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from Bill Miller
Mar 7th  2021

Mon Mar 1st Smiling Faces!  Each year, the United Nations publishes the World Happiness Report — 10 countries with the best quality of life and happiness. Number 10 on the list is the country of Luxembourg. Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands are also on the list as are Norway, New Zealand, Iceland, Switzerland and Denmark. Do you notice a pattern here?  The Scandinavians and Europeans dominate.

Reservations!  Eager to be aboard one of the very first cruises when cruising resumes in North America? You’ll be lucky if you get a cabin.

When cruise lines initially restart operations out of U.S. ports, presumably later this year, they are likely to only restart with a few ships, each operating at only partial capacity.  That’ll create a squeeze on the number of available cabins that could make it hard for would-be cruisers to find space.  Indeed, the squeeze could be so sharp that some people who currently have bookings on ships for later this year might find their reservations canceled out from under them due to limited capacity, so a top industry executive suggested.

Looking Ahead!  When will cruising resume in earnest in North America and elsewhere around the world?

The answer is relatively simple, one of the cruise industry’s top executives suggested on Thursday: When case counts of COVID-19 come down to manageable levels. “I think the prevalence of the disease in our own country and around the world will be the greatest indicator of when we can resume cruising,” Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings president and CEO Frank Del Rio told Wall Street analysts during a conference call to discuss quarterly earnings.

Looking Ahead!  Ritz Carlton will enter the luxury cruise market in July with their first ship, the 298-bed, Spanish built Evrima (below).   The super yacht-like ship will cruise the Med in summer, the Caribbean & Central America in winter.  

World Cruises:    The market for long & even longer and expensive around-the-world cruises is at a high.   Just look at a few of these voyages scheduled for early 2023:

Oceania Insignia 179 days/96 ports

Princess Coral Princess 107 days/44 ports

Regent Seven Seas Mariner 143 days/72 ports

Costa CostaDeliziosa 116 days/49 ports

Viking Ocean Viking Neptune 137 days/58 ports

And we haven’t mentioned the likes of Cunard, Seabourn, Crystal, Silversea, Holland America, Saga, P&O, Fred Olsen & still others.   And also that the longest of all of these circumnavigations on Oceania sold (700 berths) in 7 hours!

Tue Mar 2nd Out in California:   Some readers are becoming increasingly worried over the future of the 85-year-old Queen Mary.  Silent, empty, largely unlit, no lionger sounding its mighty whistle & all but locked tight in this era of Covid, her operators have gone bust and so the future for the legendary & beloved ex-Cunarder is looking cloudy & gray at the least.   The 81,000-ton ship is actually owned by the City of Long Beach, but it is dire need of costly repairs & improvements.    

Theme Cruises:   Over the years, there has been just about every type of theme cruising from Big Band to poker to motorcycling.  But something rather special:  a salute to TV’s iconic Golden Girls. A new 2022 Golden Girls theme cruise promises to provide the same caftan-filled schedule of costume parties, trivia events, panels with Golden Girls screenwriters, historians and cast family members and game shows. There will also be a 100th birthday bash for star Betty White, with the requisite cheesecake.   The Golden Girls Fan Theme Cruise will sail on Celebrity Apexon Jan 3rd 2022. 

Inside Cabins seem to be falling out of favor in the post-covid telescope.   Once highly desired by budget-watching travelers, the demand now seems to be for daylight and, of course, the possibility of easily accessible fresh air.   Some cruisers recall tales of passengers in inside rooms during covid outbreaks and having to remain in them for days and even weeks.  

Wed Mar 3rd Royal Caribbean’s newest ship Odyssey of the Seas is set to debut in May with departures from Israel but only with all passengers and crew over the age of 16 and of course vaccinated.

Words from the Chairman of Royal Caribbean:   “Finally, we are beginning to see the light of day”.   Yes, better days are ahead!

Australia has extended international cruise ship ban until Jun 17th.

Princess Cruises continues to review and assess its operations following the recent UK Government announcement on the roadmap to ease lockdown and related international travel restrictions. The company is extending the pause of its UK-based cruise vacations, sailing roundtrip from Southampton, through Sep 25th  on Sky Princess, Regal Princess (below) and Island Princess.  For UK guests, Princess Cruises will launch a series of new short cruises departing in late summer on Regal Princess and Sky Princess from Southampton that will go on sale later this month. 

Thu Mar 4th British Ports Association (BPA) calls on UK government to instill confidence in ferry industry as country claws its way out of lockdown.  Analysis of the UK Department of Transport’s 2020 passenger data by the BPA has shown that the UK experienced the lowest number of short-sea passenger numbers since 1962. The figures represent the greatest year-on-year fall since records began in 1952.

P&O Cruises has announced in a press release that it will be offering a series of short-break and week-long UK cruises as “the ultimate escape staycation” in summer 2021.  P&O’s 3,000-passenger Britannia is seen below.  

Virgin Voyages The Scarlet Lady, the $1 billion cruise ship which has still not had a maiden voyage (after over twelve months),  will now sail  on July 1 as the new cruise brand has cancelled sailings through June.  Her second sister, the Valiant Lady, has also been in holding pattern.  

Fincantieri, the Italian shipbuilder and the busiest creator of cruise ships, is back to work and in almost full stride.   With over 100 cruise ships on their worldwide order book, Fincantieri has the immediate chore to build nearly two dozen of them in the next 2-3 years.  

Cash Burn!  The numbers are staggering!  Carnival’s monthly average cash burn rate for the fourth quarter 2020 was $500 million, which was slightly better than expected due to the timing of capital expenditures.  But now, the company expects the monthly average cash burn rate for the first quarter 2021 to be approximately $600 million.

Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean estimates its cash burn to be, on average, in the range of approximately $250 million to $290 million per month during a prolonged suspension of operations. 

As the cruise line starts returning its fleet into service, it has and will incur incremental spend as it brings the ships out of their various levels of la yup, returns the crew to the vessels, takes the necessary steps to ensure compliance with the recommended protocols and gears up its sales and marketing activities.

Finally, for the first quarter of 2021, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings said it expects its the average cash burn rate to temporarily remain elevated at approximately $190 million per month, or approximately $170 million per month excluding non-recurring debt modification costs, as it ramps down relaunch-related expenses and repatriates crew.

Super Luxury Yachts:   In a recent survey of the world’s most sumptuous large yachts, the classic Talitha was mentioned.   And you might agree – she looks like an ocean liner.

The Talitha is one of the world’s first super yachts with an exceptional pedigree. Originally penned by naval architects Cox & Stevens, leading designers of their day, she was built by Krupp in Kiel, Germany.  First known as Reveler, she was delivered in 1929 to Russell Algar, chairman of the Packard Car Company. A string of high-profile owners ensued, including Sir John Paul Getty, Jr. in the 1930s, son of one of the richest men in the world at the time. Getty commissioned an exterior and interior redesign by late super yacht designer Jon Bannenberg and, in 1993, a full reconstruction was completed at the Devonport shipyard in Plymouth, U.K. Regular refits since, including a 1999 newly installed wheelhouse, has made Talitha successful as a popular charter yacht.

World Cruising!    After a year of isolation and lockdowns, four months on a ship is looking pretty good to cruise super fans.  The  pandemic was raging in July when Viking Ocean Cruises opened reservation books for a 136-day world cruise itinerary. The Christmas 2021 departure sold out in weeks. In December, in the midst of a second wave, the company opened a second cruise for the same period. It, too, quickly sold out.

The company had no trouble filling two of its nearly identical 930-passenger ships, Viking Star and Viking Neptune, even though the borders of many of the two dozen countries the plan to visit remain largely closed to international visitors. The only cabins that went unsold, in fact, were those blocked off for potential quarantine needs. Now the line is scrambling to put together an additional around-the-world itinerary starting in 2023.

Luggage!   Are you tired of hauling luggage to & from your cruise?  Well, the Carnival Pride hosting a charter “all-nude” cruise in 2022.  Potentially that’s some 2,100 guests.   But will there be formal nights & a captain’s dinner?

Fri Mart 5th Forecasts!  Having carried an estimated 5.7 million passengers mostly before the industry shut down in 2020, compared to 27.8 million in 2019, the cruise lines will have the capacity to carry 31.7 million passengers in 2022 and, still growing,  that will turn to 38.7 million passengers by 2027.  

More Royal Caribbean News!  Royal Caribbean seems to be ramping up its efforts to start sailing, and it looks like the cruise line wants to do this sooner rather than later.  With an extended season in Singapore, due to the incredible success of Quantum of the Seas in the city-state and Royal Caribbean announced this week it will homeport its newest vessel, the 5,400-bed Odyssey of the Seas,in Israel.  And if you thought that it looked like that would be it from the cruise giant. Well, not so.   Rumors are about that RCI is looking at Cozumel as another start-up cruise base port.   But for now, stay tuned!

Saga Cruises has announced that it is moving its operation restart date from May 4 to Jun 27th, in line with the British government’s roadmap out of lockdown.  

Seabourn’s upcoming, luxury 140-day world cruise that costs at least $67,000 is selling fast.  

Shorter Itineraries:  Condensed cruises can still pack a punch with stops at some of the world’s most exciting ports — even on itineraries of just a few days. Cruise lines are planning a comeback this year, after rethinking safety protocols and collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention on ways to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 onboard. Masks and social distancing will be standard practice, and the companies are working toward onboard bubbles. Guests will only be allowed to go on ship-sponsored shore excursions and will have to submit to frequent testing.

Helping the cause is a shift toward shorter sailings, with many 2021 trips slated to last a week or less. But these new micro-itineraries don’t skimp on the cultural sites or unforgettable ports of call.  Ponant Cruisex (below), for example, will offer a four-night trip in August, sailing from Valletta, Malta, to Venice, with stops in Kotor, Montenegro and Dubrovnik, Croatia. And thanks to a new partnership with the Louvre, curators from the museum will be aboard a July 13–20 sail through Greece’s Cycladic islands, offering expert talks.

Azamara is also focusing on Greece, with six- and seven-night round trips out of Piraeus, the cruise port for Athens. These itineraries pack in islands including Mykonos, Patmos, and Santorini, as well as a stop at Ephesus, in Turkey. After canceling its Alaska cruises for 2020, Holland America was, at press time, preparing for a big return. This year, the line had planned to add seven-day trips between Vancouver and Whittier, on Prince William Sound, that would’ve included visits to Juneau and Ketchikan. Those trips were scrapped on Feb 24th, but other Holland sailings around Alaska that depart from Seattle are still a go.

The newest Silversea ship, the Silver Moon, is set to make its debut in the Mediterranean this year. A series of six-night trips between Barcelona and Lisbon, scheduled for May and August, will focus on Iberian food and wine, with excursions dedicated to cava, tapas and sherry. Windstar will also call at ports in Spain, with an October sailing aboard the Wind Star (below)  from Rome to Barcelona that visits both Mallorca and Menorca, as well as Corsica and Elba — all in just six days.

Below:  From my old photo box – The brand new, inbound  United States passing her fleetmate, the departing America  (Aug 1952)

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