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May 13: Costa shares food, Disney delay, Scenic allows credit use through 2023, Avalon details new health program, American extends flexible policy

CRUISE Avalon Envision Panorama Suite.jpg
Avalon Waterways vessels have open-air Panorama Suites, such as this one on Avalon Envision. Air is not circulated between staterooms
In addition to feature story coverage, here's a quick read of some of today’s coronavirus-related cruise news and announcements.

Keep checking back. This is being continuously updated.

Costa Smeralda surplus food goes to Marseille charities

Food from Costa Smeralda, docked at Marseille since mid-March, was delivered today to the Salvation Army Foundation and the Friday 13 Association, under strict sanitary control. This was done in conjunction with the Marseille Provence Cruise Club, port services and local authorities.

The donation added to the 28 tons of food already distributed to communities in Italy by Costa Cruises ships berthed there since April 6.

Cruise Club President Jean-François Suhas praised Costa's initiative to cut food waste which has allowed the Marseille food bank to collect donations directly from the ships to support needy people who are even more at risk due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Thanking its partners for their help, Costa's Raffaele d'Ambrosio, VP for France and Northern Europe, noted Marseille is at the center of the company's Mediterranean operations and said cruising can play a part to help society that is 'even more necessary at times when inequalities are increasing.'

Costa has put food at the heart of its sustainable development strategy by cutting waste and, since mid-2017, has donated surplus food to communities in need. The program started in Savona and was active in the ports of Civitavecchia, Bari, Palermo and Genoa, and extended to France (Marseille, Guadeloupe and Martinique) and Spain (Barcelona). In Marseille, this was halted by the pandemic, until today.

Disney halts cruises through July 27

Disney Cruise Line suspended departures through July 27. Passengers on affected sailings can get a refund or a future cruise credit to be used within 15 months of their original sailing date. Disney is notifying travelers and travel advisors with details.

Scenic extends suspension, allows credit use through 2023

The Scenic Group suspended all river/ocean cruises and land tours for its Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours, Emerald Cruises and Evergreen Cruises & Tours brands until Aug. 31. Scenic Eclipse sailings are suspended through Sept. 30.

'Although we see some easing of national lockdowns and progress being made on COVID-19 measures, the restrictions on travel still vary considerably from country to country, making it difficult to navigate. There is also a need for the further development of industry-wide health protocols that will truly work,' said Rob Voss, COO, The Scenic Group.

Scenic is offering future travel credits valued at 110% of monies paid for any affected river and cruise booking and 100% of monies paid for land tours, including Egypt. These may be applied to new or existing bookings on any of the brands through June 30, 2023, and the future travel credit is fully transferrable to another guest. Alternatively, a cash refund is available.

The Scenic Group is protecting travel advisor commissions on bookings for suspended cruises that have been paid in full and for the total amount of the future travel credits.

New 'Avalon Assurance' health protocols detailed

Avalon Waterways, which now hopes to return to service Sept. 1, rolled out a new 'Avalon Assurance' program that established a global health and safety team to give travelers peace of mind, MD Pam Hoffee said.

The river cruise operator’s program currently features seven major categories and protocols that will be continuously reviewed and renewed. These include touch-free temperature checks and luggage disinfection at embarkation. More space for social distancing entails reducing vessel capacity and providing alternative dining venues.

No air circulation between rooms, new disinfection technologies

Eighty percent of cabins are Panorama Suites, offering an open-air experience, and air is not circulated between staterooms; only within an individual room and mixed with fresh, outside air. Deep-cleaning and disinfection are planned in each stateroom during turnover and include soft goods. All dining areas will be disinfected between meals, and shared items such as bicycles and umbrellas will be disinfected after each use.

New technologies include electrostatic cleaning systems and UV disinfecting systems. More hands-free services include more hand sanitizer stations throughout each vessel, replacing buffet and self-serve stations with crew services and hourly disinfection (at a minimum) of all public areas. Masks will be supplied to passengers and crew.

Crew standards will include required medical screenings and certificates of health, social distancing in living quarters and ongoing training in personal protection equipment use and hygiene.

American Cruise Lines extends 'Cruise wtih Comfort'

American Cruise Lines extended its 'Cruise with Comfort' program and will continue to protect 100% of travel advisor commissions for all of the program's bookings. 'Cruise with Comfort' now includes cruises departing through Oct. 31 and may be applied to new and existing bookings.

The program allows cancellations for any reason up to 24 hours before embarkation. A 100% future cruise credit will be issued.

'Our travel advisor partners have appreciated our commission policy in particular, because it compensates them sooner than later for their efforts,' said Susan Shultz, VP trade relations for American.

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