CRUISING, CRUISE SHIPS & THE CORONA VIRUS. 10/31/2020
CRUISING, CRUISE SHIPS & THE CORONA VIRUS
WEEKLY NEWS & UPDATES
from Bill Miller
Oct 31st 2020
Mon Oct 19th Something Bright on the Horizon: If you wish upon a star, your wish may come true! That is, if it’s to ride aboard Disney Cruise Line’s newest and largest ship, the Disney Wish. The ship’s maiden voyage has been set for the summer of 2022, according tyo Disney. The Wish will weigh in at about 144,000 gross tons and include 1,250 staterooms. That makes it slightly larger than Disney’s current ships, the Dream and the Fantasy. It will be powered by clean-burning liquefied natural gas.
Disney has otherwise been mostly quiet about the ship’s amenities. But the company showed off a rendering of a three-story, fairytale-inspired atrium. And the stern will feature a picture of Rapunzel, who Disney said embodies the desire to see the world.
Another One Gone! As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Marella Dream is being retired by Marella Cruises and now faces an unknown future. The 54,760-ton vessel launched in 1986 under the Home Lines banner and also spent time in the Holland America Line and Costa Cruises fleets before sailing for Thomson Cruises in 2010.
Tue Oct 20th Quartet Together! At the big Damen shipyard at Brest in France, 4 Disney cruise ships were together last week for the first time – the Disney Magic, Disney Dream, Disney Fantasy & Disney Wonder. Each is idle & waiting.
Something New! Ocean Builders, a leading company known for its floating homes – and we aren’t talking houseboats here – has a deal for all adventurers. The company is taking a 30-year old ship formerly known as the Regal Princess and then the Pacific Dawn and turning it into a giant floating condo complex that will be anchored 12 miles off the shore of Panama City, Panama.
The ship will be renamed the MS Satoshi to honor Japanese crypto-currency founder Satoshi Nakamoto. “The MS Satoshi is a business-focused environment where you can relocate your existing business, set up a new global head office, or come and start a new business and be supported in an environment of like-minded entrepreneurs,” Ocean Builders said on its website. “Everyone from digital nomads to YouTube influencers, startup teams, and existing businesses are welcome with office space available to accommodate you and your team.”
The company says the 804-foot, 777-cabin, 12-deck ship will be anchored 30 minutes from Panama City in the Gulf of Panama. It will include three restaurants, a juice bar, two cafes, three bars, two pools, four whirlpools, a water park and more. The 777 cabins will be auctioned off as condos, with the first 100 staterooms opening for bids on November 5. Buyers will acquire full ownership of their cabins and pay a monthly fee to cover operating expenses. Tentative initial pricing is estimated between $25,000 and $50,000. In addition to permanent residential units, Ocean Builders says vacation rentals will also be available. Residents will have access to all of the ship’s amenities and be able to purchase meal plans or enjoy discounts at all the restaurants.
Thu Oct 21st Up in those Friendly Skies! Singapore Airlines will be resuming its nonstop flight between Singapore and the New York City area starting on Nov 9. According to the announcement, the flight from Singapore Changi Airport to John F. Kennedy International Airport will last 18 hours and 5 minutes, while the flight from JFK to Singapore will be a tad longer at 18 hours and 40 minutes.
Protest in Venice! “Work! Work! Work!” shouted the baggage handlers, ship cleaners and port security guards protesting on the steps of Venice’s Santa Lucia train station. The protest formed quickly and without warning – a flash mob, designed to call urgent attention to the 6,000 Venetians who rely on the cruise industry for work.
Sat Oct 24th Being Strict! A passenger on AIDA Cruises’ AIDAblu was not allowed back on the ship after violating COVID-19 protocols during a shore excursion in Catania, Italy, earlier this week.
Mon Oct 26th Quiet Times! Below: Another view of four Disney ships idle at Brest in France.
Tue Oct 27th News from P&O: And reported by our good friend Nick Braddock over in the UK: “P&O Cruises has just received its newly built flagship Iona from Meyer’s shipyard in Germany. At 184,000 gross tons, the Iona is the largest ship built for the British cruise industry. Due to the current break in the cruise industry, Iona will not arrive at her home port of Southampton until the New Year, but will use Haugesund Cruise Terminal, Garpeskjær, in Norway temporarily. Iona arrives in Haugesund at the end of October, initially for a month. Meets strict routines: The crew on board Iona will consist of a maximum of 200 people. All crew have been tested for Covid-19 before leaving home, and confirmation is required that they are negative before they can board. The crew is also quarantined on board for a period after enlistment.”
“The ship will be in a locked quay area, where only inspectors from the port authorities have the opportunity to open. The Port of Karmsund and P&O Cruises have agreed on internal routines that are far higher than the national requirements in Norway. Of concrete measures, this means, among other things, that the crew is subject to a land law refusal. The ship has its own medical personnel on board, who will be responsible for medical follow-up during the entire stay, and also carry out a daily health check of the crew.”
Above: Cruising 1932
Update from the CDC: While the cruise industry awaits a decision on the No-Sail-Order for December, the CDC still recommends that travelers defer all cruise travel worldwide. The decision from the CDC to continue spreading this advice is surprising, to say the least. It will not be pleasing towards the cruise industry which has been making positive noises in the last weeks about sailings to take place late this year.
News from Italy: The biggest & busiest builder of cruise ships, Fincantieri has 29 cruise ships on its order book for deliveries within the next four years. But the total order backlog is for 41 cruise ships, stretching to 2027.
Production was suspended from March 16 to April 20, when it gradually resumed. By the end of June, it had ramped up to 90 percent. Earlier this year and before the outbreak, Fincantieri delivered the Scarlet Lady to Virgin Voyages and the Seven Seas Splendor to Regent Seven Seas Cruises from its Italian yards and Le Bellot to Ponant from subsidiary Vard, in addition to the July delivery of the Jacques Cartier. September 30th saw the delivery of the Enchanted Princess from Monfalcone to be followed by the Costa Firenze from Marghera and the Silver Moon from Ancona later this fall. They will all join their fleets a few weeks late compared to the pre-COVID schedule. “We are looking forward with confidence,” according to Fincantieri, “with a confirmed workload over the next six to seven years and with financial results in line with targets of our business plan.
Wed Oct 28th Anchored & Just Waiting off England’s South Coast: Presently anchored off Torbay are: Volendam, Zaandam, Emerald Princess, Nieuw Statendam, Westerdam, Arcadia, Queen Mary 2, Ventura & Azura.
Bits’n Pieces: Over in the Baltic: Ferry giant Silja Line is planning layoffs among its huge fleet & staff. … Chinese waters: Costa is reportedly scheduling cruises from Shanghai beginning in Jan. … Circumnavigations: Adding to the list that includes Cunard, Crystal & Seabourn, Silversea has canceled its long world cruise, one that was to end in New York next May. …
Norwegian Travel & Transport: From over in the UK, Nick Braddock reports: “Norway getting concerns about Hurtigtruten and believes the government must ensure more frequent Hurtigruten calls. The corona pandemic has hit the Hurtigruten hard, so hard that there is a large reduction in the number of ships in traffic. The decision that only two Hurtigruten ships will run exclusively between Bodø and Kirkenes affects many local communities along the coast. The route between Bergen and Kirkenes is an important part of the Norwegian transport system.”
News from Regent-Seven Seas: Luxurious Regent Seven Seas Cruises has said it achieved the largest booking day in the cruise line’s 28-year history with the launch of its 2022-2023 Voyage Collection when sales opened on October 21, 2020. Citing strong pent-up demand for cruising, reservations surpassed Regent’s previous booking day record, set in April 2018 with the launch of Seven Seas Splendor’s inaugural season, by nearly 40 percent, the company said. The 2022-2023 Voyage Collection launch also saw an over 100% increase in bookings from when the line’s 2021-2022 Voyage Collection went on sale in August 2019.
From one of my 6th grade students, dated 1995
Thu Oct 28th Looking Ahead! There is no denying that 2020 has been a devastating year for the travel industry, particularly cruise lines. Because of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, cruise lines have been shut down for months and have lost billions of dollars of revenue. Furthermore, rapidly changing protocols, poor publicity, and ongoing uncertainty around the globe continues to impact cruise lines and their return to operation. How will cruise lines eventually resume sailing, and which cruise line will recover the best in 2021? The answer will not be a simple one.
Since the initial suspension of sailing in mid-March, cruise lines have taken many steps to keep their businesses viable. One of the earliest steps was offering booked passengers future cruise credits and bonus offers to defer refunds, which kept those already paid fares as capital for the cruise lines.
As the pandemic stretched on, both onshore and ship-based staffs were cut, and many employees who remained took salary cuts to further lower payroll costs. At the same time, cruise lines began to sell stock, bonds, and secured notes to raise capital to ensure the continuation of operations even as no cruises were setting sail.
Above: The Queen Mary 2 in a rare visit to Bayonne, New Jersey
Because ships aren’t being used, many vessels have been put into different layup stages. This minimizes personnel on the ship and lowers operating costs by as much as 60-65 percent per vessel. While this can cause delays when resuming operations, it is a good measure to further conserve funds until sailing can resume.
As weeks stretched to months of unused vessels and further extensions of cancelled cruises, larger cruise lines began reorganizing their fleets. Older, less updated ships have now been sold or scrapped, and while those fleet changes may already have been planned long before the pandemic, the stop in operations accelerated the timeline for removing ships. Similarly, some cruise lines have deferred debt on newly built ships, or rescheduled new builds to delay the construction and hold off on further expenditures.
So yes, stay tuned!
Building New Cruise Ships! In what is likely to be one of only a few new cruise ship orders placed in 2020, Finland’s Helsinki Shipyard Oy announced it has entered into a contractual agreement with the start-up expedition cruise line Swan Hellenic for a luxury expedition cruise ship.
Up in Scotland: Maritime photographer Jim Prentice caught the Black Watch departing from Rosyth (below) & bound for a new life as a moored accommodation ship in Turkey. The 48-yr old ship started its days as the Royal Viking Star.
Fri Oct 30th Update from Southampton: Our good friend Dave Smith reports: “Today [Thursday], the Aurora (below) at QE2 terminal Berth 38 The Arcadia at Ocean terminal 45 berth. Three big container ships in port + four car carriers. The tanker that was taken over by seven stowaways off the Isle Of Wight was recaptured by special boat service men in only nine minutes. The men came down the ropes from helicopters, 16 men in total. That tanker is now tied-up in the docks and was en route from Lagos to Fawley oil refinery. All the stowaways are now in police custody.”
Sat Oct 31st Flash Update & Some Good News: Yesterday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has dropped its controversial “No Sail” order in favor for a so-called Conditional Sailing Order. In short, the “No Sail” order has been lifted and the industry will work with the CDC on a realistic, phased-in return to service.
“The initial phases will consist of testing and additional safeguards for crew members,” the CDC said in a statement posted to its website. “CDC will ensure cruise ship operators have adequate health and safety protections for crew while these cruise ship operators build the laboratory capacity needed to test future passengers. Subsequent phases will include simulated voyages to test cruise ship operators’ ability to mitigate COVID-19 risk, certification for ships that meet specific requirements, and a phased return to cruise ship passenger voyages in a manner that mitigates COVID-19 risk among passengers, crew members, and U.S. communities.
The president of Celebrity Cruises added: “We have reached another milestone in the path to returning to service that I thought was important to share with you. Today [Oct 30th], the CDC announced a conditional sailing order for cruise ships. The announcement establishes a pathway for our ships to return to service, and that’s an important step in the right direction.
While we are eager to welcome all of you back on board, we have a lot to do between now and then, and we’re committed to taking the time to do things right. This includes training our crew in new health and safety protocols and conducting a number of trial sailings to stress-test those protocols in real-world conditions.
We will continue to work closely with both the CDC and the Healthy Sail Panel as we make our plans, and we are confident in our ability to mitigate the risks of the pandemic and protect the health of our guests, our crew, and the communities where we sail.”
Marseilles to Alexandria: Vintage travel – 1927
BUT YES, CRUISING WILL RETURN!
Continued best thanks to our friends, readers, reporters & those faraway “secret agents”