CRUISING, CRUISE SHIPS & THE CORONA VIRUS – 08/22/2020
CRUISING, CRUISE SHIPS & THE CORONA VIRUS – 08/22/2020:
NEWS & UPDATES
from Bill Miller
Sun Aug 16th: Fred. Olsen Line, the UK-based niche cruise company, has made a third of its head-office staff redundant, but less than a month after purchasing two new cruise ships. Toward the end of June the cruise line employed “around 220” staff at its head office but now a spokeswoman confirmed the number was closer to 150.
Above: Fred Olsen’s Balmoral
Above: The Royal Viking Star sailing from New York in Oct 1973; Below: The same ship but as Fred Olsen’s Black Watch
Mon Aug 17th: News from Italy but via the UK: Our man in Southampton, Dave Smith, reports: “The first major cruise ship to set sail in the Mediterranean in almost 5 months has disembarked from the Italian port city of Genoa. The MSC Grandiosa (below) will stop at three Italian ports & the Maltese capital Valetta in a seven day cruise, MSC cruises say all passengers & crew have all been tested for the Coronavirus before boarding, but it comes as virus cases continue to rise in Italy. More than 600 new cases were reported by the authorities yesterday.
Smaller & cozier! From south in Miami, our dear friend & onetime passenger ship purser Alan Duddle shared this news report: “People will want different things out of a cruise now. Notably, a smaller ship, one which is more environmentally friendly, pandemic proof and which can reach places that larger ships cannot, without the over-tourism. Some could also choose to go nowhere at all.
Larger cruise ships have stalled Covid-19 has seen many harbors around the world become giant parking areas for cruise ships. And whilst many companies are planning to set sail again at the end of August or in September, others like Carnival and Cunard are planning to wait until October. But everyone has lost revenue–the three largest operators saw a drop of at least 85 percent in revenue for the three months ending June 30 (May 31 for Carnival).”
Above: Recalling bygone days of sea travel …
New health and safety requirements will require big changes to dining, air circulation and boarding procedures. Buffets will likely become a thing of the past, replaced only by à la carte dining, at least until a vaccine can be found. People are understandably reticent about getting back onboard large floating cities which could be harboring disease and from which they might not be allowed to disembark if the virus breaks out.
The launch of the largest cruise ship in the world, Royal Caribbean’s 6,800-passenger Wonder of the Seas, has been delayed. As has Carnival’s debut of the Mardi Gras, the largest Carnival Cruise vessel yet.
While ocean-bound ships have stalled, river cruises, which are much smaller in size and in the number of passengers, have already started back up.
Sir Alan has further shared: “Smaller cruise ships are the winners! The Telegraph reported that Edwina Lonsdale, managing director of Mundy Cruising, said that in the past month, 90% of ocean-going bookings had been for ships carrying fewer than 1,000 passengers. For river cruises in Europe, people don’t want to be on boats carrying more than 160 people. Viking Cruises is building a ship for 80 people, Emerald Waterways is about to build a boat with just 50 cabins, and Swan Hellenic–which stopped trading in 2017–will begin again, with a ship for just 150 passengers. Windstar operates a fleet of six small yachts carrying 150 to 340 guests and is known for visiting small ports and hidden harbors around the world. It will set sail in October with more barbecues on deck, al fresco dining and tenders at 50% capacity to ensure strict health protocols are met.
Betsy O’Rourke, chief marketing officer for Windstar believes that many people are making the transition from other ‘big ship’ brands to smaller boats. During its one-week sale in early June, 36% of Windstar’s bookings were from new-to-brand guests, which would have been highly unlikely for first-time cruisers in a year such as this, suggesting they transferred from other bigger companies.
Further in shared news from Alan Duddle: “Maybe the answer is to never dock? Just like some airlines have started to operate flights which never land, so as to avoid navigating changeable border controls, some cruise companies are considering the idea of never docking.
Hurtigruten, the Norwegian company–who was the first to sail again in June after the pandemic–has just begun a 14-night journey from Hamburg along Norway’s coast before returning to Hamburg on Jul 20th. The boat can sleep over 500 people but has only 150 German nationals onboard, who won’t dock, but they will take small paddle board adventures while visiting the fjords. Fred Olsen Cruise Lines is planning to operate a cruise for two nights from Liverpool in Jan 6th, 2021. It is being marketed as a ‘cruise to nowhere’ but technically it arrives in Southampton, which is somewhere new.
They might not help with pollution control–a real problem in cities such as Barcelona–but cruises to nowhere could be a mid-term solution to revive the industry. They could be offered at a much cheaper price than normal cruises because of the lack of port charges and reduced fuel consumption. The only downside is that they won’t help revive local economies.”
Above: The Costa Romantica & Westerdam at Port Everglades
Tue Aug 18th Mediterranean Waters: The TUI Cruises restart is going so well the company is expanding to three ships as the Mein Schiff 6 will sail round -trip cruises from Crete in September with port calls. The first week-long sailing will depart on Sep 13. Guests will be allowed to take company-organized shore excursions in Athens, Crete and Corfu. TUI said it will dramatically expand shore excursion capacity so all guests can partake. The ship is expected to operate at 60 percent occupancy.
Above: Bygone cruising on the schools’ cruise ship Uganda
Sunny Florida: Three of the biggest & busiest cruise ports anywhere – Miami, Port Everglades & Port Canaveral – have been all but dead silent since the shutdown last March. By mid August, it was estimated that the Florida economy has lost $23 billion during cruise line suspension.
Above: The legendary Norway at New York in May 1980
Wed Aug 19th European Moorings! Much like a wartime armada, Norwegian Cruise liners have left the US, crossed the Atlantic and found lay-up in ports such as Copenhagen, Siracusa (Sicily), Marseilles, Naples & Southampton.
News from the English Coast: Our good friend Capt G Justin Zizes reports: “A former cruise ship captain who owns a nearby ferry service in Christchurch, Dorset has been offering ‘ghost ship tours’ where people can get up and close to the giant, but idle cruise vessels [above]. As Dorset does not usually host such large vessels, they have become in demand with tours selling out fast and people flocking to nearby ship spotting locations on the coast to enjoy the views.”
Thu Aug 20th Looking Ahead: Ads boasting future cruises and via email continue to come in almost daily. There has been the likes of Celebrity promoting the glories of springtime in the Mediterranean, Holland-America offering a grand cruise around Africa and Crystal posting their 2023 world cruise.
Above: 6 big cruise ships at St Maarten
Above: The Queen Victoria in the Amazon
Phone Interview: I did another phone interview, this time with one of the big investment companies. They were interested in the pandemic & travel, what future cruises might be like, but mostly about the recent but unexpected sales of ships to Turkish scrappers.
Fri Aug 21st News from Down Under: State officials in Australia have apologized for their failures over the handling of a huge Covid-19 outbreak on the Ruby Princess. Last week, an inquiry found New South Wales health authorities made “serious mistakes” in allowing about 2,650 passengers to disembark when the ship docked in Sydney in March. Those people were not tested for the virus, despite suspected cases aboard. The ship was ultimately linked to at least 900 infections and 28 deaths. Prior to Australia’s second wave of the virus – which emerged in Melbourne in June – the cruise ship had been the source of Australia’s biggest coronavirus cluster.
Sent Home! A group of passengers aboard the MSC Grandiosa have been kicked off the ship for violating new protocols put in place regarding shore excursions.
Above: 6 cruise liners at New York in Sep 1990 – from the left: Fantasy, Regent Sun, Regal Empress, Golden Odyssey, Song of America & Meridian
Sat Aug 22nd: Crystal Ball! Crystal issued a statement late Thursday to calm fears about its viability as parent Genting Hong Kong pursues a restructuring. ‘It is important to understand that the company is not going out of business,’ the statement said. ‘Whatever option our parent company pursues, it will allow Crystal to operate its business. Additionally, we have always been committed to honoring our contractual obligations with guests and travel partners, including the processing of refunds.
‘While we have extended our suspension of global voyages until the end of the year, we are working with government and health authorities in our key markets to resume sailing when it is safe to do so and we look forward to welcoming our guests back on board at that time.’
August Sunset! Below a splendid, very moodful photo from our good friend Capt G Justin Zizes.
REMEMBER THAT DEEP BLUE OF THE DEEP BLUE SEAS!