LIVES OF THE LINERS: CRUISING & CRUISE SHIPS & COVID OCT 16, 2021

LIVES OF THE LINERS: CRUISING & CRUISE SHIPS & COVID OCT 16, 2021

From Bill Miller

Update:  October 15th 2021

Fri Oct 1  Carnival Update: Arnold Donald, president and CEO of Carnival Corporation, described 2020 as a “trying but inspiring time” during last week’s “State of the Cruise Industry” panel in Miami Beach. Donald called 2020 transformative, and now has his sights set on the recovery. “We know where the road is headed and the road is headed toward a very bright future … but the road does have potholes and detours in it. It has been choppy and complicated,” said Donald, noting the Carnival brand had 11 ships back in service at 70 percent occupancy.  Across the corporation, the cruise brands in service for Carnival Corporation are averaging 68 percent occupancy, he noted.

Below:  The Carnival Glory berthed in nighttime St Thomas by fine photographer Andy Hernandez

American Queen Steamboat Co and Victory Cruise Lines have joined and become American Queen Voyages.
Cruising:  Staggering!  2020’s cruise passenger count plummeted to 5.8 million globally due to the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, an 81% decrease from the 29.7 million in 2019.
Below:   The AIDAmar in dry dock at Hamburg.

Onboard the Crystal SymphonyThere was a small covid outbreak onboard earlier this week and our dear friend George Chandler was aboard and was loyally “on duty” as one of our agents.  He reported, “Just had an update [from Thu Sep 30th] on the covid situation, heard at the front desk this morning, that the 5 people who tested positive have remained in Bermuda under quarantine and the 21 people they were in contact were retested and remain negative, and were returned to the ship on Monday. Otherwise, now heading back to NYC under cloudy skies.”
Sat Oct 2nd   Portugal:  Lisbon is officially back in business as the port and it is expecting 45 cruise calls in October following 13 calls in September.

Sun Oct 3rd Carnival Cruise Line unveiled a unique two week cruise to Greenland from Baltimore in 2023 a week ago.  A big hit!    It sold out in 24 hrs and so the Company has scheduled a second.  The cruises will be aboard the Carnival Legend.  

New Generation of Cruise Ships:   You can ride a roller coaster on the new Carnival Mardi Gras (below) or visit the tattoo parlor on Virgin’s  Scarlet Lady (bottom below) or munch in gourmet specialty restaurants on the likes of Spanish octopus with sunchokes and muhammara, hanger steak with mint and anchovies or goat cheese polenta with fancy stuff toppings.   Or  reach into your bank account and book passage  in an $11,000-a-day penthouse on Regent.  Yes, cruising – and the resumption of cruising – has moved to yet higher dimensions.   
Sun Oct 4th India’s Narcotics Control Bureau has busted a rave party onboard a cruise ship off the coast of Mumbai. A team of NCB officials seized drugs such as cocaine, hashish and MDMA during the raid onboard Cordelia Cruise Line’s Empress.Passenger Preferences:  We find it interesting how cruise travelers prefer one ship over another – and sometimes within the same cruise line.  For example, our dear friend & frequent fellow traveler Rosemary Barnhardt wrote to us recently:  “We love Crystal Cruises.  But  Lee and I still so much prefer the subdued beauty of the Crystal Symphony [seen below at Pier 88, New York] to her rather bright-colored near-sister, the Crystal Serenity.”
Mon Oct 4th China:  The 930-passenger Zhao Shang Yi Dun – formerly known as the Viking Sun of Viking Ocean Cruises – has become the first cruise ship to resume commercial voyages with guests in China. The ship has set sail on an eight-day “Charming South China Sea” cruise departing from Shenzhen, sailing to Sanya and then returning to Shenzhen.  The ship combines European and Chinese elements to bring guests “diversified cultural and artistic entertainment programs,” according to the press release.Onboard, China Merchants Viking Cruises and Shanghai Wenguang Performing Arts Group SMG Live have created unique shows for the Star Theater onboard. These shows combine original Broadway classic musical tracks and drama performances that integrate elements like dance and audience interaction. Each voyage will also have different guest performers that will bring “surprise performances” to the guests. Additionally, the Zhao Shang Yi Dun offers onboard lectures on culture, art, natural sciences and food and has 2,000 hand-picked books available in the ship’s several public reading areas.Storylines, the upcoming private residence cruise line, has introduced a new collection of upscale homes at sea. The company said that it previously provided more affordable entry-level options into the condo ship market, with the vast majority of homes being studio and one-bedroom units in the 237 to 754 sq. feet range starting around $350,000. However, the largest two-story penthouse residences – at 1,529 sq. feet and $8M – were in short supply, and there were many consumer requests for intermediate two and three-bedroom options. To facilitate that, Storylines said that it has reconfigured some smaller residences to create 84 new larger homes ranging from 909-1417 sq. feet, with purchasing options starting from $2,455,000.

Tue Oct 5th Southampton, England: Our loyal friend Dave Smith  reports:   “Fresh out of a long refit & overhaul at Brest, the Queen Mary 2 has been docked at Berth 101 in Southampton docks since Friday.  She is docked next to Mayflower Park & the people taking photos & just seeing her are in the hundreds.  What an advert for Southampton & for Cunard!  But I don’t know how long she will be in Port.  In other local news, the 600 ft-plus chimney at Fawley Power station on Southampton Water will be felled at 7am on Sunday 31st October.  There is a mile & a half ‘stay outside zone’. We will have a great view from across the water at Hamble & Netley Abbey beaches.  They are going to build 1,500 homes there. And the Rank Hovis Building just inside Dock Gate 4 has been knocked down & they are going to build homes & leisure park there.”  Vintage Southampton in 1925 below – with the Aquitania, Homeric, Olympic & Araguaya at dock.

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Above:   Changing hands – a moodful view of Holland America’s Rotterdam & Amsterdam while laid-up and soon to be transferred (in 2020) to Fred Olsen Cruise Line.

Bits’n Pieces:  Brazil has officially agreed to a resumption of  cruising this winter (their summer, of course).  … MSC Cruises will restart, in Nov, 7-night North European cruises – calling at Hamburg, Amsterdam, Zeebrugge, Le Havre & Southampton – and each with thoughtful 12-hr stays in each port. … Boutique small-ship cruise line Atlas Ocean Voyages announced in late Sep that it will introduce complimentary medical insurance for all passengers on all voyages, covering unexpected travel, medical and legal coverage, along with emergency evacuation. … Billionaire tycoon Richard Branson, who never liked cruising, looks to “disrupt” the industry with his Virgin Voyages.
His Scarlet Lady was set for its first US sailing Oct 6th. … More news from Atlas:  This luxurious, adventure, small-ship cruise line is one of the first cruise lines to sail at full capacity after the successful Aug debut of its first ship.  One of the company’s chief executives was one of my 6th grade students in a Hoboken middle school back in the mid 1990s. 
  
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Wed Oct 6th Crystal Cruises:  Our dear friend Jim Brochu is aboard the Crystal Symphony, lecturing and adding much joy.  Happily, a message from one of our favorite Broadway & television stars:    “Absolutely wonderful trip so far. The boarding process [at Pier 88, New York] was incredibly easy and took about an hour from start to finish.  Actually, it was very strange to pull up at the pier on a departure day and see no cars in front of us.  There’s 174 people on the ship and everybody has been keeping their social distance to be safe.. But when we all got our negative results [from Bermuda Govt health testing] last night, the festivities broke out and hugs were plentiful. And making things even better — lots of old friends on board.”

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Above:   Holland America’s Koningsdam in Norway

Turkey:   The iconic funnel of the Grand Celebration, the former Celebration of Carnival Cruise Lines, came tumbling down this week at a scrap yard at Aliaga in Turkey.

Fri Oct 8th Carnival Cruise Line announced plans for more ship restarts for Jan and Feb, as it works towards the return of its full fleet sailing from U.S. homeports in the spring of 2022.   With 17 ships scheduled to be operating by year-end, the Carnival Sunshine will restart from Charleston on Jan 13th and Carnival Liberty from Port Canaveral on Feb 11th.

More Snippets:  Norwegian Cruise Lines said his full fleet of 28 ships will resume service by Apr 1st for the first time since the Covid pandemic. … Jamaica is eagerly preparing for the resumption of cruise calls by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines beginning in November as well as 110+ planned cruise ship visits from Oct through Apr 2022 by Carnival Cruise Line. … 
Sat Oct 9th More from Carnival:  With half its U.S. fleet back in service and sailing from six U.S. homeports – the most in cruising – Carnival Cruise Line has had an accomplishment-filled three months since resuming guest operations this summer. The company’s restart began on Jul 3rd 2021 when the Carnival Vista set sail from Galveston and since then 10 additional ships have resumed service, carrying 237,000 guests from homeports along the East and West Coasts and the Gulf of Mexico all while guests were devouring nearly half a million Guy Fieri burgers and enjoying 11,000 adrenaline-fueled rides on BOLT, the first roller coaster at sea that debuted on the new Mardi Gras last Jul 31st. But it’s more than just burgers and roller coaster rides, Carnival’s resumption of service has provided much-needed vacations to hundreds of thousands of loyal guests, a boost to the economies in its homeport and port-of-call communities and opportunities for its shipboard team members to support their families in 120 countries around the world.  

Sun Oct 10th Holland America:  Holland America Line is resuming service on the West Coast today as the Koningsdam welcomes guests back in San Diego. After a 19-month operational pause, the 2016-built vessel is starting a week-long California Coast voyage.

Mon Oct 11th Singapore:  Australia has finally announced the softening of some of its travel bans and so the likes of Cunard now plans a special long sailing next winter from Southampton to Singapore by the Queen Elizabeth.  

More Bits’n Pieces:  Ports such as Tampa & San Francisco are now planning resumption of cruise sailings.  … If you’re looking for an aviation-focused adventure, Singapore Airlines might have a good option for you. The airline operates the world’s longest flight, from New York-JFK to Singapore. But throughout the pandemic that 9,537-mile, 19-hour route has largely been off-limits to most travelers. Now, thanks to the recent news about Singapore relaxing entry requirements for vaccinated Americans, the flight is once again within reach for many.  It resumes Oct 19th. … 

Fri Oct 15th Update from Cunard:   A message from our dear & kind friend Capt Aseem Hashmi, master of the Queen Mary 2:  “I am currently aboard QM2 after just returning to the UK shores after a four- week dry dock in Brest (France). The dry dock was mainly for external projects, but the refit internally is in full swing. Almost 400 crew are joining this week so the ship is coming to life again!” 

At the podium:  Tentatively (well, it has to be tentative in these uncertain covid times), I am joining the Crystal Serenity as a speaker on Nov 1st-15th for two seven-night Miami/Bahamas cruises;   and then the Queen Mary 2 for her Christmas-New Year Caribbean cruise departing from New York on Dec 22nd, returning Jan 3rd.  

Out of the old shoebox:   

Below:  The Queen Mary 2 arriving at San Francisco for the first time in Jan 2007

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Thank you to all our readers, correspondents, those “agents” in faraway places!