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July 13, 2022 SCRIBBLINGS

July 13, 2022

                                                    From Bill Miller 

June 2022

Sat Jun 11th:  Catch-up & review!   Over the past week, the Queen Victoria returned to service after a 2-year hiatus caused by Covid. … Seabourn as well MSC now have full fleets back in business. … Rules!  With news that the US Govt has now lifted pre-Covid testing before re-entering the country, the three cruise giants – Carnival, Royal Caribbean & Norwegian – are pressuring the Govt, namely the CDC, to drop the pre-cruise requirement currently placed at 48 hrs prior to sailing.  … Virgin Cruises have had their problems – including long delays caused by Covid.  Now comes word that their third $1 billion ship, the 100,000-ton Resilient Lady, will have a delay of at least six months before entering service.  Staffing problems is one of the reasons.  Virgin has reported it is successfully operating its first two Lady Ships, the Scarlet Lady and Valiant Lady, and looks forward to welcoming the Resilient Lady to its fleet early next year, with its fourth ship in the fleet, the Brilliant Lady, soon thereafter. For now, the 2,500-bed Resilient Lady will remain in Genoa at Fincantieri getting onboard work completed. 

Forty years ago!   Terry Foskett was chief purser on the legendary QE2, but also traveled in the Cunard flagship to the Falklands in the spring of 1982.   Today, he wrote of the ship’s return to Southampton on June 11th:  “QE2 returned to Southampton [seen below] to a rapturous welcome and greetings from HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother from the Royal Yacht Britannia. Karina and Jennie meet me at Queen Elizabeth II Terminal. A day I shall never forget. God bless all of you who sailed with us!”

Fine dining!  P&O-Orient Lines added two of the most important liners of the post-World War II generation in 1960-61.  The Oriana was the fastest passenger ship yet on the UK-Australia run while the Canberra was the largest.   Devotees were divided between their preferences between these two large and distinctive ships.   But from over in Shropshire in England, our dear & longtime friend Howard Franklin – who made dozens of voyages on P&O and the affiliate Orient Line ships – preferred the 2,100-passenger Oriana.   Recently, he reminded us that the Oriana had a nice addition:   the Silver Grill in her First Class quarters.   Howard noted, “Although the First Class Restaurant was on E Deck, there was also the Silver Grill on A Deck for those who preferred more exclusive dining. It had its own very modern china and silverware”.

Reductions!  Also from over in the UK, passenger ship, cruising & also ferry expert Matt Scudders shared some insightful news:  “Most cruise ships have been sailing at a fraction of their full loads. And I do not believe that it is just down to the lines themselves restricting loads – the special offers and pricing tell the real story.  Some lines are clearly suffering more than others from low bookings and the problem everyone is having getting staff. Virgin Voyages’ Resilient Lady is due to be delivered in 3 weeks, and make her maiden sailing in about 8. She has just had that maiden season put off for almost a year, even though she is basically finished.” 

He added, “Carnival have clear issues filling some ships too. They recently offered a 9 night cruise from Dover on a ship rerouted away from St Petersburg, for a starting price of £199. Similarly, Costa is definitely suffering with the Asian fleet unable to operate at all, and numerous other ships not back in service.  Fred Olsen’s Bolette was sailing under 50% full just a few weeks ago, with the line taking the chance to take a whole deck of cabins out of service. Oddly given that the ship has been with Fred and in service for coming up to a year, and she was theirs for a year before that, she is still far from finished, with work going on and derelict spaces around the ship. This particularly includes the kids club aft of the funnel, the side wings in the main restaurant and the suites lounge.” 

The Costa Diadema at Civitavecchia in a photo from Andy Hernandez

Matt concluded, “Anyone booking a new ship is definitely taking a risk. Newbuilds are being delayed and/or having cancelled inaugural voyages or seasons almost universally. For instance SH Vega, Disney Wish and Norwegian Prima (below) have all cancelled numerous inaugural voyages or the inaugural season. Seabourn Venture is also very very late (due next month).” 

Tue Jun 14thMoving forward!   Viking Ocean announced today that it is dropping pre-cruise Covid testing and onboard masks are now optional.   Viking also reports “exceptional” bookings for their near dozen 930-passenger ships.  

Wed Jun 15th:  Safety Recommendation!   In a feature story, a travel writer suggests the “safest” way to travel these days.  “Although the worst parts of the COVID-19 pandemic seem to be behind us, it’s understandable if you’re still hesitant to cruise right now. Apart from the usual logistics involved with cruising, you now must deal with new vaccination requirements, pre-cruise testing requirements and a slew of other mandates imposed by lines and the countries that cruise ships visit. You also may still be worried about the risk of getting COVID-19 on a cruise. If that describes you, I have a recommendation for a type of voyage that might just be the best there is for keeping you in a COVID-19-free bubble: A transatlantic voyage on Cunard Line‘s iconic Queen Mary 2.”

The writer concluded, “I’m currently sailing on the ship, a classic ocean liner that does week-long crossings between New York’s Red Hook terminal in Brooklyn and Southampton in the United Kingdom. Due to the nature of the voyage and the requirements for boarding, this could be not only one of the safest voyages right now but also one of the safest ways to travel, period!”

The Golden Age of Hollywood!  A grand collection of both Hollywood & theater memorabilia is going to the auction block.  The preview catalog is fascinating, but catching our eye was a signed photo from Bert Lahr as the cowardly lion from 1939’s classic The Wizard of Oz.   Minimum bid:   $12,000.

Thu Jun 16th Looking Ahead!   MSC’s huge and exciting MSC World Europa is due out in Dec and look how big cruise ship décor is evolving (below).   The nearly 206,000 gross ship will carry up to 6,762 passengers in 2,626 cabins, have a crew of 2,138 and measure 1092 ft from stem to stern.

Looking for something different – say Milwaukee to Antarctica?  For those looking to make up for travel time lost during the pandemic, Viking Cruises might have the answer. The cruise line recently announced two all-new “longitudinal” trips—moving north to south or south to north—where guests will travel between the Great Lakes and Antarctica over the course of 65 days. 

Passengers on the first sailing, called a “Longitudinal World Cruise I,” will meet in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Mar 2nd 2023, before flying to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in Argentina, to board the Viking Octantis and head directly to Antarctica for a week. From there, it’s back across the Drake Passage and up the coast of Chile, where blue-tinged glaciers, dizzying fjords, and national parks are on the itinerary through the end of the first month. Then it’s onwards to Peru, Ecuador, through the Panama Canal and the Gulf of Mexico, before enjoying East Coast cities like Fort Lauderdale, Charleston, and New York City. The final two weeks explore various Canadian coastal cities on the St. Lawrence River and communities in the Great Lakes region before wrapping in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on May 5th. 

The second sailing (appropriately called “Longitudinal World Cruise II”) is essentially the same, but in reverse and on the Octantis’s sister ship, the Viking Polaris. The few alterations include embarkation in Duluth, Minnesota (on Sep 12th) and some changes in the Great Lakes and Canada ports (for example, it spends time in Georgian Bay, Canada, while its predecessor visits Detroit, Michigan). The second sailing wraps up on Nov 12th (for those counting, that’s 71 days later). 

Broadcast!  Chris Frame is a top-class maritime author, cruise journalist & shipboard speaker.  From down in his native Australia, he writes:  “I’ve now been back to sea aboard Pacific Explorer. So wonderful!”  But two years ago, in the height of the pandemic, we looked at the largely paralyzed cruise industry.  Here’s a look back;

The Saga Rose in Sydney harbor (Mar 2005)

News desk!  The luxurious Crystal Endeavour has gone to the auction block and been grabbed by Silversea Cruises.  Meanwhile, the Crystal Symphony has reportedly been sold for some $25 million to an unknown British company called CSY.   But the Crystal Serenity, priced at $100 million, had yet to be sold off as of today.  And within the vast Genting Hong Kong dispersal, the 2nd of the huge, 9,000-passenger pair has been incomplete at the bankrupted MV Werften shipyard in Germany.   The hull of the proposed but unnamed 208,000-ton ship will now be scrapped.  Some components and the engines will be sold off.    … Within the huge Carnival fleet and like checkers on a board, the Costa Luminosa is now moving over to Carnival Cruise Lines.  

PS:   By late day, the 19-yr-old Serenity was sold off as well – for $103 million.  Again, actual owners uncertain – masked as something called CSY.