CRUISING, CRUISE SHIPS & THE CORONA VIRUS. July 24, 2020
CRUISING, CRUISE SHIPS & THE CORONA VIRUS:
NEWS & UPDATES
from Bill Miller
Mon Jul 20th Repatriation: The global logistics challenge of trying to change over crew amid constantly changing and inconsistent travel, quarantine and health regulations in key supplying and entry hubs, as well as a lack of commercial flights, has affected an estimated 40% of the world’s 1 ½ million seafarers.
Disposal: A week ago, mighty Carnival Corporation made the quite surprising announcement that it was to undergo its most significant disposal spree in its history – a direct result of the current Covid pandemic. “We have aggressively shed less efficient ships,” said CEO Arnold Donald, on Carnival’s business update call on Friday 10th July. It was already known that the company had sold Pacific Aria and Pacific Dawn to CMV for delivery in 2021, and Costa Atlantica and Costa Mediterranea for its joint venture in China. Costa Victoria and Oceana had already been announced as sold, the Victoria for breaking and the Oceana for further service. Speculation about which ships would follow knowing that another 7 were slated was rife.
Name Gross Tonnage Built Fate
AMSTERDAM 62,735grt 2000 to Fred Olsen
CARNIVAL FANTASY 70,367grt 1990 Scrap, Turkey
CARNIVAL INSPIRATION 70,367grt 1996 Scrap, Turkey
COSTA NEO ROMANTICA 56,769grt 1993 to Celestyal Cuises
COSTA VICTORIA 75,166grt 1996 Scrap in Italy
ROTTERDAM 59885grt 1997 to Fred Olsen
VEENDAM 55819grt 1996 Sold for further service
MAASDAM 55451grt 1993 Sold for further service
OCEANA 77449grt 1999 Sold for further service
With the 4 previously announced and the 9 above, that makes 13 ships in total disposed of, a 9% capacity drop. What is interesting is that some of the ships, notably the Carnival vessels and the Oceana, are members of a series of ships. In total there are 8 of the Carnival Fantasy class ships and the Oceana is one of 4 ships of the Sun Princess class. It is understood in the case of the Canival pair that they were sold off because of the lack of balconies that some other ships in the class had added later. It is not known at this point whether more ships will be sold but it cannot be ruled out. Prices for the sales have not been publicly released but in the announcement regarding the Amsterdam and Rotterdam to Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, it suggests a price of approx £15,000,000 ($19,000,000). This is an extremely low figure for ships of their age and size. If the others have been sold for similar values, it poses the question – why? Whilst capacity needs to be cut, it very much feels like Carnival have all but given these ships away. In the case of the Fred Olsen pair, it is known that they are even supporting the sale by providing credit to the buyer for them.
Below: Busy day at Nassau
Tue Jul 21st Biggest Yet … but Delayed: Citing the impact of the Corona virus pandemic, Royal Caribbean this week said its newest Oasis Class ship, Wonder of the Seas (below), would no longer begin operations in China in 2021. The line didn’t give a new timetable for the rollout of the vessel. But it is delayed, citing work stoppages and slow downs at the shipyard at St Nazaire.
But just in case you might like to know, the French-built Wonder will cost $1 ½ billion and be 1188 ft in length (1,000 ft longer than, say, the Titanic a century ago) and 228,000 tons. She will carry a maximum of 6,680 passengers and nicely looked after by 2,200 officers & crew. She will be the largest passenger ship yet built.
Cruise Style: Without guests sailing from US ports and a surge in COVID-19 cases in some parts of North America, the CEO of Carnival Corporation said it’s still not the right time to be releasing onboard health protocols.
Review & Projection! Thirty million cruise passengers were to have put to sea this year before the onset of the Clovis pandemic. Based on 2019 traffic, these would have been distributed as follows by source:
With the loss of as much as 70% of 2020’s traffic, we must now ask ourselves could the world total drop below 15 million, or even more than that this year? Then, when the recovery comes, are there any bets of whether 2021 might even come above 20 million. Many have rebooked but average load factors may be much lower next year.
Another Blow & Sad Loss! In a statement on Monday evening, UK legal administrators announced the cruise line CMV, Cruise & Maritime Voyages, had “ceased trading with immediate effect”. Its international sales offices in Australia, France, the United States and a subsidiary, Trans Ocean in Germany have also been closed. The CMV fleet, idle since last March, is presumably to go to the auction block (and then most likely to the scrappers):
Current CMV Fleet:
- Astor (590 Berths, 1987)
- Vasco da Gama (1,266 Berths, 1992)
- Columbus (1,400 Berths, 1988)
- Magellan (1,250 Berths, 1985)
- Marco Polo (800 Berths, 1965)
The company was due to get two Carnival Corp. ships in 2021 as P&O Australia’s Pacific Aria and Pacific Dawn were set to transfer.
CMV had also been operating the Astoria (the former Stockholm, etc dating from 1948) but under charter. The 72-yr old ship has since been returned to her Portugese owners and, in a last report, was laid-up at Lisbon. Meanwhile, the 55-yr old Marco Polo (below) – the former Soviet Alexandr Pushkin – is one of the world’s oldest cruise ships.
Below: The Magellan is the former Holiday of Carnival Cruise Lines
Wed Jul 22nd Extensions! While he normally commands ferries & pleasure boats in & around New York harbor, our good friend Capt Justin Zizes reports some European shipyard news & updates: “The German shipyard Meyer Werft (below), which has built its reputation over the past 30 years as a leader in cruise ship construction, is placing most of its employees on an extended summer holiday as it works to manage its business in the post-COVID-19 environment. Since March, Meyer Werft has been facing the problems in the cruise industry, which many feared was placing its strong order book in jeopardy. A spokesperson for Meyer Werft based in Papenburg, Germany confirmed that the regular summer holiday for employees in July, which typically lasted two to three weeks, is being extended to six weeks until the end of August. However, some employees, as well as partners and suppliers, will continue to work on some projects.”
Below: The 1132-ft long Queen Mary 2 in dry dock at Hamburg in 2018
Carnival Able To Ride Out Another Year! Although the cruise industry hopes to rebound much sooner, Carnival Corporation revealed this week that it could, if necessary, go another year without sailing. Obviously, Carnival — like all cruise lines — is working hard to get passengers back on ships sooner rather than later. But doing so safely is their top priority, and right now, there are numerous roadblocks to that happening. With that in mind, Carnival Corporation is doing everything in its power to ride out the storm. “We are aggressively shedding assets while actively deferring new ship deliveries,” said Carnival’s president.
Substitute Vacations! Without broad and comprehensive federal assistance, industry leaders fear the travel sector will remain in depression long after a recovery begins. Spikes in COVID-19 infections and subsequent re-closures in several U.S. states are certain to further delay a rebound in travel, which supported employment for one in 10 Americans before the pandemic but has since lost more than half of its 15.8 million related jobs.
And the latest polling data confirms that recent news has considerably worsened Americans’ overall feeling about returning to travel. The percentage of poll respondents who say they will travel this fall has slid to 36%, down from 50% in early June, according to Destination Analysts. Meanwhile, Harris Poll figures show that: 58% of leisure travelers say they will substitute vacations with “staycations” for the remainder of the year. While 43% say they miss flying on a plane, only 37% say they feel safe flying right now. 74% of business travelers are more likely to substitute business meetings that require flying with virtual meetings for the remainder of the year. More than three-quarters (77%) of respondents support states enacting mandatory 14-day quarantines for out-of-state travelers from states with a high resurgence of COVID-19
Thu Jul 23rd: the Bahamas has long been a very popular cruise destination, especially for those 3 & 4 night cruises from Florida. But now, it too is all on hold. The Bahamian Govt announced over the weekend that the country will block American tourists from entry as U.S. Corona virus numbers continue to soar.
Below: High above Nassau
Heading Home! From southern England, our loyal reporter Nick Braddock reports that the Queen Elizabeth is now nearing UK waters & will join the Queen Mary 2 & Queen Victoria. From far-off Manila via Suez, the QE has been traveling at a reduced speed of 12 ½ knots.
Cargo Shipping: A number container cargo lines are cutting sailings due to low demand during the pandemic. Hong Kong-based Orient Overseas Line, as an example, has cut over a half-dozen voyages on the normally busy Asia-Europe run.
Latest News from Carnival: As part of Carnival’s 50th birthday in 2022, a November 2022 delivery date for the unnamed, second Excel-class ship has been confirmed from the Meyer Turku shipyard. The sister ship to Mardi Gras will showcase many of her features, including BOLT, the first roller coaster at sea. In other news and as part of Carnival Corporation’s recent announcement to reduce its overall capacity and focus on ships with upgraded features, the Carnival Fantasy and Carnival Inspiration have been sold (to shipbreakers). Meanwhile, the Carnival Fascination and Carnival Imagination will move to long term lay-up status, with no specific timeline identified for a return to operation.
More News from England: With the acquisition of the Holland-America Rotterdam and Amsterdam, our good friend & very keen ocean liner & cruise historian (and author) Clive Harvey reports: “Yes, a great deal of uncertainty in the cruise industry. The collapse of CMV is sad for the British cruise market, but I really think that they had tried to expand far too quickly — and the current situation did not help of course. But there is good news too with Fred. Olsen’s acquisition of Rotterdam and Amsterdam. But I am almost sure that it means the departure of the former Royal Viking sisters [Fred Olsen operates the Black Watch & Boudicca]. But as much as we love them, we have to remember that they are almost 50 years old and they just cannot go on forever. They have served their owners very well. Myself, I am pleased to have sailed on them several times!”
Below: Clive’s fine photo of the 47-yr old Boudicca, the former Royal Viking Sky
Isolated & Lonely! Hundreds of thousands of seafarers are finding themselves stranded at sea, sometimes for over a year, and with no end in sight, as a result of COVID-19 travel restrictions. The uncertainty and long spells away from home are taking a heavy mental toll. “I am tired, exhausted and hopeless. I have been at sea for 12 months already. And I don’t know when I can see my kids and family. It’s very frustrating,” reported a crew member.
Waiting! Raphael (not his real name) has no idea how long he will be stuck on his ship. A 33-year-old seafarer from the Philippines, with two children, he was scheduled to fly home in April, but the pandemic put paid to his plans: airports have been closed and his company decided not to relieve him and eight other colleagues, some of whom have spent up to 14 months onboard. “This is the fourth time my home leave has been cancelled. I don’t know what’s going on. We deliver the cargo and the goods, but they close the borders for us.” Because of the uncertainty, Raphael says, the atmosphere on the ship is tense, and he fears that there will be an impact on safety, because of the fragile mental health of the crew: “Our minds are in different worlds”, he says. “It’s like walking on thin air. All we want is to come home!”
Uncertainty! Another crewmember, Matt’s contract is well overdue, and most of his crew members are in a similar situation: “The officers have 10-week rotation contracts, but most of us have now been onboard for 6 months or more. It is even worse for the crew: they’re on nine-month contracts, but I have one crewman who has been onboard for 15 months. Waiting at home for Matt are two children, aged eight and twelve, and the separation is proving difficult for all members of his family. “I’ve done long contracts before, but this is different. It has a psychological effect, as there is no end in sight. It affects family life a lot more. My children are always asking when am I coming home. It’s difficult to explain to them.”
Physical & Mental Fatigue: As time has gone on, Matt and the crew have gone through a range of emotions, and the mental health burden is growing. “I think we’ve been through all the emotions. A lot of anger in the beginning as we had to watch all the borders close. We understood the health risk, and we could understand why it was happening. We tried to remain hopeful, but as time has passed it seems like little has changed. We are hanging in here, but we are tired and mentally fatigued.”
Isolation on the high seas: A former naval officer added and recognized the challenges experienced by stranded crew members.“The sea can be tough. When the weather’s bad, it’s pretty awful. Also, those onboard are living for several months in the same place that they’re working. And these days the industry is highly efficient, so a container ship can be unloaded and loaded in a few hours. Ports are now some distance from town centers and, in the case of oil tankers, you might be discharging or taking on oil, at an off-shore facility. So, seafarers have fewer opportunities to disembark than they did in the past. It can be very isolating.”
Silent & Waiting: Three of Cruise & Maritime Voyages’ cruise fleet (below) now bankrupt and awaiting auction and sale over in the UK.
Sat Jul 24th: Sad sight! The mighty Sovereign, once the largest liner yet built, and her sister Monarch together at the scrappers at Aliaga in Turkey. Farewell to two great passenger ships!
Not This Year! I was booked to speak on the first three weeks, from Miami to Los Angeles via Panama, onboard Viking Ocean’s 2020-21 world cruise. Departure was mid-December. But, alas, it too has now been shelved – instead, the assignment was passed along to the ’21-22 world cruise. The cruise line’s 136-day itinerary is one of the longest in the world and visits a diverse range of coasts. Next year’s itinerary will visit 56 ports in 27 different countries on six different continents and include overnight visits in 11 cities around the world. And all for fares beginning at $50,000.
SUNNY DAYS ASHORE IN TROPIC PORTS …
AND THEN A RETURN TO “HOME” – YOUR SHIP!