Wednesday, 21 October 2020

UK Welcomes First Cruise Since Pandemic

UK Welcomes First Cruise Since Pandemic

Portsmouth International Port has become the first British port to welcome a cruise since the start of the coronavirus quarantine, according to a statement.

SeaDream Yacht Club’s vessel, SeaDream 1, stopped in Portsmouth on Oct. 19 to pick up 19 passengers for a transatlantic voyage to the Caribbean.

The yacht, which can normally hold 110 guests, is running its voyage based on the most recent strict health and safety protocols, according to a press release. 

All the passengers had to test negative for the coronavirus no more than 72 hours in advance, as well as immediately before boarding.

Extensive cleaning and sanitation regimes are in force on the vessel, according to the press release by Portsmouth.

“We’re experienced at managing passengers in a COVID secure way, with ferry sailings taking place regularly since July following strict protocols,” the Head of Operations at Portsmouth International Port, Ian Diaper, said. “This had given us insight for what’s required and we’re ready to help the industry recover when cruise returns to its full capacity.”

“It’s testament to everyone’s hard work that SeaDream Yacht Club was confident to use Portsmouth as the first UK port to manage a turnaround call since sailings were suspended,” he added.

In addition to welcoming the first cruise since the start of the pandemic, Portsmouth has also become the first UK port to install a thermal imaging camera. The port received DNV-GL’s independent verification for its coronavirus prevention measures.

All crew members at SeaDream 1 have completed the WHO's Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) for COVID-19 course, as well as Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 Contact Tracing course.

The SeaDream 1 is performing a 21-day trip from Norway to Barbados. After she arrives in the Bajan capital of Bridgetown on Nov. 5, the yacht will be operating 7-day round trips from and to the city – calling at Bequia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada. 

Zito: Swan Hellenic Ready for Strong Start-Up

Zito: Swan Hellenic Ready for Strong Start-Up

The CEO of Swan Hellenic, Andrea Zito, said that the company is in a good position ahead of its launch in 2021.

“We are receiving only positive comments from the former customers of Swan Hellenic. The sector is reacting very well to the fact that Swan Hellenic is being resurrected in a way,” Zito told Cruise Industry News.

The first of two new expedition ships, the m/v SH Minerva, debuts into service for the brand in 2021.

The revived Swan Hellenic launched earlier this year. However, the brand is actually 70 years old and was acquired in December 2020.

“One and a half [years ago], the group started the negotiation and placed the order for two ships with Helsinki shipyard for delivery at the end of 2021 and mid-2022. And then the pandemic came. This was not really planned,” Zito said.

The coronavirus pandemic caused Swan Hellenic to postpone any announcements from spring to July. However, otherwise, Zito’s company had adjusted to the challenging conditions.

“It’s a little bit slower, but we are doing things very efficiently. It is amazing to realize how many things you can accomplish without travelling continuously,” he said, describing the challenges of having offices in different European countries.

Zito said that Swan Hellenic offers what seasoned travellers look for.

The company will sail to destinations in New Zealand, Pacific Islands, Russia, and, Zito said proudly, the semi-circumnavigation of Antarctica.

“Our ships are some of the very few ships that have Polar Class 5 ... So we can stay longer, we can go deeper in the environment and, most importantly, we can go safer because the characteristics of the ships are of higher safety standards to ensure that passengers are well protected,” he said.

According to Zito, Swan Hellenic’s ultimate goal is to cover the whole world.

“It's not just a box-ticking exercise, it caters to people who are thirsty for knowledge: they are curious and they want to discover various parts of the world. And the world is still very big.” 

Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Cruising Predictions About Testing, Destinations, Health Bubbles and the Permanence of Protocols

Cruising Predictions About Testing, Destinations, Health Bubbles and the Permanence of Protocols

Independence of the Seas in Laderbee Haiti 

It should come as no surprise that the main topic on everyone’s mind during this year’s Seatrade Cruise Virtual industry convention was COVID-19, with a particular focus on restarting operations. Despite such daunting challenges, the cruise travel market is the most optimistic it has been since shutting down sailings.

Among the takeaways were the following key points.

Testing, Testing, One, Two, Three

More than anything, testing for the novel coronavirus was presented as the most important step for cruising’s eventual return — specifically, the 100% testing of all passengers and crew before boarding any ship as outlined by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).

In fact, Rick Sasso, president and CEO of MSC Cruises, believes testing effectively makes vaccines “irrelevant” as tests will help weed out any instances of COVID-19 regardless of who has or who has not been inoculated.

Another common belief is that while testing is a crucial “first gate,” as stated by Dr. Grant Tarling, chief medical officer, Group Health Services at Carnival Corporation, it is still possible that the virus could make its way onboard. Thus, multiple layers of protection including masking and physical distancing, as well as case isolation as needed, will be implemented.

Protocols Not Permanent

It is also good to remember that the strictest health protocols will not be in place forever. Donnie Brown, vice president of maritime policy at CLIA, anticipates stringent measures to exist at the “initial resumption” but looks forward “to being able to scale them back in time.”

He said what will contribute to the eventual loosening of protocols is a combination of easing restrictions on terrestrial travel; the availability of treatments and vaccines; and the remaining prevalence of COVID-19 in source markets and destinations.

Next Up: The Caribbean

Trunk Bay in St. Johns

The Caribbean is expected to be one of the first destinations to return for North American travellers, who can look forward to a gradual phasing in of ports, not all of which will likely be available on initial itineraries.

Holland America Line’s new president Gus Antorcha emphasized that cruise lines’ own private islands will come into play more to start, but traditional destinations are not out of the running.

Even if there are more restrictions, to begin with, sanctioned shore excursions are not necessarily a bad thing. Josh Leibowitz, president of Seabourn, pointed out that the cruise industry actually started out with “controlled” tours.

Ultimately, “pleasure should not be restricted,” said Clarice Modeste-Curwen, minister for tourism and civil aviation, Grenada Tourism Authority, but the region is rethinking attractions as needed, as well as avoiding mass gatherings with smaller groups. She specifically cited beaches and health-focused tours as good offerings.

It will come down to instilling traveller confidence in destinations and building mutual trust between ports and cruise lines, and those discussions are well underway.

Alaska’s Health Bubble

Both Holland America Line (HAL) and Windstar Cruises have specifically said they are planning for full 2021 Alaska seasons.

Equally anticipating next year’s return are Alaska’s individual ports of call. Skagway, for one, depends on cruising for a staggering 90% of its local economy, according to Andrew Cremata, borough mayor of Skagway.

"We want [guests] to have a completely free experience while they’re in the port,” he said.

Cremata discussed how a health bubble can be created on a ship, but also in a small destination such as Skagway, where visitors can still openly wander beyond shore excursions to hike, shop or dine. Crucial to that will be routinely testing seasonal workers so the local bubble and incoming bubble can safely interact.

Demand and Demographics Remain Steady

Also positive is the news that traveller demand remains high. Colleen McDaniel, editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic, spoke of the emerging trend of “revenge travel,” and the huge desire there is to get back out there, particularly among those who have cruised before. She said cruising is already their preferred vacation, and they miss cruising with friends.

HAL’s Antorcha does not see demographics shifting either. Those who “took travel for granted,” are raring to go, and, perhaps surprisingly, older guests are disproportionately booking cruises right now, he said.

Similarly, MSC’s Sasso believes loyalists will return. First-timers “may have been moved a little bit away from the fence,” he said, but there’s an opportunity to capture a new audience that appreciates all the robust steps the cruise industry is taking to ensure the healthiest of environments.

Travel Advisors Are Key

“Coming out of this, [travel agents] will never be in greater demand,” said Alex Sharpe, president and CEO of Signature Travel Network.

Sadly, Sharpe does foresee a smaller community that is “leaner and meaner,” but also one that has a chance to quickly grow back as consumers need help understanding everything. The additional silver lining, he added, is the potential for greater revenue per advisor with fewer in the market.

To that end, Dan Blanchard, owner and CEO of UnCruise Adventures — who said “God bless agents” — remains very thankful for advisors’ continued support and advised them to become as knowledgeable as possible about all the new protocols to keep their edge moving forward.

MSC holds out hope for UK passengers as the second ship sets sail

MSC holds out hope for UK passengers as the second ship sets sail

A second MSC Cruises ship has resumed service after Covid forced a pause in operations for much of the year.

MSC Magnifica follows MSC Grandiosa, which is on its ninth voyage, as the second ship to implement MSC Cruises’ comprehensive health and safety protocols.

MSC Magnifica departed Genoa on a 10-night Mediterranean cruise with calls at the ports of Livorno for visits to Florence and Pisa, Messina in Sicily, Piraeus for Athens, Katakolon for Olympia, Valletta in Malta, and Civitavecchia for Rome, before returning to Genoa. 

MSC Cruises UK managing director Antonio Paradiso said that the line was ready to welcome back British passengers when government guidance is relaxed.

He said: “MSC Cruises are ready to welcome British and Irish residents when the FCDO guidance changes.

“We are working closely with Clia and the relevant authorities to enable British and Irish guests to be welcome back on board our ships when the time is right.”

MSC Magnifica Successfully Sets Sail From Italy

MSC Magnifica Successfully Sets Sail From Italy

MSC Magnifica on the Firth of Forth.

MSC Cruises’ Magnifica has departed from the port of Genoa in Italy, has become the company’s second ship to restart sailing since the start of the pandemic, according to a press release.

The MSC Magnifica is sailing a 10-day round voyage of “relaxation and discovery in the West and East Mediterranean Sea” with plans to call at the port of Livorno for visits to Florence and Pisa, Messina in Sicily, Piraeus for Athens, Katakolon for Olympia, Valletta, Malta and Civitavecchia for Rome.

This comes two months after the MSC Grandiosa departed from the same port, also with a strictly Italian itinerary.

The MSC Grandiosa was the first major cruise vessel to return to service, according to the press release.

The MSC Cruises’ health and safety protocol entail “universal health screening” of everyone – guests and crew – which includes tests for COVID-19 before they can board a ship, elevated sanitation and cleaning measures throughout the vessel, managed social distancing, wearing of face masks in public areas, and the use of technology to aid track and trace on board.

In this initial phase, the MSC Magnifica’s capacity has also been reduced to 70 per cent to ensure social distancing onboard, according to the company.

Guests onboard the MSC Magnifica can enjoy shore excursions that were organized by the company. These excursions will see the same health and safety standards practised ashore as onboard to not only protect the guests and crew but also the communities in the ports of call.   

At this point, both the MSC Magnifica and the MSC Grandiosa itineraries are available for booking for the residents of the Schengen area only. 

Monday, 19 October 2020

Miami Hoping to Ease Up Cruise Line Guarantees in Support Push

Miami Hoping to Ease Up Cruise Line Guarantees in Support Push

PortMiami is continuing to step up to help the cruise industry, as the officials hope to push through regulations to alleviate cruise lines of minimum passenger guarantees during their recovery phase.

Already waving fees for ships docking for technical and crew repatriation reasons, the port hopes to relieve cruise lines of their minimum annual passenger guarantees, according to a document submitted Miami's Ports and Tourism Committee. 

This would come in exchange for the cruise lines to "maintain or increase their PortMiami market share relative to other U.S. ports in terms of passenger volumes and/or (2) to guarantee vessel calls; and (3) on a cruise line by cruise line basis, to meet any other additional conditions required by the County Mayor or County Mayor’s designee, if any, in his/her discretion (i.e., return of available weekend berthing rights, modifications to the scope of the County-funded components of construction projects or other County borne construction-related obligations, etc.)."

Cruise lines will be required to pay dockage and wharfage at their minimum contractual rates or those published in Port Tariff No. 010 (tariff rates for the Fiscal Year 2020-21 are $13.12 for wharfage and $0.405 per gross registered ton for dockage), in both cases subject to a 3% annual rate of escalation, according to the documents submitted.

"The passenger shortfall and surplus accounts shall not apply during the Recovery Period, nor shall any additional credits accrue during any portion of the Recovery Period; and Any parking-based incentives granted under their respective preferential berthing rights or terminal usage agreements will be waived throughout the Recovery Period."

The port said it expects the Recovery Period to last up to 24 months.

Of note, the port explained the fiscal impact through the end of the Fiscal Year 2019-20 of the first phase of the Recovery Period is $55 million, consisting of forgone net revenues derived from cruise wharfage and dockage fees. This has been offset by $35 million in expense reductions resulting from the port.

Sunday, 18 October 2020

Hurtigruten Prepares for Growth, Establishes Separate Expedition Cruise Entity

Hurtigruten Prepares for Growth, Establishes Separate Expedition Cruise Entity

Hurtigruten has announced it will redefine its growing cruise operations by establishing a separate expedition cruise entity, citing strong demand for 2021 and 2022 expedition sailings.

"2020 is a tough year for everyone in the travel industry. But the set back is only temporary. For the second half of 2021 and beyond, we are seeing a strong demand across all markets and all destinations, including the Norwegian coast, the Arctic and Antarctica," said CEO Daniel Skjeldam.

"The demand reflects our predictions that expedition cruises, with all our advantages such as smaller ships, more flexibility and fewer guests, will prove even more popular post-COVID-19," he added.

"We have only seen the beginning of what’s to come. Hurtigruten sees great demand and equally great opportunities in the expedition cruise segment from 2021 and beyond. This is the growth we are preparing for."

Thus, the company is reorganizing its cruise operations in two different entities: Hurtigruten Expeditions and Hurtigruten Norway.  

Hurtigruten’s expedition cruises include more than 250 destinations from pole to pole, ranging from the Northwest Passage, Greenland, Norway, Svalbard, the British Isles to the Caribbean, South America and Antarctica.

Asta Lassesen has been appointed CEO of Hurtigruten’s global expedition cruise operations.

"As Hurtigruten continues to grow our expedition cruise offering, we will keep doing what we do best: Combining almost 130 years of exploration with cutting-edge innovation and our unparalleled commitment to sustainability to deliver unique experiences in some of the world’s most awe-inspiring destinations," said Lassesen.

Hurtigruten’s expedition cruise entity will operate a fleet of eight small sizes, custom-built and green expedition cruise ships, the company said.

New Disney Wish Set to Debut in Summer 2022

New Disney Wish Set to Debut in Summer 2022

Disneys Tangled Rapunzel painting the stern of the New Disney Wish cruise ship.

Disney Cruise Line has announced the Disney Wish will debut later than expected, citing the COVID-19 pandemic and confirming the ship will enter service in summer 2022.

"Originally planned to sail in early 2022, the Disney Wish is now scheduled for its maiden voyage in summer 2022 due to pandemic-related delays at the Meyer-Werft shipyard in Germany," the company announced.

"As previously announced, the Disney Wish will be powered by liquified natural gas or LNG, one of the cleanest-burning fuels available. At approximately 144,000 gross tons and 1,250 guest staterooms, the ship will be slightly larger than the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy."


Saturday, 17 October 2020

Singapore’s Cruises to Nowhere to Set Sail in November

Singapore’s Cruises to Nowhere to Set Sail in November

Quantum of the Seas would be the only Royal Caribbean ship with passengers.

FILE PHOTO: Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas. Photo courtesy Kallis Video Production

By Kyunghee Park (Bloomberg) –Two cruise ships will start sailing from Singapore from next month into the open seas and back as the city-state aims to give residents some outlet for their wanderlust amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Genting Cruise Lines’ World Dream and Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas will begin round-trip journeys from November and December respectively, the Singapore Tourism Board said in a statement Thursday.

Stringent protocols for cruise operators and passengers to permit the pilot voyages have been established under a CruiseSafe certification program. They include Covid-19 testing of crew and passengers, increased sanitization, fresh air circulating measures, and onboard steps to discourage close contact and intermingling. The boats will sail at a reduced capacity of 50% and the journeys are only open to residents of Singapore.

“This cruise pilot is a valuable opportunity for cruise operators to reinvent the entire cruise experience in order to regain the confidence of passengers,” said Singapore Tourism Board Chief Executive Officer Keith Tan. “Singapore remains committed to supporting and growing cruise tourism in the region.”

The cruise-ship industry globally shut down in March after a series of Covid-19 outbreaks at sea, including one at cruise giant Carnival Corp.’s Diamond Princess off Yokohama, Japan, in February. Even healthy passengers have suffered, as many ports turned ships away for fear of seeding new shore-side outbreaks. Tens of thousands of crew members were trapped on vessels for months.

Singapore is looking at ways to boost its tourism industry, which has been hit hard as the pandemic decimated travel. The outbreak has led to record losses at the nation’s flag carrier Singapore Airlines Ltd. and destroyed traffic at Changi Airport. The government warned earlier this week that Singapore can’t afford to wait a year or two for a vaccine to become widely available.

A bar inside the main lobby of the Genting Dream cruise ship berthed at the Marina Bay Cruise Center in Singapore in 2018.

Genting is offering two- and three-night packages starting Nov. 6. In July, the cruise operator restarted services in Taiwan. Royal Caribbean will operate three- and four-night packages from Dec. 1.

Passengers will need to get tested and submit travel and health declarations before they board. During the trip, they’ll have to wear masks at all times and keep a safe distance of one meter. Tracing tokens or apps will be mandatory outside of cabins.

Crew members that are flying into the city-state will be required to take a test on arrival and another at the end of a 14-day quarantine.

The tourism board said that Singapore is one of the first countries to develop and implement a mandatory audit and certification program for cruise lines. Prior to sailing, all cruise lines out of Singapore must obtain the CruiseSafe certification, which requires assessment by a third-party certification firm.

Genting Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean are in the process of attaining the certification, the board said, adding that Singapore will decide on the next steps for the cruise industry after carefully monitoring the voyages.

To woo customers, Royal Caribbean is offering various flexible terms and conditions, including Covid-19 related onboard medical cost cover of up to S$25,000 ($18,400) per person.

AIDA Cruises to Return to Sailing This Weekend in Italy

AIDA Cruises to Return to Sailing This Weekend in Italy

FILE PHOTO: MS AIDAblu. Credit: CC BY-SA 4.0 / Martin Falbisoner

Germany-based AIDA Cruises, part of the Carnival Corporation, will resume cruises in Italy this weekend, marking the second Carnival Corporation brand to resume sailing since the sailing suspension prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The return of AIDA follows the resumption of sailings by Italy-based Costa Cruises in early September.

Carnival Corporation, the world’s top cruise group, has adopted a phase-in approach to restart operations regionally with limited itineraries, adjusted passenger capacity and beefed-up health protocols developed in coordination with government and health authorities. The protocols require, among other things, that guests and crew test negative for COVID-19 prior to boarding.

AIDA Cruises will initially resume its cruise operations in Italy with AIDAblu, scheduled to depart from Civitavecchia near Rome on seven-day itineraries visiting Palermo and Catania in Sicily, Naples and La Spezia. The first cruise for the brand is set to begin Oct. 17, with voyages offered weekly until Nov. 28.

The restart plans for AIDA Cruises builds on the momentum of Costa Cruises’ return to cruise operations in Italy in early September, which began with two initial ships departing from Trieste and Genoa on seven-day itineraries with Italian guests visiting destinations in Italy. Costa Cruises further expanded last month with a third ship, flagship Costa Smeralda, sailing on one-week itineraries dedicated to the rediscovery of the best of Italy, including Savona, La Spezia, Cagliari, Naples, Messina and Civitavecchia. Since there return, there have been no reported outbreaks of the virus on board.

“For all our brands, there is no higher responsibility and no higher priority than compliance, protecting the environment, and the health, safety and well-being of our guests, our crew and the communities we visit,” said Roger Frizzell, chief communications officer for Carnival Corporation. “We are excited to have AIDA joining Costa Cruises in resuming sailing operations with a gradual expansion of service over time. As we offer travellers a phased return to cruise vacations, we will continue sharing important learnings and best practices among our world-leading cruise line brands and across the industry to help ensure the resumption of cruise operations is done with the best interests of public health at the forefront.”

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Carnival cancels November cruises from Miami and Port Canaveral

Carnival cancels November cruises from Miami and Port Canaveral  

Carnival Splendor

Carnival Cruise Line has cancelled the remaining cruises for the six ships operating from Miami and Port Canaveral in November 2020.

The cruise giant has also cancelled five cruises scheduled to operate on Carnival Splendor from Sydney, between January 16 to February 8, 2021.

Carnival had previously cancelled all but PortMiami and Port Canaveral departures for the rest of the year because of a no-sail order by the US Centers for Disease Control. It has now determined that November 2020 operations will not be feasible.

The company said: “Carnival continues to work on protocols and procedures that would allow for the resumption of cruise operations, with a gradual, phased-in approach, designating Miami and Port Canaveral as the first two homeports for embarkations.

“Cruises currently scheduled for December from those two homeports remain in place for the time being while Carnival evaluates options.

“However, guests booked on cruises in December out of Miami and Port Canaveral still have the ability to voluntarily cancel their reservation and receive the same offer that all other impacted guests are receiving, which includes a combination future cruise credit (FCC) and onboard credit (OBC), or a full refund.”

Carnival is notifying guests and travel agents about the five cruises on Carnival Splendor from Sydney that have been cancelled.

Monday, 12 October 2020

Disney Wonder on Her Way To Dry dock

Disney Wonder on Her Way To Dry dock

The Disney Wonder in an previous dry dock.
 Taking advantage of the downtime in operations, Disney Cruise Line is performing routine regulatory class work and upgrades on its fleet, according to sources familiar with the work.

The Disney Wonder, built in 1999, is on her way to a dry dock in Brest, France and was in Ponta Delgada in the Azores for a technical stop last week where she took on fuel having sailed from Port Canaveral.

Disney has not released information on the details of the dry dock projects.

The Wonder, meanwhile, has seen sailings through Dec. 15 cancelled.

The ship is scheduled to sail her winter season of short cruises from Galveston before a short stint in New Orleans. Next spring, the ship is based in San Diego prior to her 2021 summer season in Alaska.

Third Costa Ship Back Cruising: Smeralda Departs From Savona

Third Costa Ship Back Cruising: Smeralda Departs From Savona

Costa Cruises now has three ships back in cruise operation as the Smeralda departed from Savona on Oct. 10 with guests aboard.

The ship joins the Deliziosa and Diadema as the Costa ships back in operation.

All three ships are sailing under the Costa Safety Protocol which is a strict set of new health and safety requirements including COVID-19 testing for all guests and crew. 

The LNG-powered ship will now offer five week-long itineraries through early November, calling at Italian ports La Spezia, Cagliari, Naples, Messina and Civitavecchia/Rome.

"It is very exciting to see our flagship depart once more from Savona, Costa's main port in the Mediterranean," said Michael Thamm, Group CEO of Costa Group and Carnival Asia.

"We are gradually returning to cruising with an increasing number of ships, in a safe and responsible way, thanks to new health protocols. The return of Costa Smeralda, which represents the most advanced vessel in our fleet in terms of reducing environmental impact, is also a renewal of our commitment to sustainable cruise development, which will be one of the key points in the recovery of our sector in the coming years," Thamm noted.

Savona is playing a leading role in the company's restart, with the Smeralda scheduled to homeport in the Italian city through the end of 2021. Plans call to offer different itineraries, per local regulations, that will include Italy, France and Spain.

Starting in November, the Costa Diadema will also dock at the Palacrociere cruise terminal in Savona and will offer 12-day cruises to the Canary Islands, 14-day cruises to Egypt and Greece, and 14-day cruises also to Turkey.

The Costa Fortuna, Costa Favolosa and Costa Fascinosa will also arrive in Savona, offering mini-cruises in the Mediterranean and 10-day cruises to Portugal.

White House hosts call with cruise line bosses to discuss Healthy Sail Panel proposals

White House hosts call with cruise line bosses to discuss Healthy Sail Panel proposals

Cruise line bosses have held discussions with the White House over plans to resume sailing in a “safe and responsible manner”.

US vice president Mike Pence chaired a call with five cruise line executives; the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Healthy Sail Panel.

Carnival Corporation chief executive Arnold Donald; Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings president and chief executive Frank Del Rio; Royal Caribbean Group chairman and chief executive Richard Fain; Disney Signature Experience president Thomas Malzoum and MSC Cruise’s executive chairman Pierfrancesco Vago was present for the discussions, held yesterday (October 9).

A statement on the White House website said the call had focussed on “the impacts of the coronavirus on the cruise line industry and the maritime economy, the CDC’s No Sail Order, and the Cruise Lines International Association (Clia) and Healthy Sail Panel’s proposal to resume sailing operations in a safe and responsible manner.”

The Healthy Sail Panel has proposed 74 key steps towards the resumption of cruising, and since being announced in September, has received industry-wide adoption.

The proposals are now to be presented to the Coronavirus Task Force with a view to providing a recommendation to the president, Donald Trump, on the next steps on the CDC’s current No Sail Order which currently bans US-based cruising through until October 31.

According to the statement, Pence “highlighted the shared goal of reopening the maritime economy, with a focus on the cruise line industry safely sailing again.”

He thanked the Healthy Sail Panel and cruise line bosses for “conducting an industry-driven effort that focusses on the health outcomes”.

The White House said the cruise lines bosses had stressed that the process and proposals of the Healthy Sail Panel would result in “accountability and standards that will ensure cruise ship passengers are in a safe and healthy environment.”

It comes days after the chiefs of four leading cruise companies said they were “confident” cruising would resume from the US this year.

Speaking at the Seatrade Cruise Virtual conference, Carnival Corporation’s Arnold Donald said: “I’m a 4.5 to a 4.9 on the optimism scale [out of 5]” while Royal Caribbean’s Richard Fain said he was “confident and optimistic”.

Saturday, 10 October 2020

Royal Caribbean to restore Singapore sailings

Royal Caribbean to restore Singapore sailings

Royal Caribbean International plans to resume sailing in Asia after winning approval from the Singapore government.

The line is to pilot short cruises by Quantum of the Seas from December 1, following Genting Cruise Lines’ World Dream on November 6.

The three and four-night cruises to no-where have been given the green light for Singapore residents only after months of planning to ensure the health and safety of passengers, crew and local communities.

Ships will have to operate at 50% capacity and run round-trips with no ports of call.

The Singapore Tourism Board is developing a mandatory ‘CruiseSafe’ certification including stringent hygiene and safety measures, including pre-departure and after disembarking.

Royal Caribbean International Asia Pacific managing director Angie Stephen said: “Singapore residents are adventurous travellers and we are so excited to be giving them the opportunity to get away from their daily grind and enjoy a thrilling world-class clean getaway, with total peace of mind.

“While the cruise experience will be different than it was pre-pandemic, we are committed to provide the signature Royal Caribbean holiday that guests know and love, while keeping the health and safety of everyone on board as our top priority.

“I extend my deepest gratitude to the Singapore government for their collaboration and support and confidence in Royal Caribbean to deliver a safe cruising experience.
“We share their strong commitment and focus to reignite the local economy and bring back jobs and services supporting the travel industry.”

STB chief executive Keith Tan said: “Singapore remains committed to supporting and growing cruise tourism in the region.

“Royal Caribbean International is a key partner in growing cruising in Singapore and the region, and I am confident in their ability to maintain the highest standards of hygiene and safety.

“We will continue to work with cruise lines and our industry stakeholders to chart a new course for safe cruising.”

Royal Caribbean International Asia Pacific managing director Angie Stephen said: “Singapore residents are adventurous travellers and we are so excited to be giving them the opportunity to get away from their daily grind and enjoy a thrilling world-class clean getaway, with total peace of mind.

“While the cruise experience will be different than it was pre-pandemic, we are committed to provide the signature Royal Caribbean holiday that guests know and love, while keeping the health and safety of everyone on board as our top priority.

“I extend my deepest gratitude to the Singapore government for their collaboration and support and confidence in Royal Caribbean to deliver a safe cruising experience.

“We share their strong commitment and focus to reignite the local economy and bring back jobs and services supporting the travel industry.”

Singapore Tourist Board chief executive Keith Tan said: “Singapore remains committed to supporting and growing cruise tourism in the region.

“Royal Caribbean International is a key partner in growing cruising in Singapore and the region, and I am confident in their ability to maintain the highest standards of hygiene and safety.

“We will continue to work with cruise lines and our industry stakeholders to chart a new course for safe cruising.”

MSC Cruises obtains additional safety stamp

MSC Cruises obtains additional safety stamp

MSC Splendida in Valetta Harbour 

MSC Cruises has obtained a further stamp of approval for its ability to reduce the risk of infection on board its flagship.

MSC Grandiosa, currently operating in the Mediterranean, has been awarded the Biosafe Ship additional class notation assigned by the classification society RINA.

RINA had previously verified that MSC Cruises’ health and safety protocols met European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) Joint Guidance, which incorporates additional health standards including those from the EU Healthy Gateways Joint Action, allowing it to restart sailings in August.

The Biosafe Ship is an additional goal-based and voluntary notation that certifies that the ship is equipped with systems, components and has a layout and operational procedures that reduce infection risk.

Grandiosa is on her eighth consecutive weekly cruise serving guests from the Schengen area, with UK guests currently unable to board. Its other ship, MSC Magnifica, is scheduled to resume sailing on October 19.

New procedures on both ships include universal Covid-19 testing for all guests and crew prior to embarkation, protected “social bubble” shore visits at each destination and the introduction of a Covid Protection Plan of insurance.



MSC Cruises executive chairman Pierfrancesco Vago has used his appearance at the G20 Summit to call for rapid testing technology and “harmonised” Covid-19 protocols to revive the global travel sector.

Vago addressed a meeting of tourism ministers from 20 of the richest countries in the world when he talked about MSC’s experiences of relaunching cruises in the Mediterranean in August.

“The core element of the protocol is our universal testing of all guests and crew before embarkation to create a sterile and safe bubble, which protects them throughout their time with us,” said Vago during the virtual event held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

“We are now in the midst of our eighth sailing with a second vessel due to restart later this month with a longer itinerary, and we have safely carried 16,000 guests.”

Vago added the line had denied boarding to more than 100 passengers who had either tested positive for Covid-19 themselves or travelled with somebody who had tested positive, as well as those who did not have the correct medical paperwork or broke MSC’s protocols.

“Thanks to our protocol and other similar ones, cruise ships could be considered possibly amongst the safest holidays anywhere in the world, and there is no reason why other forms of travel and holiday cannot be as safe,” stressed Vago.

“I hope that the data we have accrued and the harmonisation of protocols across the entire transport, hospitality and tourism industry can be the way forward to work with authorities around the world as testing becomes more available.”

Friday, 9 October 2020

Another Cruise Ship Sold; Albatros to Leave Phoenix Reisen

Another Cruise Ship Sold; Albatros to Leave Phoenix Reisen

The Albatros will leave the Phoenix Reisen fleet, according to a press release, with the German tour operator citing the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ship will now start a new life as a hotel vessel under for the Pick Albatros Group in the Middle East, which operates a number of hotels and resorts. 

That will leave Phoenix Reisen with three year-round ships, plus a seasonal summer charter with the Deutschland. 

"And yet, despite all the anticipation, we also have to keep an eye on the profitability of our company. So it was with a heavy heart that we decided to hand over the MS Albatros from the Phoenix fleet to new hands," the company said, in a translated statement.

Having been built in 1973, the 830-guest Albatros was the oldest ship in the Phoenix Reisen fleet, originally launching as the Royal Viking Sea.

A number of ships have been sold or retired this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including 18 Carnival Corp. vessels; the entire Cruise & Maritime Voyages fleet; the entire Pullmantur fleet and numerous other vessels.  

Carnival: Optimistic For Restart in the U.S. By Year’s End

Carnival: Optimistic For Restart in the U.S. By Year’s End

Carnival Breeze

“At this time, we have every reason to be optimistic we will be sailing in the U.S. before year’s end,” said Arnold Donald, president and CEO of Carnival Corporation, on today’s third-quarter earnings call.

The company’s Costa Cruises brand has already returned to service with two ships in the Mediterranean, soon to be joined by a third ship, the Costa Smeralda, according to Donald. They are sailing weeklong cruises from different Italian homeports. The sister brand, AIDA, is set to launch service later this month, also in the Mediterranean, with German passengers.

Donald explained that the ships are sailing with lower occupancy levels enabling the cruise lines to test and assess their health and safety protocols.

With national brands, Donald said Carnival is ideally positioned for a phased-in return to service, as each brand can be restarted independently, and in most cases with ready access to drive-to markets.

Also, with a small percentage of the fleet entering service, for now, he said, there will be less reliance on new-to-cruise, compared to all previous growth cycles that required the brands to tap more new passengers.

In addition, as Carnival is disposing of some 18 older ships and right-sizing its shoreside organization, Donald said a leaner and more efficient company would emerge.

“All initiatives going forward will be focused on maximizing cash generation and creating shareholder value. The delivery schedules of new ships have been stretched out and there is only one new ship on order for 2024 and one for 2025. This will further reduce our capital expenditures and allow us to repay debt,” he added.

Added David Bernstein, CFO and chief accounting officer: “We are focused on assets that are cash generative, so we can pay down debt, rebuild our balance sheet and get back to investment-grade rating.

“We are working through a number of different financial scenarios, but there is a lot of uncertainty involved so it is difficult to give (financial) guidance. (However), we expect over time to build occupancy up to generate positive cash flow and reduce the cash burn. The start-up occupancy level is less than 50 per cent. Over time, once we know we have things right, we will increase occupancy, while keeping social distancing in mind as well.”

Bernstein noted that the break-even point ranges from 30 to 50 per cent occupancy for different ships.

Southampton debut planned for new Carnival Cruise Line ship

Southampton debut planned for new Carnival Cruise Line ship

Bookings have opened for Carnival Cruise Line’s newest ship Carnival Celebration to enter service in 2022.

The vessel will make its debut with a 14-day transatlantic crossing from Southampton on November 6, arriving in Miami on November 20.

The 5,374-passenger capacity ship set to enter service as part of the company’s 50th-anniversary celebrations which kick-off in March 2022.

The inaugural two-week sailing from Southampton will include calls at La Coruna, Vigo, Funchal in Maderia and Tenerife.

Carnival Celebration, a sister to the line’s first XL-class ship Mardi Gras, will then run year-round Caribbean sailings from Miami.

The new-build will match Mardi Gras with six themed zones and be the second ship to feature onboard rollercoaster, Bolt.

The addition of Carnival Celebration will maintain Miami’s position as the top embarkation port for Carnival Cruise Line.

Carnival Cruise Line president Christine Duffy said: “Carnival Celebration promises to be a spectacular addition to our fleet – just in time for our 50th birthday – and we’ve put together a terrific array of itineraries kicking off with a two-week-long inaugural transatlantic cruise and then year-round Caribbean sailings from PortMiami featuring some of the most beautiful and popular destinations in the region.”

Carnival Corporation confident over long-term cruise demand

Carnival Corporation confident over long-term cruise demand

Booking trends for 2021 indicate long-term potential demand for cruising despite sailings having been cancelled since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in mid-March.

The glimmer of hope for the struggling sector came from Carnival Corporation despite reporting an average monthly cash burn of between $550 million and $770 million as dozens of ships remain idle, including some off the south coast of Britain.

The world’s largest cruise group has started a phased return to operations with Italian brand Costa and German line Aida.

Other brands and ships are expected to return to service “overtime”.

The initial cruises will continue to operate with adjusted passenger capacity and enhanced health protocols developed with government and health authorities, and guidance from medical and scientific experts.

“Many of the company’s brands source the majority of their guests from the geographical region in which they operate. In the current environment, the company believes this will benefit it in resuming guest cruise operations,” the company said.

But in a business update on Thursday, the corporation said: “Currently, the company is unable to predict when the entire fleet will return to normal operations, and as a result, unable to provide an earnings forecast.

“The pause in guest operations continues to have a material negative impact on all aspects of the company’s business, including the company’s liquidity, financial position and results of operations.”

The company expects to report an unspecified loss for the financial year ending November 30 but has a total of $8.2 billion of cash and “cash equivalents”.

Bookings in the first half of 2021 reflect expectations of phased resumption operations and anticipated itinerary changes.

However, cumulative advance bookings for the second half of 2021 capacity currently available for sale are at the “higher-end” of the historical range.

“The company believes this demonstrates the long-term potential demand for cruising,” the parent of UK brands P&O Cruises and Cunard said.

Pricing on these bookings are lower by “mid-single digits” versus the second half of 2019, reflecting the effect of future cruise credits (FCCs) from previously cancelled cruises being applied.

The company continues to take bookings for both 2021 and 2022.

About 45% of passengers affected by schedule changes have received enhanced FCCs while 55% have requested refunds.

The total customer deposits balance at the end of August was $2.4 billion, the majority of which were FCCs, compared to $2.9 billion at May 31.

“The decline in customer deposits is consistent with previous expectations,” Carnival added.

Cruise capacity

More than half (60%) of bookings taken during the three weeks ended September 20 were new bookings as opposed to FCC re-bookings, despite minimal advertising or marketing.

Future capacity is expected to be “moderated” by the phased re-entry of ships, the removal of older capacity and delays in new ship deliveries.

The company has accelerated the trimming of capacity since the pause in operations with the disposal of 18 ships, ten of which have already left the fleet.

The 18 less efficient ships represent 12% of pre-pause capacity and only 3% of last year’s operating income.

The corporation expects to receive only two of the four ships originally due for delivery this year, including Enchanted Princess which was handed over last week.

The company expects only five of the nine ships originally set for delivery by the end of 2021 to be received by then.

Nine cruise ships and two smaller expedition vessels of the 13 originally scheduled for delivery before the end of the 2022 financial year are expected to be delivered by then.

“Based on the actions taken to date and the scheduled new-build deliveries through 2022, the company’s fleet will be more efficient with a roughly 13% larger average berth size per ship and an average age of 12 years in 2022 versus 13 years, in each case as compared to 2019,” Carnival said.

President and chief executive Arnold Donald said: “We have come full circle from initiating a suspension in the early days of the pandemic, to transitioning the fleet into a pause status, right-sizing our organisation and, now, embarking on the phased resumption of guest operations, underway in two of our world-leading cruise brands, Costa in Italy and Aida in Germany.

“We have accelerated the sale of less efficient ships, enabling us to capitalise on pent up demand on reduced capacity and structurally lower our cost base, while retaining our most cash-generating assets.

“We are taking aggressive actions managing the balance sheet and reducing capacity to position us to weather this disruption and also emerge a leaner, more efficient company, reinforcing our industry-leading position.”

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

Future cruise credits touted as ‘huge opportunity’ for agents

Future cruise credits touted as ‘huge opportunity’ for agents

Future cruise credits provided to customers for cancelled sailings due to Covid-19 are a “huge opportunity” for agents.

The claim came from Carnival Cruise Line as it introduced an FCC toolkit designed to support agents.

It details how agents can use FCCs to assist clients.

“With many guests opting for future cruise credits on cancelled sailings, FCCs represents a huge opportunity for travel agents to grow their business as their clients have already expressed an interest in booking their next cruise and have committed funds toward that next booking,” the US line said.

CCL global sales and trade marketing senior vice president Adolfo Perez added: “Clients with FCCs are such important leads for travel agents and this practical, easy to use took kit offers a variety of proven sales and marketing strategies, all designed to help advisors close more FCC business and expand their sales.”

The toolkit, available via a dedicated page on the website, includes:

  • Lead reporting tool to help agencies note and follow up on pending FCCs
  • Communications schedule to help agents organise client follow-ups
  • Templates for FCC-focused emails, letters and phone calls
  • Personalisation tools for agents to customise messages based on client needs and interests
Carnival Cruise Line cancelled all cruises from its US ports earlier this month apart from Miami and Port Canaveral for November and December.

Government commits to testing ‘to open up international travel’

Government commits to testing ‘to open up international travel’

The launch of a Global Travel Taskforce ‘to open up international travel and boost our business’ has been confirmed.

It will consider how a testing regime for international arrivals could be implemented to boost safe travel to and from the UK, what steps can be taken to facilitate business and leisure travel through testing and non-testing means and how to increase consumer confidence to support the recovery of international travel.

The current rules around the 14-day self-isolation policy remain in place.

The task force was launched in collaboration between the Department for Transport and the Department of Health and Social Care which said they have been working with clinicians, health experts and the private testing sector on the practicalities of testing international arrivals.

They said the next step is to develop an “operationalised approach” to “work at pace with industry on implementation” of testing and to “identify options to reduce the self-isolation period while protecting public health”.

The task force will look at the feasibility of a single test taken after a period of self-isolation, provided by the private sector and at the cost of the passenger.

It will work with medical experts to better understand when a test should be taken based on the progression of the disease and with the private sector to ensure testing for international arrivals does not impact on NHS capacity.

Alternative testing models, including pilots with partner countries to determine whether self-isolation could be undertaken pre-departure, will also be explored.

The taskforce will be jointly chaired by the secretary of state for health, Matt Hancock, and transport secretary Grant Shapps, who first made the announcement via Twitter after a series of newspapers carried the story on Wednesday morning.

In the official announcement, Shapps said: “The current measures at the border have saved lives. Our understanding of the science now means we can intensify efforts to develop options for a testing regime and help reinvigorate our world-leading travel sector.

“This new task force will not only help us move towards safer, smoother international travel as we continue to battle this virus but will also support global connectivity – helping facilitate more covid secure travel whilst protecting the population from imported cases.”

On Twitter, he said: “Following agreement from medical experts, we are moving ahead with the next step to reduce the travel quarantine period by launching the Global Travel Taskforce to open up international travel & boost our businesses.

“The task force will implement a testing regime to reduce the self-isolation period, along with a wide range of other measures to enable travel whilst keeping coronavirus rates down.”

Hancock added: “It is vital we do everything we can to control the spread of the virus and our measures at the borders are designed to help keep the country safe, by preventing imported cases of Covid-19.

“We know how these measures have a significant impact on people’s lives and on the travel and tourism industries, so we are working hard across government to explore ways to open up international travel in a safe way.”

As previously reported, the task force is expected to put forward its initial recommendations next month.

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Clia ocean cruise members commit to ‘100% pre-embarkation testing’

Clia ocean cruise members commit to ‘100% pre-embarkation testing’

Ocean cruise line members of Clia have agreed to conduct Covid-19 testing of every passenger and crew member prior to embarkation in what the association described as a “travel industry first”.

Under the agreement, all lines operating vessels with a capacity of more than 250 will carry out testing with a requirement for a negative test before embarkation.

Clia said the commitment was a core element of the resumption of cruising globally.

A statement said: “Clia ocean cruise line members worldwide have agreed to conduct 100% testing of passengers and crew on all ships with a capacity to carry 250 or more persons – with a negative test required for any embarkation.

“This is a travel industry first and an example of the cruise industry leading the way.  We see testing as an important initial step to a multi-layered approach that we believe validates the industry’s commitment to making health, safety, and the well-being of the passengers, the crew, and the communities we visit our top priority.”

Last week, the UK Chamber of Shipping and Clia published a framework for the resumption of cruising when Foreign Office advice against ocean journeys is lifted.

Monday, 5 October 2020

New Celebrity Apex Makes Technical Call At Ponta Delgada

New Celebrity Apex Makes Technical Call At Ponta Delgada

The new Celebrity Apex has made a technical stop in Ponta Delgada (Azores). 

The ship was delivered to Celebrity by Chantiers de l’Atlantique earlier this year, but its inaugural season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ship has since stayed in Europe but is now said to be heading toward North America.

Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of international nonprofit Girls Who Code and author of the international bestseller, "Brave, Not Perfect," was previously named Godmother for the Celebrity Apex, which is the second Edge-class ship for the Royal Caribbean-owned brand.

The plan this winter was for the ship to sail from Port Everglades offering week-long Caribbean sailings head of a 2021 summer season in Europe. 

Of note, the ship also has a number of new culinary experiences onboard. The Craft Social Bar will introduce a relaxed, casual bar space and will offer draft cocktails, wines on tap and more than 50 of the world’s rarest craft beers served by a certified beer sommelier, the company said, in a prior press release.

There is also a new 3-D digital animation dining experience at Le Grand Bistro – Celebrity Edge’s first-at-sea digitally animated menu by Le Petit Chef will offer a new animated story on the Celebrity Apex, enhanced by new menu creations from Chef Cornelius Gallagher. 

Photos by Antonio Simas.