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From Bill Miller

Update:  September 2021

Wed Sep 8th Virgin Voyages:  The Scarlet Lady has set sail from Portsmouth, England, after spending the summer in the UK. According to a press release, the 2,800-passenger Virgin Voyages ship is now heading across the Atlantic to New York. Portsmouth International Port said that over 8,000 passengers enjoyed the Summer Soiree Series, which saw Virgin Voyages launch its world’s first commercial sailing from Portsmouth.

Carnival announced today that it has an agreement with the city of New Orleans and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide the Carnival Glory for first responders housing through Sep 18th.  The same ship is seen below on the right and berthed at New York.

Saga Cruises: A report from recent passengers: “At last we are back to cruising.  We did not quite believe it until we were on board and set sail.  It is lovely to be back on the Spirit of Discovery and she is as good as ever.  We are only 670 guests and 570 crew – the sort of ratio we like! The food is wonderful and the specialty restaurants are out of this world. Drinks are included, but we must stop having wine with lunch – just too decadent! 

We had to be tested before being allowed out of the car and to board. It was very well organised. We have to wear masks around the ship and in the theatre, but take them off when seated in a bar or at a restaurant table. They have installed very smart marble wash-basins in the restaurants and you have to wash your hands on entry. Everyone had to be tested again on Sunday before being allowed to dock in Gibraltar, but that was all fine. We did not get off. You can only get off to go on a ship’s tour. We have booked for 6 of the 8 ports we are going to as they are included and it will make a change. Probably nothing new!

It is really lovely to be sailing again after 21 months. The age on board is very high. I think it is just those trying to offload some of their cash and feel that at this stage in their life they might as well take a risk. We were talking to a 97-year-old in the queue to book for the fish restaurant, which is very popular. We have a few friends on board and have met some pleasant people. We enjoyed our lunchtime fish & chips in the open air at the back of the ship with Algeria just 20 miles away.”

Below:   Stephen Card’s splendid painting of sistership Spirit of Adventure

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Thu Sep 9th Queen Mary:  Closed for 18 months due to Covid and in declining condition, the 85-year-old Queen Mary has been described in local Long Beach, California press as being “shipwrecked!”  Another report headlined:  “A little-known real estate investment firm had big plans for the Queen Mary, but now they owe hundreds of millions to an array of creditors—and the fate of the city’s most famous asset is more uncertain than ever.”

Ritz-Carlton:  New luxury cruise line Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection has delayed its foray into the industry again — for the fifth time — citing shipyard issues due to COVID-19.  “While we are eager to welcome guests onboard the Evrima, we have had to reevaluate the timing of our first voyage given the rapidly changing circumstances and their impact on the Evrima’s completion.” 

Disney:  Have you always wanted to sail on a Disney Cruise Line ship that wasn’t overrun with kids? Now’s your chance! The family-focused cruise operator last Friday announced plans to only allow passengers vaccinated for COVID-19 on an upcoming Disney Wonder sailing through the Panama Canal. That means that — assuming vaccination eligibility rules don’t change in the coming weeks  — no children under the age of 12 would be allowed on the voyage. Children under the age of 12 currently are not eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.

European Ferries are showing increases in passenger traffic with relaxation of some Covid restrictions.

Holland America:  By late spring 2022, Holland America Line will have a complete fleet back to cruising with the restart of operations for the Noordam, Oosterdam and Westerdam. The Noordam will restart with a March 14th 2022, cruise in Japan; Oosterdam will begin cruising May 1st  in the Mediterranean, and Westerdam will return to service May 8th  in Alaska.

Fri Sep 10th Carnival Corp is rolling out a new initiative making pre-cruise COVID-19 testing more convenient and accessible for travelers on Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and Seabourn. Testing will be available at more than 1,500 Quest Diagnostics patient service centers and retail pharmacy testing locations throughout the US. 

Currently, all passengers, regardless of vaccination status, must present a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than three days before their embarkation, along with additional health and safety requirements. Beginning Sept. 13, in accordance with US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention directives, all vaccinated travelers must present a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than two days before their embarkation. For example, if a cruise leaves on Saturday, the test should be scheduled the Thursday before embarking.

MSC Cruises:  The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cleared the MSC Divina for its conditional sailing certificate following the completion of a simulated voyage last week. This will make MSC Cruises’ 11th ship to resume cruising globally and the brand’s first to sail from Port Canaveral.

Crystal replaces 2022 world cruise with its 2022 “Grand Voyage, Caribbean Idylls & Mediterranean Masterpieces,” a 132-night odyssey on the Crystal Serenity from Miami to Los Angeles, Jan 17th  to May 29th.

Stockholm:  Unlike many other European ports, the port of Stockholm has stayed open throughout the pandemic.

Mon Sep 13th  TUI Cruises, the big German cruise line,  has stated that it is suspending the Asian deployment of the Mein Schiff 5, which was due to start in Nov 2021, and taking the 2,500-passenger vessel out of service.  The 100,000-ton ship will initially take a break starting at the end of Oct. The reason as reported:  “We at TUI   cannot start the Asia season with Mein Schiff 5 in Nov as planned due to the ongoing corona-related travel restrictions in the region. The Mein Schiff 5 was previously scheduled for a season in Asia through May 2022. Sailings to/from Dubai, Singapore, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Japan were part of the schedule.”

Virgin Cruises’ Scarlet Lady has arrived in New York on its first call and is berthed at the Cape Liberty cruise terminal in Bayonne, New Jersey (but later moved to Pier 88 in Manhattan and therefore the first cruise ship to berth there in some 18 months).

Wed Sep 15th Return!  The cruising restart has seen a positive trend over the past few months. Fueled by various countries and markets reopening ports to cruise vessels, the industry saw an unprecedented number of vessels resuming revenue operations around the world over the summer. As the restart continues, 205 ships are expected to be in guest operations by the end of September. This number means that, for the second month in a row, nearly half of the entire global cruise fleet is in operation.  The combined fleets of the nearly 90 active cruise lines currently account for approximately 410 cruise ships. After significant growth over the previous months, 190 cruise ships were sailing with paying guests by Aug 31st. With 15 additional ships entering service through the end of September, the active cruise fleet is growing nearly 8 percent this month.

AIDA Cruises has denied that it had plans to use its 2,030-passenger ship AIDAbella (below) as a ”quarantine ship” for Covid-infected patients.

Egypt:  Said to have been sold (just last year) to Egyptian buyers for use as a floating hotel in the Middle East (lastly, at Jeddah), the former Albatros (seen below) – operated by Germany’s Phoenix Reisen – now has gone instead to Indian scrap merchants.   Under the temporary name of Tros, the 28,500-ton ship has sailed off to the beaches of Alang (in late July) and to the wrecking crews.   The 48-year-old ship is the former Royal Viking Sea of Royal Viking Line.  Altogether, the 850-passenger ship had a varied life – in the mid ‘80s, she became the Royal Odyssey for Royal Cruise Line, then Norwegian Star for NCL and later for their shortlived Australian arm called Norwegian Capricorn Lines, then did a stint in lay-up as the renamed Crown, but then re-emerged on charter to Star Cruises (in the Far East) and then went over to the shortlived Spanish Cruise Lines as the Crown Mare Nostrum.  The Germans took her in 2004.  

Norwegian Cruise Lines: More and more, cruise lines are coming up with different, even unusual itineraries.   How about Christmas-New Year in southern Africa?  NCL’s Norwegian Jade (below) will sail on a 12-night itinerary from   Cape Town (South Africa) and then call at  Mossel Bay (South Africa), Port Elizabeth (South Africa), Richard’s Bay (South Africa), Durban (South Africa), Luderitz (Namibia) and Walvis Bay (Namibia).

Short Cruises!  Our good friend & grand cruise enthusiast Andy Hernandez wrote today:  “I’ve been on several short Bahamas cruises since the ships resumed service.  I did the MSC Meraviglia (below) recently and am going to sail on Freedom of the Seas in about 10 days. While it’s been sad to see these ships sailing almost empty, it’s sure nice to have the ship all to yourself!   The Meraviglia sailed with just 750 on board (capacity is about 5600).”

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And from over in England, our dear friend Maureen Ryan wrote:  “I disembarked the Queen Elizabeth yesterda – it was great to be back on board and everyone on the ship was so helpful and kind — had a lovely cabin, flowers, etc.  Embarkation in Southampton was very smooth and fast, complete with Covid test.  Ship went to Glasgow, Liverpool and Belfast and shore excursions were popular.  The staff on board went out of their way to be helpful — lovely atmosphere.”

Thu Sep 16th New York:  Our good & learned friend Brad Hatry reports:   “New York City plans to welcome cruise ships back to its Manhattan terminal starting in late September. The city’s Economic Development Corporation will allow the mega ships back to Big Apple berths for the first time since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. The agency expects about 50-60 cruise departures by the end of the city’s current fiscal year on June 30th 2022.”

Fri Sep 17th  Greece:  Our good friend Nikki Sepsas is one of the best lecturers on all the seas & one of the most knowledgeable.   Recently, he’s been in the Eastern Med and sent this report:  “I thought you might enjoy a look at what’s going on in the Med as I am 2 weeks into a 7-week lecture assignment with Seabourn.

Their newest ship, the Seabourn Ovation (seen below), began operations in July doing 7 day r/t cruises out of Piraeus. What is so nice is that guests who want to do back to back cruises can do 14 days without repeating the same ports. Rhodes is the only port featured on both their itineraries in the Greek isles.  Greece requires all arriving passengers to present a vaccination certificate. A Personal Locator Form (PLF) also required showing where you are the first 24 hours in country.  Seabourn embarkation also requires all guests to show a vaccination card, and an antigen test is administered at embarkation. In addition, all crew are fully vaccinated and they wear masks while in pubic areas. Guests are not required to wear them, but can do so if they choose.

Guests are happy to be traveling again and the crew are ecstatic about being back at work! Their enthusiasm and excitement are infectious! All ports are open to passengers. Masks are urged when in indoor venues (tavernas, etc) and required in cruise terminals. In addition, all guests and crew on the Ovation are tested every 7 days. Disembarking guests are given a printed copy of their test to present to the airlines for their return flight to the U.S. and at Immigration at their arrival airport as it is required for entry.

Have also seen ships of Celebrity, MSC, Costa, Viking, and others operating here in the eastern Med, even though numbers are far below capacity.  Bottom line is that cruise ships with fully vaccinated guests and crew are among the safest places to be today, especially in light of the spike in new cases in the US!”

Royal Caribbean’s newest and largest cruise ship, the 230,000-ton 6,800-passenger Wonder of the Seas, which was due to begin sailings from Shanghai, China, in early 2022, will now sail Caribbean and Mediterranean itineraries. Royal Caribbean, which restarted sailings from Singapore in late 2020 with the Quantum of the Seas, still has a presence in Asia. Due to COVID-19, however, China is currently not allowing cruises, so the line will relocate the Wonder of the Seas — the newest and largest in the line’s much-loved Oasis Class — to Fort Lauderdale, where it will begin a series of spring Caribbean voyages on March 4, 2022. Port calls will include Cozumel; St. Maarten; and San Juan, Puerto Rico, among others.

Out of the old shoebox:   

Below:  The Cunard Princess departing & the Vasco da Gama at her New York berth seen in the summer of 1989.

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