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Viking Star - Current Mechanical Issues

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8 minutes ago, just_dont said:

I'm saying that there are a heck of a lot of us (myself NOT included) that have a serious "you can't tell me what to do" attitude and are just plain inconsiderate of others.

Yep, I said it.

 

Well you're making a blanket statement.  If I were you I would just_dont.

 

I'm pretty sure you'll find other people who don't follow the rules.

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I really don't understand why people skip the sanitizer/hand washing. Even if you just washed your hands before you left your cabin on the way to your meal, you likely handled the railings and the buttons in the elevator on the way down. Even if I didn't care about other passengers, I surely don't want to spend any part of my vacation being sick!

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6 minutes ago, zitsky said:

 

Well you're making a blanket statement.  If I were you I would just_dont.

 

I'm pretty sure you'll find other people who don't follow the rules.

(Ha, I see what you did there 😏)

I'm absolutely not intending to make a blanket statement.  I know there are a lot of really great people in the world, and the United States certainly does not have the market cornered on inconsiderate rule breakers.

I'm also not suggesting that anyone who might be reading this would be one of them.  Far from it.  If you're reading/contributing on Cruise Critic, especially in the Viking forum, it's because you have a certain passion for cruising and likely for international travel as well.

The ugly American tourist stereotype exists for a reason.  That doesn't mean that I'm painting every American with that brush, but I'm sure we've all seen them.  They're the people who would wear shorts and a "wife-beater" to the restaurant or tell the cruise ship personnel "you can't make me use hand sanitizer."

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I think its safe to say that Noro does not discriminate between the higher or lower priced cruise lines and it effects everyone if basic hygiene practices are not followed.  

There's a reason why there is a trend which follows certain itineraries as opposed to others (i.e. Caribbean, SE Asia, etc) and that is mainly due to the sub-standard conditions in many of the ports of call in comparison to others.  Lets not forget as well that Cuba is not on par with the likes of NA or Europe when it comes to infrastructure regardless of the all inclusive resorts in places not visited by cruise ships.

This of course is not a blanket statement or generalization, just an observation based on experience.  Add to the fact people  not washing their hands after using the toilet, etc. and you're increasing the probability of illness.  It should also be noted that very few if any crew seem to be effected which is an indication of where the issue is coming from...

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On the November Cuba trip referenced above, Viking had several intercept points for customers returning from excursions, etc.

 

Towels,  bottles of water, and a smiling steward with sanitizer for those who wanted it at the boarding point for the tender. Another steward with sanitizer on the ship, after the screen-in, it was tough to miss these guys.

 

Maybe the "nice guy" approach doesn't work, and it's time to put up FOR YOUR OWN SAFETY signs...

 

 

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No.  Nice doesn't work.  Viking is like the friend who is afraid to hurt your feelings because you might stop playing with them.

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Slightly off topic, but if there's concern about whether or not people are washing/sanitizing their hands and whether or not its being enforced, I would say that's simply not a concern of Viking on the whole as how can they be concerned over basic hygiene if they've decided its a good idea to sail without a properly trained/qualified Chief Security?

 

I was on Star earlier this year and got to chatting with the now former holder of that role who was very candid in explaining how the decision had been made to remove he and his colleagues holding the role (former military/law enforcement professionals) responsible for the security of the ship and to replace them with a safety officer (read. mariner with no relevant background) 

 

So if they're content to go down the road of drastically reducing security measures onboard, i doubt they'll lose much sleep over a few upset stomachs and dirty hands, which is why I will be cruising elsewhere in future as I for one consider my own personal safety/security to be a pretty high priority when travelling

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On 2/20/2019 at 8:14 AM, Captain_Morgan said:

Slightly off topic, but if there's concern about whether or not people are washing/sanitizing their hands and whether or not its being enforced, I would say that's simply not a concern of Viking on the whole as how can they be concerned over basic hygiene if they've decided its a good idea to sail without a properly trained/qualified Chief Security?

 

I was on Star earlier this year and got to chatting with the now former holder of that role who was very candid in explaining how the decision had been made to remove he and his colleagues holding the role (former military/law enforcement professionals) responsible for the security of the ship and to replace them with a safety officer (read. mariner with no relevant background) 

 

So if they're content to go down the road of drastically reducing security measures onboard, i doubt they'll lose much sleep over a few upset stomachs and dirty hands, which is why I will be cruising elsewhere in future as I for one consider my own personal safety/security to be a pretty high priority when travelling

Having actually been integral in developing and attaining a Ship Security Plan (SSP), in accordance with the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code, I could not disagree more that the Ship Security Officer (SSO) should be from a military or law enforcement background. In my experience, this statement shows limited, if any, knowledge of the statutory training requirements and the role performed by the SSO.

 

The company is required to conduct a risk assessment/ship security assessment and develop a SSP for every vessel, which outlines relevant safety plans & procedures for each of the 3 security levels. When completed and audited by Flag/Class Inspectors, the ship is issued a Ship Security Certificate, which must be carried on board at all times. Once approved the Ship Security Plan cannot be changed without getting the Plan re-audited and re-approved by Flag/Class. Therefore cruise lines CANNOT even make minor changes, never mind "Drastically reducing security measures" while the vessel is operational. The SSO can be changed, provided the relief has completed a 3-day Flag/Class accredited Ship Security Officer training course. 

 

During annual re-certification, I was requested to produce the ship security certificate and the SSP and was asked, as the Master, if I was in agreement with the security plan and my delegated authority. The company must make a clear statement that the Master has over-riding authority, responsibility and accountability to make any decision regarding the safety & security of the vessel. The Master also has access to the Company Security Officer and any other resources he/she requires to fulfill this role. Therefore, regardless of who fills the SSO position, the responsibility and accountability resides with the Master.

 

The requirements of the SSP are clearly outlined in the ISPS Code, which also clearly states the roles & responsibilities of the SSO and the statutory training required, before being assigned to the position. For memory I believe we attended a 5-day course, which covered the mandatory SSO course & intro to ship's SSP. This course predominantly covered security training and roles & responsibilities, so a non-mariner would still be required to learn the extensive marine aspects of the role.

 

Having reviewing the pre-existing knowledge/training requirements in the ISPS Code, for a SSO, it lists 25 items. Being generous, a non-mariner with an armed forces/law enforcement background may come to the table with knowledge of 8 topics, relating to security in the marine industry, while a Senior Deck Officer (with Master FG Certificate of Competency), should have knowledge of 13-15 topics.

 

The SSO is responsible to the Master, for managing the ship's security plan, which contains many layers and resources, and varies depending on the security level set by the ship's Flag State. Note - the ship must increase security level to match the port, if the port is on a higher level. Therefore, the SSO role is more of a management role, ensuring the resources outlined in the Plan are available and deployed appropriately, aboard the ship. Extensive training and record keeping are also key roles.

 

In my experience, as Master of 2,000 + pax Ro/Pax vessels, my SSO was a Senior Deck Officer and this was the best position to fill this role. While the SSO was a Deck Officer, he/she had significant specialised security contractors available, both on ship and ashore. Personally, my preference and that of other Masters, was to identify and eliminate any threat ashore, before even reaching the ship, which is where most ex-law enforcement/armed service contractors were deployed.

 

From experience, the SSO role is not a position which requires an entire FTE, so other tasks, roles, responsibilities are included to make the SSO an FTE position. On some cruise lines, these additional roles include supervising rigging gangways, supervising the shore tender base, conducting post incident investigations/reports relating to pax, providing law-enforcement services, etc. The first 2 roles are traditional Deck Officer roles, the 3rd is also a common deck officer responsibility, which we learned from day 1 as a cadet. The provision of law-enforcement, is best performed by those specially trained in law-enforcement, but where not available defaults to Deck Officers.

 

Therefore, my best guess is that after completing 3-years of "Blue Water" operations, Viking have reviewed the allocation of the Ship Security Officer role and determined they can provide the Captain with improved personnel resources by providing an additional Deck Officer to manage the Ship Security Plan and also be available to enhance the Bridge Team. Unlike the mega ships of mainstream lines, I suspect there is significantly less need for law-enforcement services with Viking's normal clientele.

 

Since the Masters are ultimately responsible for both the safety & security of the ship, I suspect this change could even have originated from the operational Masters.

 

As further proof that Viking are not compromising ship security, while transiting "Pirate Alley" last year the Viking Sun, hired some specialised contractors to assist protecting the ship and passengers, in the event of a pirate attack. These contractors were well trained and carried equipment to assist protecting the ship, and was in addition to measures prevalent on other pax vessels. On our last WC through "Pirate Alley" we had the usual passive defenses rigged and ran as much of a  black ship as possible, but we did not have any specialised contractors available.

 

Therefore, when security is a real issue, my hat is off to Viking, as they take real action in ensuring the safety and security of their vessel, crew and passengers.

 

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Thanks for that thorough description,  I learned a lot.

 

As cruise companies are increasingly under investment and insurance microscopes, they will strive to protect their assets, as well as the health of  their customers.

 

The memory of the Costa Concordia and is show off skipper isn't a reassuring precedent. You can't run a half billion dollar ship with passengers and crew like you would operate a motorcycle.

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Heidi 13,

Thanks for the very thorough explanation of the safety and security issues as handled on board ships, and especially as it pertains to Viking. It was very helpful information, from a most experienced point of view.

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I agree with Heidi that the ship's Security Officer does not need to be from the military or law enforcement.  For the most part, as head of what is essentially a small town's police force, a former military person may not be the best fit, since most instances require the ability to de-escalate and defuse situations calmly, which is not necessarily part of the military training lexicon (former service person).  While having former law enforcement involved assists with regards to the above, they also must be trained in maritime law, and the law of the flag state as well as the law of the port state, and how the jurisdictions inter-relate between flag state and port state in many different legal scenarios.  While lines like NCL will hire Gurkhas and former British police officers for security, they will be the first to tell you that their former training was just a jumping off point for their training and indoctrination into ship's security.

 

And, further to what Heidi said about the ISPS code, remember that this is an international convention, which flag states must pass as the law of the country, and as he says, the company's ISPS code is audited on an annual basis to ensure that it at least meets the requirements of the law, and cannot be changed without overview and approval from class/flag state.  So, any changes that Viking has made will still meet industry best practices.

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10 hours ago, Heidi13 said:

Having actually been integral in developing and attaining a Ship Security Plan (SSP), in accordance with the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code, I could not disagree more that the Ship Security Officer (SSO) should be from a military or law enforcement background. In my experience, this statement shows limited, if any, knowledge of the statutory training requirements and the role performed by the SSO.

 

Having reviewing the pre-existing knowledge/training requirements in the ISPS Code, for a SSO, it lists 25 items. Being generous, a non-mariner with an armed forces/law enforcement background may come to the table with knowledge of 8 topics, relating to security in the marine industry, while a Senior Deck Officer (with Master FG Certificate of Competency), should have knowledge of 13-15 topics.

 

In my experience, as Master of 2,000 + pax Ro/Pax vessels, my SSO was a Senior Deck Officer and this was the best position to fill this role. While the SSO was a Deck Officer, he/she had significant specialised security contractors available, both on ship and ashore. Personally, my preference and that of other Masters, was to identify and eliminate any threat ashore, before even reaching the ship, which is where most ex-law enforcement/armed service contractors were deployed.

 

From experience, the SSO role is not a position which requires an entire FTE, so other tasks, roles, responsibilities are included to make the SSO an FTE position. On some cruise lines, these additional roles include supervising rigging gangways, supervising the shore tender base, conducting post incident investigations/reports relating to pax, providing law-enforcement services, etc. The first 2 roles are traditional Deck Officer roles, the 3rd is also a common deck officer responsibility, which we learned from day 1 as a cadet. The provision of law-enforcement, is best performed by those specially trained in law-enforcement, but where not available defaults to Deck Officers.

 

Therefore, my best guess is that after completing 3-years of "Blue Water" operations, Viking have reviewed the allocation of the Ship Security Officer role and determined they can provide the Captain with improved personnel resources by providing an additional Deck Officer to manage the Ship Security Plan and also be available to enhance the Bridge Team. Unlike the mega ships of mainstream lines, I suspect there is significantly less need for law-enforcement services with Viking's normal clientele.

 

Since the Masters are ultimately responsible for both the safety & security of the ship, I suspect this change could even have originated from the operational Masters.

 

As further proof that Viking are not compromising ship security, while transiting "Pirate Alley" last year the Viking Sun, hired some specialised contractors to assist protecting the ship and passengers, in the event of a pirate attack. These contractors were well trained and carried equipment to assist protecting the ship, and was in addition to measures prevalent on other pax vessels. On our last WC through "Pirate Alley" we had the usual passive defenses rigged and ran as much of a  black ship as possible, but we did not have any specialised contractors available.

 

Therefore, when security is a real issue, my hat is off to Viking, as they take real action in ensuring the safety and security of their vessel, crew and passengers.

 

I respectfully disagree with much of what you've said, not because it lacks factual substance as it relates to a very ambiguous document (ISPS Code) but because it involves a lot of speculation and assumption.  Although i don't feel the need to put my relative knowledge on display, suffice it to say I am familiar with the terms in question, including but not limited to the difference between an SSO and SO of which the latter was being referenced to having been replaced, not the former which is simply a designation which can be held by anyone onboard holding a recognized certificate.

 

That said, your assertion that an officer who has completed a 3-5 day course and holds a piece of paper with minimal relevance to his/her primary function onboard (i.e. navigation) is equal to an individual with 20-30 years experience in the military or law enforcement is very short sighted IMO, especially in today's world climate where threats exist everywhere and can come from anyone, including the demographic sailing onboard Viking.

 

A simple google search will show numerous examples of situations onboard cruise ships which have involved criminal acts best suited to be dealt with by a trained professional, not a mariner.  Furthermore, there have been an unfortunate number of issues which were completely botched by untrained individuals which could have been handled in a more concise fashion by a properly trained professional (i.e. case of Dianne Brimble, where the crime scene was cleaned up by housekeeping and critical evidence destroyed).  The fact that the Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act (CVSSA) exists in the first place is largely due to the poor response to crimes onboard (specifically as it relates to Americans sailing in/out of the US), which apart from having specific requirements for the physical aspects of the ship also very clearly states that there must be at least one person onboard trained in the detection of crime, and preservation of evidence, etc.   Not to sound cheeky but that sounds a lot like what a trained law enforcement officer would be able to deal with in relative comfort as opposed to someone who's just finished watching a season of NCIS or CSI MIami

 

Furthermore, the example of having transited through the Indian Ocean, Gulf of Aden and Red Sea with armed security onboard or hardening of the vessel is actually a common practice for ALL cruise ships, not just Viking where the use of armed guards is subject to the approval of the Flag State mainly for insurance purposes.  I have to say that using this as an example does not illustrate how Viking are somehow leading the way when it comes to security measures as it should also be noted that no passenger ship in recent record has been successfully boarded by pirates, which is due in large part to the fact the area is heavily monitored, the ships travel at a high rate of speed, they typically transit during a time of year which is not favorable to small crafts operating in the open ocean, etc, etc, etc.  The case of the Seabourn Spirit having been attacked in 2005 is not a good comparison either as it was off the coast of Somalia heading towards Kenya, and is literally a quarter of the size of any Viking ship with as few personnel onboard.

 

As i said in my original post, I for one will be looking elsewhere to book my cruises so long as there is not a properly trained/qualified chief of security onboard Viking ships, much the same as how i wouldn't buy a car without a seat belt or a house without a smoke detector, but that's just me I suppose!

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We are all entitled to our own opinions, however I can't agree that my post involved a lot of speculation and assumptions. The greatest majority was based on my fist hand experience. 

 

I could have discussed in more detail the defensive measures taken while transiting pirate alley, but prefer not to include specifics in a public forum. However, your statement that the contacted resources that Viking hired are available on all cruise ships, is not my experience, or that of friends/former shipmates that worked in senior positions. Yes, all ships, including cruise ships take defensive measures, but not all hire contracted resources.

 

If we ever decided to return to mega ships, I would expect the ship to employ law enforcement personnel, but with Viking, I feel very comfortable that their Masters can handle any situation, similar to how we handled matters on cruise ships before the ISPS, in most cases.  While Viking has a better pax/crew ratio than mega ships, due to having only 930 pax, they only have a crew of about 500, which makes it challenging to provide all services.

 

While Viking's compliance with the ISPS Code is mandatory and verified annually by Flag/Class, I also consider operational risk assessments. Considering Viking's low passenger counts, passenger demographic and port intensive schedules, even as a passenger, I am not concerned, if Viking's ships do not have a resident Chief of Police. With port intensive itineraries and the focus on Bridge Team Management and Human Factors, I am comfortable if the Master has an additional shared resource to supplement the Bridge Team.

 

You obviously have different priorities, so enjoy a different cruise line. 

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"You obviously have different priorities..."  Don't we all?  I found that response a bit odd.

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On ‎2‎/‎20‎/‎2019 at 2:23 AM, zitsky said:

e not

So you're saying that Americans don't like to wash their hands???

 

I do not think the other member is trying to taint all Americans with just one brush. It is equally unrealistic to think that just because someone is "American", somehow, he or she is so "perfect" that he/she is beyond criticism. Like others around the world, Americans are humans and "mere mortals" too, they are not God, and they are no better or worse than anyone else.

 

There are good and bad people - and many in between - in each nationality and race. 

 

I too have found that Viking seems to be too laxed in encouraging passengers to use the sanitisers, compared to other cruise lines.  Some cruise lines are so strict that they will have a sanitiser gun or dispenser at the entry to the restaurant and if your hands are not "squirted" with it, you are not allowed to enter. If they missed you, they would chase after you with that sanitizer gun! It may be a bit inconvenient, but in the long run, when you are having to deal with hundreds and thousands of different people with different degrees of hygiene standards, this has to be done to reduce any cross infection.

 

Perhaps if enough concerned Viking passengers were to write to tellus@vikingcruises.com , the cruise line may start to do something about being more stringent in using sanitizers.

 

Do you not agree?

Edited by Gnoelj

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1 hour ago, Gnoelj said:

 

I do not think the other member is trying to taint all Americans with just one brush. It is equally unrealistic to think that just because someone is "American", somehow, he or she is so "perfect" that he/she is beyond criticism. Like others around the world, Americans are humans and "mere mortals" too, they are not God, and they are no better or worse than anyone else.

 

There are good and bad people - and many in between - in each nationality and race. 

 

I too have found that Viking seems to be too laxed in encouraging passengers to use the sanitisers, compared to other cruise lines.  Some cruise lines are so strict that they will have a sanitiser gun or dispenser at the entry to the restaurant and if your hands are not "squirted" with it, you are not allowed to enter. If they missed you, they would chase after you with that sanitizer gun! It may be a bit inconvenient, but in the long run, when you are having to deal with hundreds and thousands of different people with different degrees of hygiene standards, this has to be done to reduce any cross infection.

 

Perhaps if enough concerned Viking passengers were to write to tellus@vikingcruises.com , the cruise line may start to do something about being more stringent in using sanitizers.

 

Do you not agree?

I think this is an extension of Viking's "treat your passengers like adults" strategy. At the beginning of a cruise, they have a staff member posted at the entrance to make sure we know where the sink and the sanitzer are located. After that, they trust that adults will behave like grown-ups should. Most do, but unfortunately, not everyone.

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Viking should enforce their policy to sanitize hands.  Don't count on people washing their hands.  Just spray them at the entrance.  No exceptions.  I'm not saying it's easy but bigger cruise lines do it successfully.

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3 hours ago, Gnoelj said:

 

I do not think the other member is trying to taint all Americans with just one brush. It is equally unrealistic to think that just because someone is "American", somehow, he or she is so "perfect" that he/she is beyond criticism. Like others around the world, Americans are humans and "mere mortals" too, they are not God, and they are no better or worse than anyone else.

 

There are good and bad people - and many in between - in each nationality and race. 

 

I too have found that Viking seems to be too laxed in encouraging passengers to use the sanitisers, compared to other cruise lines.  Some cruise lines are so strict that they will have a sanitiser gun or dispenser at the entry to the restaurant and if your hands are not "squirted" with it, you are not allowed to enter. If they missed you, they would chase after you with that sanitizer gun! It may be a bit inconvenient, but in the long run, when you are having to deal with hundreds and thousands of different people with different degrees of hygiene standards, this has to be done to reduce any cross infection.

 

Perhaps if enough concerned Viking passengers were to write to tellus@vikingcruises.com , the cruise line may start to do something about being more stringent in using sanitizers.

 

Do you not agree?

Frankly, the use of hand sanitizers to prevent the most common illness on cruise ships, norovirus, is basically a placebo effect.  The sanitizer itself does not kill the virus.  The use of emollients in the sanitizer, and the friction of rubbing the hands together, will loosen the skin cells that have any potential virus on them from your hands, but without a means of removing these loosened skin cells, they remain in place, and the virus remains in place.  The only effective use of most commonly available hand sanitizers to prevent the spread of noro would be to rub it vigorously into the hands, and then wipe the hands dry on a clean, disposable, paper towel.

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2 minutes ago, chengkp75 said:

Frankly, the use of hand sanitizers to prevent the most common illness on cruise ships, norovirus, is basically a placebo effect.  The sanitizer itself does not kill the virus.  The use of emollients in the sanitizer, and the friction of rubbing the hands together, will loosen the skin cells that have any potential virus on them from your hands, but without a means of removing these loosened skin cells, they remain in place, and the virus remains in place.  The only effective use of most commonly available hand sanitizers to prevent the spread of noro would be to rub it vigorously into the hands, and then wipe the hands dry on a clean, disposable, paper towel.

 

So is washing hands effective against noro or also a placebo?

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13 minutes ago, zitsky said:

 

So is washing hands effective against noro or also a placebo?

 

FROM THE CDC Website:

You can use alcohol-based hand sanitizers in addition to hand washing. But, you should not use hand sanitizer as a substitute for washing your hands with soap and water. Hand sanitizers aren’t as effective as washing hands with soap and water at removing norovirus particles. See “Handwashing: Clean Hands Save Lives.

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18 minutes ago, zitsky said:

 

So is washing hands effective against noro or also a placebo?

Hand washing does not kill noro either.  What it does is that the soap acts as a lubricant (which is really all soap is, fat and lye) to loosen skin cells, and then you rinse your hands, and the loosened skin cells and the virus attached to them are washed down the drain.  But the virus going down the drain is still alive and active.  The rinse water is the same as using the paper towel to remove the virus.

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Hey, there are two sinks at each entrance to the World Cafe.  With soap and clean towels.  Just chill out and wash your d*mn hands..😳

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31 minutes ago, Jim Avery said:

Hey, there are two sinks at each entrance to the World Cafe.  With soap and clean towels.  Just chill out and wash your d*mn hands..😳

Yes there are sinks even if you enter from the infinity pool area,and a sink by the pool grill too. It only takes a minute 

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I guess the right thing to do is wash your hands then use the paper towel to turn off the faucet.  Unless it's automatic?

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3 minutes ago, zitsky said:

I guess the right thing to do is wash your hands then use the paper towel to turn off the faucet.  Unless it's automatic?

the towels are cloth, rolled, replaced often.  A basket for the used towels.  I seem to remember the faucets start when you place your hands under them.  Extremely convenient to use. 

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