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Latest entrance requirements for Israel

Starting March 1, 2022 there are new entrance requirements for tourists visiting Israel:

1. You do not have to be vaccinated.

2. You must have had a negative PCR test within 72 hours prior to arrival.

3. Upon arrival in Israel, you must take another test to enter the country.

4.  You must go straight to wherever you are staying until you receive your results.  Although they state it could take up to 24 hours, the results usually arrive in 6-12 hours.

All of this might sound daunting, but if you are traveling with a group you should not have any major problems, because a good tour operator will have anticipated all of this.

Our friends at Select International Tours have stated:

The test results (upon arrival) typically only take an hour or so, so we have not had to do much other than wait. But if this lengthens out, we will take them to the hotel until results are released. We have so far had four groups there and none have had any interruption to the itinerary at all“.

So our advice is don’t let any of this concern you.

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Many European Christmas Markets cancelled in 2021…but some are open

European Christmas Markets closed by policeThe resurgence of Covid in both Austria and Germany have also forced the cancellation of most of the Germany & Austria’s Christmas markets in 2021, the second year many of the markets have been forced to close over COVID.  These markets generally run from late November up until Christmas.

The closures in Germany include Munich, Nuremberg, Passau, Regensburg, Brandenburg, and the Dresden market, along with Austria’s Vienna (Dream Christmas Market), and more.

Because of this, a number of tour operators have made decisions to either alter or cancel their Christmas Markets itineraries, including river cruises that have been increasingly popular in recent years.

 

Christmas Market in PragueThere is some good news!  Some European Markets will be open.

The Market in Budapest, Hungary will be open from Nov 19 through Dec 31.

The market in Prague, Czech Republic will be open this year from Nov 27 through January 6..

Also, it appears most, if not all,  the Christmas markets in France will remain open!

 

If you know of any others please send us an email so that we can update our list.

 

2021 Quebec Christmas MarketFor those in North America, the Quebec European-style  Christmas market will be open from Nov 25 thru Dec 23.

If arriving from other countries be sure to check the entry requirements for Canada.

 

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Ban on cruising in U.S. waters extended

The Centers for Disease Control had banned cruising in U.S. waters through July 24, 2020. For those cruise ports that are in U.S.waters, that meant no cruises departing from the U.S. whatsoever.  That would also apply, of course, to Transatlantic crossings docking in the U.S.

Under the new extension, cruising will not resume until October 1 at the earliest.  We suspect that even this date is highly likely to change.

The Canadian government has also come down hard:  it is banning all large cruise ships that carry more than 100 people until Oct 31, 2020.  Again we suspect that will not be the last we hear.

The Miami Herald reports that since June 23, some 1,000 cruise ship crew members have developed either confirmed or suspected cases of the coronavirus while living aboard mostly empty ships waiting off the U.S. coast.  Click here for the video from the Miami Herald  (external link).

Although this is a disappointment for passengers, it is an absolute tragedy for many crew members.  These men and women are often from impoverished countries and rely on earnings to help support their families back home.  While quarantined  in port, they are not receiving any pay…and in many cases they are not able to return to their home countries.  It is a nightmare scenario.

We would hope there might be some way to help these crew members….and we would like to hear from you if you have any information or are aware of any organized efforts to help them financially.  We’d be happy to post it on our site.  Of course, your prayers should come first.

Find out about cruises for Catholics on our cruise page.

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Youth Festival in Medjugorje is NOT CANCELLED

The International Prayer Encounter of the Youth -(Youth Festival) is an annual event held in Medjugorje  each year that attracts upwards of 100,000 young people.  Scheduled for August 1-6, it was cancelled and now is back on.

The theme of this year’s prayer encounter is “Come, and you will see“ (John 1, 39).

It will be much different from the Youth Festivals of the past due, of course, to the Covid-19 epidemic.  ….Many programs of the international spiritual retreats have been cancelled

Most of the program from Medjugorje is being now sent to the world via electronic media so that people can tune in from wherever they might be.  This year’s Youth Festival will be live streamed online. Depending on the development of virus, all gatherings would be according to the instructions of the institutions in charge.

Let us continue to be united in the same spirit in the school of Our Lady and let us rejoice that we would be connected together in Medjugorje, both in our hearts and in our spirit.

There will be challenges, especially regarding visitors from the U.S.A.  Certain restrictions by the European Union are limiting…and almost forbidding…entrance to the E.U.  See our blog post here.

There are some loopholes, so if you are traveling with a group check to see what arrangements have been made.

You can visit the official website for the Youth Festival here.

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European Travel Ban hits U.S. travelers hard

Effective July 1, all non-essential travel from the U.S.A. to the European Union’s 27 member states has been banned.  There are only a few exceptions, and these will probably not apply to you.

Note that the ban is based on residency……not citizenship. Someone arriving from the U.S., who is a citizen or resident in the EU–or in one of the countries listed below, can enter.

Also banned are residents of Brazil, Russia and India.

 

 

The following 27 countries are members of the European Union:

Austria
Belgium
Bulgaria
Croatia
Cyprus
Czechia
Denmark
Estonia
Finland
France
Germany
Greece
Hungary
Ireland
Italy
Latvia
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Malta
Netherlands
Poland
Portugal
Romania
Slovakia
Slovenia
Spain
Sweden

 

Residents of the following countries that are not members of the E.U. are allowed entry:

Algeria
Australia
Canada
Georgia
Japan
Montenegro
Morocco
New Zealand
Rwanda
Serbia
South Korea
Thailand
Tunisia
Uruguay
China (subject to confirmation of reciprocity)

Just to add to the confusion, each country will determine its own specific way of enforcing the ban.  It is not known how long this ban will be in effect, but obviously it will spoil most travel plans for the summer and probably in to the fall.

And, as usual, everything keeps changing, so we will do our best to keep you updated.

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Rome is gradually opening up

Slowly, Rome is opening back up!!

It has been a surreal experience for those living in Rome these past few months:  no throngs of tourists, no lines to get in to Saint Peter’s or the Vatican Museums, no public Masses….something most of us never thought we would see.  Fortunately, the city has begun to relax its restrictions, which is good news for those who live there….but also for those who wish to visit “The Eternal City”.

Public Masses:  The Italian government had banned attendance at Masses in early March, part of its prohibition on gatherings as it sought to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Most of Italy’s churches have remained open during the pandemic, but only for individual prayer.  Public Masses can resume on May 18, but under strict conditions outlined in a protocol signed by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, president of the Italian Bishops Conference.

Each pastor will determine the maximum number of people who can fit in a church while staying at least a 3 feet apart.

If necessary, additional Masses can be held, rather than allowing more people into the church for one service, the protocol says.

The faithful will have to wear masks in church. Priests can celebrate most of the Mass without masks but they will have to wear one, as well as gloves, when they distribute Holy Communion.

For now, choirs are not allowed and holy water fonts will remain dry.

 

The Vatican Museums:  The Vatican Museums, which have been closed since March 9,  will soon be reopened to the public, while following the safety guidelines prescribed by Italian and Vatican health officials. They will be accessible only by reservation, and no large groups will be admitted at this time..

The museum is installing thermoscanners for temperature readings of all visitors, so obviously your temperature will have to be normal.

It’s not ideal, but at least it is a step in the right direction, and it is welcome news to those who plan to travel to Rome this summer and fall……and welcome news for the tour companies that will take them there.

 

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Not all churches are closed…Our Lady of La Leche Shrine remains open

The famous Mission of Nombre de Dios…..the first shrine in the United States dedicated to Our Blessed Mother, under devotion to Our Lady of La Leche (Our Lady of the Milk) goes back to a 4th Century Grotto in Jerusalem.

The devotion spread in the middle ages, particularly after the Crusaders came back from the Holy Land. The wife of a nobleman, expected to die during the birth of her child, was reportedly spared due to the intercession of Our Lady of La Leche. More particularly she was given the title “Our Lady of the Milk and Happy Delivery”.

The devotion became widespread throughout Europe and then brought to the “New World” by the Spanish explorers, who founded the city of Saint Augustine, Florida in 1565,

It was here that the first Mass was celebrated on U.S. soil.

The Shrine and Mission grounds and the Historic Chapel here in Saint Augustine, Florida are remaining open during the coronavirus epidemic. there will be no public Masses, but their priests are available to hear confessions by appointment. You can contact them at [email protected]

The Shrine will be open from 12:00pm – 4:00pm daily.

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Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes to be closed for an indefinite period

On March 17, 2020, it was announced that for the first time in its history, that  the sanctuary of Lourdes will be closed for an indefinite period. 

Procession of the sick in LourdesNo public Masses will be offered in the sanctuary due to national measures announced by French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron on the evening of March 16.

Such a move is truly historic, but certainly not un-expected.  We remain optimistic that the Coronavirus will be contained in France and elsewhere and that by late summer Lourdes….and most other shrines….will once again be open to visitors.

You can check our page on Lourdes for updates to the situation.

 

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Be careful where you buy your Oberammergau Passion Play tickets

The Oberammergau Passion Play is held every 10 years in Oberammergau, Germany and is one of the most popular travel destinations in 2020.  Tickets include not only admission to the play but lodging as well.  In addition, there are many tour operators that provide tickets plus transportation and lodging, meals, etc.

However, there are some who plan to go on their own and buy tickets.  If that is you….then be sure you buy direct from the source….or you may end paying much more and not even getting the seating you have requested.

The official website of the Oberammergau Passion Play has put out this warning:   We have been and are currently being informed by affected consumers about the offer of tickets for the 2020 Passion Play via the ticket provider Viagogo.

A large number of tickets for the 2020 Passion Play are offered via the Viagogo ticket platform. Please note that Viagogo is a ticket provider in the secondary use market, i.e. Viagogo is not an official ticket provider. The prices offered are not original prices! Depending on the category, the original prices are between EUR 30 and EUR 180. Viagogo sometimes charges a multiple of these original ticket prices.

Please also note that Viagogo does not specify seats or at least categories currently. Especially the distance from the stage is not indicated. Even if you buy an expensive ticket, it is therefore still possible that you will end up sitting in the cheapest category for EUR 30 original price.

We were able to enjoin Viagogo successfully from advertising the tickets with misleading statements such as “sold out”. However, Viagogo continues to offer the tickets.

Editor’s note:  As of March 10, 2020 Viagogo still offers tickets…at substantially higher cost than through the official Passion Play website.

You can simply check the official Oberammergau Passion Play website to see if tickets are still available for your needs.

And, if you wish to travel in a group, we recommend one of the many group tours offered through Select International Tours.  You can be assured that you will be dealing with a company with experience as well as an excellent reputation.