from Bill Miller

Dec 12th 2020

Sun Dec 6th News from Southampton:  Dave Smith reportsTwo big cruise ships in port today, could not get into the docks to find out the names, and also 5 car carriers, 3 container ships  plus smaller ships   as well.”   (Above:  Cunard’s Franconia on a Bermuda cruise in 1968.)


Above:   Silversea’s luxurious Silver Spirit

Bits ‘n Pieces:  Eight months after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down cruising around the world, some customers are still waiting for refunds of money they paid for canceled cruises. 

News from Faraway China:  The Chinese authorities have confirmed that permission has been granted for the first two domestic cruise ships to resume service. After weeks of reports and rumors, it has been announced the first two cruises will depart on Dec 9th and 10th, both sailing from Hainan province as a trial program.  

The first cruise is set to depart on a four-day itinerary to the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea aboard the Nanhai Zhi Meng. The 24,500-gross ton cruise ferry has been operating Chinese cruises since the end of 2016 for Hainan Cruises. The ship normally accommodates up to 900 passengers.  A second ship, the Changle Gongzhu is also scheduled to resume cruise operations the following day. The 12,000 gross ton ship is a ro-ro ferry that has been sailing in the region since 2017. It carries approximately 500 passengers.  

Family Cruise Deals: Which Cruise Lines Let Kids Sail Free
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Above:   Three captains aboard the Queen Mary 2

Mon Dec 7th  The Bahamas:  Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line is not currently operating and no longer taking reservations for future sailings.

Tue Dec 8th Resumption!   AIDAcruises’ AIDAperla departed Gran Canaria on Dec. 5th on its first revenue sailing March.    According to reports, 800 people are onboard the 3,250-passenger ship.   The AIDAperla (below) is sailing a seven-night round trip from Gran Canaria with calls at Santa Cruz de La Palma, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Fuerteventura and Arrecife / Lanzarote.


Other MSC News:  MSC has canceled its Dec & Holiday cruises and instead will resume in Jan. The MSC Grandiosa will temporarily pause her current program of seven-night voyage sailings on Dec 20th in Genoa, Italy and will resume her Western Mediterranean cruises on Jan 10th 2021, also from Genoa.  The MSC Magnifica, which was due to re-start 10-night voyages in the West and East Mediterranean on Dec 18th from Genoa, will now commence its sailing program on Jan 15th following the cancellation of three previous sailings. 

Happy Occasion!  Odyssey of the Seas, a 169,000-tonner and the newest addition to the Royal Caribbean fleet, was floated out of the huge “building hall” at Germany’s Meyer Werft shipyard on Dec 5th.  The ship will carry up to 4,284 guests in 2,137 suites & staterooms and have a crew of 1,551.  

One reader did suggest that the next Royal Caribbean newbuild might be named Quarantine of the Seas.

Ovation Of The Seas Ready to Leave Building Dock

Above & Below:  Photographer Bjoern Hass was in Germany to capture the Odyssey of the Seas being readied & then floated out.

Odyssey of the Seas

Wed Dec 9th  Encouragement!  Royal Caribbean International says that more than 150,000 people have volunteered for the cruise line’s mock voyages, reportedly in the works to set sail as a trial before a larger return to service amid the Coronavirus.

The Queens!  Cunard announced today that they now hope to resume sailing in May-June – rather than the previously projected March.


Bygone days:  the French Line’s Liberte at Pier 88, New York in 1957

Outbreak!   A suspected positive case was reported in the middle of the night onboard Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas.  The ship was on the first of several short cruises out of Singapore and marked a resumption of RCI service.  The guests were asked to remain in their staterooms as the ship came back to Singapore a day early; day three of a four-day cruise to nowhere, with no port calls, which is operating under a strict set of health and safety protocols established by Singaporean authorities.  

The 2014-built ship  is capped to 50 percent occupancy from its maximum of 4,100 guests. There are 1,680 passengers aboard, meaning the ship is operating around 40 percent occupancy.  

Follow-Up & Thursday Update: On Thursday morning guests received breakfast in their staterooms served by the crew. Guests will be able to disembark on Thursday, but they will be required to monitor their health for the next two weeks and will be required to have a COVID-19 swab test at the end of the 14-day period. The test will be arranged by Royal Caribbean. No quarantine or isolation is required. Of note, Royal Caribbean has allowed smoking in stateroom bathrooms for the time being. There are 1,680 guests, and 1,148 crew onboard currently.

Thu Dec 10th Update from Carnival:  Carnival Cruise Line has established dry dock plans for three of its ships, and as part of its gradual, phased-in return to operations in 2021, will defer the deployment of the vessels until after the work is completed. In a letter to guests and travel agents, Carnival advised that it has cancelled cruises on the Carnival Magic (up to and including the embarkation on Sep 24th 2021), the Carnival Paradise (up to and including the embarkation on May 31st) and the Carnival Valor (up to and including the embarkation on Sept. 11th).


The Fairwind of Sitmar Cruises in the Panama Canal

Update from Virgin:  Virgin Voyages has moved the launch of its first ship, the $1 billion Scarlet Lady, to May 9th – more than a year after the vessel’s launch was originally scheduled.  A second ship, the Valiant Lady, is also in a “holding pattern” in Italy.  


French Line commemorative medals & badges

Fri Dec 11th   Better News from SingaporeThe 83-yr old passenger who initially tested positive onboard the Quantum of the Seas has been re-tested and now has received two negative results.  

Restart!  Norwegian Cruise Line has indicated that a restart of their cruising may come in the form of sailings within Europe rather than the United States.

The Phones are Ringing!  The pause from traveling in 2020 has left people ready to spend on holidays in 2022 and 2023, said Michelle Sutter, senior director for national accounts and field sales at Holland America Line. “We’ve seen a surge in bookings for suites … Those of us who haven’t had, well, I guess all of us who haven’t had the opportunity to vacation this year, are looking to spend, maybe, splurge a little more next year. I know, I’ve done that. And many of you have as well.”   

Sutter added that Alaska and Europe tend to be popular destinations for the upcoming seasons. Longer voyages, including world cruises, remain in demand, too, she said.  “We have seen a surge in bookings for 2022 … on the long voyages as well. Our grand world voyages for 2022 are doing very well. And we’re already getting interest for 2023,” Sutter said. “The good news is that people are ready to travel. Now that we’ve had our freedom taken away from us to travel, we’re ready to book.”

Meanwhile, John Chernesky, senior vice president for sales and trade marketing at Princess Cruises and Cunard Line, confirmed the demand for Alaska and Europe as holiday destinations.  “I know that we are focused on Europe for next year. And I would say it’s probably going to be one of the best times to go because I don’t expect it will be as crowded as it normally is,” he said.

Sat Dec 12th  Further Holdup!   Virgin has now decided to hold off with its second brand new ship, the Valiant Lady, until Nov 2021.   Altogether, the 100,000-ton liner will be 16 months late in entering service.

Looking Ahead!  What a rollercoaster of a year 2020 has been. We are beyond excited to put 2020 in the rearview mirrorand look forward to a better and brighter year in 2021. One of the things to look forward to is over a dozen new cruise ships being completed and ready for service.

Below:   Poster for Canadian Pacific’s Empress of Britain, 1931

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