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Adventure of the Seas Live Blog - Day 4 - Sea Day

In:
16Jun2021
By: Matt Hochberg

Our first sea day is my first good opportunity to check out different areas of Adventure of the Seas to see what is new and different, as well as see how the policies are working.

The first place I headed was the main dining room for breakfast, and the experience is the same, but the menu has been updated with a new look, and I think the market fresh vegetable bowl is new as well.

Going from Nassau to CocoCay meant we never truly were at sea in the traditional sense, but today the ship will spend all day at sea as we head west to Cozumel.

I decided to head up to the pool deck and enjoy some time outdoors with the sea breeze, and it stared off as a beautiful day with sun and a few clouds.

After catching up on some work, I walked around the ship to check out different facilities.

First up is the fitness center, which is open although it has limited capacity.

The fitness center requires passengers to sign up for a time slot, as only 16 people can use it at a time. You can sign up via the Royal Caribbean app, or in person at the entrance.

There are machines blocked off to promote social distancing.

The complimentary sauna and steam rooms in the fitness center are closed until further notice due to Covid-19 concerns.

Something else a lot of cruisers love is the ice cream on the pool deck, and that is operational throughout the day.  A crew member serves it for you.

The pool deck experience was fantastic, and one of the nice nuances of being on a ship with reduced capacity is you can roll up to the pool deck mid-morning and not have to compete for a lounge chair by the pool.

I wrote yesterday about some of the lessons learned early on, and the lack of crowds is a really nice "side effect" of the current state of cruising.

For lunch, our partners from MEI Travel rented out Giovanni's Table and invited everyone who booked into the group to enjoy a meal.

Unfortunately, the weather turned for the worse in the afternoon and the sun gave way to clouds and rain.  

I headed inside and enjoyed some time catching up with friends onboard, and it was the kind of relaxing afternoon on a sea day that I missed being able to experience during the shutdown.

Our evening schedule was back to routine tonight, with taking the kids to the main dining room for dinner, and then dropping them off at Adventure Ocean.

Speaking of Adventure Ocean, the reservation system up there is working out just fine and yesterday (day 3) they opened up bookings for everyone beyond the initial 15 hours we were limited to when we got onboard.

Dinner was at Chops Grille, and it was another fantastic evening of service and quality food.  Throughout the ship's dining venues, the service and food temperature has been really good. 

Maybe all this time away from cruising has changed my expectations, but overall the restaurant experience has been terrific.

After dinner, we headed to the Duck and Dog Pub to enjoy acoustic music with Kieran, who I first saw on Facebook doing live videos from his cabin during quarantine.  

I love live music in the pub, and Kieran has a great combination of personality and talent.

Tomorrow we will be in Cozumel, rain or shine!

Royal Caribbean delays Odyssey of the Seas inaugural sailing from U.S. due to Covid-19 among crew members

In:
15Jun2021
By: Matt Hochberg

It looks like Odyssey of the Seas first cruise is once again delayed.

Royal Caribbean confirmed the first few scheduled sailings will be canceled due to positive cases of Covid-19 onboard the ship among crew members.

According to the cruise line, all the crew members on Odyssey of the Seas were tested on June 4 when the ship arrived in Port Canaveral, as part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Conditional Sailing Order.

The crew were tested again on June 10, and eight crew members tested positive.

Royal Caribbean's medical team is monitoring the crew that tested positive, and they are "in good health".

In addition, and in an abundance of caution, Royal Caribbean has made the decision to ask all crew members to quarantine for 14 days to ensure the health and safety of everyone on board. 

As a result, Odyssey of the Seas debut is being delayed and her first few sailings are canceled.

The ship was scheduled to begin sailing on July 3, but will now start sailing on July 31.

Guests booked onboard will be contacted with refund and rescheduling options.

Royal Caribbean said the change was unwelcome, but the safety of everyone onboard is the top priority, "This was an unexpected but necessary decision to make, and we are committed to doing the right thing for everyone’s well-being."

Here is the full statement from a Royal Caribbean spokesperson:

Out of an abundance of caution, we are postponing Odyssey of the Seas’ first sailings from July 3 until July 31, 2021. The simulation cruise, originally scheduled for late June, will also be rescheduled.  

During routine testing, eight crew members received a positive test result for COVID-19. All 1,400 crew on board Odyssey were vaccinated on June 4 and will be considered fully vaccinated on June 18. These positive cases were identified after the vaccination was given but before they were fully effective. 

The eight crew members, six of whom are asymptomatic and two with mild symptoms, were immediately quarantined and are being closely monitored by our medical team. To protect the remaining crew and prevent any further cases, we will have all crew quarantined for 14 days and continue with our routine testing. 

Guests and travel partners will be notified and given several options to consider. While disappointing, this is the right decision for the health and well-being of our crew and guests.  

This is not the first time crew on Odyssey of the Seas have had a brush with Covid.

In late May, Royal Caribbean disembarked four crew members in Spain who had tested positive for Covid-19 onboard the Odyssey of the Seas while the ship was moving from Israel to the United States.

A week later,Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley posted on Facebook that the crew members have tested negative.

"They continue to remain asymptomatic (no symptoms) and yesterday all tested negative and will need one more test before being released on Friday," he said.

"Plans are to re assign the crew to Harmony and Symphony of the Seas. As our protocols work and all our crew get vaccinated we are on the road to Freedom."

Odyssey of the Seas is Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ship, but her debut has been delayed numerous times due to Covid-19.

She was originally scheduled to be built and delivered by 2020, but that was pushed back a year.

Then her inaugural season from Rome was cancelled, and instead scheduled to sail from Israel this summer.  Violence in the region forced Royal Caribbean to cancel her entire summer season and the ship was re-scheduled to start sailings from Fort Lauderdale.

Odyssey of the Seas will offer roundtrip cruises from Fort Lauderdale.

Odyssey is the first Quantum Ultra Class ship to cruise from the U.S., which features SeaPlex - the largest indoor and outdoor activity complex at sea - and a vibrant, Caribbean-inspired pool deck

Royal Caribbean's vaccine policy for 2021 cruises

In:
15Jun2021
By: Matt Hochberg

Will Royal Caribbean require a vaccine for its passengers on cruise ships? The answer is it depends where you sail out from in 2021.

Over the last few months, there has been plenty of sound bites, quotes, and interviews by various Royal Caribbean executives on the issue of vaccines, but what is the answer right now?

Royal Caribbean clarified its position on vaccine requirements to make things as simple for everyone right now.

For cruises departing from all U.S. ports (except Florida ports), Royal Caribbean requires all guests 16 years of age or older to be fully vaccinated, and from Aug. 1, all guests 12 years of age or older must be fully vaccinated.

Kids that are not old enough to qualify to get the vaccine will be able to sail with a negative test result and must follow certain protocols.

All crew members will be fully vaccinated.

Vaccine requirements based on departure port

The vaccine policies, which are in line with local regulations, are currently the following: 

  • Cruises from Seattle: Guests who are 16 years of age or older must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and those 12 or older as of Aug. 1
  • Cruises from Florida: It is strongly recommended that guests set sail fully vaccinated, if they are eligible. Those who are unvaccinated or unable to verify vaccination will be required to undergo testing and follow other protocols at their own expense. These expenses are still being finalized. Based on our guest survey’s, we expect 90% of all our guests to be fully vaccinated
  • Cruises from Texas: Guests who are 12 years of age or older must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19
  • Cruises from The Bahamas: Guests who are 16 years of age or older must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and those 12 or older as of Aug. 1
  • Cruises from the UK: Sailing UK residents above the age of 18 must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and those under the age of 18 are required to receive negative test results.
  • Cruises from Cyprus: Guests above the age of 18 who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and those under the age of 18 with negative test results can sail.
  • Cruises from Spain: Guests above the age of 18 who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and those under the age of 18 with negative test results can sail.
  • Cruises from Singapore: Sailing Singapore guests are not required to be vaccinated but must follow the protocols outlined by the Singapore government

Cruises from Florida

On cruises departing from Florida ports, all guests are strongly recommended to be fully vaccinated. Based on our guest survey’s, we expect 90% of all our guests to be fully vaccinated.

Guests eligible but not fully vaccinated or able to show proof of vaccination will be subject to testing and additional health protocols at their own expense.

Children not eligible for vaccines will be subject to complimentary testing and health protocols.  

Royal Caribbean told Forbes that they "expect approximately 90% of our guests will be vaccinated, based on regular surveys."

What other changes can you expect?

Additional health and safety measures include our fully vaccinated crew, testing, the robust onboard ventilation system and enhanced cleaning.

"As we work to finalize these measures for cruises departing from U.S. ports, in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well state and local authorities, our goal is to fully comply with federal, state and local laws, as we always have. Royal Caribbean International will continue to evaluate and update its health and safety measures as circumstances evolve and in compliance with federal, state and local government and health authorities."

Top 8 things you should know about going on a cruise in 2021

In:
15Jun2021
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has restarted cruises from North America with Adventure of the Seas, and with it comes some expected changes to the experience.

The good news is cruising today looks a lot more like cruising in 2019 than we might have thought it would, but there are a few changes, differences, and good advice everyone should heed going forward.

If you have a cruise coming up this summer, or are thinking about booking something, here are early lessons learned from being on a cruise ship in 2021.

Limited capacity means having the ship to yourself

On the first Adventure of the Seas sailing, there is just about 1,000 passengers on a cruise ship designed for over 3,000 passengers.  This means the lack of crowds, lines, or wait times very noticable.

Anyone that has cruised often will likely relish the opportunity to have less of a wait for things like elevators, pool chairs, or water slides.

If you are going to cruise soon, you will likely be able to take advantage of shorter lines and it is a really nice "side effect" of Royal Caribbean's attempt at promoting social distancing by reducing the amount of guests onboard.

At Perfect Day at CocoCay, the lack of crowds is especially noticable when you go on an island designed to easily handle 7,000 - 9,000 guests.

No one knows exactly when Royal Caribbean will go back to full capacity, but in the meantime going on a cruise this summer is likely to see shorter waits all around.

Testing requirements may change

One constant early on has been change, and if you cruise this summer, you should expect plenty of changes.

Health protocols are paramount to the cruise industry, and we have seen the requirements for guests boarding a ship change a few times.

While Royal Caribbean will communicate these changes to guests and travel agents booked onboard, expect to get new changes sent at any time, even just a few days before you set sail.  There is no minimum threshold for when they wont change a rule, because if they see an opportunity to improve or enhance a policy, they will.

There is more demand for specialty dining than normal

On these first Adventure of the Seas sailings, the Windjammer is closed for dinner due to the lack of guests onboard.

During our cruise, Royal Caribbean International's Vice President of Food & Beverage Operations Linken D'Souza mentioned they were seeing higher demand for specialty dining on Adventure of the Seas, but was not sure why exactly.

It could be a reflection of the lack of the Windjammer option, or perhaps many guests finally having the chance to get back on a cruise ship again and splurging more than before.

Whatever the reason, make reservations early for specialty dining.

You should still fly a day in a day before your cruise

A lot of cruisers have discovered Royal Caribbean's Air2Sea program, which allows anyone to book their airfare through Royal Caribbean and similar to a shore excursion, get a promise that the cruise line will get them on the ship if there is a delay or cancellation.

Unfortunately, some people are booking flights not only on the same day of their cruise, but very close-in to departure times and in my opinion, that is playing with fire.

Airlines are changing flight times and canceling flights a lot due to a variety of reasons.

Regardless of if you book with Air2Sea or not, do yourself a favor and fly in at least a day ahead of time to protect yourself against travel delays.

Yes, there is still a buffet

One of the early concerns was what would happen to the buffet on a cruise ship, and it is still there as an option.

Many feared a staple of the cruise dining experience would be lost due to health protocols, but there is still a buffet on Royal Caribbean's ships.

There are two major changes to the buffet that you should know about.

First, you have the option of making a reservation for the Windjammer.  Royal Caribbean limits capacity to ensure it does not get overcrowded, and similar to a specialty restaurant, you can make a reservation to assure yourself of a spot.  You can make reservations via the Royal Caribbean app or in person at the entrance.

On our sailing, reservations have not yet been necessary, but it is something that exists.

Second, the buffet is all full service.  Instead of you serving yourself, crew members will place food on your plate.  This is easy enough, as there are plenty of crew members to assist.

There is a larger emphasis on using Royal Caribbean's app

Royal Caribbean has invested a lot of time and effort into its app, and going on a cruise now means the most emphasis ever on guests using their app.

The app has gone from something you can use onboard to an essential must-have.  So many of the functions go through the app now, including check-in, the Cruise Compass, menus, and reservations.

Royal Caribbean has always felt the app was a helpful asset for guests to reduce friction and speed up things, but now it is more useful as a great touch-free point.

There are some guests who prefer not to use a smart device while on a cruise, and yes, you can go on a cruise without using it, but you are really putting yourself at a disadvantage in terms of time wasted by not using the app.

Be sure to download and install the app before the cruise, and do every step you can before you sail through it to ensure a very smooth and fast process.

The crew members are really happy to be back

Something very noticable is how excited the crew members are to have guests back onboard.

Just like the cruise ships, crew members have been without work since March 2020 and so many crew members loved working on cruise ships as a way to generate a good income and support their families.

While crew members are wearing face masks onboard, their enthusiasm is apparent in conversations and greetings you see around the ship.

The experience is more similar than different

If you were expecting some kind of a locked down, limited cruise experience going on a ship this summer, it is really anything but that.

Surprisingly, the differences and changes onboard are minimal, and going on a ship today has a lot more in common with going on a cruise ship a few years ago.

While there is social distancing, a few digital additions, and other changes, the truth is the day-to-day experience onboard (especially once you get past embarkation) is very similar to what it used to be.

It remains to be seen what the cruise experience may be like exactly on every ship that restarts, as Royal Caribbean has not announced health protocols for its ships sailing from the U.S. or Europe this summer.  But if everything continues on its current trajectory, it appears we can expect almost the same cruise vacation fun we did before the industry shutdown last year.

Adventure of the Seas Live Blog - Day 2 - Coco Beach Club

In:
14Jun2021
By: Matt Hochberg

The only way to top a day at Perfect Day at CocoCay is to do it again a second time.

Royal Caribbean rarely offers sailings with multiple visits to its private island, but it did so for these Adventure of the Seas sailings from The Bahamas.

Our ship departed CocoCay last night, and we basically did a loop in the ocean before returning to the island. There was speculation this decision had to do with being able to operate the ship's casino only when at sea, but the casino has been open while in CocoCay.

Just like yesterday, we docked around 7am and unlike yesterday, it was not raining.

In fact, while it sometimes looked like it might rain, the rain kept away from us keeping us dry and mostly sunny.  Shoutout to Royal Caribbean Chief Meteorologist James Van Fleet for using his weather wizardry to keep it clear today!

Today's plan was to visit the exclusive area of the island, the Coco Beach Club.

Full disclosure: Royal Caribbean invited us to spend the day at the club in a floating cabana.

I had been to the Coco Beach Club when it first opened in early 2020, but my wife and kids had not been there, so it was a good opportunity to let them experience it.

The appeal of the Beach Club is simple: an exclusive area for guests who value being somewhere with an elevated experience.

Most of the island is included in your cruise fare, but the beach club was built to offer a little something extra special that resembles more of a resort club than typical beach day.

Read more: What costs extra at Perfect Day at CocoCay?

There is an inifinity pool, plush loungers, and a restaurant worthy of being a specialty restaurant on the ship.

Of course, the floating cabanas are the crown jewel of the Coco Beach Club, and offer amazing views.  Unlike other beach cabanas that are more about giving you private space, the floating cabanas are about enhancing your time on and near the water, with a slide, full shower, and lots of lounging space.

If you purchase just the club access, you can enjoy the beach or infinity pool to spend the day, with ample seating in both.

By far, the day beds are the most desirable and are on a first-come, first-served basis. Come very early if you want one.

The best part of my day was sampling all the food in the Coco Beach Club restaurant. Royal Caribbean International's Vice President of Food & Beverage Operations Linken D'Souza hosted our lunch at the restaurant.

The menu features a variety of choices that borrows from American, Mediterranean, and Bahamian influences.

The lobster sandwich is the standout hit for the restaurant, but their filet, lobster, and grouper are really outstanding.

Your day at the beach club is about treating yourself, and they do an admiral job at it.  Compared to my previous visit, I did not notice any major changes.

Other than some social distancing protocols added, the club experience is essentially the same as it was before. If you were worried about the restart taking its toll on the club, not at all.

It also seemed a lot of fellow cruisers elected to splurge on a day at the club, because they seemed to have a lot of folks there.  The concept of "revenge travel" I think may be at play here.

In total, the Coco Beach Club can accomodate 440 people, with 240 being in the cabanas.

Speaking of the cabanas, a common question is can you get extra passes beyond the standard 8 that come with the cabana. Yes, you can get an extra two passes, but 10 is the limit.

Stray observations

South Beach is closed to guests because there is no need for the added capacity, but Royal Caribbean opened up the area exclusively to crew members to use.

If you prefer or can't eat lobster, the Coco Beach Club restaurant can offer a chicken sandwich that is not listed on the menu.

Crown and Anchor drink coupons are not accepted at the Coco Cay Beach Club or at Coco Cay from what I've heard and seen so far.

Adventure of the Seas Live Blog - Day 2 - Perfect Day at CocoCay

In:
13Jun2021
By: Matt Hochberg

If there is one thing I missed just as much as being on a cruise ship, it was being at Royal Caribbean's private island of Perfect Day at CocoCay.

In the short time the massive refurbishment of CocoCay had been open to guests, it instantly became a top favorite spot to visit on any cruise, and I would day dream of being there as much as being on a ship.

On this sailing, we have two stops at the island, which is incredible considering there are rarely itineraries that visit the island twice in one sailing.

I was sure to get up early for a full day of fun on the island, and we had room service delivered to the room so my kids could eat and get ready at the same time.

Before the ship was cleared for guests to disembark, a full parade celebrating the resumption of sailings to the island welcomed us back.

There were drums, festive dress, and lots of enthusiasm.  The crew from every department and rank are visibily excited to have cruises again.

Unfortunately the weather was a little rainy to start with, but I checked the Twitter account for Royal Caribbean's Chief Meteorolgist James Van Fleet, who said there would be a few passing showers in the morning but they would give way to clear skies.

"In JVF I Trust", and the morning showers did in fact go quickly and turn into a beautiful day.

Today, I reserved a Thrill Waterpark cabana so the kids could get in plenty of rides.

I really like the value of a cabana in Thrill waterpark because it includes admission to the waterpark.  I think it is a great option for families to have a "home base" where kids can relax, snack, and then hit the water slides and pools on repeat.

You might be wondering what is different about Perfect Day at CocoCay today compared to 2020, and it is almost exactly as it used to be in 2020 when I last visited.

I walked around the island to get a sense of venues and space, and I can tell you I did not notice anything not operating.

Royal Caribbean has added social distancing markers on the ground near slides and dining venues. 

With just around 1,000 passengers onboard, these are not necessary, but Royal Caribbean is preparing for the full scale return of cruising some day soon.

There are also hand wipe stations before each slide so everyone can wash their hands before touching the handrails going up the slides.

Getting on a cruise ship yesterday was incredible, and being back at Perfect Day today was the icing on the "welcome back" cake. 

We had a great day enjoying the Thrill Waterpark, and with the reduced capacity on the ship there no lines to contend with, which made for perfect conditions.

As the afternoon went on, we really enjoyed time at the Wave Pool.  While the slides get all the attention, the wave pool is vastly underrated.

There seem to be three cycles to the waves, and when the "super waves" kick in (my kids' name for them), it gets intense.  

Eventually, it was time to head back to the ship to get ready for dinner. The downside to having early seating dinner is you have to head back a little earlier to get ready, but since we are back tomorrow again, it is not a problem.

I wanted to check on the situation in the Suite and Diamond Lounge, since there were some changes announced pre-cruise for these locations.

Both venues had seating spaced out a bit more, but they felt more "normal" than not.

Tomorrow, we're back for more fun at Perfect Day at CocoCay!

Onboard Royal Caribbean's first cruise ship from North America

In:
12Jun2021
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's Adventure of the Seas is departing The Bahamas today as the first ship to restart sailings in North America, and I'm onboard to see what cruising is like now.

The cruise industry shutdown in March 2020, but it is on the brink of resuming operations across various ships and lines.

In March 2021, Royal Caribbean announced it would sail from Nassau, Bahamas, and since then they have announced plans for other ships to resume sailings this summer.

So what is it like on a ship today? And what is different?

First and foremost, being on a cruise ship is more similar than different.  Royal Caribbean has made a number of changes to address Covid-19 risks, but the core cruise experience remains.

For the sailings from The Bahamas only, Royal Caribbean is requiring all guests who are 16 years old or older to be fully vaccinated.  That requirement drops to 12 on August 1.

Kids are allowed onboard, but there are a few extra protocols for them, such as having to wear a face mask indoors.

When you check-in for the cruise, it is at the nearby British Colonial Hilton resort (Nassau is in the process of refurbishing their entire port area).

You are assigned a check-in time via the Royal Caribbean app.  Speaking of the app, nearly all functions are now done via the app.  While you don't need to use the app, the entire process is much simpler if you elect to use the app.

At check-in, you are taken to take an antigen test.  Originally, only kids would need a test, but last week Royal Caribbean decided to test everyone, including vaccinated adults.  Next week, all guests will have to take a PCR test at home.

The antigen test was quick and easy.  This is not the "brain tickler" test, but rather a nasal swab near the bottom of your nose.

While you wait for your results, you do the regular check-in and then wait for your test results to be emailed to you.

If your results are negative, you take a short bus ride to the ship and walk onboard.

Walking back on a ship after 15 months was surreal, but incredibly gratifying.  I am not sure if the crew members were happier to see them, than we were to be back onboard.

All crew members wear masks onboard, but Royal Caribbean added a button with a photo of their face without a mask so you can see who you are talking to.

Guests who are vaccinated do not need to wear a mask at all. Kids wear masks while indoors, unless eating or drinking.

Many venues have altered their policies to promote social distancing. The ship is also sailing at reduced capacity.

The Windjammer buffet exists, but is full service.  You also can make reservations, although standby arrivals are accepted if they are not at capacity.

The buffet crew members serve you, instead of you serving yourself.

All the drink stations around the ship are full service as well.

Specialty dining restaurants are open, but you cannot sit with someone who is outside your travel party (unless you linked your reservations together).

Perhaps the most welcome change is the muster safety drill. Instead of stopping everything and waiting outdoors in the heat to hear about ship safety, guests can do the muster drill from their phone and just report to their muster drill station to be checked off as knowing where it is located in case of an emergency.

Bars and lounges are open, but certain seats and chairs are closed for social distancing.

The Diamond Lounge and Suite Lounges are open, but with less seating to prevent over crowding.

Adventure Ocean (the kids club onboard) has limited capacity, and families need to sign up in advance to secure a spot.

Menus at all restaurants are digital, with QR codes to bring you to the menu in the app. 

Most guests seem to understand that the rules are changing all the time, and while social distancing on a ship mostly full of fully vaccinated guests seems odd, they also are very understanding and just plain happy to be back onboard.

Many of the guests onboard are veteran cruisers, who jumped at the chance to sail again after a long hiatus.

This sailing is a 7-night sailing, and Adventure of the Seas will sail from The Bahamas through August.

Royal Caribbean will restart operations this summer from the U.S., but has not announced its full set of protocols for those sailings yet.

I will be onboard Adventure of the Seas all this week, so follow along for live updates!

Adventure of the Seas Live Blog - Day 0 - Nassau arrival

In:
11Jun2021
By: Matt Hochberg

It's somewhat hard to believe even for me, but cruising is back, and I'm set to go on the first Royal Caribbean cruise in North America since March 2020.

Royal Caribbean announced in March 2021 that Adventure of the Seas would start sailing from The Bahamas, and I immediately had to jump at the chance to go on a cruise ship that would be able to sail.

This 7-night cruise will begin and end in Nassau, Bahamas so that means we would have to fly to The Bahamas to board the ship.

I always advocate flying into a city at least one day early to protect yourself against any travel delays.  Plus, vacation starts earlier!

Luckily, it is a very short flight from Orlando to Nassau, clocking in at just under an hour flight time.

Before traveling to The Bahamas, everyone must obtain a health visa.  Originally, the health visa required tests for everyone, but they relaxed rules for the fully vaccinated.

Kids 11 and under don't need a test either, so it was really just filling out an online form and paying a $40 per person fee that includes mandatory travel insurance while you are in The Bahamas.

You can fill it out online two weeks in advance, and they approve it all pretty darn quickly.

With our paperwork all set, we headed to the airport for our early morning flight from Orlando.

This was our first flight since the global health crisis began, and it felt pretty much the same as before, albeit with masks on in the airport and plane.

Our flight was full, and we took off on time. 

A short 54 minutes later and we arrived in Nassau.

The arrival process is pretty simple, with the added requirement you have to fill out standard immigration process as well as your Bahamas health visa form.

Lines were short, and we were on our way to our hotel.

For the one night before the cruise, I booked the Sandyport Beach Resort because they had reasonably priced suites (compared to some other hotels in Nassau) which are right on a beach inlet.

The resort is a bit dated, but otherwise exactly as advertised: a suite room that you can walk right from your patio to the beach.

The entire day there were very few other guests around (I think many opted to go to other well-known beaches), and we went between the beach and pool.

During the afternoon, Royal Caribbean opened up the health questionairre form, which is done via the Royal Caribbean app and saves you time in the cruise terminal later.

There are a few shops and restaurants you can walk to around the hotel, so we decided to keep it simple and eat at a nearby restaurant, Twisted Lime.

The Bahamas is still taking their Covid-19 precautions very seriously. There is a curfew after 10pm, and masks must be worn everywhere. Moreover, you cannot dine indoors unless everyone is fully vaccinated.

At the Twisted Lime, they had a nice dockside set up where we could eat outdoors and enjoy typical American and seafood dishes.

After dinner we started vacation off with ice cream!

Tomorrow is the big day, and we get to finally get onboard Adventure of the Seas and end the North American cruise drought.

Check out my live blog tomorrow here, as well as a few live broadcasts on Facebook and YouTube.

 

Court case between Florida and CDC continues with Judge hearing both arguments

In:
11Jun2021
By: Matt Hochberg

The State of Florida and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were back in court on Thursday to continue hearings.

Florida is suing the CDC in order to get the CDC's Conditional Sail Order (CSO) thrown out.  Florida believes it unfairly targets one industry that is causing financial hardship to the cruise lines and Floridians.

The CDC believes not only are cruises in the process of restarting, it says, " Florida cannot establish an irreparable injury that would occur in the absence of an injunction."

Judge Steven D. Merryday heard arguments from both sides on whether or not the CSO has merit.

The case was held in Tampa once again, following both sides failing to come to a compromise at court-ordered mediation.

According to reports from the courtroom, Judge Merryday asked the CDC if the 95 percent vaccination rule and masks and social distancing rules are an overreach and really necessary or effective.

He also asked Florida's attorneys about the risks involved, and how that could impact the general public.

Judge Merryday told both parties he would get back to them with his decision as soon as possible.

"There are a lot of moving parts here," the judge said. "I only get to write one order."

Florida's argument

Florida sued the CDC because its policy of keeping cruise ships shutdown is causing financial hardship to the state and residents.  Specifically, they claim Florida is losing millions of dollars and people are out of work as a result.

Florida believes the CDC is acting slowly, and their vaccine requirements are "illegal and untenable."

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) believes the CDC has no right to shutdown the cruise industry for this long, given the "very little evidence and very little data" provided by the agency.

CDC's argument

The CDC believes not only is its policy providing trust for the general public.

The CDC thinks if the CSO was waived as a result of the lawsuit, the public would not trust cruise ships are safe, "an injunction would cast considerable doubt on public confidence in the industry, particularly in the State of Florida, which is publicly battling with the industry over its own laws."

The CDC added an injunction would "otherwise undermine the carefully laid plans for safe resumption of passenger operations."

The agency believes an injunction against the CSO would actually hinder, not help, Florida's goals.

U.S Senator introduces bill to overhaul PVSA and allow cruise ships to not have to visit a foreign port

In:
10Jun2021
By: Matt Hochberg

The cruise industry received a temporary reprieve for cruises to Alaska this year, but one Senator wants it to become permanent.

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) has introduced a new bill to repeal and reform the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886 (PVSA).

The Passenger Vessel Service Act (PVSA) of 1886 requires foreign flagged cruise ships to call on a foreign port if sailing a closed-loop cruise form the United States.

This means, cruise ships cannot sail from Seattle and only visit Alaska ports.  It must make a stop outside the country, and Canada is the only place between Seattle and Alaska for that.

For two years, Canada has banned cruise ships from being able to enter their waters due to the global health crisis, thus making cruises to Alaska from the United States legally impossible under the PVSA.

The justification for both the PVSA is to protect the U.S. Merchant Marine (the licensed (officers) and documented (trades) personnel on the ships) and to protect U.S. shipyards that both build and repair the ships.

Senator Lee calls it an "outdated, protectionist law that harms American jobs and American tourism."

"This arcane law benefits Canada, Mexico, and other countries who receive increased maritime traffic, at the expense of American workers in our coastal cities, towns, and ports. Reducing demand for jobs and travel opportunities here in the U.S. is the opposite of ‘America First.’ And in the context of ocean liners, this ‘protectionist’ law is literally protecting no one, as there hasn’t been a cruise ship built domestically in over half a century. The PVSA is bad economics and bad law, and it’s far past time that Congress reconsider it."

Senator Lee introduced three bills aimed at undoing the PVSA, and potentially allow cruise ships to be able to sail from the United States without a foreign port stop.  The "Safeguarding American Tourism Act" is primarily aimed at cruise ships and specifically talks about them.

Open America’s Ports Act

  • Would repeal the PVSA and adjust cabotage requirements accordingly, allowing all ships that qualify under the laws of the United States to transport passengers from U.S. port to U.S. port.

Safeguarding American Tourism Act

  • Would exempt large passenger vessels (“vessels with 800 or more passenger berths”) from PVSA requirements, and adjust cabotage requirements accordingly, allowing these ships to transport passengers from U.S. port to U.S. port.
  • This targeted approach would not affect or harm any existing industry, as there hasn’t been a cruise ship built in the U.S. (and which would therefore meet the PVSA’s high bar) since 1958. 

Protecting Jobs in American Ports Act

  • Would repeal the “U.S.-built” requirement for passenger vessels operating between U.S. ports, thereby incentivizing American companies to develop voyages that increase traffic and economic activity – and opportunities for port workers – in American coastal cities and towns.

Earlier this year, Congress passed the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act (ATRA) and President Joe Biden signed it into law.

ATRA applies to only cruises this year from the Pacific Northwest, and only on select cruise ships.

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