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Strategy for upcoming bookings in Caribbean?


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I think SD is counting on the European travelers to fill their Caribbean bookings. I guess we are expected to just put up with the added inconvenience and expense or wait and hope that the more northern islands start to feel the economic pinch on their travel industry and start to relax their border restrictions and SD to re-figure its itineraries.

Currently, since our favorite islands seem to be out, we are now seriously considering cashing in our "floating" week.  I fear being caught flat-footed in case of restructuring, bankruptcy, etc.

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If any of you are elderly, like Jim, you should hold off cruising until you are vaccinated.  All signs seem to point to the vaccine trials going well, so there may be an “October Surprise” emergency approval for one or more vaccines.  It may take a few months after that for the vaccine to be generally available.  First-responders and the elderly will get first dibs on the early batches, with luck in Nov/Dec, then the the just plain old like ol’ Ragnar, say around Feb/Mar, then the spring chickens will get the shot in the spring.  This is all wild speculation on my part, based only what I read in the news. YMMV....

 

Once the prime cruising demo folks get vaccinated, cruise bookings will go off the charts, along with cruise line stock prices.  And this may happen before the vaccine is widely available, in anticipation.  We just booked a June Alaska cruise, betting we will be vaccinated by then.  The cruise line allows you to cancel up to 24 hrs before the cruise, so we are comfortable booking now.  And that cruise is almost sold out!

 

 

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We all share the frustration of not being able to travel when and where we wish as we all have been blessed to do for so long, especially on SeaDream.  We had to cancel three SD trips just for 2020.

 

I would point out that it isn’t SeaDream’s fault they can’t go to the northern Caribbean islands that many of us enjoy.  Those places are off limits for several reasons, including the decisions of those governments not wanting to deal with the relatively high rate of infection in the USA and other countries.  While they welcome and depend on tourism, they are largely not well off and can’t afford the hit to their weak health care systems if cruise ship tourists spread COVID.

 

The other problem is that St. Thomas and/or San Juan are the logical end points for voyages to those northern islands.  (Not sure how accessible St. Maarten is these days?).  The CDC ban on cruise ships operating out of US ports is likely to be extended.  So even if those islands wanted SD to come visit, or make an exception for SD given the small numbers and high end clientele, the US Government is standing in the way of using the logical nearby ports, no?

 

Sadly, while we are in Florida and could get a nonstop flight to Barbados, we share the frustration with the hassle factor of getting up to three COVID tests, which I’m told can be quite painful in addition to being difficult to arrange stateside for the first test, at least here.

 

Finally, for those who were also on the webinar, which was a good idea to hold, nothing was said explicitly as I recall as to whether the Barbados plan is for one ship or both ships.  I am assuming only one unless bookings would justify the second vessel.  The “one ship first” approach is consistent with what crew were told as they started to be sent home (the first wave happened when SD had to downsize crew and guests per recent Norwegian limits).  That is also how it worked in Norway per Andreas on the Zoom call.

 

As always, any and all insights are most welcome given the many experts on this thread!

 

Best to all ... be safe and stay healthy.  One of these days we can say a toast at the TOY Bar.

 

 

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Regarding testing, both my husband and I have had tests.  I needed a negative test pre-colonoscopy and he had one before a scheduled trip.   Both were simple, painless nasal swabs.  Not the back of the brain swab I was so nervous about.  My test was a three day response and his was same day.   He called the nurse practitioner in town and she wrote him a Rx that he took to our local hospital.   Easy, quick, email results.   And we live in rural Alabama in a town of 3500.  
so I don’t foresee getting a test pre Barbados to be an issue other than added stress.  
We went ahead and booked an additional week onto our November 2020 trip this morning.   I’ll be the guinea pig and report back in December!

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A little story about flying to Barbados:  A few years ago we booked a flight from LAX to Barbados using AA miles, in first.  We had a direct flight to Miami and then the one from there to Barbados.  The flights were all to be on 737s.  While first in the 737 is better than coach, its not even as nice as business on a transocean flight.

 

Well, a few weeks before the flight I got an automated email from AA saying there was an equipment change on the LAX to MIA leg.  The seat numbers were similar to what we had reserved so I didn’t think much of the change.  Much to our delight, they had swapped a three class 777 for the original 737 and they put us in the true international first cabin!  Our “offices in the sky” were huge, Mrs D looked, and felt, like royalty 🙂  The service was impeccable, it seemed like we had our own flight attendant.  She stopped to chat, made sure our glasses were always full, etc.  The food was great.  It was awesome!

 

However, the 737 to Barbados was old and shabby, the food marginal (at best),  the flight attendants mostly absent, and there was no entertainment system.  Then customs at Barbados at 10pm at night was slower than cold molasses....

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Nice flight Ragnar.  Win some, lose some.  It is truly amazing the difference in experiences between aircraft (and airlines) for the same route.  And all for usually the same cost.  And I agree with you about the 737.  "F/C" on a 737 hardly means First Class, It just means Front Cabin....😎

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All I know is the BVI's are shut down and have been since March and if the numbers don't go down (some locals have been arriving illegally from St Thomas where the numbers have increased dramatically) then they are going to go to 100% lockdown for residents.  Currently there is a $1,000 fine for not wearing a mask (I talk to Mic ex Soggy Dollar Mic) frequently.  

 

I personally don't see them opening anytime soon.

 

ps:  USVI also currently on "no tourists" until September 19th - we reopened in June and then locked down 2 weeks ago due to increasing numbers and once we reopen you do need a negative Covid test if you are arriving from a hotspot within 5 days of arriving

 

 

 

Edited by Piaa
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Some encouraging news on the vaccine front.  Interestingly, this doesn’t show up on any US news service, but has wide coverage outside the US...

 


It is not directly applicable to the US, but does indicate that similar home-grown vaccines are likely to be effective. And provides precedence for emergency approval of vaccines that demonstrate early safety and effectiveness.

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PS - Though this CNN article did not show up in a Google search, I found it using CNN’s search tool in their Asia news section:

 

https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/26/asia/sinovac-coronavirus-china-vaccine-intl-hnk/index.html


With all this vaccine news, I’m feeling a bit more confident about our June cruise.  Perhaps the cruise lines will require proof of vaccination to come aboard?

Edited by Ragnar Danneskjold
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This continues to be a difficult situation.  We all pray daily here and no doubt others do elsewhere that we find a vaccine - and soon, for so many reasons.  The catch is that emergency authorization and determining safety and effectiveness are often in conflict.  While I’m no medical expert, I’ve spoken to as many as I can and read what others have said.  Thankfully the major pharmaceutical companies have pledged not to rush, but we all know about the political pressures to do so.  Polling suggests a majority of Americans are wary of any vaccine that is rushed.  The NYTimes had a timely reminder this week about what can happen when vaccines are rushed, based on the complicated mess that ensued when President Ford rushed the vaccine for the swine flu back in the 1970s.  This may be different because back then they rushed it before the swine flu had spread much beyond Fort Dix, NJ.  Today the COVID-19 virus has spread all over the country and indeed the planet.  Hopefully the vaccine makers will let the science determine when one is truly safe and effective so we can avoid false hope and move forward reliably and safely.

 

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Just to clarify, I can only speak for myself and  I’m not alleging anything.  The question is how not whether to determine safety and effectiveness, at what point in the approval process, and who makes the decision.  

 

We all want a vaccine but public acceptance of an approved vaccine is critical for it to be used in sufficient numbers to allow cruises and other travel to resume in large numbers.  Yet again today polling shows a large majority not eager to get one soon, preferring instead to wait and see how it goes once the first vaccine is available and others have gotten it first.

 

There is out in the open an honest debate as to whether or not a vaccine should go through full Phase 3 human trials, or whether to go to “emergency use” approval sooner.  This debate has roots back decades including the original AIDS crisis. Good arguments can be made for various ways to balance the risks and equities.  The developers have pledged a full process, which is reassuring to all of us who wish to travel on SD and otherwise as soon as we can!

 

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Ragnar, clearing customs at BGI has vastly improved.  When we arrived this past December, the flight attendants didn't know why they didn't have landing cards for us.  Well, the reason was that everyone now just scans the passport at a kiosk, and there were a bunch of them.  Of course, waiting for your luggage is another story.  And trying to get to the Hilton on New Year's Eve is a real ordeal.

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22 hours ago, JES4845 said:

 

Just to clarify, I can only speak for myself and  I’m not alleging anything.  The question is how not whether to determine safety and effectiveness, at what point in the approval process, and who makes the decision.  

 

We all want a vaccine but public acceptance of an approved vaccine is critical for it to be used in sufficient numbers to allow cruises and other travel to resume in large numbers.  Yet again today polling shows a large majority not eager to get one soon, preferring instead to wait and see how it goes once the first vaccine is available and others have gotten it first.

 

There is out in the open an honest debate as to whether or not a vaccine should go through full Phase 3 human trials, or whether to go to “emergency use” approval sooner.  This debate has roots back decades including the original AIDS crisis. Good arguments can be made for various ways to balance the risks and equities.  The developers have pledged a full process, which is reassuring to all of us who wish to travel on SD and otherwise as soon as we can!

 


I’d bet the 189,733 Americans that have died of COVID wished they had gotten an emergency use vaccine, while they were drowning on their own fluids.

 

Every day the vaccine is delayed means hundreds more Americans will die.  Got it?  Saving so many lives will be worth potentially a few people getting ill from side effects.

Edited by Ragnar Danneskjold
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I called SD yesterday because I have a floating week that I would love to use. I enquired as to the current itineraries and when they plan to change them and was told that the website itineraries (unchanged) are still those planned and taking reservations.  I was looking at a cruise in late November, which went to the BVI (closed), St. Kitts/Nevis (closed), USVI (closed), etc.  I would need to pay IN FULL now for a trip that I know will not be going where it says it's going.  If the Southern islands (Barbados/Barbados) are going to be the new destination, as has been intimated, why not say so now and avoid accusations of misleading your loyal customers?  Why would someone sign up for trips that are probably changing and soon, too?  Of course, you'll "be entitled to a refund".

(BTW, I was also told that both ships are doing the Caribbean, but who knows, really?) 

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1 hour ago, cabosal1 said:

I called SD yesterday because I have a floating week that I would love to use. I enquired as to the current itineraries and when they plan to change them and was told that the website itineraries (unchanged) are still those planned and taking reservations.  I was looking at a cruise in late November, which went to the BVI (closed), St. Kitts/Nevis (closed), USVI (closed), etc.  I would need to pay IN FULL now for a trip that I know will not be going where it says it's going.  If the Southern islands (Barbados/Barbados) are going to be the new destination, as has been intimated, why not say so now and avoid accusations of misleading your loyal customers?  Why would someone sign up for trips that are probably changing and soon, too?  Of course, you'll "be entitled to a refund".

(BTW, I was also told that both ships are doing the Caribbean, but who knows, really?) 

Our current decision is actually to do the itineraries listed on our website. If not we would have taken them away. On our call last week we invited many of you a bit behind the scenes on what our current thinking is and that we think operating in Barbados could be a better decision. But it is not yet a decision. Opening up like we did last week is a bit dangerous because it may cause confusion. And having a "live" call was also a bit risky, for instance we were surprised by a guest who asked about a refund that was overdue (I actually misunderstood the guest slightly - and the refund was issued the same day it requested on August 20th, but I wasn't able to get that information quickly enough on the live call to respond right away). I still hope we did the right thing by opening up a bit.

 

There are many good things happening these days in most of Caribbean. In some ways it is a bit like Norway these days: things are going well, then something happens and we shut down (for instance a city), then we open up again a few weeks later. I actually consider this to be a good thing because it shows how seriously Norway, and in this case, most Caribbean islands take the situation. The other good thing is testing: more and more islands have access to test kits, a better understanding of testing and more plans for how to deal with when bad things happen. Because until there is a vaccine one thing is certain: what WHO has said since early this year about testing, testing and more testing together with quarantining and social distancing is the solution until there is a successful vaccine and a certain population level has become immune. 

 

Are both ships doing the Caribbean? There is no change there either. If there is a change, we hope to announce it late this week or early next week. The truth is that we are working on many different scenarios, including the ones that are currently decided. These are not easy decisions for sure and believe me; we are working as hard and quick as we can 24/7. We share the frustration that many of you feel these days. Uncertainty and slow decisions are not something any of us want. 

 

I fully understand that it may sound strange that we are collecting payments on voyages that may potentially not happen. But until we actually make a change - if we do - we need to proceed with the direction decided. I apologise that this may not make sense, but without going into all the inner workings of our booking system and internal routines I just kindly ask for your understanding.


 

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Thanks to all of you that joined us last week for our live session. I originally planned on having fewer people join, but then we decided to also send out emails and we had more than 800 people join us live. It was amazing that so many of you joined us! So we will hopefully do more of this in the future, but will perhaps try to have smaller groups so that it becomes more of a meeting where everyone can speak as opposed to a webinar. It was live and the questions we took were from random participants so it was a bit risky, but I think it went fairly well. Here is a link to a recording of the event:

 

https://seadre.am/32dep33

 

We have - rightfully so - been criticised this year for not communicating enough and this was an attempt at addressing this. What we do here is not perfect, but my goal here was to at least try something new that we have not done before. I am very open to feedback on how we can get better - and of course of this is something we should do again. 

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8 minutes ago, andreas_seadream said:

I am very open to feedback on how we can get better - and of course of this is something we should do again. 

 

Andreas, what you all are doing is fantastic and a huge improvement over past practice.  Please do keep communicating and being transparent.  I for one (and I expect just about everybody else) appreciate it greatly.  Yes, by all means, more live sessions as circumstances dictate will be most welcome.

 

On another note, I have unfortunately received 2 refunds lately and I would like to give credit where due.  The credits were posted much more quickly than promised and expected and in fact much quicker than in pre-COVID days.   That also is much appreciated.

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Andreas... I agree with ctbjr1309 above.  The communication is outstanding and is a definite improvement.  Even if you don't have all of the answers and the decisions are still not firm, the communication is very much appreciated.  We all realize that some things are "up in the air, and are out of your control." And you need to make a good business decision for your company, and consider your guests as you do so.   Credit to you and to the company for keeping us informed.  And I hope that you read and review the question and suggestions that were made in the written comments that we sent in.  A personal response would be appreciated.    

 

We love SeaDream, and hope to be back onboard soon; although it may not be until a vaccine is approved and effective.   

Edited by BeignetBoy
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A couple of weeks of SeaDream in the Caribbean, if we can do it like we all remember doing, would go a long way towards returning to "normal".   Not much better anywhere than hanging out on Jost waiting for the Noon Whistle...😎

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