CRUISING, CRUISE SHIPS & THE CORONA VIRUS
WEEKLY NEWS & UPDATES
from Bill Miller
Feb 28th 2021
Above: Bygone days – Mid-Atlantic on Italian Line’s Saturnia in a view from 1955.
Mon Feb 22nd Above the Seas! It may be some time before long-haul international air travel returns, but when it does, the airlines are ready with some record breaking long flights.
There’s the Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Auckland in New Zealand or Dubai to Sao Paulo. But the route that wins the prize for the longest commercial airline flight in the world belongs to Singapore Airlines Flight 23 — JFK to Singapore, and Singapore Flight 24, the return flight back to New York. Using an extended range Airbus A350, the flight covers 8,984 nautical miles. And the average time it takes is 16 hours and 58 minutes in the air. Here’s one travel writer’s translation: that’s eight streamed movies!
Update from Turkey: Work on demolishing out-of-work cruise ships continues in places like Aliaga in Turkey (below) and at Alang in India.
Tue Feb 23rd Miami: Cruise ships seen rotating in and out of slips at Port Everglades and Port Miami still aren’t coming to pick up passengers. They are visiting with greatly reduced maintenance & caretaker crews. The ships come into port for brief stays to take on provisions, food, special supplies.
Restart of cruising dates are still holding with the May-Jun period.
News from Germany: The Lloyd-Werft Shipyard, where many cruise ship refits have taken place and where the France was converted into the Norway (below) and QE2 was switched from steam to diesel propulsion, might close by the end of the year. Business is down considerably and while the plant is currently owned by the financially strapped Genting group.
Below: The massive QE2 conversion
Competition from shipyards in Holland, France and at Freeport in the Bahamas (below) have lured away work from cruise lines & their ships.
Wed Feb 24th Update from Germany: From his crow’s nest perch, Charles Dragonette reports: Urgent talks are getting underway between MV Werften and its owners Genting Hong Kong with the German federal and state government for the release of additional rescue funds to maintain work at the financially troubled shipyard group. The negotiations for a rescue package valued at possibly more than $600 million are centered on maintaining the current cruise ship construction projects at the three eastern shipyards, but also include discussions of reducing the workforce by possibly a third. In separated discussions, there is talk of closing the Lloyd Werft shipyard in Bremerhaven, which is also owned by MV Werften.
Werften is building new ships for both Dream Cruises and Crystal Cruises – and with other projects, including a trio of 70,000-ton luxury liners, for Crystal.
Above; Busy Werften & ambitious projections
Optimism at Royal Caribbean: Like other cruise lines, RCI is just tapping a finger – maybe two fingers. Accordingly, new CDC regulations now may just around the corner. The next step is then trial sailings with volunteers cruising. The company has had some 250,000 volunteer sign ups.
Vaccinations, Bookings & the Future: In a lengthy article, the New York Times revealed that travel bookings for the over-65 set and who have received both doses of a vaccine have soared by 70%.
Cruiseship Chess Board: From over in England, Nick Braddock reports the movements of cruise ships idle in European waters – including the three Cunard Queens waiting off England’s southern coast, the Ventura of P&O heading to Southampton and the brand new Iona, also P&O, leaving anchorage in Norway and setting course for Rotterdam. And at least three Viking Ocean ships were sitting at the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast (below).
Below: Meanwhile, the Azamara ships are waiting at Glasgow.
More from Royal Caribbean: Royal Caribbean reaffirmed that its cash burn will average in a range of approximately $250m to $290 million per month during a prolonged suspension of operations.
Thu Feb 25th Fares: Airlines, hotels and resorts have been touting some crazy-low pricing in recent months to lure back travelers. But don’t count on similar markdowns from cruise lines. In fact, if you’re in the market for a cruise right now, you should brace yourself for higher prices. With demand for cruises scheduled to depart later this year surprisingly strong and the supply of available cabins smaller than in the past, cruise lines in recent months have been able to hold the line on pricing and even raise fares in many cases.
River Cruising bookings have nearly doubled since the same time last year, and they currently represent nearly a quarter of all reservations for 2022.
Fri Feb 26th New Face! There is yet another new player on the cruise field. It is Turkish-owned Selectum Blu Cruises. After purchasing the 1981-built Saga Sapphire from Saga Cruises, Selectum Blu will be focusing its passenger sourcing in Turkey, Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and the rest of Eastern Europe. The ship has been renamed Blue Sea and should be begin sailing from Maramis in Turkey in May. The ship started her long and varied career as Hapag-Lloyd’s luxurious Europa. And the company is ambitious: They are looking to add at least two larger cruise ships for the nice Eastern European-Asian market.
Dutch Update: Holland America is extending its pause related to Canada:
Alaska:Cruises through September 2021 to Alaska from all departure ports aboard Koningsdam, Nieuw Amsterdam, Noordam and Zuiderdam. This also includes any Land+Sea Journeys connected with canceled Alaska sailings.
Pacific Coastal: Two sailings in early October aboard Koningsdam and Oosterdam.
Canada/New England:Three cruises aboard Zaandam departing in September 2021.
Carnival is now extending its shutdown until May 31st.
Princess is now also shelving all trips that include Canadian stops in 2021.
Pullmanturs, the niche cruise line that collapsed last summer, is now something of a “cruising ghost”. The two major stakeholders Royal Caribbean (with 49% interest) and Springwater Capital (with 51% interest) agreed to proceed with the liquidation of the company. But now comes news that the Company still owes wages to thousands of crewmembers.
Terminal Testing! So far, the COVID-19 tests in the terminal have caught positive cases. For MSC Grandiosa’s second voyage (below), which left Sunday from Genoa, a young man tested positive on both the antigen test and the follow-up PCR test. As a result, he and his party, as well as other people who had traveled in Genoa in a van together — 15 people in all — were denied boarding.
Sat Feb 27th North to Alaska! The two biggest cruise lines operating in Alaska, Princess Cruises and Holland America, on Wednesday canceled all of their 2021 Alaska sailings that begin or end in Vancouver, British Columbia. A third, smaller line — Seabourn — canceled all its Alaska sailings for the year.
All three of the lines, which are owned by the same parent company, said they were acting in the wake of Canada’s announcement earlier this month that it would ban cruise ships from its waters until 2022 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The cancellations will affect tens of thousands of vacationers on dozens of sailings.
For now, Princess and Holland America are not canceling 2021 sailings to Alaska that are roundtrip out of Seattle, even though the trips also include stops at Canadian ports that, by law, cannot be dropped from the itineraries. Princess and Holland America operate foreign-flagged cruise ships that legally cannot cruise between U.S. ports without visiting at least one foreign port.
Sun Feb 28th Looking for Hope! The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has sent a letter late last week to the Canadian Ambassador asking for a review of the one-year extension of the cruise ban in Canada. According to the Committee, the extension potentially causes “significant consequences” for Americans and Canadians.
The message’s core is that, by closing Canadian ports to passenger vessels for another year, the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Americans and Canadians are at risk from more job losses and further economic devastation. In prior days, the port of Vancouver is seen below.
Below: From my old photo box – White Star Line’s Olympic making a midday departure from New York’s Pier 61 in 1925.
Cruising will return! .. but for now, best thanks to friends, readers, reporters & those faraway “maritime secret agents”