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About Hlitner

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    New Cumberland,PA, USA
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    International travel (77 countries at last count(
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  1. One way to save a few Euros with the Metro is to purchase a "T-10" ticket which is actually 10 separate tickets for less than 10Euros. It is actually less then half price when compared to purchasing regular tickets and you can split those T-10 tickets among multiple users. We find it makes a lot more sense for a couple then getting sucked into the 1 day tourist ticket unless you plan on using the Metro a heck of a lot in one day. Hank
  2. We have driven to San G. in the Spring, Summer and Fall. We have always been able to find parking although sometimes it means driving around the outside of the walls (there are many different parking areas) until we find a lot an empty space. In the summer trying to find a spot near the front gate/entrance is hard, but there are some lots around the back side where we have always been able to park although it leaves a bit of a hike (some of it uphill) to get into the city. Our favorite time in San G. is at night and we have sometimes stayed outside the walls at various hotels within a few miles (one of our favorites has been the Villa San Paolo). Late at night, after dinner, we have strolled through the streets when they were completely deserted and it is a special eerie place with the street lights playing off the buildings and creating all kinds of shadows. DW figures it is not much different then it was hundreds of years ago except that the electric lights used to be gas lanterns. Hank
  3. This thread has some silly posts that simply ignore reality. This COVID 19 thing has inflamed all kinds of passions. Today, as I walked into a local Walmart (with signs saying "masks are required in this store" a man in front of me had no mask. He also was carrying a Glock (I think it was a Model 23) on a hip holster with an extra clip of ammo. He walked into the store and nobody tried to stop him. What that man does is legal here in Pennsylvania (we are an Open Carry State) and I suspect that many in our part of the State would be supportive. So, what are we dealing with when it comes to cruise ships?. For some of the ridiculous posts on this thread I would counter that the Captain (Master of the Vessel) is the absolute law on that ship, once it leaves port. This is not debatable as it is simply fact supported by International Maritime Law. If the Captain says everyone must wear a mask in public areas that is the law. If some person decides to defy that rule then security has the ability to intervene, confine that person to their cabin (with a guard if necessary), put them in the brig if necessary, and put them off at the next port. Depending on the standing orders some of these steps would involve direct decision making by the Captain....but do not doubt his/her authority. If you want to whine about your rights or the law or blah blah blah you can do it from the pier as you wave goodbye to your ship. And all this talk about what folks will do and not do once aboard a ship is not even relevant if there are no cruises! As to a COVID-19 vaccine, maybe we will get a safe effective vaccine and maybe we will not. Maybe it will happen within the next few months or maybe it will take many years (the average vaccine takes about 5 years to make it to market). And if there is a safe/effective vaccine its efficacy could vary from a low of about 50% (the minimum currently set by CDC) up to 100% (the MMR vaccine is about the only one to approach this high number). Any approved vaccine will likely require multiple shots, possibly require boosters as often as every few months (the old Cholera vaccine required shots every 6 months) and could have some nasty side effects. We do not have any of the answers to these questions which is one of the major reasons we have Phase 3 testing for vaccine development. Even if there is a successful vaccine with a high percentage efficacy it could take years until it is adequately distributed around the world. Some recent polls in the USA indicated that fewer then 40% of folks would even get such a vaccine which is not much different then what we see with the flu vaccine where we get less then 50% participation. I am posting facts, not BS. Another fact is that nearly every attempt to restart cruising in Europe and Alaska has failed! In nearly every case (Mein Schiff 2 is an exception) there has been 1 or more positive COVID tests among crew or passengers or both. Norway now has a national problem as the result of a single Hurtigruten cruise (who has since suspended all operations). In Alaska the passengers and crew of a small cruise ship are going to be quarantined in a Juneau hotel (for an indefinite period) because a single passenger tested positive (after testing negative on an earlier test). So some of you can argue whether to sell your stock but that is not really relevant to the question of if and when cruising will resume. To that question I do not have the answer (nor does anyone else) other then to assume it will not happen in 2020! Hank
  4. I thought it might be fun to keep this blog going since its nice (for a change) to talk about travel :). The OP talks about a 3-4 hour ride in the "Tuscan countryside" which is probably not the best way to plan a trip (and spend hundred of Euros for a car/driver). Tuscany is actually a very large area of nearly 9000 square miles :). We have spent months exploring Tuscany (mostly in our own rental car) and still have not seen it all. A 3-4 hour drive from Livorno would be very limiting and somewhat of a challenge when it comes to itinerary. I guess it would be possible to just drive something close to a circular route but I think a "drive" would get boring (a tree in Tuscany looks like the same tree in other places). Planning a picturesque drive on some of the smaller country roads combined with some stops at smaller towns, wineries, etc. could be a good plan. But one should do their pre-trip homework and actually have some kind of itinerary. By the way, another poster talked about a trip to San Gimignano (one of our favorite towns) and Siena. We have done that, with a rental car, on a port day but it does become somewhat rushed in both places. The problem is that it takes about 2 - 2:15 to drive one-way between Livorno and Siena and this does not include the time to get into Siena near the walled part of town that is where folks usually visit. Toss in a stop at San Gimignano and you are talking about at least 5 hours just driving. When we did this with our own rental car there was additional time needed to park in Siena (parking at San Gimignano was not a problem). San Gimignano visits need about 2 hours to simply walk the main street and more time if one plans on having lunch. Siena can take even more time depending on what you plan on doing and seeing (DW's patron saint's bones are in the Cathedral). So all this goes to how folks spend port days. One can choose to cover a lot of ground and spend very little time at any place. When the day is over you might be able to say I went to 10 places but you would have obviously missed just about everything in those 10 places. Even with 2 places this can happen..especially if you must spend many hours with transportation, So, when planning a day trip itinerary it is usually wise to carefully look at the geography, driving times, and even parking (if driving your own car). So, for example, stopping at San Gimignano and Volterra would allow more time to explore and less transportation time. or Visiting Pisa and Lucca in one day is a very workable itinerary. If you are like DW and me and want to leave enough time for a decent lunch (we love eating in Italy) then that also needs to be factored into your timeline. Hank P.S. Posting this kind of stuff is much more fun the dealing with all the COVID-19 related stuff
  5. Costa is sailing in October in the middle East My first response is "you wanna bet?" So far, nearly every attempt to restart cruising in Europe (and elsewhere) have quickly ended because of 1 or more positive Covid tests. The latest, just announced yesterday, happened with a most unlikely ship operate by Uncruise Adventures. This ship only had 35 passengers and everyone had actually been tested (for COVID) twice before the cruise! And yet one passenger was found to be positive after the vessel had already sailed from Juneau. So now, all passengers and crew will need to be quarantined (for an indefinite period) in a Juneau Hotel! What is unique about Uncruise is that they met or exceeded all the Alaskan testing guidelines and tested everyone! Even the passenger who tested positive had tested negative several days prior (which is why he could enter Alaska). This is actually the toughest testing protocol in the world (as of yesterday) and it still failed! So getting back to cruising after October 31 you would need to ask a simple question, "what will be different in November, December, January, etc. from now? The cruise lines keep playing this rolling cancellation game but at this point they might as well cancel all cruises until 2021! And even in 2021 it is likely that cruises will need to be cancelled. To this cruise lover the situation is just very sad. The problems with the restarts were very predictable but the cruise lines (and passengers) keep hoping something wonderful will happen and everything will be different....in a good way. But the problem with all this hoping for the best attitude is that the virus does not listen to hope and prayers. Hank
  6. I guess you would say the same about the world economy. Why not just open everything and let things go back to normal. All the death, comorbidity, and sickness would be just "collateral damage?" Surely you don't want to live in such a world. Hank
  7. Really? Well it does seem that all of failures in Europe (Aida, Sea Dream, Hurtigruten, and TUI) originated with infected crew members! Re-crewing means moving lots of folks (more then 1000 persons for most ships) around the world to get them to their ship. The cruise lines are really wrestling with the crew problem. MSC has been considering a requirement that the crew would not be permitted to leave the ship during their contract! Many think that would destroy crew morale and might even make it difficult to recruit crew members. There are other crew problems in that the crew members often come from parts of the world where they are not technically allowed to travel to the embarkation port. For example, at one point folks from the Philippines have been banned from traveling to many countries but that Island country is the source of many crew members. And there is another even bigger problem. Cruise ships can try to modify policies to make social distancing part of being a passenger. They are thinking that cutting back on the capacity (of passengers) and passenger cabins do work for social distancing. But the crew live in much tighter quarters and generally share bathrooms among multiple cabins. The crew lounges, dining facilities, and work environment do not often allow for social distancing. If a single crew member gets COVID they could quickly spread it to many other crew members and lots of passengers (depending on the crew members job). Re crewing has another big problem. Many of the most experienced crew members do not want to go back to work on ships. Consider that some crew members have been literally imprisoned on ships for months as the cruise lines try to find ways to repatriate them home. This has not only led to moral issues but has resulted in quite a few crew suicides and other mental health issues. So, when you say that re-crewing is the "least" of the problems it is actually one of the main problems. Without a sufficient crew (there are minimum crew requirements for safety) you cannot have any cruise. We have a good friend who is a Senior Officer for MSC. He is now home in Portugal but is reluctant to go back to work until he feels safe on a ship. And he is not alone. And finally, for cruises embarking out of US ports the crew issue is also a major issue for the CDC. Ever since the start of COVID, the CDC has had issues with how to deal with the 10s of thousands of crew members. For months they simply forced them to stay on their ships (with no pay). Then the CDC said that the cruise lines had to find a way to get crew members (even those that were healthy) home without using any public or commercial transportation within the USA. Some cruise lines had to actually charter aircraft to move some crew and eventually the cruise lines moved 10s of thousands of crew around the world by moving them on cruise ships (at huge expense). This process has taken months! Reversing that process for a restart is not a viable option. Hank
  8. One of the hallmarks of "living intelligently with COVID" is accepting the fact that you do not have control over other people's actions or governmental decisions. But you do have control over yourself! This is called "personal responsibility" which is a term lost to many these days. But rather then constantly blaming the actions of others one can do their best to work with the existing system and concentrate on the factors that are within your own control. So for example, if I go to the Supermarket and there is a person who is not wearing a mask I can do my best to social distance from that person. When we went to the beach we walked until we found a relatively empty area where we could easily social distance. And when we went in ocean we swam in areas that were not crowded with others. Another example is restaurants. If DW and I go out to a restaurant we expect them to meet our own standards (which are tough) regarding social distancing and mask wearing. If we go to a place that is obviously not up to our standards we simply leave! No need to make a scene, confront others, etc. Just leave! In one such case we later telephoned that restaurant and spoke to the manager explaining that we left his facility because we did not feel safe. You mention the Far East and although the comparisons are interesting it is nothing within our own control. If folks simply handled issues within their direct control and did not stress out about everyone else's actions they would quickly find their own stress level is reduced. Hank
  9. LOL Don, I will tell you a secret. I also have a strong dislike of cigar smoke. And yet, I still would be happy to smoke one. Go figure. Nothing logical about it...but that is the way it is. The only thing I dislike more then cigar smoke is cigarette smoke. I have often been tempted to put myself slightly downwind of a cigarette smoker and light up the cheapest smelliest cigar in the universe :). Hank
  10. I personally have a big issue with what you call the "deniers" and similar issues with those that seem to think that locking down the world is the answer. My own opinion (not worth much) is that we must learn to live intelligently with COVID! Hank
  11. Although we are Princess fans (just a 16 day Aug and 28 day Oct cruise cancelled by Princess) I cannot help but think of the old refrain "have I got a deal for you?" For those that want to help Princess (and CCL) through these troubling times by all means send them more money. Personally, we are a bit cautious when it comes to finance which is why we refused to make the final payment for our October Regal Princess cruise (it was over $9000. When that payment was due in early July we told Princess (through our cruise agent) no way and if Princess wanted to cancel our booking...so be it! Well, Princess decided to extend our final payment due date until mid-August and a few weeks before that due date finally cancelled the cruise (which was obviously going to happen months ago). Would we increase our deposit on a future Princess cruise now? If it were a few hundred dollars with a good potential return on investment...perhaps. But making a full payment far in advance to help out Princess cash flow? No way! The risk of bankruptcy is too great given the potential return (risk/benefit). While we might be able to eventually recover the cash in a bankruptcy through a credit card chargeback, I am not sure its worth the hassle. So here is our question regarding 2021 cruises (we have both a 30 day and 18 day cruise booked). Why would anyone expect any 2021 cruise to even happen? or put more directly, "what will change in the next year that would make you think any cruise will happen?" And please do not cite the vaccine promises as I find those promises quite cheap (except for the pharmaceutical executives that have already made nearly $100 million on the sale of their stock which was inflated in value by these same promises). Hank
  12. I think what has happened in Europe (especially in Norway) shows that we need something close to 100% safety of the CDC is not going to allow any cruising from USA ports. If you have not read the CDC Questions (for which they are seeking public comment by late September) you might find it interesting reading. Those questions make it pretty clear where the CDC thinking is going. The problem (from my point of view) is that nobody has come up with an acceptable plan what to do if there is even a single case of COVID on a cruise. Lacking such an answer (with the necessary arrangements) there can be no cruising from North America. This is not an area where you can have compromise. Norway did try to make it work and now they have jeopardized most of the population of their country because of a couple of cruises. Hank
  13. It will certainly impact other cruise lines. Hurtigruten is a well run cruise line which has now lost the trust of the Norwegian government and people. Add to that issues with positive test on both Aida and TUI and Europe is looking at the major failure of most start-ups. You can be certain that the CDC is carefully watching and keep in mind that these cruise lines were following pretty strict protocols that were approved by the EU and their own governments. Trying to restart cruises in South Florida present huge problems...even if the CDC lifts their "no cruise" order. How do the cruise lines get thousands of crew, from all over the world, to south Florida and ensure they are in good health. I guess there could be a program to put all the crew members into isolation for at least two weeks, but keep in mind we are talking about thousands of people. And even if we had a way to ensure that all the crew members were OK, you then have the same problem with many more thousands of passengers. These passengers must travel to south Florida (which is a COVID hot zone) and get to the ship with zero infections. How can this be guaranteed when there is currently no test to detect recent exposure? Some have accused me (and others) of being too negative here on CC. I love cruising and have had 3 cruises (2 on Princess and 1 HAL) cancelled in the last 4 months by the cruise line. We have another cruise (MSC) booked for December and doubt it will happen. We have two cruises (HAL and Oceania) booked in 2021 and would not take bets that either will happen. At this point I would not take a bet on any mass market cruise happening in the next year! I know this is very negative but we have not heard anyone come up with a reasonable plan to resume cruising with the current situation. If there is a 100% safe/effective vaccine in the next few months which can somehow be dispensed to billion we are all home free. What is more likely is that if (a big if) there is a vaccine it will have limited efficacy (perhaps 50%) and will involve multiple shots assuming you can find the vaccine and a place that is dispensing. The Europeans are desperately trying to resume cruising without a vaccine and without a reliable last minute COVID test. So far they are failing! I seriously doubt that the CDC is going to allow a similar situation in the USA. I believe it is back to the drawing boards for the cruise industry. Hank
  14. It is not just cruise ships! You are obviously aware it can be difficult to find a place to enjoy a cigar in many cities. In places like New York City there are a very limited number of places where cigar smoking is both legal and tolerated. We live in Puerto Vallarta during the winter and that city has several decent cigar stores that sell lots of decent cigars including decent Cubans. But the number of places one can enjoy those smokes, without bothering others, is really shrinking. I really have mixed emotions. For many years I really enjoyed a good cigar but DW hated the smell so I would never smoke anywhere near her location. But eventually, because cigar smoking has lost favor, I simply gave it up. But I still admit to having cravings when I walk by a cigar shop in Puerto Vallarta and see the large humidor which has some amazing smokes not found in the USA. As to Cigar smoking on ships, it does seem to be disappearing. Most of the ships we have cruised (more then 65) now only allow cigar smoking in an outdoor area and its often restricted to one spot on the ship. Indoor Cigar lounges seem to be disappearing which I suspect is going to be the norm. Hank
  15. I do not think this was a situation where the ships went to another anchorage. The safest place for a ship in a hurricane is far away :). They moved to the Southwest to put some distance between the ships and the storm and are now moving back. In the case of a few ships that were actually docked at Port Everglades, they were ordered to leave by the harbor master and Coast Guard and also moved far from land and the storm. Since this is hurricane season and there are many cruise ships in the waters between Florida and the Bahamas we would expect the ships to be moving a few more times to dodge various storms. Hank
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