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RichardRahl

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About Me

  • Location
    Seattle, WA
  • Favorite Cruise Line(s)
    Princess, Carnival, Premier
  • Favorite Cruise Destination Or Port of Call
    Alaska

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  1. Found this old thread, and am very disappointed to report that the Celebrity Cruises' website still sucks. It may be the worst consumer portal I've used in the past 5 years (except perhaps for its eerily similar sister website, Royal Caribbean International). As of a few days ago, the Celebrity website has stopped working in Chrome entirely. It barely functions in Firefox, and works a little better in Safari (when it's working at all). How a company this large can have such a joke of an order and information system is beyond me.
  2. Anyone this incredulous about tipping has either never worked in the service industry, is European, is a cheapskate, or has a misconception of how and why Americans tip. I don’t ask my waiter or busboy at Cheescake Factory what they make before I tip them. I don’t ask my local bartender how many hours she works each day before I tip her. I don’t ask my Uber driver if he sends part of his income to family members before tipping. And I don’t compare what I do to what my housekeeper at the Las Vegas MGM Grand does when considering her tip. Rather, I ask my self, “did this person do a good job, make me feel like a valuable customer, did it all with a smile despite my many requests, and went the extra mile for me?” If the answer is “yes,” I tip. If the answer is “absolutely,” then I tip a lot. I sure don’t try to figure out if the hotel, restaurant, employer, or pub passes on any portion of my bill to the server. If they get paid twice for great service, that’s fine with me! And I should note – if a server sucks, I still might tip if I know the establishment pools their tips (but it won’t be a lot). As for that Celebrity gratuity form discussed earlier, I’ve asked multiple purser staff on various ships if my butler, room steward, and waiter get the full amount I put down on the form. The answer I consistently get is “Yes, but write down their name under the amount box just to make sure.” However, under the general housekeeping and restaurant boxes, it’s distributed to all staff in that specific department. If you want to tip a specific waiter, you’ll have to do it with an envelope – but he/she still may be required to submit it to the general department gratuity pool. A lot of these crew members don’t see their families for 6-8 months at a time, share an inside cabin with 1 or 2 other crew members, eat in a cafeteria below decks with no access to passenger dining areas, and work 8-16 hour days depending on the position. If they make $50,000 each per year, they’re worth it. Because you couldn’t pay me enough to clean up 24 passengers’ sh*tty toilets every day, worrying if they have COVID, and being treated like a lowly servant by most of them. And yet they do it… often with a smile.
  3. Most pharmacies don’t take walk-ins for COVID testing, so the above isn’t helping anyone. And unlike making an appointment at a pharmacy for testing, FLL airport isn’t free (it’s actually quite expensive).
  4. Give it a week or two. Every cruise line is going to start doing this. The ones that don’t will have a Delta variant outbreak and will have to cancel cruises. I’d rather be on a Celebrity cruise that sails than a Holland America one that gets cancelled.
  5. It’s better than nothing! Very little is 100% sure in life, so we do the best we can. Requiring a COVID test no more than 3 days prior to boarding is much better than no testing at all, that’s for sure. But yes - giving everyone a rapid test at the pier would have been even better – until you factor in false positives that ruin some people’s vacations and false negatives that fail to protect everyone.
  6. I completely agree. We cancelled our three suites on the Ovation and RCI agreed to refund our fare. Still considering what to replace it with, if anything. Not a fan of Princess, as their suite products are far inferior to RCI, Celebrity, and NCL (the Princess Sky Suite doesn't hold a candle to the NCL 3-Bedroom Garden Villa Suite, Celebrity Penthouse Suite, or RCI Royal Loft Suite). If I can find some suites on NCL, that might work, but they don't seem to have much availability in Alaska. Celebrity has a few suites on certain voyages, but some of our older travel companions might not like that there are unvaccinated passengers on board, even though it's 5% or less and only children who have tested negative prior to the cruise. (I think on Celebrity out of Seattle, everyone needs to show a negative COVID test prior to boarding.) Since I'm no longer on this sailing, I shall stop posting my thoughts here. Problem has been resolved, and those passengers who are happy with the Alaska COVID protocols will likely have a very nice cruise on August 13th. RCI handled our cancellation well, so no hard feelings from us (although we'll probably be less likely to look at them first when choosing future cruises).
  7. If only RCI had been open and direct about allowing non-vaccinated passengers on the ship back when the cruise was first sold, we would have known to book a different cruise line. There's no transparency here; just the illusion of it – that's the actual reality of it.
  8. Anyone who is most likely to bring COVID on the ship is the lowest common denominator. Right now, that's children 11 and under. Princess and NCL agree, requiring 100% vaccination (i.e., no kids 11 and under). Celebrity is satisfied with 95%+ vaccinated so there are some children on there, but the vaccinated still don't have to wear masks like on its baby sister company. If RCCL wants to allow children on board, all it needs to do is make sure they and their families make up less than 5% of the passenger complement. Then RCCL can be just like Celebrity with common-sense, reasonable protocols. That's how RCCL sold the Seattle/Alaska cruises, and the calculated bait-and-switch is a selfish double-take. I'm all for being careful and wearing masks when there's a statistically advantageous improvement to safety. But with all passengers over 12 being fully vaccinated and everyone else testing negative for COVID, the likelihood of a catastrophic outbreak is almost 0%. Of course, that's different than the chance of at least one family testing positive for COVID during the cruise, which is almost a 100% chance. But if everyone is careful, wearing masks in crowded, indoor situations where non-vaccinated are present, that won't matter. But requiring masking outdoors and in spacious venues where there might be an unvaccinated person is ridiculous. It's RCCL's decision to apparently allow more than 5% of its passengers to be unvaccinated that's the problem, not the masking requirements in general. And it's RCCL's decision to allow the small minority of non-vaccinated passengers into too many public areas that's also the problem. They're allowing 5-10% of the passengers to dictate how the other 90-95% of passengers enjoy their cruise. This after making such a big deal of sailing out of Seattle where vaccination status can be required before boarding. The solution is to require the unvaccinated to be tested daily and ditch the mask requirements for vaccinated passengers. The end result will be the same.
  9. The goal is to go to our favorite destination – Alaska, not Disney or some boring Caribbean itinerary. We were led to believe that RCCL would be 100% vaccinated since they’re sailing out if Seattle and aren’t hamstrung by Florida’s ignorant anti-vaccine law. Had we known RCCL was going to betray our trust, we would have booked on Princess, NCL, or Celebrity (all of which have stuck to their guns in favor of vaccinated passengers). The lack of common sense coming out of the CDC and RCCL is on par with Florida’s, which is just as frustrating. If every passenger over 12 yrs old is vaccinated, and every passenger under 12 tests negative for COVID, then what’s the maskless danger? Adventure of the Seas didn’t have any problem with this. Celebrity is also $10-$15,000 more than Royal Caribbean for the same size room. That’s why we chose RCCL in the first place – a little more budget friendly for our first return to cruising. I guess the old adage “you get what you pay for” applies here, unfortunately. We won’t be making that mistake again, for sure. Our 15 years of RCCL loyalty is truly being tested, and I’m quite happy to give our future business to better cruise lines if RCCL comes up short.
  10. We're likely going to alter the deal ourselves since RCCL seems to have decided to do a bait-and-switch. As others have pointed out, there are NCL and Princess cruises that are 100% vaccinated sailing in August as well. Maybe if RCCL loses our business and others', it'll send a message and make it better for those who choose to remain on the Ovation and Serenade.
  11. You're confusing a cruise ship for an airplane. As strict as the RCCL protocols are, they are not airplane strict. At dinner, at the buffet, at Chops, etc. passengers will NOT have to wear masks while dining. Maybe walking from your cabin to the restaurant to your table, but definitely not once you're sitting at your table with food in front of you; that's already been established. So it makes me question whether any of your authoritative-sounding answers are actually correct. I sincerely doubt it, so please stop scaring everyone.
  12. What about when you’re outside watching the otters & whales in Sitka, walking around on the glacier or riding the dog sleds after the helicopter ride, on the open-air streetcars in Skagway, or outside at the Salmon Bake in Juneau?
  13. I'm rather new to Cruise Critic, so if this is posted in the wrong place or duplicates another post, please accept my apologies. I did search for an existing thread (which I thought for sure would have been created already), but didn't find one. I also apologize if the tone of my post feels somewhat entitled or insensitive – that's not my goal; but there are definitely some pointed questions below. We received the COVID protocols e-mail for our 2021 Alaska sailing on the Ovation. You can view them here, on RCCL's website: https://www.royalcaribbean.com/the-healthy-sail-center/getting-ready-to-cruise?dPort=seattle. That web page includes a link to a grid of onboard venues and whether unvaccinated passengers are allowed in each. As fully-vaccinated passengers, we're hoping for a mostly (if not completely) maskless cruise. But based on those protocols, it seems like RCCL is catering to the lowest common denominator. I suspect we'll have to wait for reports and videos from the Serenade of the Seas to see just how aggressively RCCL implements mask wearing, and how successfully the ship's company is at minimizing the effect unvaccinated passengers have on everyone else. First of all, does anyone know for sure (i.e., not conjecture) if the Ovation of the Seas sailing from Seattle on August 13th will be at full capacity? Second, RCCL asserts the Ovation will be at least 95% fully vaccinated (all crew, and all passengers 12 and older). To what extent do those 5% of unvaccinated passengers (i.e., children 11 and younger with their parents) have the ability to impact the cruise for everyone else? If the ship is at full 4,905 capacity, 5% is only 245 children plus their older siblings and parents. Does that mean ~700 passengers are going to dictate the enjoyment of the cruise for the remaining ~4,200, because any time one of those unvaccinated shows up, everyone has to throw on a facemask? Third, RCCL designates several venues as "vaccinated only" (like the Casino, which - duh - is always adults-only anyway), but then others areas like Coastal Kitchen and Windjammer Marketplace buffet are not. The protocols state, "When indoors, CDC guidelines require all guests 2 and older to wear masks unless they are actively eating or drinking. The CDC does make allowances for guests to remove their masks in venues and events dedicated to fully vaccinated parties." So is everyone going to have to wear masks (except for babies and toddlers) because there might be an unvaccinated child or family member in a room that hasn't been dedicated to fully-vaccinated parties? Coastal Kitchen, Windjammer Marketplace buffet, Chops, and Izumi are not "vaccinated only" areas like the Solarium, Vitality Spa, and American Icon/Silk main dining rooms. Does that mean everyone going to Coastal Kitchen (or to the concierge table, or to just sit in the suites lounge up there) will have to have a mask on at all times because a 10-year-old could walk in at any moment? At Chops, do we have to keep our masks on until the food is served? When we go to the Royal Theater showroom and can only find seats on Deck 4 (the only place unvaccinated can sit), will we have to wear a mask for the entire show? For that matter, will everyone in the theater need to wear masks, regardless of where they're sitting because there's an 8-year-old and her dad sitting nearby? If we're sitting out on a deck chair near the pool and the area starts to get crowded, will the crew make everyone put their masks on? Or will we have to wear masks any time we're not in a "venue," a restaurant, or our cabin? Will everyone outside on deck looking at the glaciers have to wear masks, with all of our glasses fogging up so we can't see anything? What about shore excursions? Unvaccinated people are not allowed off the ship except on RCCL-sold tours. Will RCCL segregate the unvaccinated families on their own unvaccinated tour buses/boats/rafts/helicopters, or will those of us who are vaccinated be required to wear masks on all tours if some 5-year-old kid and his mom are on the same shore excursion? If we're on the whale watching tour, will we all have to wear masks inside and out because one family with a 9-year-old kid is also on the boat? Since my family is spending a lot much money this cruise with multiple cabins for all of us, we really want some assurances from RCCL that our Alaska cruise on the Ovation will be more like the Adventure of the Seas experience (not a mask in sight, even with kids onboard), and not more like Disneyland pre-June 25th (where everyone had to wear masks just in case). We definitely don't want to deny those families with children the amazing experience of visiting Alaska on Royal Caribbean; we just don't want them to ruin the cruise for everyone else. Normally, this wouldn't be a problem because those who are vaccinated would just go about their business unmasked, enjoying their 67-95% protection against COVID, while the unvaccinated who all tested negative for COVID prior to the cruise could go about their business as well. No drama. But these protocols RCCL released raise a spectre of promoting arguments between vaccinated and unvaccinated guests, unfairly limiting vaccinated passengers' enjoyment based on a very low risk that an unvaccinated passenger who tested negative actually has COVID, and relying on security theater instead of common-sense prevention. I truly hope these aggressive protocols were drafted just to placate the CDC, but when implemented will have no impact on the actual cruise.
  14. Celebrity cancelled our April 30th Alaska cruise, and I had my travel agent request a refund way back in March. Yesterday, I finally got a refund, but it was about $2,000 short, and the credit card showed the merchant as "Royal Caribbean" instead of "Celebrity." (I realize it's essentially the same company, but when I booked it, my credit card statement showed "Celebrity" for the charge, not RCCL.) I've called my travel agent to work this out. There's nothing in the booking that would account for the refund being $2,000 short. Celebrity cancelled it, so there shouldn't be any penalty. And I didn't book any shore excursions, so there aren't any additional charges. The travel insurance was only about $700, so even that doesn't account for the difference. (And since Celebrity cancelled the cruise, the insurance should be refunded as it was never "activated" because the trip never began.)
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