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    Sacramento, California
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    Small ship cruising and small group tours.
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  1. I haven't read all the responses yet, but here's my take. It's based on current experience - I broke my wrist on a cruise bin Thailand in April. It was an open fracture so I had emergency surgery in Thailand. I'm currently finishing a land trip in Costa Rica that was planned before the break. I got my cast off about a week before leaving and just started rehab. The hand and wrist are still pretty disabled due to lack of strength and range of motion. It is my dominant hand, but most one hand things, I could do with the other hand - sometimes awkwardly and usually more slowly. It's the two hand things that are hard to impossible. Videos on line can help with some like how to tie shoes with one hand. There is also still pain some of the time and sometimes it's hard to find a comfortable position to sleep. At home, I was sleeping in a recliner at times. Strange beds & pillows don't help. If this is a bucket list Alaska cruise, I'd cancel and rebook later when the wrist is recovered. There will be a lot of activities you have to skip with a cast. Even with the cast off, but weak hand, I've had to skip some this trip. If it's one of many Alaska trips you'll take, then you might go & just chill and enjoy the scenery and time with friends/family. Another consideration - it's a long recovery process - time in the cast and then months of rehab and healing to get pain free and full function back. Do you want to delay that by delaying the surgery?
  2. I'm not sure of the meaning of "home port." Is it just that cruises embark & debark there or is more implied? One way itineraries between Balboa and Miami could provide full transits on a 7-day itinerary which might be attractive to those who can't get away for the longer full transits. The ships that currently sail out of Colon are ~200 passengers or less. The transit cost for cruise ships is based on passenger count (or maybe capacity). IIRC, the charge for Wind Star was around $35K, so one free transit wouldn't make much difference to canal revenue.
  3. What your TA said doesn't make sense. A "fare reduction" is lowering your price. There was a price drop on our Jan 2018 Panama Canal & Costa Rica between 120 and 90 days and they reduced our fare. The fare dropped some more less than 90 days out but only some categories were available. I didn't mind not getting those drops. We had a cabin where we wanted.
  4. Current price assurance policy is 90 days. It's been that for a while. I think 90 days is pretty reasonable. I have gotten fare reductions for significant amounts - > $1000 - under the policy. Once when the price had gone down such that a balcony would cost a bit less than my prior ocean view fare, I asked my TA to check on upgrading, but the remaining ones were too far forward or aft (part of the cruise was an ocean crossing). So I agree with Host J. Also, I've seen times where the price only goes up.
  5. No problem, I'd meant to include that. I'm on the Costa Rica trip now so I don't have the exact number, but it was around $11,000. This is a very good hospital in Costa Rica for pre-surgery tests, surgery & 3 nights in the hospital. Medicare parts A, B & D don't cover outside the US (other than some exceptions for an emergency in the US where the closest care is in Canada). Some Medigap and Medicare Advantage plans cover international emergency medical care. Mine does and paid the whole bill except for a $500 co-pays (same co-pays as if they had provided the care). "Medicare and You", which you can download from www.medicare.gov , is a good place to start researching your Medicare coverage options, but I think you have to look into each plan to check about international coverage. It wasn't even in the coverage summary for my plan. I verified it by checking online & calling the plan's customer service line.
  6. I'd never go off-ship without some type of government ID. If not my passport, I at least have my driver's license, global entry card or my passport card (not valid for flying internationally but still a valid government ID). I guess you aren't the only one who carries no ID because when we were in Portugal, the guy before me in line at a ticket booth was very put out that they wouldn't give him the senior discount ticket without ID showing his birth date. He did look over 80, but policy at that site was no senior discount without ID. Having an ID can be useful even in cases where it isn't essential. Japan is one of the few countries that requires carrying a passport when you go ashore on port calls. At least that's what the guidance says. When I was there on a Windstar cruise with 3 port calls in Alaska before crossing to Alaska, I don't recall my passport being checked on leaving or returning to the ship.
  7. That's not exactly true. There are small ship cruises that are entirely in Alaska; e.g.: UnCruise, Alaska Dream, Lindblad. No mainstream line cruises begin and end in Alaska. They have one way cruises from Alaska (Seward or Whittier) to Vancouver or vice versa - not Alaska to Seattle or SF because that would be a PVSA issue. Alaska cruises out of Seattle or SF are round trip or occasionally one-way to/from Vancouver.
  8. My TA does that for me. When I see a price drop during the Price assurance time, I drop her an email & she takes care of it. Plus, I get OBC from the TA.
  9. I wasn't close to Bangkok. Bangkok hospital has branches in different areas of Thailand. I was in Phuket and they brought me to Bangkok Phuket hospital which is in Phuket. I wouldn't call it 6 star, but maybe 3 or 4 star. Anyway, as nice or nicer than the usual US hospital room. Re: mouse use injury: my first thought was real live mice (like maybe working in a lab). Guess it's because I've used a roller ball for ages and kind of forget about using a computer mouse. I solved the hair issue by getting it cut short about a week after I returned home. Washing it with one hand wasn't so hard and even brushing it out I could manage. I like to put it in a ponytail when cooking, exercising or anytime it getting blown in my face would be annoying. That was something I couldn't do with one hand. Summer's coming and I'd been thinking about getting it cut short anyway. It took hitting 3 stores but I found a reasonably comfortable sports bra that is manageable for me with one hand and produces a decent result. So with that, I'm set for Costa Rica next week. The physical therapist gave me lots of exercises to do. Things are improving slowly but it aches a lot of the time. I'm hoping it settles down a bit more before the trip. Yes, it does give you a respect for those who deal permanently with disabilities. There was a contestant on the Great British Baking Show who didn't have a full hand; when I watched it initially I was impressed that she could compete with the other bakers but I'm even more impressed now.
  10. 🙂 I only figured out last cruise that there's a little lever that you can push to lock the line so it doesn't pull out more and sag when hanging the heavy damp clothes on it. All these years of staying in hotels with these lines and I've never noticed that feature - not sure if they all have it.
  11. It's probably the same as on Wind Star with two hooks I addition to the one it pulls out from so it can be set up as a triangle making more hanging space in the little shower.
  12. Yes the hospital chain is known for handling "medical tourism" - people going to a country with cheaper but still good medical care for surgeries. There was an ad in one of the elevators for the bone and joint department surgeries such as knee replacement. The port agent said that they wanted to send me to the best hospital in the area rather than the nearest. On my trip home, I happened to chat with two people who had experience there - one who's an expat in Thailand part of the year and one who's father was treated at the Chang Mai branch of the hospital after an injury while they were traveling together. The doctors/PAs treating me after I've gotten home have told me that the treatment I received in Thailand was the correct treatment and matches what they would have done to treat such an injury. They say it has been set correctly - all the angles are right which is important. Perhaps it was just lucky this trip, but the sailing was extremely smooth. The ship didn't heel over much at all. It's one of the smoothest cruises I've been on. I have mainly sailed on Windstar including two cruises on their smallest ships which are similar in size. I've been once on a Celebrity ship (~2000 passengers) and once on Crystal. We didn't spend a lot of this trip on full sail, most transits were motor assisted. I guess the winds weren't favorable this trip. There was at least one sail away where we went the wrong direction (i.e. not headed toward our next port) to enjoy being under full sail for a while. That was beautiful. I got to try steering for a bit. One difference I noticed between Star Clipper* and Wind Star*, is the stairways on Star Clipper are much steeper. In January, I was on Wind Star for 10 days and didn't mind the stairs at all (neither ship has elevators). I was getting tired of the steeper stairs on Star Clipper by the end of the week (I have short legs) especially with one good hand. The stairs to the tender platform aren't much different on the two ships. The stair thing wouldn't bother most able people. It wouldn't stop me from going on Star Clipper again, but I mention it because someone might be okay with the more moderate stairs on Wind Star but have difficulty with the steeper ones. I loved the ship. I loved that it looked more like a traditional ship. It was fascinating to see how the sails were raised and fun to be able to steer it from the ship's wheel. The other passengers were very friendly. It was an easy ship to be solo on. There were quite a few other solos, some traveling together but not sharing a room, but the couples on the trip were friendly to solos too. There were a mix of English, French and German speakers. Often announcements were in all three languages. If enough French or German speakers sign up for an excursion, there will be a group for those languages; English is always provided. There was one child (probably early teens), a very nice boy who mixed well with the adults. The captain and crew were great. I wasn't crazy about the cruise director. All of the stops on this itinerary except Penang were beach stops - small islands with a beach, most with snorkeling. They mostly didn't have trails for a hike through the rain forest. That's part of why I took the excursion. Personally, I'd have preferred to have some more variety mixed in. If not town stops, something with some hiking or gardens. I wouldn't hesitate to travel on Star Clipper again, but I'd choose my itinerary more carefully to get one with more variety. If Windstar and Star Clippers had a similar itinerary, price would probably be a big factor in choosing which one. *Each line has one ship with a name very similar to the line name which can be confusing. Star Clippers is the cruise line and Star Clipper is one of their ships. Windstar (one word) is the line and Wind Star (two words) is one of their ships.
  13. Was it two broken wrists at the same time? I can't even imagine how to deal with that. Glad you made it through. I have my first rehab visit Wednesday - it's really needed. The wrist and hand are really weak now and don't have full flexibility - I can't lift much more than my tea mug. I plan on being diligent about the exercises. I have a trainer at the gym and she will help with rehab too. This hasn't deterred me from traveling alone. I decided when I was in college, almost 40 years ago, that I wasn't willing to live a life limited by fear. My room mate didn't want me to walk back alone at night after working in the computer center so I went with her and her boy friend. I finished my program quickly and fell asleep on a couple of chairs waiting for them to finish so we could go back to the dorm later. When I woke with a stiff neck, I decided that this caution wasn't how I wanted to live. I've been very happy with the results of that decision. I've traveled a lot alone - mostly for business but also some vacations and personal travel days tacked on to business trips. My husband isn't as interested in travel as I am though when he goes he enjoys himself. And after all, I was able to handle what happened just fine. I'll be heading out on another trip in a couple of weeks. Not solo this time, something new for me. My grand daughter is going to Costa Rica on a trip organized through her school and I'll be going along as one of the chaperones. Thank you! I tried to do a good job writing it. I was worried it was too long for people to read, but I wrote it because people from time to time here say they are worried about traveling solo and I wanted to relate a story of getting through having dealing with a non-ideal event during solo travel -- that even if something goes wrong it can be handled. Also to mention some of the things to be prepared for. Healing is on schedule at this point. I've been told it will need a lot of rehab after being immobilized for 7 weeks. I'm glad to be getting started on the rehab phase.
  14. My Medicare Advantage provider doesn't have a relationship with the hospital in Beijing. The travel insurance coverage is secondary - which means they don't pay until the primary provider has paid for what they cover and the travel insurance sees what's left. That means the hospital bill (deposit and any remaining payment at the end) has to be paid upfront by me and then we deal with getting the insurance to reimburse. Fortunately, I have a high enough limit on a credit card to cover it. That was done before surgery on the first day. I forgot to include the interview with the hospital insurance dept in the list of things that were covered before surgery. The final bill was somewhat less than the deposit so there was a small refund at the end. At check out the hospital provided documents describing all the treatment they did and the costs. We submitted that to Kaiser (my Medicare Advantage provider). The documentation must have been good enough because they sent us a check without any questions for everything except a $500 co-pay. I still have to submit that plus the cost of the extra flight to the travel insurance. If I understand correctly, basic Medicare doesn't provide coverage outside the US (other than some corner case exceptions like if there is an emergency and the closest hospital is in Canada), but some Medigap and Medicare Advantage programs do cover it. Another detail I forgot - the second day in the hospital, the ship's port agent showed up bringing my suitcase from the hotel the ship uses. It would have been better to take it with me when I went to the hospital but leaving it behind worked out okay. Since I had everything essential in my backpack and wasn't going to wear anything but a hospital gown for a few days, I didn't need anything from it before it showed up.
  15. The travel insurance company will provide assistance getting home if needed. Once I'm told that I will be okay to leave and fly home after 3-nights (the day before the last hospital night), I call United and they nicely waive the change fee and over-ride the fare increase for the new booking. They even manage to get me the upgrade to business class that wasn't going to clear on my original flight. My original flight itinerary ends at San Francisco where I would have then taken BART and Amtrak for the last 100 miles. That often works out better than taking the short plane hop or dealing with Bay Area traffic to get home, but not with the bad arm. I ask the travel insurance to arrange for the plane or a car/van transfer. They need a form from the hospital first to say I'm clear to travel. They email a copy of the form to me and forward it to the hospital insurance office to fill out. But meanwhile, I'm impatient to know that the details are settled. They say that it's fine with them if I book the flight myself and submit the receipt to them for payment. There is a flight that works and the price is okay so I go ahead and book it. They do get the form from the hospital. They have there own medical review of the form and send one question. They want to check that the limb isn't in a full cast; that it's in something that will allow for expansion as it is likely to swell during the flight. It's in a splint with an elastic bandage so that's fine. All my shoes are lace-ups (other than my sandals but I don't like to fly in them). I find videos on-line for how to tie shoes with one hand. I manage to do it though it is hard to do snug enough that it stays tied. Maybe that's why the video also includes how to double knot the lace with one hand - I double knot and that fixes the issue. With that done I'm able to get dressed myself the last morning in the hospital and I'm ready to go. Flights home go smoothly. I check the roll-aboard that I would normally carry on as it will be too hard to deal with one-handed. I'm regular economy with a window seat on the flight from Phuket to Beijing which is okay but the extra space of business class is sure nice with the injury on the long flight from Beijing to SFO. Menu choices in the airports and on the planes are influenced by "what can I eat with one hand and not make a mess." My left non-dominant hand at that.
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