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from Bill Miller

Mar 20th  2021

And to all the ships at sea – this update is coming to you from sunny Fort Lauderdale, world’s 2nd busiest cruise port, while we are on a week’s R&R … 

Sun Mar 14th Florida:  Members of South Florida Cruise Industry Feel Optimistic After Year of No Sailing. For many of us, life is slowly resuming to normal, but South Florida’s cruise line ports remain shut down. Now, cruise lines are awaiting further instructions from the CDC in order to get back out sailing after a year.

United Kingdom:  Cruise lines have confirmed that the earliest possible restart date for sailings from England will be “eight to 12 weeks” from May 17. Large cruise lines will need that length of time to get their ships ready for service — meaning the first sailings from English ports will be late summer at best.

MSC Cruises:  The fire aboard the MSC Lirica which started in a lifeboat was fully extinguished last Friday evening, with no injuries to the 51 crew aboard the ship, according to a statement from MSC Cruises.  The ship was at Corfu at the time.

Life & Cruising Go On!  Proving yet again why it’s America’s favorite cruise line, Carnival Cruise Line was the big winner in USA Today’s 10 Best Awards, earning first-place honors in four different categories: Best Ocean Cruise Line, Best New Cruise Ship (Mardi Gras), Best Cruise Ship for Families (Carnival Horizon, below), and Best Cruise Ship Dining (Carnival Horizon).   This marks the fourth time that Carnival Cruise Line has been named Best Ocean Cruise Line by USA Today readers. 

Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line today announced it will partner with the Rotary Clubs of Grand Bahama Island to distribute humanitarian aid to local food banks around Grand Bahama Island.

Crystal Ball:  As travel begins to return in greater numbers following the COVID-19 pandemic, the future of cruise will continue to evolve in 2022 and beyond.  Pent-up demand already has led to a huge surge in bookings in 2022 and 2023 from cruisers who have had their trips canceled or delayed because of the pandemic as well as new bookings from people who foresee cruising coming back safer than ever.

A couple of examples of this: Oceania’s world cruise for 2023 sold out within one day of opening for sale to the public January 27, 2021. And river cruise operator Uniworld has seen a 425 percent year-on-year increase in late 2021 and 2022 bookings to exotic destinations like India, Vietnam and Egypt.

Carnival:  Thinking about a cruise on a Carnival Cruise Line ship? You’ve got a lot of options. Carnival operates 24 vessels, with one more scheduled to join its fleet in 2022. That’s more vessels than any other major cruise line except Royal Caribbean, which also has 24 vessels.

In general, Carnival’s 24 ships are big ships. But with one exception, they’re not giants by today’s standards. Carnival just took delivery of its first truly giant ship in years, the 181,808-ton, 5,282-passenger Mardi Gras. It’s currently scheduled to start sailing in June. But other than the Mardi Gras, Carnival’s biggest vessel, the 4,008-passenger Carnival Panorama, measures just 135,000 tons. That’s about 40% smaller than the biggest ships operated by Royal Caribbean.

Eight of Carnival’s 24 vessels measure less than 100,000 tons, which makes them almost midsize by today’s cruise ship standards. This is a notable change for the brand from just a couple decades ago. There was a time when Carnival operated some of the biggest cruise ships in the world. But for many years, it has held back from following rivals such as Royal Caribbean and MSC Cruises in building ever-bigger ships. The Mardi Gras is now the only Carnival ship on the list of the world’s 40 biggest cruise ships. The arrival of the Mardi Gras marks a major turning point for the line. At 181,808 tons, it’s the eighth-largest cruise ship in the world and 35% bigger than the line’s next-biggest ship. A second ship in the series — Carnival Celebration — will arrive in 2022.

Mon Mar 15th  Princess Update:  It’s been a busy 12 months for Princess Cruises, Carnival Corporation’s biggest premium brand. Here’s everything that’s happened.  After facing two quarantines and some of the earliest COVID-19 outbreaks on cruise ships, Princess Cruises took the lead and decided to suspend its cruise operations on March 11, 2020.  Calling it a proactive response to the unpredictable circumstances evolving from the global spread of the new disease and an abundance of caution, the Carnival brand cancelled all its sailings for 60 days. Back then, the plan was to resume service on May 10, 2020.

Tue Mar 16th Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald told London’s Financial Times that he anticipates at least two more difficult years for the cruise industry, which he said will most likely not return to pre-pandemic levels until at least 2023.  Donald said that while the company’s full fleet may be sailing by the end of this year, it will take more time for the corporation to bounce back to pre-coronavirus revenues.

Better Mood, Better Outlook!  After so many postponements, not many are hopeful that we will see cruising return this June. After another round of cancelations which saw Carnival Corporation, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean cancel their voyages until the start of June 2021, is it realistic that cruising will return?

If we look at the signs as they stand today, it seems optimistic. Each day we are starting to see more and more positive movements in the industry. Cruises in Israel and opening of cruising in the U.K., signs for the U.S. are looking better and better.

Up in Those Friendly Skies!  U.S. air travel is coming back to life. Daily Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screenings have now topped one million people for eight days this March. And on Friday, March 12, the TSA screened the most people at airport security checkpoints since March 15, 2020. In particular, the TSA screened 1,357,111 people on Friday. This number is still down 24% compared with the nearly 1.8 million people who passed through TSA checkpoints the same day one year ago. And this number is down 46% compared with the over 2.5 million TSA screened on the same day two years ago.

Wed Mar 17th:  Over in the UK:   In a letter The Cruise People Ltd of London have sent this week to all their UK clients: I am writing to you today to share with you some great news regarding future travel and cruising. Although the global Covid-19 Pandemic is not yet over, the UK’s successful vaccination program will now make it possible to start planning our lives and holidays once more.”

Royal Caribbean’s Latest:  The cruise ship Odyssey of the Seas (below) set off on extensive sea trials on Sunday evening, Mar 14th. The program includes technical and nautical trials on the North Sea.   The 168.800-ton, 4,900-passenger ship was built by Germany’s Meyer Werft.  

Viking announced today that it will restart limited operations in May  with three special sailings along the coast of England on the new Viking Venus, and only available to UK residents.  The new eight-day ocean itinerary—”England’s Scenic Shores”—will sail roundtrip from Portsmouth, with departures on May 22, May 29 and Jun 5.

Holland America Line has announced it is extending its pause of cruise operations to now include all June 2021 roundtrip sailings to Alaska from Seattle, Washington. This includes six cruises on the Eurodam and Oosterdam with a call at Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

Princess Cruises continues to work with various United States and Canadian government officials to try to preserve a portion of the Alaska 2021 cruise season, the company is extending its pause of cruise vacations for sailings from Seattle through June 27, 2021.  The pause in operation affects seven-day Alaska Inside Passage cruises on Emerald Princess and Majestic Princess.

Back to the Airlines:  After a year of burning through as much as $100 million in cash daily, airlines are finally on the verge of a much-awaited goal: actually making money. US airlines have seen a dramatic uptick in forward bookings over the past several weeks, with a further surge in domestic leisure travel expected as the COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues to accelerate.

United Airlines wrote in an SEC filing that it expects to reach positive cash flow for the month of March 2021, assuming that “the current trajectory of booking improvement is sustained.” “If the current rate of improvement in bookings continues, the Company expects core cash flow to be positive moving forward,” the airline wrote in the filing. Should things continue as United expects, it will earn money for the first time since March 2020, when the airline burned through as much as $80 million per day.

More Air News:    Passenger numbers might still be down by 57%, many flights are all but completely full – and all because of fewer flights.

And on Cruise Side:   Reservations this past week are “soaring”  – and the response from one large cruise line:   “Lots of people want to get moving again – they are tired of lockdown and being homebound!”

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings has now canceled all June cruises on Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

Holland America Line also has extended its pause of European cruise operations to include departures through Jun 30th.

Thu Mar 18th Carnival:  Total compensation for Carnival Corporation senior executives was up in 2020 thanks to stock awards, according to a SEC filing. Despite the pandemic and a cut to base salaries, CEO Arnold Donald’s total compensation was up to $13.3 million, with $12.2 million in stock awards.

News from the UK:   From Southampton, Dave Smith reports: “P & O Cruises have just announced that only two of their ships (Iona & Britannia) will resume cruising around the British Isles with no ports of call, cruises will be for 4 or 7 days only starting on  Jun 27th, guests will need to prove they have had two jabs before they can board the two ships & wear face masks in certain places on board the two ships.   No dates about the other 6 ships in the fleet to resume cruising.”

Destination JFK: It’s almost time for United Airlines to land at New York-JFK.  On Tuesday, a United jet flew to JFK for the first time in years, in preparation for the much-anticipated service re-launch on Mar 28th. The 21-year-old Boeing 767-300 flew as United Flight 3345 for 2 hours and 50 minutes from Houston  to JFK. It landed at 11:09 a.m. local time.

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines has unveiled a new program of cruises around the British Isles for summer 2021. This was announced in a press release. The 11-cruise program includes departures from Dover and Liverpool, with “scenic sailings taking in the best of the British Isles, including the Shetland and Orkney islands and the Isles of Scilly,” the cruise line said.

Vaccine of the Seas (or as a reader has named a projected Royal Caribbean ship):  Continuing the trend of vaccine mandates, Virgin Voyages announced that it would require all passengers and crew to have a COVID-19 vaccine before sailing when cruises resume in the U.S. 

The move makes Virgin Voyages the first mainstream cruise line to implement a vaccine requirement for passengers and crew in the U.S., although cruise inoculation mandates have begun in other countries. 

Royal Caribbean will offer cruises on which all crew and passengers older than 16 will be vaccinated starting in May from Israel. Luxury brand Crystal Cruises will also have fully vaccinated sailings, but those won’t be sailing in the U.S.; the line has opted to resume in the Bahamas.

Fri Mar 19th  News from Los Angeles: Our good friend Shawn Dake reports:  “I made a trip back down to the beach yesterday just to get out of the house and see what ships were around.  There were just four at Long Beach: Carnival Miracle at the cruise terminal, Carnival Panorama at anchor, Norwegian Jewel also at anchor and National Geographic Orion riding far outside the breakwater but with a nice view of Catalina Island in the background.”

“The attached photo makes for a somewhat interesting view,” added Shawn.  “This is one of the four oil islands that were built in the 1960’s off Long Beach and provided the money to buy the Queen Mary and still provide funds for projects along the coast.  This is Island White and the tall structure that covers the drilling operations is on rails and can be moved around the island.  I got to go out there once and it was all rather fascinating.  For something as ugly as oil wells, the closest two islands to downtown Long Beach actually are pretty beautiful with sculptures, trees and waterfalls facing the shoreline.  Very 1960’s.  They’d never spend the money to beautify something like this now.  Come to think of it, the Coastal Commission would never allow the building of artificial islands off the coast these days.”

TV Guide:   Another good friend Pat Dacey has a keen eye on cruising and tells us:  “Upcoming is an HBO documentary regarding the Diamond Princess during the initial Covid 19 crisis.  It seems to paint a very negative picture of the industry, however, and just as the industry is attempting a comeback.  It will stream worldwide on HBO on Mar 30th.”

Sat Mar 20th:   Looking Ahead!  One of our top “agents,” Charles Dragonette reports: Good news, eventually, for some.   The research arm of Swiss investment bank UBS predicts that the return of cruising in North America will happen a bit later than expected, but that the industry’s recovery will be strong once it begins.  The Bank  believes that a U.S. restart is now more likely in late Q3 from Q2 previously. While the near-term outlook has gotten worse, with continued delays in restart, the longer-term outlook has improved as vaccines become more widespread than what we originally factored into our estimates last year. As a result, our 2021 and 2022 estimates are lower, but our 2023 estimates are higher. The analysts predict a slow 12-month startup period, with less than 10 percent of capacity in use in the first quarter of operations. 

MSC Update:  Starting from May 20, the reduced capacity cruises on MSC Magnifica  (below) – which was due to operate from the UK this season – will depart from Southampton’s new terminal and kick off with a series of mini and week-long cruises around the UK that will include protected shore excursions for the 7-night itineraries.  MSC Cruises has been sailing in the Mediterranean since last August, carrying more than 50,000 guests to date.

Celebrity Cruises plans to return to service with sailings from St. Maarten on the 2,200-bed Celebrity Millennium, beginning June.  The ship will carry vaccinated crew and be available to vaccinated adults and to children under 18 with a negative PCR test result within 72 hours of embarkation.  According to Celebrity, thousands of its crew have already been vaccinated in their home countries and the number will grow as the return to service nears.  The 965-ft long Celebrity Millennium will offer two different seven-night round-trips — Aruba, Curaçao and Barbados, and Tortola, St. Lucia and Barbados — departing through August.  

Debut!  The 245-passenger paddle-wheeler American Countess will be setting off on its maiden voyage.   Scheduled to be christened on Sunday in New Orleans, American Countess is the newest paddlewheeler from  American Queen Steamboat Company, which is just restarting operations on the Mississippi River this week.

Royal Caribbean International will be the first of cruising’s “Big Three”  to be back in service in North America, re-launching cruises in June from Nassau with the Adventure of the Seas offering weeklong itineraries starting on Jun 12th.

More Forecasts!  UBS told investors in a note on Thursday that it was upgrading Carnival Cruise Lines stock to a “buy” rating, a reassuring sign for an industry that has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines was already at a “buy” rating from the bank, indicating confidence in the brand. And Norwegian Cruise Lines will remain at a neutral. 

The report cites “pent-up demand for leisure travel generally” as a reason for Carnival’s upgrade. While the firm anticipates 7% of capacity being used in the first quarter, by the third quarter it expects to see growth, and by the second quarter of 2022 capacity could reach 75%. 

Crystal Cruises:  Luxury cruise travel is back!  Recording its biggest single day of bookings in company history, Crystal reports an extraordinary response in the first 24 hours of reservations opening for its new “Luxury Bahamas Escapes” aboard the Crystal Serenity (below)debuting July 3rd. Nearly 4,000 enthusiastic travelers reserved staterooms or suites on at least one of the seven-night voyages that cruise from Nassau or Bimini roundtrip booking more than 25 percent of the 16 voyages combined availability. Almost 200 guests reserved back-to-back voyages with some planning to spend 42 days on board the company’s flagship. The luxury line realized a 2,024 percent increase in online bookings and received reservations from the biggest number of distinct travel agencies in Crystal’s 30-year history.

Below:  From my old photo box – The brand new, inbound  United States passing her fleetmate, the departing America  (Aug 1952)


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



from Bill Miller

Mar 13th  2021

Above:  Bygone days –cruising on Holland America’s Statendam (1957)

Mon Mar 8th   Future Bookings:  Cruise companies may be eyeing a significant increase to ticket prices in the near future as demand surges and sailings sell out in record time. Cruise lines have widely reported strong pent-up demand and record sales volumes in media announcements, leading to a backlash from the investment community. Carnival said sales were solid due to pent up demand in late February, and a few weeks earlier, Oceania saw its world cruise sell out in a single day. Victory Cruise Lines and American Queen Steamboat said that January and February 2021 bookings are over 35 percent higher than November and December 2020 bookings,

Remember the days of festive departures – passengers departing, family and friends on the pierside and the evocative sounds of the ship’s mighty whistles.   From out in Oregon, our good friend Pine Hodgeshas generously forwarded the sounds of the bellowing steam whistles of the departing United States.  You might to have a listen and remember those high spirited days of ocean liner departures.   

Below, myself onboard the United States in Feb 1966.   Was I still eighteen on that cold winter’s morning.


Tue Mar 9th Two Antarctica sailings for Disney Cruise Lineswill take place on Ponant’s 264-berth Le Lyrial and Le Boréal (below), but with reduced capacity for Antarctic sailings. Disney is chartering the two luxury ships.    Disney also plans to add cruises to the Galápagos Islands, starting in 2022 on board the chartered Galapagos Legend.

Princess Cruises is the latest line to revise their 2021 Summer season to focus on a shorter, no-fly cruises from the UK. The Regal Princess and Sky Princess will offer short breaks and week-long no-fly sailings from Southampton. The cruises are only available to UK guests. The 3,560-berth “Medallion” class ships Regal Princess and Sky Princess will offer ‘Truly Touchless’ experiences through the line’s  Medallion Class experience and Ocean Medallion wearable devices. Features include streamlined check-in, simplified safety training, reductions in queueing as well as the ability to order food and drink to anywhere on the ship.

Norway’s Hurtigruten has announced additional UK no-fly cruises to sail in 2022. The two voyages, departing from Portsmouth and Liverpool,  will bring to thirty the number of no-fly cruises from the expedition line in 2022. A significant increase on previous years.

Another One Gone!   Honestly, we can’t keep track … over two dozen cruise ships retired in the past year, then sold and mostly to scrap merchants.   One of them, the Karnika, intended for a long career as an Indian-owned cruise ship operating out of Mumbai, is seen below in her final weeks.   The bow section has already been chopped-off.   The 70,000-ton Karnika was, just as a reminder, the Crown Princess (and named over in Brooklyn by Sophia Loren), then A’Rosa Blu, AIDAblu, Ocean Village Two, Pacific Jewel and finally – for India’s shortlived Jalesh Cruises – as the Karnika.   

Virgin Voyages today announced its third newbuild will carry the name Resilient Lady and will set sail from Athens, Greece, embarking on two, seven-night itineraries starting in July 2022.

Wed Mar 10th Luxury Cruising:  While we have been a year or so of travel shutdown and as cruise lines lost billions & sold off older ships, the future is still bright – over 100 cruise ships, many for 5-6,000 passengers, are being built or on order through 2027-28.  Among these, an impressive40 or so are for the high-end luxury market or the pricey deluxe exploration/expedition market (smaller, specially equipped ships for 100-300 passengers & intended for select, unusual itineraries and smaller, out-of-the-way ports.

Six-star Crystal Cruises has their 200-bed, expedition-style Crystal Endeavor soon to debut”

Viking grows, it seems by the month, and is constructing a set of luxurious expedition ships.

Like Silversea, six-star Seabourn has had great success in the luxury expedition market & so they too are planning new ships, again for some 250 guests:

Ritz Carlton & others are taking the plunge, well a golden plunge – they are entering the small ship/luxury business.   Below is a new comer:   Atlas Ocean building a series of top-end ships for some 200 passengers each.

South Pacific-linked Paul Gauguin Cruises is expanding with a set of spacious 230-bed ships.

Viking’s expanse seems to be unlimited, virtually endless.   The Company is now building luxury river boats for North American service as well as luxury craft for the Nile River.  Viking has over a dozen 930-passenger luxury ships and the largest river cruise “boat” fleet in the world.   And, as mentioned, they’ve now gone into the high-end expedition market has well.  

And for larger luxury ships, the likes of Regent, Crystal, Viking and even MSC are planning more deluxe liners – with lavish decor, vast amenities & more and more suites & penthouses.  Remember, Oceania’s 200-night world cruise sold out in 7 hours!   And Viking is rushing to get a 2nd and even a 3rd ship reassigned to meet its world cruise demands.  And the guests:   One cruise line reported 50% North American, 25% European and 25% mixed including Asia, Australia & Latin America.

Holland America Line continues to work with government and port authorities to develop its plans to return to cruising, the company is extending its pause of European cruise operations to include departures through June 30, 2021.The pause will impact cruises departing in May and June on Nieuw Statendam, Volendam and Westerdam.

Good News!  The British Government has announced that domestic cruises will be resuming on May 17 in England.  P&O Cruises will be the first to begin with 3-7 day cruise itineraries.

Thu Mar 11th  Royal Caribbean International has extended its suspension of cruising through May, excluding sailings onboard Quantum, Spectrum, Voyager, and Odyssey of the Seas.

Lindblad remains optimistic that it will return to operations in June with a focus on Alaska, Galápagos and Iceland.  

Celestyal Cruises announced that it will resume operations on May 29 from Piraeus, Athens with its seven-night Idyllic Aegean itinerary.

Oceania Cruises announced that the launch of its latest collection of exotic itineraries for winter 2022-2023 on Mar 3rd  resulted in a record with the most individual bookings taken in a single day in the brand’s history.

California:  The operator for Long Beach’s Queen Mary plans to auction its lease for the historic ocean liner after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January following a string of financial problems.  In an announcement last Tuesday, Singapore-based Eagle Hospitality Trust said it will sell 15 of the 18 hotels in its portfolio, including the Queen Mary, Sheraton Pasadena and Holiday Inn Anaheim for a starting price of $470 million in an auction set tentatively for May 20. 

Spain:   Things are moving forward — Spain will open its mass tourism resorts for business in spring once the country has vaccinated between 30 and 40 per cent of its adult population.  

Miami:  Carnival hit its 49th year and now begins its countdown to its celebratory 50th in Mar 2022.

Sat Mar 13th Greece:   Fire broke out yesterday aboard the MSC Lirica while moored at Corfu.  The fire aboard the MSC Lirica which started in a lifeboat was fully extinguished by Friday evening, with no injuries to the 51 crew aboard the ship, according to a statement from MSC Cruises.

Cunard:  In yet another revision, the Queen Elizabeth will now make only short cruises from Southampton during the summer.  Sailings on Queen Victoria are now cancelled for departures up to and including 27 Aug 27th. Queen Elizabeth’s scheduled summer Mediterranean fly cruise season and all departures up to and including Oct 11th are cancelled. And Queen Mary 2’s current program of departures up to and including Nov 2021 are cancelled.  This will mark the second year of no Atlantic crossings on Cunard.

Crystal Cruises will be the first major cruise line back in service in North America as the Crystal Serenity would start sailing in the Bahamas in July. The ship will sail week-long itineraries that call only on Bahamian destinations, round-trip from Nassau (Saturday departure) or Bimini (Sunday departure), through at least October.  The ship will operate at no more than 900 guests. The company will also offer pre- and post-land programs with local hotels in the Bahamas.  Guests will need to show a negative COVID-19 result five days prior to arriving. 

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



from Bill Miller
Mar 7th  2021

Mon Mar 1st Smiling Faces!  Each year, the United Nations publishes the World Happiness Report — 10 countries with the best quality of life and happiness. Number 10 on the list is the country of Luxembourg. Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands are also on the list as are Norway, New Zealand, Iceland, Switzerland and Denmark. Do you notice a pattern here?  The Scandinavians and Europeans dominate.

Reservations!  Eager to be aboard one of the very first cruises when cruising resumes in North America? You’ll be lucky if you get a cabin.

When cruise lines initially restart operations out of U.S. ports, presumably later this year, they are likely to only restart with a few ships, each operating at only partial capacity.  That’ll create a squeeze on the number of available cabins that could make it hard for would-be cruisers to find space.  Indeed, the squeeze could be so sharp that some people who currently have bookings on ships for later this year might find their reservations canceled out from under them due to limited capacity, so a top industry executive suggested.

Looking Ahead!  When will cruising resume in earnest in North America and elsewhere around the world?

The answer is relatively simple, one of the cruise industry’s top executives suggested on Thursday: When case counts of COVID-19 come down to manageable levels. “I think the prevalence of the disease in our own country and around the world will be the greatest indicator of when we can resume cruising,” Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings president and CEO Frank Del Rio told Wall Street analysts during a conference call to discuss quarterly earnings.

Looking Ahead!  Ritz Carlton will enter the luxury cruise market in July with their first ship, the 298-bed, Spanish built Evrima (below).   The super yacht-like ship will cruise the Med in summer, the Caribbean & Central America in winter.  

World Cruises:    The market for long & even longer and expensive around-the-world cruises is at a high.   Just look at a few of these voyages scheduled for early 2023:

Oceania Insignia 179 days/96 ports

Princess Coral Princess 107 days/44 ports

Regent Seven Seas Mariner 143 days/72 ports

Costa CostaDeliziosa 116 days/49 ports

Viking Ocean Viking Neptune 137 days/58 ports

And we haven’t mentioned the likes of Cunard, Seabourn, Crystal, Silversea, Holland America, Saga, P&O, Fred Olsen & still others.   And also that the longest of all of these circumnavigations on Oceania sold (700 berths) in 7 hours!

Tue Mar 2nd Out in California:   Some readers are becoming increasingly worried over the future of the 85-year-old Queen Mary.  Silent, empty, largely unlit, no lionger sounding its mighty whistle & all but locked tight in this era of Covid, her operators have gone bust and so the future for the legendary & beloved ex-Cunarder is looking cloudy & gray at the least.   The 81,000-ton ship is actually owned by the City of Long Beach, but it is dire need of costly repairs & improvements.    

Theme Cruises:   Over the years, there has been just about every type of theme cruising from Big Band to poker to motorcycling.  But something rather special:  a salute to TV’s iconic Golden Girls. A new 2022 Golden Girls theme cruise promises to provide the same caftan-filled schedule of costume parties, trivia events, panels with Golden Girls screenwriters, historians and cast family members and game shows. There will also be a 100th birthday bash for star Betty White, with the requisite cheesecake.   The Golden Girls Fan Theme Cruise will sail on Celebrity Apexon Jan 3rd 2022. 

Inside Cabins seem to be falling out of favor in the post-covid telescope.   Once highly desired by budget-watching travelers, the demand now seems to be for daylight and, of course, the possibility of easily accessible fresh air.   Some cruisers recall tales of passengers in inside rooms during covid outbreaks and having to remain in them for days and even weeks.  

Wed Mar 3rd Royal Caribbean’s newest ship Odyssey of the Seas is set to debut in May with departures from Israel but only with all passengers and crew over the age of 16 and of course vaccinated.

Words from the Chairman of Royal Caribbean:   “Finally, we are beginning to see the light of day”.   Yes, better days are ahead!

Australia has extended international cruise ship ban until Jun 17th.

Princess Cruises continues to review and assess its operations following the recent UK Government announcement on the roadmap to ease lockdown and related international travel restrictions. The company is extending the pause of its UK-based cruise vacations, sailing roundtrip from Southampton, through Sep 25th  on Sky Princess, Regal Princess (below) and Island Princess.  For UK guests, Princess Cruises will launch a series of new short cruises departing in late summer on Regal Princess and Sky Princess from Southampton that will go on sale later this month. 

Thu Mar 4th British Ports Association (BPA) calls on UK government to instill confidence in ferry industry as country claws its way out of lockdown.  Analysis of the UK Department of Transport’s 2020 passenger data by the BPA has shown that the UK experienced the lowest number of short-sea passenger numbers since 1962. The figures represent the greatest year-on-year fall since records began in 1952.

P&O Cruises has announced in a press release that it will be offering a series of short-break and week-long UK cruises as “the ultimate escape staycation” in summer 2021.  P&O’s 3,000-passenger Britannia is seen below.  

Virgin Voyages The Scarlet Lady, the $1 billion cruise ship which has still not had a maiden voyage (after over twelve months),  will now sail  on July 1 as the new cruise brand has cancelled sailings through June.  Her second sister, the Valiant Lady, has also been in holding pattern.  

Fincantieri, the Italian shipbuilder and the busiest creator of cruise ships, is back to work and in almost full stride.   With over 100 cruise ships on their worldwide order book, Fincantieri has the immediate chore to build nearly two dozen of them in the next 2-3 years.  

Cash Burn!  The numbers are staggering!  Carnival’s monthly average cash burn rate for the fourth quarter 2020 was $500 million, which was slightly better than expected due to the timing of capital expenditures.  But now, the company expects the monthly average cash burn rate for the first quarter 2021 to be approximately $600 million.

Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean estimates its cash burn to be, on average, in the range of approximately $250 million to $290 million per month during a prolonged suspension of operations. 

As the cruise line starts returning its fleet into service, it has and will incur incremental spend as it brings the ships out of their various levels of la yup, returns the crew to the vessels, takes the necessary steps to ensure compliance with the recommended protocols and gears up its sales and marketing activities.

Finally, for the first quarter of 2021, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings said it expects its the average cash burn rate to temporarily remain elevated at approximately $190 million per month, or approximately $170 million per month excluding non-recurring debt modification costs, as it ramps down relaunch-related expenses and repatriates crew.

Super Luxury Yachts:   In a recent survey of the world’s most sumptuous large yachts, the classic Talitha was mentioned.   And you might agree – she looks like an ocean liner.

The Talitha is one of the world’s first super yachts with an exceptional pedigree. Originally penned by naval architects Cox & Stevens, leading designers of their day, she was built by Krupp in Kiel, Germany.  First known as Reveler, she was delivered in 1929 to Russell Algar, chairman of the Packard Car Company. A string of high-profile owners ensued, including Sir John Paul Getty, Jr. in the 1930s, son of one of the richest men in the world at the time. Getty commissioned an exterior and interior redesign by late super yacht designer Jon Bannenberg and, in 1993, a full reconstruction was completed at the Devonport shipyard in Plymouth, U.K. Regular refits since, including a 1999 newly installed wheelhouse, has made Talitha successful as a popular charter yacht.

World Cruising!    After a year of isolation and lockdowns, four months on a ship is looking pretty good to cruise super fans.  The  pandemic was raging in July when Viking Ocean Cruises opened reservation books for a 136-day world cruise itinerary. The Christmas 2021 departure sold out in weeks. In December, in the midst of a second wave, the company opened a second cruise for the same period. It, too, quickly sold out.

The company had no trouble filling two of its nearly identical 930-passenger ships, Viking Star and Viking Neptune, even though the borders of many of the two dozen countries the plan to visit remain largely closed to international visitors. The only cabins that went unsold, in fact, were those blocked off for potential quarantine needs. Now the line is scrambling to put together an additional around-the-world itinerary starting in 2023.

Luggage!   Are you tired of hauling luggage to & from your cruise?  Well, the Carnival Pride hosting a charter “all-nude” cruise in 2022.  Potentially that’s some 2,100 guests.   But will there be formal nights & a captain’s dinner?

Fri Mart 5th Forecasts!  Having carried an estimated 5.7 million passengers mostly before the industry shut down in 2020, compared to 27.8 million in 2019, the cruise lines will have the capacity to carry 31.7 million passengers in 2022 and, still growing,  that will turn to 38.7 million passengers by 2027.  

More Royal Caribbean News!  Royal Caribbean seems to be ramping up its efforts to start sailing, and it looks like the cruise line wants to do this sooner rather than later.  With an extended season in Singapore, due to the incredible success of Quantum of the Seas in the city-state and Royal Caribbean announced this week it will homeport its newest vessel, the 5,400-bed Odyssey of the Seas,in Israel.  And if you thought that it looked like that would be it from the cruise giant. Well, not so.   Rumors are about that RCI is looking at Cozumel as another start-up cruise base port.   But for now, stay tuned!

Saga Cruises has announced that it is moving its operation restart date from May 4 to Jun 27th, in line with the British government’s roadmap out of lockdown.  

Seabourn’s upcoming, luxury 140-day world cruise that costs at least $67,000 is selling fast.  

Shorter Itineraries:  Condensed cruises can still pack a punch with stops at some of the world’s most exciting ports — even on itineraries of just a few days. Cruise lines are planning a comeback this year, after rethinking safety protocols and collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention on ways to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 onboard. Masks and social distancing will be standard practice, and the companies are working toward onboard bubbles. Guests will only be allowed to go on ship-sponsored shore excursions and will have to submit to frequent testing.

Helping the cause is a shift toward shorter sailings, with many 2021 trips slated to last a week or less. But these new micro-itineraries don’t skimp on the cultural sites or unforgettable ports of call.  Ponant Cruisex (below), for example, will offer a four-night trip in August, sailing from Valletta, Malta, to Venice, with stops in Kotor, Montenegro and Dubrovnik, Croatia. And thanks to a new partnership with the Louvre, curators from the museum will be aboard a July 13–20 sail through Greece’s Cycladic islands, offering expert talks.

Azamara is also focusing on Greece, with six- and seven-night round trips out of Piraeus, the cruise port for Athens. These itineraries pack in islands including Mykonos, Patmos, and Santorini, as well as a stop at Ephesus, in Turkey. After canceling its Alaska cruises for 2020, Holland America was, at press time, preparing for a big return. This year, the line had planned to add seven-day trips between Vancouver and Whittier, on Prince William Sound, that would’ve included visits to Juneau and Ketchikan. Those trips were scrapped on Feb 24th, but other Holland sailings around Alaska that depart from Seattle are still a go.

The newest Silversea ship, the Silver Moon, is set to make its debut in the Mediterranean this year. A series of six-night trips between Barcelona and Lisbon, scheduled for May and August, will focus on Iberian food and wine, with excursions dedicated to cava, tapas and sherry. Windstar will also call at ports in Spain, with an October sailing aboard the Wind Star (below)  from Rome to Barcelona that visits both Mallorca and Menorca, as well as Corsica and Elba — all in just six days.

Below:  From my old photo box – The brand new, inbound  United States passing her fleetmate, the departing America  (Aug 1952)

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




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”




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”