LIVES OF THE LINERS: CRUISING, CRUISE SHIPS & THE COVID PANDEMIC – APRIL 28, 2021
From Bill Miller
Mon Apr 19th UK-based Saga Holidays has experienced a 127-percent increase in the number of booking inquiries to its contact centers in the week after the UK government released a report suggesting that international travel can be resumed from May 17th.
Wed Apr 21st Royal Caribbean Group CEO Richard Fain expressed optimism Monday that cruise lines will be able to resume operations this summer, more than one year after the industry effectively shut down in the coronavirus pandemic.
AIDA Cruises will begin offering seven night cruises out of Corfu on May 23rd. The cruises will travel through the Greek islands to Crete and Rhodes, as well as to Katakolon (Olympia) and Piraeus (Athens).
Thu Apr 22 Small-ship operator American Cruise Lines is now operating six of its 13 vessels in eight states around the country. The U.S.-flagged company, based in Connecticut, was the first line to resume operations in the U.S. on Mar 13th when the 100-guest Independence began coastal cruises from Florida.
Royal Caribbean: The first voyages of the biggest cruise ship ever built are now available for booking. Royal Caribbean on Tuesday began taking reservations for the initial sailings of its much-awaited, soon-to-debut Wonder of the Seas (below), the fifth vessel in its groundbreaking Oasis Class series. At 236,857 tons, the Wonder of the Seas will be nearly 4% bigger than the current size leader in the cruise world, Royal Caribbean’s three-year-old Symphony of the Seas. It’ll be able to hold up to 6,988 passengers — a new record for a passenger ship.
Cruise Saudi, a public investment fund-owned business that seeks to develop Saudi Arabia’s cruise industry, and MSC Cruises have announced the launch of Red Sea cruises in the coming winter 2021-2022 season. Under the terms of the agreement, the MSC Magnifica will homeport in Jeddah, the commercial hub and one of the largest cities of Saudi Arabia, as well as the second-largest port in the Middle East with a historical centre that has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Operating seven-day Red Sea cruises from Nov 2021 to Mar 2022, the vessel will visit a selection of ports and destinations in the region and three Saudi ports including weekly calls to the port of AlWajh, the gateway to the UNESCO World Heritage site of AlUla. As the Kingdom prepares to host the inaugural Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2021 on Dec 5th in Jeddah, MSC guests will have the chance to follow this global sports event during their trip aboard the Magnifica.
Cheap Fares! A recent survey of more than 3,000 past cruisers found that health and safety tops the list of factors shaping that decision. It’s not surprising, considering a global pandemic has shut the industry down for over 13 months and travel restrictions are still in place in many parts of the world. But it is interesting that when asked about the most important factors in deciding whether to book a cruise, the top six on the list are all COVID-related. The ability to get a discount ranked number eight! And who doesn’t want a discount?
Seabourn will homeport in Barbados this summer, starting Jul 18th. Carnival Corporation’s ultra-luxury brand will sail two different Southern Caribbean seven-day itineraries with the Seabourn Odyssey. The Odyssey marks the second Seabourn ship back in service as the Seabourn Ovation will start cruising in Greece in early July.
Mon Apr 26th MSC Cruises may be the biggest cruise brand based on confirmed resumption plans (as of late Apr 2021) with ships and berths back in service by Aug 31st. On a corporate level, Carnival Corporation will have the most ships and berths back in service, with six brands set to operate 13 ships by late Aug at press time, and indications are that more announcements are forth coming.
Returning MSC Ships: MSC Virtuosa, MSC Grandiosa, MSC Seashore, MSC Seaview, MSC Seaside, MSC Preziosa, MSC Splendida, MSC Magnifica, MSC Orchestra and MSC Musica. Total Berths: 37,066. Regions: Europe – Western Mediterranean, Eastern Mediterranean and Northern Europe. After announcing a massive restart plan, MSC intends to have ten ships in service in Europe by August.
UK-Based Cruise ships sailing in UK waters will be limited to 1,000 passengers when operations begin on or after May 17th. All travelers must also be residents of the British Isles, according to new regulations issued by the department of transport. The rules also state Covid-19-secure guidance will continue to apply.
Carnival Corporation: The road to a resumption of cruising worldwide is not as easy as it may sound. To that effect, Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest cruise operator, has now contracted Bureau Veritas to support the ships that will be sailing in the upcoming months and those that are sailing already with various health and safety measures. The company will be supporting Carnival Corporation with health and safety services to facilitate the return to cruising, protecting passengers and crew.
Travel restrictions are evolving for those who have gotten a COVID-19 vaccine. Fully vaccinated Americans looking to travel this summer will now be able to add the European Union to their list of potential destinations.
Tue May 27th Viking Cruises has added two more departures to its program of short UK coastal cruises for June. The additional cruises were added after the first three cruises sold out, and will be operated using the same ship, the 930-berth Viking Venus. The new cruises will start at £3,690 per person. Sailing from Portsmouth, calls are being scheduled for Liverpool, Tresco in the Isles of Scilly and in the bay of Falmouth.
Cunard: This month Cunard Line announced three centenary voyages that will celebrate Cunard’s first World Cruise by the Laconia in 1922-23. And sales are already strong!
Cunard has noted: “2023 marks 100 years since the RMS Laconia completed Cunard’s first World Voyage and to celebrate we’re sailing on a season of global adventures inspired by this pioneering feat in ocean travel.”
“On the morning of Nov 21st 1922, if you were a bit posh and more than a little adventurous, you might have boarded the luxury liner Laconia for her inaugural around-the-world cruise. For 130 glorious days, you’d visit some of the world’s most exotic destinations — Yokohama and Shanghai, Rangoon and Bombay, Egypt, and Naples. You’d steam through the Suez Canal, visit the Taj Mahal, and pass through the Valley of the Kings.“
“Although the ship could carry up to 2200 passengers, this excursion was limited to just 450 travelers who were assigned to only the largest and most well-appointed cabins on board.”
World cruises boomed in 1922-23, with the Laconia being only the first of four ships to leave New York on world cruises that winter. The others, booked either by travel agent Frank C Clark or by American Express, were United American Line’s 19,653-ton Resolute, Canadian Pacific’s 18,481-ton Empress of France and Cunard Line’s 19,602-ton Samaria, which sailed in the opposite direction from the other three, proceeding from west to east. The rest, as they say, is history.
Thank you to all our readers, correspondents, those “agents” in faraway places!