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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”