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Everything posted by coastcat

  1. My fridge was jam-packed when I arrived (Club Balcony): one paper water bottle, two bottles of San Pellegrino, and a bottle of the $5 swill… er, sparkling wine. Only the latter was free. There was a second bottle of the wine on the desk.
  2. Update: according to my fantastic room steward Mark, there are about 2200 passengers onboard (roughly 55% capacity).
  3. Still no filling stations. Can vouch for the quality of @aubreyc1988’s fixed haircut. Super cute! Clouds to the west are finally breaking up after a cool, cloudy day. No idea how many people are onboard but it sure feels sparse. The Observation Lounge only had one of its three buffet stations open at lunch. I’ve shared an elevator just twice. It feels busier in my cabin area - the MBs sold out so there’s a solid stretch of occupied cabins. In the public areas though, it’s quiet.
  4. I know, right? They’re practically swimming pools! No way I could navigate that high wall.
  5. It’s a real downgrade when compared to Ocean Medallion on Princess. I had cocktails, mocktails, lattes, and diet Cokes delivered to my cabin (um, not all at the same time) with no delivery charge, all covered by the standard beverage package. Princess was not really my cup of tea, but at least they would deliver that tea along with cookies and a bowl of potato chips.
  6. The description doesn’t mention the tubs. The photos and videos do. These are both for deck 9 MC cabins:
  7. Something new! Or at least I haven’t seen anyone mention it. There’s a card with QR code in my cabin for a service called Swift Delivery on Demand. You can now order from a selection of drinks and snacks, to be delivered to your door. https://app.ncl.com/sites/default/files/Fleet_SWIFT_Room_Service_Mobile-Menu.pdf The cocktails are canned and nothing is covered by the beverage packages, but if you want a drink and can’t find your pants…
  8. Masks through the whole embarkation process. Once you’re on the gangway, no masks required. The testing process for Bliss’s return was way smoother than for Encore. NCL and Eurofins are in the groove now! You’ll test at Berth 93. When you’re properly tagged as “all clear” you can walk to 92 (or are we at 91?) or take the shuttle over. Embarkation process is the same as always. On my balcony with a Rebellious Fish, living that cruise life.
  9. MC Club Balconies on Encore have tubs. I’m 4’10” with bad knees, and wouldn’t risk it.
  10. I'm bringing a large rolling duffel. If needed, I'll stuff your husband in there and tote him through the embarkation lines. 😆
  11. Upgrade to the MA or MB category of Club Balcony Suites and you will get the fancy shower. On Encore, the MC cabins have tubs.
  12. That's not entirely correct either. We've got two test kits in play here! It is correct that BinaxNow for professional use does not require a prescription, which is why NCL can administer it at the port: "As part of this authorization, the BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card test for professional use will no longer require a prescription, meaning that states, workplaces, schools and other organizations no longer need to work through a medical provider to generate a prescription before the test can be administered. For congregate environments using the professional-use version of BinaxNOW, a CLIA certificate is still required." It is also correct that the test that Abbott is shipping to retailers such as CVS and Walgreens also does not require a prescription. What you can buy at the store is the over-the-counter self test, which is not supervised and thus not likely to be accepted by the cruise lines since they cannot verify who actually gave the sample. The test you purchase from eMed and Optum is the home test. It's basically the same test materials, but the home test includes the video supervision of the sample collection. The self test box is marked OTC, while the home test one is marked Rx. Granted, it's kind of silly to call it a prescription when you're just answering some basic questions on the ordering page. Luckily I have both boxes on hand, see below. The top box is the OTC version that I bought at CVS; I used one of the swab/card kits a few days before my NCL cruise in August just so I wouldn't get a nasty surprise at the port. The bottom box is the home test purchased through Optum. That's the one RCI will accept when I board Navigator of the Seas in December. It would have been nice if Abbott had given them more distinctive names.
  13. Here's one randomly-selected thread from the Celebrity forum: All you need to know is in that video, though. In the video he posted today, Tony talked about taking the test again for his next cruise, and mentioned that there's a new answer option in the Navica app (which you use in conjunction with the test kit). When he first tested, the app asked your reason for taking the test and the only thing applicable to cruising was "other." Now cruising is on the list! I imagine that demand for the test from cruisers has gone up considerably now that cruise lines changed to a 2-day test requirement. Carnival was supposedly going to partner with Quest Diagnostics to facilitate pre-testing. I don't know what's become of that. As far as I know, NCL is the only mainstream line that takes care of the testing at the port for U.S. sailings. It's a bit of a logistic mess and must be costing them a ton of money. I doubt any cruise line can sell you an Abbott test directly since technically it's a prescription item; RCI's site links to the Optum site but you're still buying from Optum. FYI, you can get a rapid PCR or antigen test at LAX, with costs ranging from $80 for rapid antigen to $199 for 1-hour PCR: https://www.flylax.com/travelsafely. Honestly, I'd rather test and get the results before getting on the airplane!
  14. Those cheap test kits wouldn't do you any good. The cruise lines are only accepting supervised tests. That includes in-person testing options, which are either fast but pricey or free with no guarantee you'll get the results in time. It also includes at-home tests if the test process includes video supervision. Search just about any of the other CC forums and you'll find a ton of discussion about the Abbott BinaxNOW Ag Card At-Home antigen test with video supervision. It is only available online and only from Optum Store (2-pack for $69.99 or 3-pack for $99.99) and eMed (6-packs, but they're out of stock right now). The cruise lines accept it. Heck, RCI links to the Optum site from their Healthy Sail Center page on testing options. There is an Abbott BinaxNOW antigen self-test kit available at drugstores, if you can ever find it in stock, but it is not supervised and thus NOT accepted. There is at least one at-home PCR test with video supervision but you have to send your sample to their lab and thus risk not getting results in time. I'm sailing out of San Pedro on NCL in two weeks. Although NCL does not require pre-testing for boarding, if your at-port antigen test comes up positive they'll only pay for your quarantine if you can show a negative PCR or antigen test done within 3 days. I'm going to pre-test using the BinaxNOW Ag Card kit before flying to LA. I'll do the same in early December because I took advantage of those bargains! Here's a video with info about the BinaxNOW at-home testing process:
  15. MC Club Balcony cabins have bathtubs, at least on Bliss. The drawback is that they’re only on deck 8 (forward of the public areas) and 9 (midship). I enjoyed the fancy shower in the mini and took advantage of a price drop to grab a MB Club Balcony for my upcoming Bliss cruise. The MX is just an upgraded balcony cabin, not a true suite, but it’s still nice to have that extra space.
  16. Lucy is a solo traveler. Ethel is a solo traveler who has Platinum status, which gives her a dinner for two at Cagney’s or Le Bistro, among other benefits. Each cruiser has Free At Sea for this 7-day cruise, and each was charged one person’s worth of dining gratuities for the Specialty Dining Package (SDP). Lucy and Ethel decide to dine together at Cagney’s. Option 1: Lucy and Ethel each uses a SDP credit Option 2: Ethel uses her Platinum Cagney’s credit, which covers both of their meals Ethel books another solo cruise but Lucy is off having a wacky adventure and can’t make it to the pier on time. Again. Ethel goes to Cagney’s on her own. Option 1: Ethel uses a SDP credit Option 2: Ethel uses up her Platinum Cagney’s credit on a dinner for one instead of dinner for two
  17. Sail Away cabins can be cheaper, but sometimes they aren’t. They’re not always available, either. If I decide to a Sail Away and then want to add WiFi plus two dining credits, am I now back to the price point of a regular cabin? There’s a lot of math involved with NCL.
  18. If you read the Prima thread referenced by Hallux, you'll see that there are a lot of unknowns. NCL hasn't released a huge amount of information yet. The two main shows are the Donna Summer musical and Light Balance. We know there will be improv comedy, but I think that's it for the entertainment announced so far. On NCL, each show has a separate cast. We're in the same situation for dining options - only some have been announced. And yes, NCL removed the deck plans from their website. Presumably we'll soon get a new version with more of those blank spots filled in. Assuming things don't change, you can book specialty dining 120 days out (sooner if you're in the Club Balcony & higher cabin categories). Only about 1/3 of the dining reservations are available ahead of time so don't fret if you can't book the time you want before boarding. Yes, you can book future cruises onboard. What they'll really push are CruiseNext certificates, which are non-refundable (but transferable!) deposits. They're a good deal but don't buy them until you've decided you like NCL.
  19. You're right, if you calculate based on the gratuities, the Premium Beverage Package is a good deal if you enjoy 3 or so alcoholic drinks a day. The drawback with NCL's package is that it does not include specialty coffees, smoothies, bottled water, or fresh-squeezed juices. If you're a non-drinker, paying even just the gratuities is a bad deal unless you drink a whole lot of soda and mocktails. Regarding the Free At Sea thing, ignore the marketing-speak about the dollar value. That's just confusing. Think of the dining package as specialty meal credits: on a 7-day cruise, you get two credits each of which is worth a full meal. When it comes to using dining credits, most of the specialty restaurants on NCL are the equivalent of a flat-rate restaurant on RCI. One specialty credit = one dinner at Le Bistro, Cagney's, Onda, etc.
  20. Read. Read. Read some more. Hopefully you'll find some good spots to curl up and chill out. Bars during the daytime are a good spot for this! I'm not a very social person so I'm content to read, wander the ship, enjoy the sea air, watch the game shows and trivia, and otherwise just take it easy. Oh, and eat. My next cruise is on a ship I've sailed before, so I know precisely where I'll be spending large chunks of time with a drink and my iPad. Can't wait!
  21. Of the three, NCL is the most focused on solo cruisers. In normal times there are daily solo meetups led by a dedicated solo host; although the Europe sailings appear to have halted the gatherings, the U.S. ones are still going strong. The solo meeting is right before normal dinner time and the host will set up a shared table at one of the MDRs. They may also arrange a solo space at the evening entertainment. I appreciate that NCL's staff is accustomed to solo cruisers and will treat you like a normal person! One drawback with NCL is that you have to be on the lookout for reduced solo supplements; if you pay the full cabin fare for a regular (not Sail Away) cabin, you're paying for two sets of Free at Sea perks in that cabin rate, not one. You're only paying gratuities for one, though. Royal seems to be going after the solo market more, with Quantum-class ships including a dozen balcony cabins for solos. They've been offering sweet deals on a bunch of cruises - I am booked in a regular balcony on back-to-back sailings of Navigator of the Seas this December, no single supplement! RC doesn't seem to have activities specifically for solos, based on the dailies I've read, but there's so much going on onboard that it probably doesn't matter. Carnival has no single cabins and doesn't seem that geared towards solos. On the other hand, it'll be a lively crowd and even with a full single supplement, reasonably priced.
  22. Well, make sure you're comparing apples to apples here. On my upcoming Bliss cruise, a BF ($1143) or BB ($1175) balcony with single occupancy is cheaper than a Studio ($1189). Since those cabins come with the Free at Sea perks, it's an excellent deal and I'd take the balcony without hesitation. In fact, I was originally in a Studio but upgraded. I'll miss the excellent free espresso in the Studio Lounge but hey, balcony. Other times you'll see an interior/oceanview/balcony at a lower price than the Studio but it's the Sail Away price - no Free at Sea and they pick your cabin location. I really like the Studio cabins, though. They're certainly small, but the design keeps it from feeling cramped and closed in. Except on Epic and Pride of America, the ships with Studio areas also feature The Waterfront - or as I prefer to think of it, a huge semi-private balcony with easy bar access.
  23. It's just a new ship thing. People want the shiny new ship! In this case it's a brand new class of ship. Prices will eventually return to earth when the second and third Prima-class ships are available to book. Or at least I hope so.
  24. There aren't any particularly cheap options, but there are plenty of options! Of course there's a CC forum for this: https://boards.cruisecritic.com/forum/316-gulf-coast-departures/ With the expense of getting there on top of the premium rates for the new ship, Prima will be quite a drain on the cruise budget. I have two sailings booked but neither include Galveston.
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