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Final Payment due and still major question unanswered by Ponant


jonikal
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We are not having any luck getting a clear, unambiguous response from Ponant regarding the availability of an onboard Covid-19 test.  We are within a day or so of final payment and have been receiving conflicting info:
 
First email: (June 16)
We will have the test done onboard D-1 of disembarkation. Can you please let me know what would be the time that you would need to have it done for you?
 
Second email: (July 6)
I received notice today that vaccinated passengers do not need a PCR test to board the ship. We are working to get the info about the Test for after the cruise.
 
Last email: (July 7)
 
Yes, I am working to have the test done for you onboard. I am awaiting to see if there will be a charge and If so, how much
 
We specifically requested their clear confirmation and assurance of this service since we will be flying back to the US the same day the ship docks in port and Delta requires proof of a negative Covid-19 test. There are no airline seats available if we were forced to stay extra days.
 
At this point we obviously need to communicate with someone other than the person we have been dealing with.  Is the list of the following individuals still valid?
 
tgatta@ponant.com
 
This is getting to be beyond frustrating and taking any joy out of anticipating this sailing.
How is it that Viking and others are able to smoothly offer this service to its passengers?
Any suggestions on how to proceed and a competent individual to deal with?
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Posted (edited)

Same for us. Since the US only requires an antigen test to enter, we have two backup plans in the event Ponant can't meet their commitment: 1) get a test at one of our final stops 1-2 days before disembarkation. 2) bring our own test. Abbott's BINAXNow test and their Navica mobile app will let you do the test yourself and get verified results in 15 minutes. https://www.abbott.com/BinaxNOW-Tests-NAVICA-App.html

 

You're going to Iceland, right? You can get antigen tests with 15-45 minute results at Keflavik on the day of departure: https://www.oryggi.is/is/covid-19 though that sounds nerve-racking.

Edited by AussieBoyTX
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16 minutes ago, ethan1171 said:

What happens if the tests are positive? Do you have to quarantine at Keflavik for two weeks before you can return back to US?

It’s a bit more complex. The US just requires a negative test, but you have to follow the local rules for recovery. Could be a 10-14 day quarantine, but Iceland’s quarantine / home isolation requirement is in Icelandic, so I don’t know for sure. 
 

Also, the airline might have a requirement. Delta requires 10 days after testing positive before flying with them. 

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10 hours ago, AussieBoyTX said:

Same for us. Since the US only requires an antigen test to enter, we have two backup plans in the event Ponant can't meet their commitment: 1) get a test at one of our final stops 1-2 days before disembarkation. 2) bring our own test. Abbott's BINAXNow test and their Navica mobile app will let you do the test yourself and get verified results in 15 minutes. https://www.abbott.com/BinaxNOW-Tests-NAVICA-App.html

 

You're going to Iceland, right? You can get antigen tests with 15-45 minute results at Keflavik on the day of departure: https://www.oryggi.is/is/covid-19 though that sounds nerve-racking.

Excellent suggestion re testing at a one of the final stops and that would definitely be less nerve wracking than doing it last minute at the airport especially since our connection time is already very tight.  Although very useful to know they have that service.

 

Ponant booked us on Delta and their website states it accepts the results from this 15-minute test:

 

https://www.ellumehealth.com/products/consumer-products/covid-home-test

 

They charge $50 per test but it is available from CVS for about half that. There are other similar products but I was informed that some airlines require a tele verification.  Delta apparently does not.

 

Our beef is with Ponant's lack of timely communications and the fact that they have had months to sort this out, essentially leaving passengers to do their own research.  

 

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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, ethan1171 said:

What happens if the tests are positive? Do you have to quarantine at Keflavik for two weeks before you can return back to US?

 
If you test positive in Iceland then you will be placed in isolation (they do have facilities for that if a traveler doesn‘t have any other option), then a second test and antibodies test is performed to see if it’s an active infection. If that’s back positive it’s a 14 day Isolation period and you need to be symptoms free for seven days aswell for it to end.

 

so you won‘t be able to leave the country for those 14 days 

 

there is an antigen testing site in Reykjavik aswell or the one a few minutes away from the airport (both pre-booked time slots required). I would simple get one of the accepted antigen tests from the US - might be the same price

 

i would check again if a test without video is really accepted since delta links to the partner with a Tele option.

 

also be aware that check in lines at the KEF Airport Are currently long since there is no online check in - so be there well before time

 

Edited by schnapperin
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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, jonikal said:

Excellent suggestion re testing at a one of the final stops and that would definitely be less nerve wracking than doing it last minute at the airport especially since our connection time is already very tight.  Although very useful to know they have that service.

 

Ponant booked us on Delta and their website states it accepts the results from this 15-minute test:

 

https://www.ellumehealth.com/products/consumer-products/covid-home-test

 

They charge $50 per test but it is available from CVS for about half that. There are other similar products but I was informed that some airlines require a tele verification.  Delta apparently does not.

 

Our beef is with Ponant's lack of timely communications and the fact that they have had months to sort this out, essentially leaving passengers to do their own research.  

 

 

Yeah, it's very Ponant.

 

These supposed FAQs by the governments, airlines and testing companies are so vague. Since I'm still looking for our solution, I went to check out the Ellume test. It reads to me that tele verification is required for international travel (see here: https://www.ellumecovidtest.com/travel). Of course, the FAQ is no help.

 

I'm also wondering if there's sufficient broadband bandwidth on the boat. I've never tried anything like streaming on one of Ponant's ships.

 

International travel

The Ellume COVID-19 Home Test can now be used by travelers to meet the COVID-19 testing requirements to enter the United States.

Home antigen test results are accepted by the CDC from travellers who are returning to the United States. Only tests that have received an Emergency Use Authorization such as the Ellume COVID-19 Home Test can be used for this purpose. You must take your test under video observation with ID verification and receive a validated result. AZOVA will provide you with these services.

Learn about countries that currently accept home antigen tests for travel. Please consult with your travel partners for testing requirements.

Edited by AussieBoyTX
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1 hour ago, AussieBoyTX said:

 

 

 

 

 

I'm also wondering if there's sufficient broadband bandwidth on the boat. I've never tried anything like streaming on one of Ponant's ships.

 

 

I was able to stream some yt videos during a Antartica cruise so it should work around Iceland. As a back

up plan check out some international data passes and if the connection isn‘t great for videos on the ship book that for one day and then do the test. Good thing is that the test can be done 3 days before departure to the US - if flying around Europe there are different rules in place 

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Delta airlines phones are undermanned and it is impossible to get through - was put on hold for over an hour and finally had to give up. They should be able to confirm whether a video verification is necessary from Iceland. Will also contact Ellume HQS to get confirmation.
 

 As regards the possibility of getting tested at one of the last ports of call (within the 72 hour period) prior to disembarking in Reykjavik, the options are as follows:

 
Seydisfjordur
Hornafjordur
Day at Sea
 
Neither village is likely to have a Covid testing facility and it is highly doubtful that Ponant can enlighten on this.
 
Ponant is unavailable at the weekends so will call Monday.
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Posted (edited)

I have been a bit more successful getting through to the airlines lately via their social media teams than regular phone lines - e.g. United / BA etc have the ability to message them and I have been able to get fast and reliable answers from them. I have not tried Delta but you can message them here: https://www.facebook.com/delta ... or on both their web site or app you can use the live chat - delta.com “Need Help” messaging interface

 

Our Ponant cruise is not until February '22 - but we are traveling to Europe in September on a land trip. Our first trip since the start of the pandemic. My spouse and I are vaccinated and comfortable to start traveling again - even if the regulations are not very clear and constantly changing.

 

However my advice is to keep in mind that international and cruise travel will not be the same as it was before the pandemic. It will take many years to get a new sense of normalcy and ease. But it is still feasible and enjoyable - as long as you allow plenty of wiggle room for the unexpected and to deal with new regulations. Lots of buffer time between flights - connections - cruises, long term accommodations for working remotely if you can not come back to US immediately after the trip.

 

For example part of our plans now is to think what we need to stay for two more weeks if something goes wrong? Or what if the country goes back to red? etc. etc. Plan A, B and C

 

Helps to set the right expectations and think in advance through implications of travel during the pandemic - to avoid stress and surprises.

Edited by ethan1171
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1 hour ago, jonikal said:

Delta airlines phones are undermanned and it is impossible to get through - was put on hold for over an hour and finally had to give up. They should be able to confirm whether a video verification is necessary from Iceland. Will also contact Ellume HQS to get confirmation.
 

 As regards the possibility of getting tested at one of the last ports of call (within the 72 hour period) prior to disembarking in Reykjavik, the options are as follows:

 
Seydisfjordur
Hornafjordur
Day at Sea
 
Neither village is likely to have a Covid testing facility and it is highly doubtful that Ponant can enlighten on this.
 
Ponant is unavailable at the weekends so will call Monday.


Non of those places offer a PCR test - there are only official testing locations in Iceland (travelled in May around Iceland). Also it’s not an requirement to have a test at departure from Iceland but from the US - so the official US regulations will need to be fulfilled and that’s each Travellers responsibility to check before traveling if that’s possible.

 

they also might change rapidly (for example I was required a mandatory hotel quarantine in May two days before departure because of a change in border restrictions) - it’s still an ongoing Pandamic and with Delta variants on the rise that can easily change the travel experience. 
 

delta‘s link is to a partner that requires the video test and I highly doubt that a self confirmation about a negative test for a self test will be enough to fly. 

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2 hours ago, ethan1171 said:

I have been a bit more successful getting through to the airlines lately via their social media teams than regular phone lines - e.g. United / BA etc have the ability to message them and I have been able to get fast and reliable answers from them. I have not tried Delta but you can message them here: https://www.facebook.com/delta ... or on both their web site or app you can use the live chat - delta.com “Need Help” messaging interface

 

 

Thanks for the FB link.   They actually forward it to the Delta website to a computerized FAQ system which did not trigger a response to my question.  Am awaiting a promised human to respond.


While I completely agree that it is incumbent upon us, as passengers during an ongoing pandemic, to be realistic about expectations and adaptable to any potential situation,  it is also the responsibility and duty of the cruise company to offer appropriate services and protocols to its customers and to provide them with unambiguous and timely information.

 
Noteworthy and by glaring contrast, Viking, which is also circumnavigating Iceland during the same period, is totally organized and offers the Covid test to all passengers onboard who require it for onward travel.
 
As a precaution, having checked the availability of airline seats in the event of a delayed departure from Iceland, we found there are none to be had within any reasonable time frame. Planes are flying fully packed.  Iceland has become a very popular destination and Reykjavik port is a hub of cruise ship activity.
 
Our final payment was due today (Sunday) and one can only hope that this might stir up some much needed attention and some of the much touted Ponant "Excellent Service."
 
 

 

 

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3 minutes ago, jonikal said:

Noteworthy and by glaring contrast, Viking, which is also circumnavigating Iceland during the same period, is totally organized and offers the Covid test to all passengers onboard who require it for onward travel.

 

 

Agree. And this shouldn't be a question, since Ponant claims to have the capability to do PCR and antigen tests. One wouldn't think it difficult to make the tests available for the passengers who need it to return home.
image.png.09828cdea4102cc1f8b176b52379cf76.png
 

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Upadate: Another unsatisfactory experience with Ponant.  The agent told me that they are "still working on it.

Apparently it is the responsibility of their French headquarters to make this decision.  They apparently did authorize onboard testing for June and July, but somehow failed to include August and later sailings in this edict.

Obviously we have no intention of remitting our final payment (due yesterday) until such time as we are given the appropriate and credible assurances that we can be tested onboard.

It is difficult to imagine that we would consider dealing with this company again. It has been an unnecessarily joyless and disappointing experience dealing with them.

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As much as I hate to admit that sounds like a typical French costumer service 

 

As much as I enjoyed the Antartica cruise with them, it was easier dealing with some issues been used to a European / french style costumer service.

 

But that sort of authorization could be easily done since travel requirements for flights are still in place 

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FYI, we still don't have an answer either, but understand that not many passengers on our cruise will need a test (we might be the only ones). We expect to have our answer on Monday.

 

We also heard from one agent that they are doing testing for Iceland cruises, but based on @jonikal's comment, know that may be the case today, but isn't confirmed for August.

 

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We also hope to hear something this coming week.  They have incentive to try and resolve this since we have officially informed them that we won't be sending our final payment unless and until we are satisfied that the test is available onboard prior to disembarkation in Reykjavik. 

 

I really cannot recall ever feeling this blah and ambivalent about a cruise.    

 

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Posted (edited)
20 minutes ago, jonikal said:

I really cannot recall ever feeling this blah and ambivalent about a cruise.    

 

I hear you.

 

I agree with @schnapperin -- this part of the experience is quite French. If they resolve the issue and you go on the cruise, hopefully the parts of the French experience we all like will make up for this part.

I worked for French companies for almost twenty years, so I may be someone immune to it. 🤣

Edited by AussieBoyTX
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26 minutes ago, AussieBoyTX said:

FYI, we got a note today saying that testing on the ship would not be a problem.

 

That's great news for you!  Can you remind me what dates you are sailing?  

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Just now, jonikal said:

 

That's great news for you!  Can you remind me what dates you are sailing?  

July 30 - August 6 on Lyrial.

 

It seems like someone needs to send an email to the medical team on the ship itself to break the logjam.

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That makes perfect sense, although it was made very clear to me last week when I phoned them that it was their French HQS which made the decision. If I had an email address for the med team onboard the Dumant, I would contact them myself. Actually, an email address for just the ship would suffice and just make it attention Med team.  

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I also think since the start of your sailing is within the month of July, that it falls under the June/July category which had HQS approval.  August......that may be another story.

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7 minutes ago, jonikal said:

I also think since the start of your sailing is within the month of July, that it falls under the June/July category which had HQS approval.  August......that may be another story.

Could be, but I also wasn't able to get an answer before today.

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22 hours ago, AussieBoyTX said:

Could be, but I also wasn't able to get an answer before today.

Must be our lucky day,  Finally got a call, to be followed by written confirmation, that Covid PCR test 

WILL be conducted onboard the ship.  Apparently, just as you said, they announced it on Sunday.

Very nicely offered us onboard credit for our troubles.

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