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Live blog of first voyage of Flora in the Galapagos, post pandemic


DrKoob
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Okay, I'm going to weigh in on this PCR issue.  I've been posting on the Xpedition thread, and will copy this to that forum.  This is our 3rd attempt to cruise Xp (canceled for Xp grounding, then covid).  I had 3 phone discussions with Celebrity re: PCR test, with the last very frustrating and disappointing.

 

I first called my Cb travel planner in late spring, when a neg PCR was required 96 hours prior to Gp arrival.  I was concerned with the logistics, given the extra touring day in Quito, and the possible technical issues with obtaining results from testing facilities (eg,CVS, W'greens, Yale testing centers) who send results to secure health portals, that may not be accessible in foreign countries.  (since then, I've been advised to use VPNs to work around this issue).  My TP was very helpful, contacted the Gp desk, who offered that if necessary they would help with acquiring testing in Quito if I had difficulty with getting my results, or even offering to use their VPN on their laptops.  "Don't worry, Celebrity is there to support you!"

 

Fast forward to last week, just prior to the official change in the entrance requirement of needing a neg PCR test, now down to 72 hours from 96 hours!  I called the Gp desk directly, and once I started asking questions about the pending need for PCR test, he abruptly directed me to the Health Protocol department to answer those questions.  Did not/could not answer any Gp cruise questions  relating to covid health issues. The health rep basically stated that Celebrity would do everything that was stated in the Cb "Travel Requirements for Gp cruises", which at that time noted a complimentary rapid antigen test prior to arrival to Baltra.  When I mentioned that a neg PCR test was soon to be required, and that I was concerned about the logistics, she stated that Celebrity would continue to support and offer whatever testing was needed, and refer to the Travel requirement website for updated information.

 

Now this morning,  I called Gp desk directly again.  Again, got abruptly booted to the Health Protocol dept, when asked about PCR test, saying that health dept could answer any questions about the Gp cruise and testing.   I asked health rep re: the 72 hour vs 3-day question, emphasizing that the Ecuadorean state department stipulates the 72 hour window.  The rep said testing any time 3 days before was ok.  So do I believe him??   I also asked him when exactly would that test result have to be presented - prior to boarding Baltra flight or on arrival at Baltra?  Well, the health rep wanted to redirect me back to the Gp desk for the answer to that question,  just after the Gp desk sent me to the health dept to answer ANY question relating to Gp and health!!  UGH!   The health rep did say that digital format of the test result would be acceptable, ie, one does not need a printed copy of the test result, but to have copy of the pdf on one's smartphone (again, do I believe him?).

 

Final question to the health rep, explaining the potential logistics of getting test results, given the extra day of Quito touring, possible technical difficulties, potential test delays as covid cases  continue to increase, etc, etc,  would Celebrity help SUPPORT its passengers in Quito if there were a problem.  Would Cb be able to offer a backup option, ie, provide access to testing, (even if we had to pay for it), just to make sure its passengers weren't stranded due to lack of test results, even though it had promised or at least represented to me repeatedly, in prior conversations, that it would do so?  Answer - no, Celebrity has no back up option, no support at this time.

 

Sorry for the ranting, but Celebrity dropped the ball on this one BIG TIME!  Very disappointed.  Agree with kent4489, Celebrity should be ashamed of themselves.  

 

 

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DrKoob, thank you again for the e-mail address. I got a response withing 2 hours! See update below.

 

Savethepandas, exactly, I was getting no where with anyone about this. I've been so stressed out about this. (Yes, I know traveling during a pandemic isn't easy, that part I was prepared for. I wasn't prepared to be treated this way, especially after spending $20k.) But read on... there is hope.

 

My update: I just received a call from Celebrity (from Resolutions and she was nice and helpful). She said Celebrity will provide our complimentary PCR test after arrival in Quito. I asked if the results were guaranteed to get back in time and she said yes. I then asked her to e-mail confirmation of this so that I have it in writing. She said yes and I have received this. But, it is only stating complimentary PCR test in Quito. Not that the results are guaranteed to be back in time.

I'm not fighting it anymore as I want to now get my mind in vacation mode. I already have a testing appointment in Miami for Thursday afternoon and they will give me a paper copy of our results (30 minutes) in addition to e-mail. My husband and I are going to go ahead and keep the appointment to be on the safe side. For our peace of mind. The $371. is worth it at this point. We'll still have the test in Quito just to see if they follow through and do indeed get the results back in time. 

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25 minutes ago, kent4489 said:

DrKoob, thank you again for the e-mail address. I got a response withing 2 hours! See update below.

 

Savethepandas, exactly, I was getting no where with anyone about this. I've been so stressed out about this. (Yes, I know traveling during a pandemic isn't easy, that part I was prepared for. I wasn't prepared to be treated this way, especially after spending $20k.) But read on... there is hope.

 

My update: I just received a call from Celebrity (from Resolutions and she was nice and helpful). She said Celebrity will provide our complimentary PCR test after arrival in Quito. I asked if the results were guaranteed to get back in time and she said yes. I then asked her to e-mail confirmation of this so that I have it in writing. She said yes and I have received this. But, it is only stating complimentary PCR test in Quito. Not that the results are guaranteed to be back in time.

I'm not fighting it anymore as I want to now get my mind in vacation mode. I already have a testing appointment in Miami for Thursday afternoon and they will give me a paper copy of our results (30 minutes) in addition to e-mail. My husband and I are going to go ahead and keep the appointment to be on the safe side. For our peace of mind. The $371. is worth it at this point. We'll still have the test in Quito just to see if they follow through and do indeed get the results back in time. 

You all are traveling to a third world country, lots of risks and safety challenges involved.  I know you already know this and from what you have been posting over and over and over again, you feel celebrity dropped the ball, maybe but I’m not in your shoes.  You decided to do this during a pandemic, which you had every right to do.  Tons of current cruisers posting very positive experiences of their celebrity cruises right now.  Albeit in different part of the world.  You knew the chances you were taking when you booked.  Hope all is resolved for you.

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The perils of travel during a pandemic.   This travel is against the advice of the U.S. government so you are on your own.   You must expect changes until your board your flight and most likely before you return home.    On Celebrity you will also be sailing with unvaccinated passengers unlike other lines.   Good luck with your decision to travel and stop blaming Celebrity and the governments of the countries or our try you will visit for changes I. Health protocols.

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LGW and Covepoint….
 

Unlike other cruises, Ecuador/Galapagos requires vaccination, so this cruise is 100% vaccinated. The crew is 95% Ecuadorian and the crew is required to be 100% vaccinated. Please know the facts before you blast those of us going on this cruise. 
 

I acknowledged that traveling during a pandemic has its issues. I may be taking a chance traveling, but I did not think I was taking a chance by paying for a package which assured me that they would handle the details. No, I am not on my own when I purchased from a reputable Cruise company a package that I was specifically told would include any required testing. And yes, there might be changes. I paid for the protection of Celebrity handling it. Believe me, I asked every question before booking and was assured time and time again that we have nothing to worry about.  My point all along has been that Celebrity assured me that they will provide the testing we are required to have. Yes, I’m willing to take the risk to go. I’m not arguing that point. I just want the travel operator (Celebrity)to fulfill what they sold me. No more, no less. And now, finally, they are stepping up to the plate. Not sure it would have happened had I not pressed the issue. And it’s been stressful to deal with when we’re leaving in 2 days. I sent a very detailed email, showing proof of what they assured me that I was getting. I did point out the fact that we don’t even know what time our flight is departing Quito. Obviously, they have now informed us. 

 

SHIPSTER, yes, we can now go with more confidence. I will definitely let you know how it goes. 😀

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14 hours ago, kent4489 said:

LGW and Covepoint….
 

Unlike other cruises, Ecuador/Galapagos requires vaccination, so this cruise is 100% vaccinated. The crew is 95% Ecuadorian and the crew is required to be 100% vaccinated. Please know the facts before you blast those of us going on this cruise. 
 

I acknowledged that traveling during a pandemic has its issues. I may be taking a chance traveling, but I did not think I was taking a chance by paying for a package which assured me that they would handle the details. No, I am not on my own when I purchased from a reputable Cruise company a package that I was specifically told would include any required testing. And yes, there might be changes. I paid for the protection of Celebrity handling it. Believe me, I asked every question before booking and was assured time and time again that we have nothing to worry about.  My point all along has been that Celebrity assured me that they will provide the testing we are required to have. Yes, I’m willing to take the risk to go. I’m not arguing that point. I just want the travel operator (Celebrity)to fulfill what they sold me. No more, no less. And now, finally, they are stepping up to the plate. Not sure it would have happened had I not pressed the issue. And it’s been stressful to deal with when we’re leaving in 2 days. I sent a very detailed email, showing proof of what they assured me that I was getting. I did point out the fact that we don’t even know what time our flight is departing Quito. Obviously, they have now informed us. 

 

SHIPSTER, yes, we can now go with more confidence. I will definitely let you know how it goes. 😀

Thanks, kent4489 for your comments.

 

I did note that statement regarding PCR testing if needed in Quito for 10+ night packaged passengers is now added to the "Galapagos Travel Requirements as of Sept 1 2021"   

https://www.celebritycruises.com/healthy-at-sea/galapagos-travel-requirements

 

The updated statement further clarifies the 72 hour vs 3-day issue, with the former being the exact policy.   Good to see that Celebrity provided the exact boarding time of the Baltra flight.  

 

We continue to gather data, ask questions, and monitor the situation in both the US and Ecuador.  We are not approaching this cruise without careful thought and preparation, during this pandemic.  We even hope/expect to be receiving the booster shots, given the CDC guidance, before our sailing.  Meanwhile, Ecuador continues to do well with its vaccination program, with 62% eligible getting at least one dose, and just about 50% fully vaccinated (including 100% adult pop of Galapagos), as of recent data.  Covid cases averaging about 14/100K, which is so much better than many places in the US.  With the occurrence of a few delta cases in the Gp, reinstating the need for a neg PCR test for Gp entrance, was certainly warranted to protect the residents (absolutely NO blame to the Ecuadorean government!).  We will do our very best to comply with the PCR requirement, but happy to see that Celebrity is now providing testing support on the Quito side, if needed.  FYI, a quick survey of other Galapagos cruise/travel companies (Abercombie/Kent, Adventure Smith Explorations, Lindblad Expeditions, Galapagos Travel in CA) revealed their assistance in arranging testing, if needed by travelers to fulfill the PCR test requirement.  Happy to see Celebrity on par with fellow travel companies. 

 

Our backup plan, if things really turn sour due to delta or other variant, will be to postpone til March 2022.   But for now, cautiously proceeding...  Happy sailing!

 

 

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Savethepandas, you're welcome. Yes, I pointed out to the agent that called that we didn't even know our departure time from Quito and told her it was 72 hours, not 3 days. Otherwise, I'm not sure they would have been so specific in the update. Hopefully, we will all be able to enjoy this beautiful place as planned. We're getting excited! 

 

DrKoob, thank you for this post and your blog. You posted so much helpful information. (I apologize that it got a little off topic yesterday.) 

Edited by kent4489
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On 8/31/2021 at 9:04 AM, Abbeydd said:

I tried to google Jim Bellomo but there were so many options.  Which is the blog about your Flora Galapagos trip so I can narrow it down.  Thanks!

 

It's the very first one. It says Author: Jim Bellomo Then just go back to the last day of June and read forward. 

 

Jim

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17 hours ago, Covepointcruiser said:

The perils of travel during a pandemic.   This travel is against the advice of the U.S. government so you are on your own.   You must expect changes until your board your flight and most likely before you return home.    On Celebrity you will also be sailing with unvaccinated passengers unlike other lines.   Good luck with your decision to travel and stop blaming Celebrity and the governments of the countries or our try you will visit for changes I. Health protocols.

 

No, they won't be sailing with unvaccinated passengers as the Galapagos will not let you on the islands if you are not vaccinated and over 12 years old. These people are not blaming X for anything other than changing their policy on at the last minute. When we went on the first cruise post pandemic, we were tested by X before and after the cruise. They said they would continue to do that but then they decided to change that...at the last minute for some folks. That is wrong. The other thing that is wrong is that you have to e-mail the CEO to get anyone to pay attention to you. This needs to get fixed and that is Celebrity's fault. 

 

 

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We were on the August 8 Flora cruise taking the excursion package leaving  Miami Aug 6. We had to show proof of vaccination to board  AA flight.  Celebrity gave us test required for entering Baltra at Marriott hotel. Rumor on the ship was that 5 people tested positive at the hotel a  nd were refused to continue the cruise. 

From reviewing government websites it looks as if Ecuador requires a negative test before leaving US now. Changed since we went almost 4 weeks ago. 

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7 hours ago, kent4489 said:

Savethepandas, you're welcome. Yes, I pointed out to the agent that called that we didn't even know our departure time from Quito and told her it was 72 hours, not 3 days. Otherwise, I'm not sure they would have been so specific in the update. Hopefully, we will all be able to enjoy this beautiful place as planned. We're getting excited! 

 

DrKoob, thank you for this post and your blog. You posted so much helpful information. (I apologize that it got a little off topic yesterday.) 

Thanks so much for taking the lead on this. I agree that your email helped get a specific boarding time. I had made a 10 am appointment, which wouldn’t have worked. 

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5 hours ago, Pilgrim70 said:

We were on the August 8 Flora cruise taking the excursion package leaving  Miami Aug 6. We had to show proof of vaccination to board  AA flight.  Celebrity gave us test required for entering Baltra at Marriott hotel. Rumor on the ship was that 5 people tested positive at the hotel a  nd were refused to continue the cruise. 

From reviewing government websites it looks as if Ecuador requires a negative test before leaving US now. Changed since we went almost 4 weeks ago. 

Pilgrim70,

 

Just curious when you landed in Baltra, did they ask for proof of travel insurance with medical and evacuation coverage?  Noticed that Celebrity travel requirements on their website has this as a reminder as of today to have ready if asked (which we do as it is a requirement, I just saved the proof as a PDF that will be on my iPAD and a printed copy as well).  

 

  • Travel Insurance with medical and evacuation coverage for Galapagos is a government requirement and guests may be asked to show printed or digital proof upon arrival in Baltra.  CruiseCare Travel Protection provides the necessary coverage.    


ere you asked to provide eve dice 

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38 minutes ago, calsnoozie said:

Pilgrim70,

 

Just curious when you landed in Baltra, did they ask for proof of travel insurance with medical and evacuation coverage?  Noticed that Celebrity travel requirements on their website has this as a reminder as of today to have ready if asked (which we do as it is a requirement, I just saved the proof as a PDF that will be on my iPAD and a printed copy as well).  

 

  • Travel Insurance with medical and evacuation coverage for Galapagos is a government requirement and guests may be asked to show printed or digital proof upon arrival in Baltra.  CruiseCare Travel Protection provides the necessary coverage.    


ere you asked to provide eve dice 

Calsnoozie, I am also curious about this. We purchased CruiseCare through Celebrity. But, I didn’t get any proof other than it is listed on my invoice. I called the GalapagosDesk and the agent said that is good enough. Doesn’t make me feel assured, but I’m tired of dealing with a different answer every time I call. Did you purchase CruiseCare? If so, where did you find proof to print it? Or is it just listed as an item on your invoice? Thanks.

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10 hours ago, calsnoozie said:

Pilgrim70,

 

Just curious when you landed in Baltra, did they ask for proof of travel insurance with medical and evacuation coverage?  Noticed that Celebrity travel requirements on their website has this as a reminder as of today to have ready if asked (which we do as it is a requirement, I just saved the proof as a PDF that will be on my iPAD and a printed copy as well).  

 

  • Travel Insurance with medical and evacuation coverage for Galapagos is a government requirement and guests may be asked to show printed or digital proof upon arrival in Baltra.  CruiseCare Travel Protection provides the necessary coverage.    


ere you asked to provide eve dice 

No we were not asked. Read here on  cruisecritic that someone had been asked. We did buy evacuation insurance online. We did have to show test results before being allowed to board flight to Baltra. 

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11 hours ago, kent4489 said:

Calsnoozie, I am also curious about this. We purchased CruiseCare through Celebrity. But, I didn’t get any proof other than it is listed on my invoice. I called the GalapagosDesk and the agent said that is good enough. Doesn’t make me feel assured, but I’m tired of dealing with a different answer every time I call. Did you purchase CruiseCare? If so, where did you find proof to print it? Or is it just listed as an item on your invoice? Thanks.

Kent4489 - My husband talked to the Galapagos desk yesterday as well.  We got  insurance through Celebrity.  They stated that if asked, you can just show them the line item of the paid CruiseCare from your invoice.  

 

You can find the policy by going to the Celebrity website main page, scroll to the very bottom of the page and select Cruise Insurance.  From there, click on Buy Now, click on Celebrity then click on Plan Details at the top.  

 

Here is the direct link, the actual policy (it is ~37 pages), scroll to the bottom and select your state:  https://www.archinsurancesolutions.com/coverage/celebrity?fbclid=IwAR1I74Tcci1ffoxgMYSgjJwgHhDU1DG976eJ7lb5vNuG8z0CQm6j8ceVgkw

 

-Sue from California

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31 minutes ago, calsnoozie said:

Kent4489 - My husband talked to the Galapagos desk yesterday as well.  We got  insurance through Celebrity.  They stated that if asked, you can just show them the line item of the paid CruiseCare from your invoice.  

 

You can find the policy by going to the Celebrity website main page, scroll to the very bottom of the page and select Cruise Insurance.  From there, click on Buy Now, click on Celebrity then click on Plan Details at the top.  

 

Here is the direct link, the actual policy (it is ~37 pages), scroll to the bottom and select your state:  https://www.archinsurancesolutions.com/coverage/celebrity?fbclid=IwAR1I74Tcci1ffoxgMYSgjJwgHhDU1DG976eJ7lb5vNuG8z0CQm6j8ceVgkw

 

-Sue from California

Calsnoozie, thank you for confirmation that this is sufficient. I did know how to find the insurance coverage details. I just thought I needed an actual policy or document with our names showing that we had purchased this. I've got my invoice in my paperwork folder. All ready to go and leaving home in an hour! Thanks again.

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15 hours ago, calsnoozie said:

Pilgrim70,

 

Just curious when you landed in Baltra, did they ask for proof of travel insurance with medical and evacuation coverage?  Noticed that Celebrity travel requirements on their website has this as a reminder as of today to have ready if asked (which we do as it is a requirement, I just saved the proof as a PDF that will be on my iPAD and a printed copy as well).  

 

  • Travel Insurance with medical and evacuation coverage for Galapagos is a government requirement and guests may be asked to show printed or digital proof upon arrival in Baltra.  CruiseCare Travel Protection provides the necessary coverage.    


ere you asked to provide eve dice 

 

We were never asked but I had it with me just in case. I think in our situation they were just too swamped with the COVID stuff to remember to ask. We had friend who went the year before and she had to provide proof. 

 

I will mention that I never (especially since the pandemic started) get travel insurance from a cruise line. If for some reason, that cruise line went out of business, you would be stuck. And on a huge purchase like the Galapagos, that's a lot to get stuck for.

 

And I normally don't buy it from them on a regular cruise because it can be (read it carefully) restrictive. Some cruise lines only insure you for medical when you are off the ship, if you are on one of their excursions. Since we never do those, I always go outside for insurance. For the Galapagos, their insurance would be fine since you can't go anywhere by yourself.

 

And now I hardly ever buy insurance because I am covered by a VERY high fee credit card I buy all my travel with. Have talked to a number of people who have had claims and they were very happy with the service so I feel good about doing that. If you travel as much as we do (big trips quarterly) then it might be worth it to look into this type of coverage. 

 

Jim

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2 hours ago, kent4489 said:

All ready to go and leaving home in an hour! Thanks again.

You are going to have such an AWESOME TIME!!! Ellen is onboard (or at least in the islands right now). If you see her, tell her I said hi. 

 

Jim

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4 hours ago, jimbri said:

Thank you for a wonderful review and photos.

You are very welcome! The least I could do after all the help we have gotten on Cruise Critic over the years...and still do.

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3 hours ago, kent4489 said:

Calsnoozie, thank you for confirmation that this is sufficient. I did know how to find the insurance coverage details. I just thought I needed an actual policy or document with our names showing that we had purchased this. I've got my invoice in my paperwork folder. All ready to go and leaving home in an hour! Thanks again.

Have a terrific time! I will be interested to hear how your Covid test verification goes. 

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1 hour ago, DrKoob said:

 

We were never asked but I had it with me just in case. I think in our situation they were just too swamped with the COVID stuff to remember to ask. We had friend who went the year before and she had to provide proof. 

 

I will mention that I never (especially since the pandemic started) get travel insurance from a cruise line. If for some reason, that cruise line went out of business, you would be stuck. And on a huge purchase like the Galapagos, that's a lot to get stuck for.

 

And I normally don't buy it from them on a regular cruise because it can be (read it carefully) restrictive. Some cruise lines only insure you for medical when you are off the ship, if you are on one of their excursions. Since we never do those, I always go outside for insurance. For the Galapagos, their insurance would be fine since you can't go anywhere by yourself.

 

And now I hardly ever buy insurance because I am covered by a VERY high fee credit card I buy all my travel with. Have talked to a number of people who have had claims and they were very happy with the service so I feel good about doing that. If you travel as much as we do (big trips quarterly) then it might be worth it to look into this type of coverage. 

 

Jim

Thanks for the info. I know we have insurance on our 3 premium credit cards, but we booked this trip just 2 weeks ago and I decided to make it simple by buying the cruise insurance. (Chances are Celebrity wouldn’t go out of business in that short window, I hope! 😆) Just didn’t have time to research my exact coverage and thought the cruise insurance would be easier in this instance. Are you able to mention your c/c? I paid for this trip with a premium c/c, so might have had what I needed. 
(This trip was a last minute replacement when we canceled our month long Sept. trip to France.)

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45 minutes ago, shipster60 said:

Have a terrific time! I will be interested to hear how your Covid test verification goes. 

Shipster, thank you. I will let you know. As it turns out, we decided to keep our testing appt. in Miami. I feel better having negative test results in hand before we fly tomorrow morning. However, we’re going to be late for the appt. Twenty minutes after we left home, something happened to our tire. We weren’t too far from our BMW dealership so went straight there. It was going to take a while to replace (too long), so we left our car there and rented a car. Cost us 2 hours, but we should make it. I called to let them know we would be late. We should get there by 3:45 and they close at 4:15. Glad we left home extra early! We planned to have lunch in Miami, but now we’ll make it an early dinner! But, all is good!

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thanks for all the awesome info on cruising Galapagos. We are on Xploration in January.

I am buying my husband a dry bag for Christmas now for his camera equipment

so excited!!

 

My sister had to cancel a cruise last minute due to a medical issue.  She had booked on Chase Hyatt card and got everything refunded very quickly

 

we have 4 cruises booked in the next year and I am putting them on Chase Hyatt or American Citibank cards and we will also buy an annual travel insurance policy-  the ones from Allianz right now include a Covid rider so think that is the best choice for now.  With the way the world is these days and elderly parents, we have a very high risk of needing to change plans last minute.

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