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Monday, December 20, 2021

What You Should Know Before Cruising Again


We have a cruise booked for April 2022. It was going to be our first cruise since before the pandemic. It is a repositioning cruise which means we start the cruise in Miami and end the cruise in the Netherlands. We made the reservation for this cruise when it looked like the pandemic was finally done and then the Delta variant started the whole thing over again.

We were really starting to think that we should cancel our plans and then we were offered a free 4 day cruise from Royal Caribbean. We thought that this short cruise would be a great opportunity for us to see whether we were comfortable to cruise again. 

After this short cruise, we pretty much decided that we could on the repositioning cruise. Royal Caribbean has put in place many safety measures and created a "new normal" for cruising that definitely made us feel safe and comfortable.

1 - Everyone 12 and over must be vaccinated. I'm not sure if this will change to include younger children once the vaccination becomes readily available to them. You will have to present your vaccination card at check-in. We now keep our cards in a holder along with our passports.

2 - Everyone, 2 years and older, needs a covid test before getting on the ship. Vaccinated passengers need a test no later than 2 days before boarding. Kids 2 - 11 need to get tested 3 days before the start of the cruise and will be tested, free of charge, before boarding the ship. Click here to get more information on cruising with unvaccinated children.

3 - Vaccinated cruisers are required to wear a wristband for the duration of the trip. Part of the check-in process includes getting a bracelet to wear to show that you are fully vaccinated. This bracelet allows you to walk around all areas of the ship freely. Crew members are stationed at the entrance of certain venues and are checking to make sure you are wearing the wristband before you enter. 

4 - You must wear a mask on the ship at all times with a few exceptions. When you are on the outdoor decks, in your room or eating or drinking are the only times the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike do not have to wear masks. There are a couple of more exceptions to this rule for the vaccinated.

5 - You need to get tested for covid before getting off the ship and into some ports. We didn't need to get tested when we got off at Royal Caribbean's CocoCay port or when we docked in the Bahamas. We most likely will have to get tested before we leave the ship when we go on our trans- Atlantic cruise next year. After talking to a representative in the Next Cruise office, we found out that if testing is necessary, Royal Caribbean will perform this service at no cost.

6 - Areas in the ship are designated to vaccinated only. Two areas that we frequented the most, the My Time Dining hall and casino, was off limits to anyone that was not fully vaccinated. Also, being fully vaccinated allowed us to sit in the lower level of the entertainment venue. Masks are optional in this section of the theater. A perk you get for being fully vaccinated. There were ship crew that watched as you were leaving the auditorium who reminded you to put your mask back on before entering the ship's common area. I had to be reminded a couple of times!

7 - Social distancing is required in venues that unvaccinated guests are allowed in. The ice skating arena where the ice show is held is much smaller than the main entertainment venue so vaccinated and unvaccinated guests sit together. Here you had leave 2 seats between each party. This rule also held true in the upper level of the entertainment venue where vaccinated and unvaccinated sat together.

8 - You must wash your hands with soap and water before entering the Windjammer buffet. Huge sinks line the two walls of the entranceway to the buffet. A crew member stands at the entrance and merrily chants a "washy washy" reminder as you enter. Also, you must check in with the hostess before entering into the buffet which we never did before the pandemic. I am not sure why but am thinking maybe for contact tracing.

9 - Helping yourself is not permitted at the buffet. You can help yourself to a drink that has been poured into a glass and some dessert or salad that is pre-made and in some kind of container. All other food is served to you. Plates and silverware are handed to you. The condiment containers are only accessible to the gloved crew member who will serve you. It took me a couple trips to the condiment counter to finally get over the embarrassment of asking for my ketchup to be put in the big bowl and not the small one!

10 - Hand sanitizer is available throughout the ship and sometimes required to be used. Before covid, the only place we saw hand sanitizer was at the entrance of the buffet. Now it is everywhere. The person at the ice cream station at the pool will remind you to use the sanitizer before she serves you. She was not there on our last cruise.

11 - You must always look before you sit. There is constant cleaning of certain high contact areas. Before sitting down at a table, anywhere except the main dining areas where you are led to your seats, you had to make sure the note on the table is flipped to the side letting you know the table was clean. Sometimes it took a bit of searching for a clean table but we definitely wouldn't complain about this small inconvenience. We appreciated the extra assurance that we were sitting somewhere that was clean and germ free.

We were very happy with all the new protocols we had to follow onboard the cruise ship and we felt comfortable in all areas of the ship. We felt confident that we didn't have more of a chance contacting covid on this ship, or any other Royal Caribbean ship, compared to getting it anywhere else. That being said, we came home and booked the flight from Amsterdam to Miami that we were holding off on. 

Going on this short cruise trip turned out to be a very good idea for us. We can't wait to go on the next one now! Hope this list helps you decide if you are ready or not for your next cruise.

Bon Voyage!


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Sunday, December 5, 2021

It's Christmastime In The City




In 1986, I was running errands in my neighborhood at that time, Nanuet, NY, and saw a huge tree being carted away on a flatbed truck.  I didn't know until the annually televised tree lighting that the tree I saw was the one.  I couldn't believe how awesome it felt when I realized how close I was to the tree that was going to make history!  People come from all over the world to ice skate at Rockefeller Center and to see the lighting of the magnificent (and soon to be historic) tree.  I don't know if there is another city in America that can rival the holiday displays and festivities of New York City.

New York City

 

I live in North Carolina now and just recently went to our city's tree lighting.  Although Leland's wasn't as grand as the one in Manhattan, they did have guest singers singing Christmas carols and Santa Claus made an appearance.  We were offered free coffee, hot chocolate and cookies which was really nice.  No, it didn't come close to NYC but we did have a fun night!  

Leland, NC


I haven't been to too many cities, though, at Christmastime and I'm sure that most towns across the United States have their tree lighting evenings, festivities and holiday displays.  So since our Christmas tree and decorations were up and most of the presents were bought, I decided to plan a road trip or two to check out some holiday decor.  I was on a quest to find and enjoy the best holiday displays in as many cities as I could get to in the two weeks before Christmas.

Week 1

The first stop of this adventure, would be the nearest city to us, Wilmington, NC.  Me and Soko headed downtown to see the huge tree that I knew was there somewhere.  I was hoping, and was pretty sure, that there would other things to see.  And, yes, there was lots of festive decor all over the city to enjoy.

Wilmington, NC




Lots of the restaurants and shops downtown had holiday displays and this one even used the tree in front of their business to put Wilmington in a festive mood.




On our stroll down the Wilmington Riverwalk, was where we found the tree in front of the court house.


And the menorah...


And where we found the horse drawn carriage, lampposts and many other things shouting "It's Christmastime In The City!"

  

Our final stop here in downtown Wilmington was Front St. to see if the historic homes on this block were decorated for the holidays.  There were and they were gorgeous.  





We will definitely try to get downtown at another time to check out the other historic homes in the area but it was time to get ready for my next stop to find Christmastime in the city.

Charleston, SC

Early the next morning, me and my daughter, Lisa, hopped into the car and settled in for our four hour drive to meet some friends in Charleston, SC.  I was very excited for this road trip as I had been to Charleston and it was such a charming old town and I was sure it would be even more delightful at Christmastime.


Charleston, on a gorgeous winter day with my best friends and favorite daughter.  I can't think of a better way to enjoy the holiday displays of a beautiful city!

The first place we wanted to check out was the Charleston City Market...  


 which was right where the city put their tree.


Then a stroll around the town where we admired the creativity of this building...


and where we enjoyed the many other decked out buildings, and homes that filled their window flower boxes with festive plants and decor.  We noticed that almost every building had a wreath hanging on it, either on a door or window, one prettier than the next.






A visit to Charleston wouldn't be complete without a walk down Rainbow Row.  




Me and Lisa had a great time in Charleston, especially because we got to spend the day with good friends.  The city was as we imagined and more.  Now it was time to head back home but not before stopping for something to eat at one of Lisa's favorite places, Broadway at the Beach in Myrtle Beach, SC.

Charleston, SC Part 2

My second trip to Charleston at Christmastime, again with Lisa, happened 4 years after our first trip. Lisa had some work to do for her blog, Drugstore Divas, here and asked if I wanted to come along. Of course I did!

The first time we visited we only had a day to enjoy the holiday festivities, this trip we had a whole weekend. Lucky for us, we were in town for the city's annual Christmas parade.


Christmas classics blasted out of speakers put in some of the floats and added to the fun of the parade. In the distance, we could hear one of our favorites, the classic piano solo Schroeder played in A Charlie Brown Christmas. We were very impressed to find out, when the group finally got to us, that the music was actually being played live on the piano the local Baptist church managed to somehow get on their float.


The first time we came to Charleston at Christmas, we met our friends and just enjoyed a day of walking around the city admiring and enjoying the holiday decor. We especially enjoyed the decorations that adorned the many grand estates here. Me and Lisa had a chance to take a couple of walks this weekend and stopped to take pictures of some more of the beautifully decorated homes.


We voted this home "most fun".


Lisa had to meet someone at the visitor's center when we first got into town. We were very excited to find out that there was a Christmas tree display here. Each tree was unique and decorated and donated in honor of a loved one who had a battle with cancer. You could bid on a tree and the money received for the purchase of the tree would be donated to Dragon Boat Charleston, a non-profit organization. We could feel the love these trees were decorated with.


This tree was donated by a sister who lost her beach loving brother to cancer. The tree was filled with bought and handmade decorations, as most of the trees were. We couldn't get over the starfish tree topper created for this amazing tree. I think the brother would be (and is) very happy with his tree.


Once again, we enjoyed all Charleston had to offer for the holidays! 

Myrtle Beach, SC

Not only did we enjoy dinner here, but we were treated to some really beautiful and festive decorations!  Christmas lights are really special at night and this stop had one of the prettiest displays I had seen so far.




And, just when we thought this day could not get any better, we saw the tree, spectacular and glowing with hundreds of colorful lights!


Click this link to read all about week 2 of our travels to find Christmas.  It takes us six hours west to see what we can find in the mountains of North Carolina and into Tennessee.  I also added our trip to Savannah, GA where we found the holiday spirit everywhere.



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