Author: Alfredo Casuso




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”

Onetime LYRIC Staffer Andrew Spieldenner Named Executive Director for nonprofit MPact Global Action for Gay Men’s Health and Rights

Media Contact: DP&A, Inc. / David Perry / / (415) 676-7007

Onetime LYRIC Staffer Andrew Spieldenner Named Executive Director for nonprofit MPact Global Action for Gay Men’s Health and Rights

23 February 2021 – San Francisco:  Dr. Andrew Spieldenner, who has been involved in HIV activism for almost 30 years, will become the executive director of the Oakland-based nonprofit MPact Global Action for Gay Men’s Health and Rights as of March 1. The San Diego-based professor, who said he got his start at San Francisco’s own LYRIC, wants to make MPact a premier destination for people looking to get involved in HIV activism, advocacy and political work.  Dr. Spieldenner worked for LYRIC 1992 to 1994 as a HIV Prevention Program Coordinator.

“LYRIC is proud to see former youth and staff excel being their authentic self,” said LYRIC Interim Executive Director Toni Newman.  “We are very proud of Andrew and wish him the very best in his new position as Executive Director for Oakland-based nonprofit MPact Global Action for Gay Men’s Health and Rights.”

“Thanks to LYRIC for being a place where young queer people can get jobs, skills and health insurance,” said Dr. Spieldenner in an email to LYRIC. “You’ve been a great start for so many of us!”

A longtime HIV activist, Dr. Spieldenner currently serves as vice-chair of the United States People living with HIV Caucus and as the North American Delegate to the UNAIDS Program Coordinating Board. Dr. Spieldenner has worked as a nonprofit leader and an academic professor for nearly a decade, focusing his research on the intersection of health and intercultural communication surrounding HIV and the LGBTQ community.

As executive director, Spieldenner will work closely with MPact’s staff, board, and steering committee to steward the organization’s upcoming strategic plan, and to identify new approaches to continue serving the global gay community. Spieldenner has a long history of centering the voices of the broader LGBTQ community and people living with HIV, as well as addressing sexual health and human rights through the lens of racial justice.

MPact Global Action for Gay Men’s Health and Rights was founded in 2006 by a group of activists concerned about the disproportionate HIV disease burden shouldered by gay and bisexual men. MPact works at the intersection of sexual health and human rights and is linked to more than 120 community-based organizations in 62 countries who are leading innovative solutions to the challenges faced by LGBTI communities around the world.

LYRIC is a leader in the San Francisco Bay Area offering safe spaces, workforce development, healthcare navigation, individual counseling, and group-based community building to marginalized low-income LGBTQQ+ youth.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, LYRIC has continued its vital work for LGBTQQ youth in our community. LYRIC’s mission is to build community and inspire positive social change through education enhancement, career trainings, health promotion, and leadership development with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQQ) youth, their families, and allies of all races, classes, genders, and abilities. For more information and to make a donation, go to  

Tickets Go on Sale March 15 for 18th Annual International Ocean Film Festival

Tickets Go on Sale March 15 for 18th Annual International Ocean Film Festival

The Largest Festival in the World  for Ocean-Related Films Takes Place April 15 – May 2 Virtually
With Possible In-Person Component TBA

Deadline for Student Film Competition is March 7

23 February 2021 – San Francisco, CA:  It is said that the sound of waves has a salutary impact on the human condition, and never more have the ocean’s healing embrace been more needed.  Coming off its creatively executed and wildly successful “Virtual Oceans”  annual festival last summer summer, San Francisco’s International Ocean Film Festival is taking the lessons of its COVID-induced creativity into its 18th annual Festival, April 15 – May 2, 2021 in what will be an unprecedented marriage of virtual and in-person events accessed online at  The video trailer for the 18th Annual International Ocean Film Festival may be viewed here:

“When the going got COVID, the International Ocean Film Festival got creative,” said Ana Blanco, Executive Director for the Festival. “Like every other arts and cultural organization in the country, if not the world, we were forced to forego our usual in-person programming this year. However, by going virtual, we discovered and engaged a whole new, and broader global audience than we ever thought possible.”

This year’s 18th Annual International Ocean Film Festival is marked with 18 days of ocean-focused, independent films. The Festival will screen a record 73 films from 16 countries, including 10 premieres and 14 award-winners.   In addition, the Festival will hosting  lively Q&A panels with film directors, marine scientists, and industry experts, as they discuss the films and share insights into ocean conservation, preservation, and legislation.   

“Also, one of the Festival’s most important components is the Student Film Competition,” says Blanco. “It’s a way for students to tell their stories about the ocean and explore the exciting world of filmmaking.”

The Student Film Competition is open to middle school and high school students (grades 6 through 12) from around the world. Films must be five minutes or less in duration, and touch upon some subject matter regarding the ocean. The deadline for submission is March 7.

According to Blanco, this year’s “Virtual Oceans” online Festival was seen by a record breaking 10,000 people and more than 2500 students took part in the online education series.  Last year, submissions were received from around the world, including films from the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Malaysia and Germany.  For the 2021 18th Annual International Ocean Film Festival, Blanco is expecting an even great number – and greater diversity – of submissions.

“One of the lessons of COVID has been that we’ve had to rethink our usual ways of doing things,” said Blanco. “That’s not a bad thing for any arts or environmental organization. We will come out of the pandemic and its aftermath more prepared and more ready to execute our mission of saving the world’s oceans, one film at a time.”

The Festival accepts films of all genres that focus on any of the varied aspects of our big, blue ocean. Subject matter ranges from, but is not limited to, marine wildlife, conservation efforts, ocean environments, coastal cultures, ocean sports and exploration, ocean heroes, and innovative technology designed to help protect the ocean. Films can be documentaries, narratives, shorts, animation, and full-length films from around the world. A number of finalists from the main film festival program will be selected to participate in the world-renowned International Ocean Film Festival Traveling Program. This year’s film categories include Environmental, Marine Sciences/Wildlife, Exploration & Ocean Sports, Coastal Island Culture. Animation and Conservation.

Since its launch in 2004, the San Francisco-based International Ocean Film Festival has attracted thousands of spectators of all ages from around the world, including film enthusiasts, sea athletes, educators, and environmental supporters. Since then, the Festival has presented over 560 films from 40 different countries and featured post-film Q&A sessions with visiting filmmakers, special panel discussions with content experts, and the Annual Free Student Education Program. It was the first event of its kind in North America, inspired by the well-established ocean festival in Toulon, France, which has continued to draw large audiences for more than 40 years.

Current sponsors for the upcoming 18th Annual International Ocean Film Festival include National Marine Sanctuary, the Consul General of Canada, Blue and Gold Ferry, RBC Wealth Management, Heidrick & Struggles, Pacific Gas & Electric, The Joseph R. Parker Foundation, and the Orange County Community Foundation.

The International Ocean Film Festival encourages its patrons, supporters and partners to follow the most current advice from the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization for preventing the further spread of the COVID-19 in Northern California and beyond, and to stay tuned for announcements about International Ocean Film Festival events once the threat level is reduced. The 18th Annual International Ocean Film Festival will take place April 15 – May 2, 2021 online at Possible in-person events, dependent upon COVID protocols, may be scheduled at San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture. The International Ocean Film Festival is a registered 501(c) 3 non-profit. 

Raquel Bito Appointed to San Francisco Building Inspection Commission

Media Contact: David Perry & Associates, Inc. / / (415) 676-7007

Raquel Bito Appointed to San Francisco Building Inspection Commission 

 Senior Architect with Steinberg Hart Brings
Passion for “under-represented and disabled” to her new role

Raquel Bito (photo courtesy of Steinberg Hart)

23 February 2021 – San Francisco: On January 28, Raquel Bito, an Architect and Senior Associate at Steinberg Hart ( was  sworn in as a member of the San Francisco Building Inspection Commission ( Bito was nominated by San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed to fill the architect’s seat on the seven-person commission.

“I know first-hand how difficult it is for people that are underrepresented and disabled to find housing in the Bay Area,” said Bito in a statement. “I grew up in a household with a sibling who has physical disabilities and a single mother who worked two jobs while raising teenagers. It is not an unfamiliar immigrant story, but one that still resonates with so many people especially given the current economic climate. I am eager and honored to bring this experience and real-life witness to the Commission.”

In her 20 year career, Bito has become known for her attention to detail and a focus on housing projects – single family, multi-family, and urban mixed use. Bito received her Masters of Architecture degree from the University of Washington.

“What we see in our neighborhood streets and hear in the news about the Bay Area’s housing crisis will not go away unless we increase the housing supply at all levels – very low, low income, affordable, and market rate,” Bito continued. “More housing in the market helps level the supply and demand curve, making more homes available to more income levels. I am passionate about housing at all levels, my work at Steinberg Hart and engagement with non-profit organizations allow me to voice issues and ideas for those who may not  ”

As a policy-making and supervisory body mandated by the San Francisco City Charter, the seven member citizen Building Inspection Commission manages the Department of Building Inspection and the bodies subordinate to the Commission by overseeing the effective, efficient, fair and safe enforcement of the City and County’s Building, Housing, Plumbing, Electrical, and Mechanical Codes, along with Disability Access Regulations.

About the San Francisco Building Inspection Commission:
The San Francisco Building Inspection Commission and the Department of Building Inspection were created by voter referendum in 1994. The Building Inspection Commission was designed to provide representation for the various communities, which interact with the Building Department. The seven different commission slots are filled by a structural engineer, a licensed architect, a residential tenant, a residential builder, a residential landlord, a community based non-profit housing developer, and a member of the general public at large.

About Steinberg Hart:
Steinberg Hart is an international architecture, interiors, and planning firm headquartered in Los Angeles. The firm has built a diverse and talented team that works collaboratively across all seven offices challenging one another to develop designs that build community, enhance business, support learning, and connect people with place. Steinberg Hart is known for innovation in design thinking and building technologies that help clients realize the full potential of their project.




from Bill Miller

Feb 16th 2021

Above:  Bygone days – the Empress of Britain at Liverpool, 1956

Wed Feb 17th  Update from RCI:  Although the Canadian Government has been firm in its decision to ban all cruise ship travel from their shores, Royal Caribbean has now announced it will not be canceling any voyages. This includes cruises embarking/debarking from Canadian ports and those itineraries touching on Canadian ports of call.

The cruise line says it is working through potential options with the Government of Canada and the USA and the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA). The announcement comes as Alaskan government officials called the travel ban ‘unacceptable’.

Cunard!  Following Dave Smith’s report from Southampton, David Hutchings reports  “QM2 sailed through The Solent yesterday afternoon (about 3-1sh) closely followed by the Queen Victoria“.

Tue Feb 16th Update from Manila!   Our insightful correspondent Charles Dragonette reports:  “The deployment of Filipino crew, which make up more than half of the world’s seafarers, has fallen dramatically due to the pandemic, according to official figures.
The setback comes in addition to recent indications that social security costs and the continued practice of excessive injury compensation claims are already pricing the country’s seafarers out of the employment market.
The figures from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) show that total deployments for 2020 fell to 217,241 compared to 518,519 in the previous year.
Around 50 local recruitment agencies are reported to have closed because of the collapse in placements.
At the peak of the pandemic in April last year, deployments fell to a low of just 597 compared to 40,595 in the same month in the previous year.
The mothballing of the cruise industry has accounted for a large chunk of the fall.

Alaska Bound!  For travelers dreaming of a trip to The Last Frontier, the rules have changed.Alaska had one of the strictest entry requirements in the U.S. during the pandemic — but that changed over the weekend when its COVID-19 state of emergency expired. Travelers to Alaska are no longer required to provide negative COVID-19 tests upon arrival, according to Governor Mike Dunleavy. He cited the arrival of coronavirus vaccines to the state as his reason for not extending the order.

Re-Start!  AIDA Cruises has announced that it will open its 2021 cruise season starting March 20 with the AIDAperla sailing around the Canary Islands.

Update on Dates!  Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings has announced an extension of its previously announced suspension of global cruise voyages through May 31, 2021 for the Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises brands.

Wed Feb 17th:   Biggest Yet!   Yes, 110 years ago, the immortal Titanic was brand new, fresh out of a Belfast shipyard and largest ocean liner, if a ship of any kind, in the world.   She was XX.  But these days over in St Nazaire, France, work continues on the next maritime marvel – Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas.   Her statistics are impressive:   1,188 ft long, 154 ft wide, 228,000 tons, 2,394 officers & crew, 2,744 suites & cabins and a maximum capacity of 6,400 passengers (combined with crew, that’s over 8,800 souls!).  But since Covid has caused all sorts of delays, the mighty Wonder will appear at least a year late, in 2022.

More News from France:   Our longtime friend Philippe Brebant reported today:   “In Le Havre we have again off season ferries laid up but no cruise ship at all.”

Thu Feb 18th  More Italian News:  Costa Cruises will be restarting service on the Costa Smeralda from March 27 and on the Costa Luminosa from May 2.

Up in those Friendly Skies!  U.S. passenger airline traffic fell 60.1% in 2020 to the lowest number since 1984 as the COVID-19 pandemic devastated demand for air travel.  Worse still,  international travel dropped by over 70%.

From the history books, it was 64 years ago, in 1957, that the number of passengers traveling by air across the Atlantic equaled the number going by sea.   A year later, in October 1958, the first jet flights began – and the battle was lost.   By summer 1959, airlines had two-thirds of all the trans-ocean traffic and then soaring to 98% within five years, by 1963.  

And Under the Sea!  A long-awaited tunnel between Scotland and Northern Ireland could get the go-ahead as early as next month.  The connection — dubbed Boris’ Burrow due to the prime minister’s enthusiastic backing — would span from Larne in Northern Ireland to Stranraer in Scotland and be roughly the same length as the Channel Tunnel.

Fri Feb 19th  Lectures at Sea!  The New York Times is ending its  practice of hosting costly educational trips to far-away lands – including themed crossings on the Queen Mary 2.,

Fri Feb 19th  Another Delay!  Viking Cruises has become the second cruise line in the last several days to extends its suspension on operations until summer 2021. This now increases growing concerns that a new round of cruise suspensions is occurring and those operations from the U.S. are no closer to restarting.

P&O Cruises has revealed the name of its second Excel class ship. The ship, which will join the P&O Cruises UK six-ship fleet in December 2022, will be named Arvia. The name means “from the seashore”.  

Sat Feb 20th Crystal Cruises became the latest cruise operator to require all passengers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Silversea Cruises has created a film for its World Cruise 2023 – highlighting the voyage in its entirety.South Side Story – all the world’s a stage is hosted by our good friend Fernando Barroso de Oliveira, Silversea’s President’s Ambassador to the Venetian Society.  The cruise will be lavish:  139 days,66ports, 34 countries,20overnight stays, 5continents.

Inland America!  Citing what it said was unprecedented demand for the 2022 season, American Queen Steamboat Company and Victory Cruise Lines, have just released 2023 itineraries.

Limbo!   While the Portugese-owned Astoria has reached its 72nd birthday this month, she is, according to latest information, caught in legal & debt issues and has not yet been auctioned off.  She had been on charter to CMV, but which collapsed last summer, and passed into the hands of her Portugese owners.   She has been lying in the London docks, but was to have gone across to Rotterdam for some repairs.   That seems not to have happened nor rumors of the ship being towed to Portugese waters.  

Cruising will return! .. but for now, best thanks to friends, readers, reporters & those faraway “maritime secret agents”