Islands during the summer months, the odds are in your favor that there will be decent sea conditions. But this is not a guarantee. Even a storm that is located 1000 miles distant can cause swells that impact tendering. Frequent cruisers understand that the weather and sea conditions are like rolling the dice and it is part of cruising. Hank
  4. I would just reiterate that there is no evidence that more cleaning will have any impact on COVID-19. Just like Norovirus and Influenza, a virus is generally carried aboard a ship by passengers and/or crew. Flu and COVID-19 are most likely spread through the air (sneezes, coughs, and even breathing) and by person to person contact. And even misting (like they are now doing on most aircraft) is a very short term measure that will do nothing to prevent human to human transmission a few minutes later once people start boarding the plane. Just applying simple logic means we need a method to ensure that nobody can carry a virus aboard (this is not going to happen) or a means to ensure the immunity of those onboard (this could happen with a safe/effective vaccine. Social distancing and masks would likely help mitigate the spread onboard but will not eliminate every case. And social distancing on a mass market ship is near-impossible. Hank
  5. Perhaps folks can agree on being reasonable. Sitting in the Lido for 5 hours while others cannot find a place to sit is not helpful. And if ships want to increase social distancing in the Lido it will become vital for folks to vacate their seats when they have finished eating. If it is just a matter of sitting with coffee or tea, there are plenty of other places to sit on a ship. Princess actually makes this attractive with their International Cafe (open 24/7 with decent small batch coffee and good tea) and also having another place on the pool deck where one can get a decent cup of espresso. Giving folks an attractive place to go for coffee and tea may actually help free-up needed space in the Lido. But it does seem that social distancing might be the major long term change to come out of this pandemic. Reality is that distancing helps for many diseases including influenza, common cold and most URIs. Hank
  6. Interesting thought! I am not sure if the economics will work for mass market lines who depend on "maximizing onboard revenue" as a major contributor to profits. While the line might be able to operate at 50% this would also mean a huge decline in onboard revenue which might not be financially feasible. Consider that even at a lower occupancy the crew size cannot be substantially reduced, fuel costs are the same, and debt service (some of these new ships cost over $1 billion) must be spread over fewer passengers. The advantage of economies of scale is lost which would be a recipe for financial disaster. Hank
  7. Yeah this is a huge problem on HAL, especially their smaller vessels. When on longer HAL cruises the passengers tend to be much older (mostly seniors) and many of these folks have no desire to sit out on deck. They hang in the Lido from breakfast until after lunch and you will see the knitting groups, card players, etc. HAL has tolerated this misuse of the Lido for many years and seems reluctant to push folks out to give tables to those who actually want to eat. DW and I once had a lady come up to us (while we were eating a late breakfast in the Lido) and tell us we had to move because the table we were using was for her knitting group. We politely told that lady that we would only move after we finished our breakfast and she was so unhappy she went and complained to a supervisor (who brushed her off). This will likely change in the post pandemic world. What is funny about HAL is that they have the most limited Lido food hours of just about any mass market line. You would think that once the food lines close the folks would leave their tables but this is not to be. These folks will stand their ground even as the staff works around them to clean tables and the floor. They simply wait until the Lido reopens for lunch. I do not know the solution since telling folks they need to vacate "their table" in the Lido will cause some to be quite annoyed. The crew on most cruise ships are trained to give deference to the passengers and avoid confrontation. But I can see a future when the crew will simply tell folks they must move because the table/chairs must be disinfected! Hank
  8. Getting a taxi to take you a short distance is not as much of an issue as simply getting a taxi. The last two times we have taken the train to St Lazare there was a long taxi queue and few taxis. The wait for a taxi (early afternoon on a weekday) may have been an hour... We are very mobile so walked about 5-6 blocks to another taxi stand where we only waited a few minutes. If you can afford the extra Euros we would suggest that a taxi to CDG makes sense because you then avoid the hassles of getting you (and your luggage) down to the RER, on the train, off the train, etc. You might also consider using Uber (assuming it is still running). It can be a bit complicated to arrange an exact pick-up point for an Uber but it is doable. Once you go outside St Lazare if the taxi situation is bad you can then try Uber. We also routinely use the G7 taxi company (they have an app and also an English speaking phone line) who can send a "radio taxi." Hank
  9. It is our least favorite Princess ship (and we have been on about a dozen) because of constant crowding and lines we experienced on our cruise to Greenland ...last August. But we have met others who rank it as one of their favorite ships. On our cruise folks had to go to the showroom about an hour before a show if they wanted seats (for those who dined early). Things were so crowded in the main theater that they actually simulcasted some of the shows which folks could watch in one of the lounges on the screen (even this lounge was full). The Lido was a zoo for anyone who tried to eat lunch during the first hour after opening. We actually did fine by dining late, going to the shows intended for late diners, etc. But the bottom line is that Princess took their original Grand ship design and simply added another passenger deck (Riviera) with hundreds of additional passengers. But the public rooms were essentially left the same which meant that more passengers were using the same facilities. Hank
  10. Folks need to understand that Princess is completely overwhelmed and far behind with their cancellations and record keeping. For example, we were booked on the Aug 7,2020 Island Princess cruise from NYC to Southampton. Princess cancelled this cruise about 1 month ago. But if I go into my cruise account it still shows our reservation, the cruise itinerary, and there is no mention of any cancellation. So folks that are asking about Alaska/Canada cruises need to be patient and Princess will likely get caught up by New Years! Also keep in mind that Princess has furloughed many workers and most of their remaining workers have to work from home, None of this helps when it comes to catching-up. I would bet that Princess will issue a new press release (the last was on May 6) this coming week and cancel any of the cruises that were scheduled to dock in Canada this fall. We have another October booking (Regal Princess) which is a complex itinerary (Rome to Singapore) where nearly all the ports are closed to cruise ships. It is unlikely that many of those ports will be opened by October but that will not stop Princess from waiting until the last minute to cancel that cruise. Hank
  11. Just some more thoughts about social distancing on ships. For many years DW and I have followed a "contrarian" schedule on most cruises. To be very honest I strongly dislike waiting in queues (lines) and follow a personal strategy to minimize/avoid lines. I have often posted my puzzlement as to why some folks seem to love waiting in lines and actually seek out lines wherever they form. For example, you will see folks crowd into a queue while waiting for the MDR to open (we simply don't go to the MDR until the line is gone. We see folks forming a long line on Princess ships when they have a "sale" of mostly junk (i.e. cheap sweatshirts, t-shirts, etc) in one of the MDRs. But one can wait a half hour and just walk into that sale (there is usually enough junk to serve the late arrivals). When we see a long line for just about anything we will simply go someplace else to relax until the line is mitigated. Another issue (for us) are the elevators which are usually crowded. We try to avoid elevators unless it is absolutely necessary. If its a matter of walking down a few floors or up a few floors we use the steps (good exercise, no waiting for crowded elevators, and avoiding being trapped in a small chamber with lots of other folks). Not everyone is healthy enough to use the steps, but there are certainly many who can do it but are just too darn lazy. And this leaves more space for those who truly need to use elevators. Embarkation is a problem. We assume that some cruise lines will enforce a policy of staggered arrival/boarding times. It is already recommended by some lines, but seldom enforced. So, for example, if they tell you to arrive at the port between 2 and 3 that is when you will need to arrive if you want to embark. Otherwise you will be left outside the port building, cooling your heels, until the specified time. Hank
  12. As has been posted, we think that HAL has already adopted a buffet model that will now sweep the industry. It is not perfect, but does a lot to minimize risk in the serving lines. Their system is based on the idea that passengers should not share serving utensils. They achieve this by having crew do the serving (where necessary) and pre-plating or packaging other items. But we do not know any solution to the social distancing issue in a Lido. I do suspect that ships will adopt a new rule that prohibits folks from sitting in the Lido unless they are actually eating. On many cruises we have seen plenty of folks who simply hang out in the Lido, do their knitting, reading, etc. This can be strongly discouraged to try and free-up more tables. Hank
  13. Today we booked an 18 day Oceania cruise (with a terrific itinerary). Our total cost, including air fare, is just about the same as a MSC Caribbean cruise (in Dec 2021) in the YC that does not even include air and is only a 14 day cruise. We have booked similar MSC cruises for the past couple of years, but in 2021 there is a 20% price increase which IMHO makes the cruise a bad value. We love cruising MSC in the YC, but DW and I have also cruised on 14 other cruise lines. We look for value (not low cost), itinerary, quality, etc. But we were surprised that we could book an 18 night Oceania cruise (which includes air) for far less money then a 14 day MSC cruise would cost us with air. And also consider the MSC cruise would only involve round trip air to Florida while the Oceania cruise involves air from South America....and it is still significantly less costly. We do understand that many cruisers get their minds set on a "loyalty" thing and tend to stick with the same line. While we really enjoy MSC's YC, there is a point at which it is just not worth the cost (to us). We have an upcoming Seaside cruise in the YC and look forward to the experience. But now, we wonder if it will be our last MSC cruise :(. We are always cognizant that MSC is simply a mass market line which has offered a quality product in their YC. But when luxury cruises can be booked for about the same (or less money) then it does pay to look elsewhere. There are some folks who claim that NCL kept increasing the price of their Haven Suites to a point where it is no longer a reasonable value. Now, it seem that MSC might be following the same trend. Hank
  14. Most likely. Keep in mind that China is also on many itineraries. If the political situation in HK causes a lot of unrest the cruise lines might decide to bypass that port in favor of other Asian ports. Hank
  15. We sure hear you and have many of the same thoughts. But then it occurred to us that there may never be a vaccine, and even if there is a vaccine it could easily be 3 years away (which would tie it for the fastest vaccine ever brought to market). So then it came down to whether we completely give up cruising or not. I will be honest and say we may still change our mind and follow a similar path as yourself. We are actually less concerned about long International flights because we would do it in Business Class where there is adequate separation. Ironically, the domestic flight we must take to get to our December cruise would be on a Southwest aircraft where there is certainly no social distancing. Kind of like rolling the dice :(. Hank
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