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About Me

  • Location
    Ottawa, ON, Canada
  • Interests
    Archeology, history, snorkeling, marine life & wildlife, food & wine, independent & solo travel
  • Favorite Cruise Line(s)
    Celebrity, Azamara
  • Favorite Cruise Destination Or Port of Call
    Pacific, Med, Alaska

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  1. Sad. Glad to have cruised b2b on the Journey last January & February. This sale to an equity firm like Sycamore does not bode well for the future of the brand, but then neither did its future course with RCL... sigh.
  2. Not usually, especially since we have rims for each set. It used to be that only cop cars would go without wheel covers, now many of us don’t bother... 😏
  3. We are right smack in the highest contagion zone in Ontario (Ottawa). Our wastewater is tested and shows a six-fold increase since last week. Test results now take 3-5 days, so our numbers should be frighteningly high within a couple of days. Our critical care beds are already over capacity. It’s not pretty. Gatherings remain the major issue. My 20-something neighbours are still gathering with their friends to party in the wee hours. And meanwhile, Bill and I have been back to being total shut-ins for the foreseeable future. Ughhh!! 😡🤬 Had to tell my mom (who also lives in a “red”zone) that no one could visit her during last week-end’s Thanksgiving holiday, and that we probably will not be able to travel to see her at Christmas either, as that involves an overnight at a hotel in the winter months. — Summer we can do the five-hour return drive easily the same day, but not in winter darkness and rough driving conditions. There’s a blatant genetal disregard for sanitary protocols, like mask wearing and distancing, where she lives. Being a shut-in is especially hard on her, as she lives alone. At least here, Bill and the cats are good company, and we have a big enough place to provide us with decent space when we want to retreat to quiet... no wonder house sales are booming here now!
  4. I agree, the Tasman Sea doesn’t care who is sailing on her at the time... 😉 I mentioned it because the OP seemed to put an emphasis on the ports-of-call, as being a significant criteria for his choice.
  5. One caveat, the weather may force the Captain to deviate from the itinerary, should a storm come up in the Tasman Sea (known to be wicked!) This happened to our Azamara cruise (Feb. 2020) so we entirely missed Hobart, Tasmania, as well as the fjord in NZ.
  6. Making the rounds on FB, so I cannot properly credit the author... it kinda reflects a bit the coming months, as the weather turns colder: I won’t arise and go now, and go to Innisfree I’ll sanitise the doorknob and make a cup of tea. I won’t go down to the sea again, I won’t go out at all, I’ll wander lonely as a cloud from the kitchen to the hall. There’s a green-eyed yellow monster to the north of Katmandu But I shan’t be seeing him just yet and nor, I think will you. While the dawn comes up like thunder on the road to Mandalay I’ll make my bit of supper and eat it off a tray. I shall not speed my bonnie boat across the sea to Skye Or take the rolling English road from Birmingham to Rye. About the woodland, just right now, I am not free to go To see the Keep Out posters or the cherry hung with snow And no, I won’t be travelling much, within the realms of gold. Or get me to Milford Haven. All that’s been put on hold. Give me your hands, I shan’t request, albeit we are friends Nor come within a mile of you, until this s*h*i*t show ends. .
  7. Regarding the Port of Safaga, if you’re a scuba diver, there are some really good dive sites accessible from there (both shallow and spectacular deep wall), where you can see some of the best of the Red Sea’s pelagics, soft corals, gorgonias, and the ubiquitous Napoleons who check you out. I was lucky enough to spend some extended time along that coast and got to dive Elphinstone. 🙂
  8. The way that French Polynesia is doing it is that the testing on the eve of boarding is the 3rd test. On this one topic, I agree with Jazzbeau, with one MAJOR caveat: This set of protocols may only work for French Polynesia, because of the particular set of advantages that comes with being more of a “niche market” type of travel destination. But it’s definitely one to watch... and any hopes may be completely dashed if this one passenger infected others, as we may see in the next 10 days or so.
  9. As for Azamara, I think that the brand would have much to learn from the Gauguin’s protocols and French Polynesia’s approach. However, it seems like this kind of corporate policy would be decided higher up by RCL, and likely limited to what can be rolled out across all the brands instead. Personally, I think that Azamara could shine in a cruising environment where COVID-19 remains a cyclical part of public health for a longish while to come. Can you imagine having a brand differentiation between Celebrity and Azamara which would include the same “Covid-free” small-ship marketing that French Polynesia is striving to project as a destination?
  10. That’s exactly correct about the viral load’s detectability and the reliability of testing before travel. The articles had not mentioned that, so I did not add it in. Also, the media keeps referring to the young person as being “asymptomatic”, rather than the likely more accurate pre- or mildly-symptomatic (like headache or tiredness attributed to jetlag.) I think that the most significant take-away right now from this incident is the absolute importance of 100% compliance, with the required sanitary protocols to minimize risk. With the Hurtigruten apology, combined with the compliance angle... it currently does not look good for mass market cruising. I’m sure that titatinium-clad legal waivers are furiously being crafted right now to cover all levels of who/what the industry touches. The one encouraging thing is that French Polynesia is *willing* to approach having cruise ships in its waters, with a measured, adaptable, and science-driven policy.
  11. An update on the Paul Gauguin: More detailed (and well balanced) info is now available in local media: https://www.radio1.pf/paul-gauguin-les-passagers-en-septaine-a-terre-le-protocole-sanitaire-renforce/ https://www.tahiti-infos.com/Les-passagers-du-Gauguin-debarques-et-confines_a193190.html None of the other passengers and crew tested positive from Sunday’s testing, and they have been allowed to start to disembark the Gauguin Monday night. Here, IMO, are the salient facts to note: The infected passenger is a 22-year-old travelling with her mother. They arrived from the States last Sunday, before boarding on Thursday. They’d been diligently following the mandatory masking and social distancing protocols, and were also diligent about doing the required self-test and dropping it off as instructed. They 100% complied with all of the conditions that were imposed on their travel and their cruise -- they did their part to mitigate risk. The requirement for a test to be done 72 hours before boarding the departure flight is not perfect - but we all knew that already. It’s acknowledged that she could have easily been infected in the interval, or that it could have been a false-negative. The required self-test done 4 days after arrival did its job. However, it did not prevent her from embarking the ship. Because of this, a 3rd test on the eve of embarkation is now going to be required, administered by the authorities. The sanitary protocols onboard ship were strictly adhered to, and worked. Tracing identified 24 ‘at risk’ crew and passengers that had been in contact with the pair (out of 340.) The pair’s shoreside day on Bora-Bora, with the use of a rental car and a stop at a restaurant, as well as their time in Tahiti, could reliably be contact-traced as well. The authorities expressed confidence in their testing, tracing and isolating policy. They feel that the E.T.I.S. system (https://www.etis.pf/en/), that they have put in place to manage the health screening and monitoring of the tourists on the islands, functioned as intended. They felt that the risk of exposure had been minimal (not zero.) All passengers and crew that tested negative must now adhere to a 7-day quarantine, to end with retesting to done at the end of this period. The monitored ‘confinement’ must be done at home for the residents, or in designated accommodation for the other passengers. All had to sign an ‘honour-bound’ quarantine compliance agreement. Passengers who live on Tahiti were the first to be allowed to disembark and go directly home on Monday night. Residents of the other islands are expected to disembark to return home today. The crew shall remain onboard. The interesting thing about all of this is that this incident has happened in a “closed environment” of sorts - with French Polynesia being essentially free of community transmission. What remains to be watched, especially in the next 7-10 days, is if the islands remain cluster-free, and if none of the passengers and crew return a positive result when retested in 7 days. This could bring hope that some cruising can safely resume. It can also highlight a definite advantage for the smaller ships cruising model. 🙂
  12. https://www.tahiti-infos.com/Test-Covid-positif-confirme-pour-la-touriste-americaine-sur-le-Paul-Gauguin_a193149.html It’s now been confirmed that the infected passenger is one of a few Americans who travelled earlier in the week to Papeete to board the cruise. She was tested negative 3 days before she left the U.S.. She was probably infected 0-5 days before leaving home. She could have been in contact with an infected person at a grocery store, or doing last minute running around as we all do before a trip. She could have been infected at LAX. Who knows... with the U.S. having uncontrolled COVID-19 community transmission, it’s really not important where or how she came in contact with the virus before arriving in French Polynesia. However, it will matter to the French authorities, and to every other country who is considering allowing American tourists to return, that she very likely arrived already infected and pre-symptomatic before her second test was done. Almost all of the ship’s passengers right now are residents of French Polynesia, which has literally been COVID-free for weeks, after having very few cases to begin with. Many onboard went to visit family members on Bora Bora. Some are literally just a couple of kms from home, stuck on the ship in Papeete right now, who at best will need to strictly self-isolate for 14 days if they are allowed to disembark in the next day or so and return to their homes. Island nations do not have the medical resources to respond to large outbreaks. Tahiti has a large hospital, Bora Bora does not. Returning residents who go back to their homes on other islands than Tahiti, and those exposed residents and locals who may later develop a positive test or symptoms, or draw a losing ticket and become very sick with COVID, may not have easy access to adequate care. I really hope that the testing and containment was enacted quickly enough; that this passenger was not one of the rare “superspreaders”; that local contact tracing does its job well; that no community transmission takes hold because of this (as is feared in Norway); that everyone else onboard tests negative today; and are allowed to disembark quickly and go home to self-isolate (residents) or go into quarantine (tourists who will eventually need to travel home.) On a positive note, her cabin-sharing family member tested negative again on Sunday, so if all else goes well, this could be a positive event in showing what can work in a manageable way.
  13. And another one... one COVID case amongst the passengers of the Gauguin. https://www.rfi.fr/fr/asie-pacifique/20200803-cas-coronavirus-confirmé-à-bord-dun-bateau-croisière-en-polynésie-française https://www.pgcruises.com/travel-advisory The Paul Gauguin (Ponant) restarted with international passengers on July 29, with a 10-day out of Papeete that left last Thursday. French Polynesia reopened to tourists on flights from Europe and the U.S. on July 15th, without a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Required was a negative COVID test done 3 days before departure, followed by a self-administered test to be done 4 days after arrival. This was controlled by the Gauguin and passengers were also subject to a health screen at embarkation. It’s this combined protocol that I’ve been watching closely... According to currently more detailed French media reports, the ship had a mix of residents and tourists onboard. It was a tourist that came up positive via that follow-up screen (not a crew member.). The ship returned to Papeete, where the infected passenger and her cabin-sharing relative were retested again and taken into quarantine off-ship. Passengers remain confined to their cabins onboard, were all retested on Sunday, and an announcement should be made later today as to what will be done next. Bora Bora had not had any COVID cases at all up to now, but all passengers disembarked for the day... so full contact tracing is expected to be done, according to one of the French media articles that I read. This incident will have interesting ramifications: IF they hold all passengers and crew in quarantine for 14 days AND no new positives emerge, then this two-fold “early detection” strategy can work in reopening some more regional cruising sooner rather than later. If not, then we really can’t hope for an early phased restart.
  14. Regarding the upcoming South Africa / South America 2020-21 cruising season: it’s not going to happen. The WHO and John Hopkins Center this week included this assessment in their reports: “The pandemic has been ongoing for more than 6 months and continues to accelerate”, and “After several weeks of maintaining low levels of transmission, several countries around the world are facing legitimate second waves of COVID-19.” Meanwhile, a significant enough segment of American society refuses to accept measures to prevent community transmission and protect their neighbours, by refusing to wear masks and respect social distancing. Borders could easily remain closed to U.S. citizens well into 2021, if a paradigm shift about this virus does not occur in the States soon. Too much is being banked on the concept of “herd immunity” or the hope of a vaccine coming soon, IMO... and we haven’t even yet seen the extent of the anti-vaxx opposition that is brewing on BOTH sides of the pond. 🙄 At this point in time, we’re not even looking at the economic downturn on the tourism industry as a whole either. Plus, it seems that most of us are still taking for granted the easy access (cost and frequency) to cruising ports by air. Then there’s the changes in the insurability for cruising that will be inevitably coming down the pipeline - not good for the clients for sure! ($$$) Some of the fall-outs will be short/medium range, but some will have lasting effects. I can only see limited close-to-home-ports itineraries in Azamara’s future, if they manage to sail again in 2021.
  15. I don’t think that new itineraries for 2022 will be published any time soon.
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