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Royal Caribbean Group's $40m 'Pay It Forward' supports travel advisors

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The program makes a $40m pool of funds available to qualifying travel advisors, who can apply for three-year, interest-free loans of up to $250,000 to keep their businesses focused on a return to growth at a time when the pandemic shows increasing prospects for coming under control.

'We will get through this together'

'We know our travel advisor friends are suffering, too, and we will get through this tough period together, just as we always have,' Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain said. 'Our travel partners have stood strong beside us for more than 50 years, and we are determined to be there for them now. We’re going to get to the other side of this challenging time together.'

The pause in cruising has put a financial strain on travel agencies large and small. And while there is optimism that the travel industry will recover strongly post-pandemic, Royal Caribbean noted businesses still need financial wherewithal during this intervening period of slower-than-usual business.

Details in early January

The company plans to share details about the application process for the program directly with travel advisors in January.

Vodohod wraps a year with new vessel and destinations, expedition itinerary

Mustai Karim is the first five-star vessel built in Russia in several years

Fourteen of its 26 vessels operated, while the rest of the fleet was laid up due to the embargo on international clients. (Twelve vessels serve the international market.) Vodohod carried more than 35,000 Russians on 438 sailings from its first in late June to November.

New Mustai Karim and refurbished Maxim Gorky

Mustai Karim, the first five-star vessel built in Russia in several years, was introduced, and Maxim Gorky was fully refurbished for Siberia expedition cruising on the Yenisei River.

Mustai Karim debuted in August with floor-to-ceiling windows, a spa, intimate restaurants and bars and menus by a celebrated chef. The vessel carried out several cruises on the most popular route, between Moscow and St. Petersburg, visiting the Kizhi Ensemble of wooden architecture, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In September, Mustai Karim pioneered an innovative itinerary on the Azov Sea and the Black Sea to Rostov-on-Don, reporting rave reviews from its Russian clients.

Expedition itinerary

In July, Vodohod initiated the first expedition river cruise through the heart of Siberia. Expedition cruises on the Yenisei River are a new product to showcase wild Russia to the world.  

These voyages are operated by Maxim Gorky, a small, newly refurbished and custom-designed five-star vessel accommodating 94 passengers. It offers spacious cabins with a modern design, a spa, entertainment complex and high-level service. Maxim Gorky sails between Krasnoyarsk and Dudinka, visiting cultural complexes, traditional villages and wild nature, including the Putorana Plateau, an area five times bigger than Belgium that has UNESCO World Heritage status.

Solovetsky Islands

Vodohod also commenced cruises to the Solovetsky Islands, a cultural and historic site on the White Sea with a unique church complex including the Solovetsky Monastery, the crown jewel of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.  

To reach the archipelago, Vodohod renovated the four-deck Alexander Pushkin with updated technical features. The vessel is almost fully booked in 2021.

COVID precautions

Vodohod's health and safety plan incorporated the regulations of the Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing along with international requirements and recommendations.

These included pre-boarding health questionnaires, daily temperature checks for passengers and crew, updated crew training, rapid COVID-19 testing on a regular basis, social distancing, daily disinfection of cabins and common areas and ventilation system disinfection.

Spring resumption

Vodohod said its fleet and crew are ready to resume sailing on the Russian waterways in the spring and looks forward to carrying international customers if restrictions are lifted and people can travel safely.

Russia's e-visa program for 52 nationalities

The citizens of 52 countries will be able to apply for an electronic visa to visit Russia starting Jan. 1. E-visa applications can be submitted on a special website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or via a mobile application.

Also, Vodohod created its first mobile app, which will be available in English next year. It provides vessel information, services, details about on-board purchases, an audio guide, media player, chat with a hotel manager and news.

A new booking engine allows travel advisors and clients to easily purchase additional services while booking a cruise online.


HAL promotes Michelle Sutter to VP North American sales

Most recently Sutter was senior director of sales, leading the national accounts and field sales teams in support of North American travel partners

She will oversee strategic accounts, national accounts, charter and incentives, and field sales, reporting to President Gus Antorcha.

Results-oriented leader

'Michelle holds the respect of the trade community and is a results-oriented leader with the ability to drive our sales efforts with passion, dedication and knowledge,' Antorcha said. 'As a member of our leadership team, Michelle has pioneered a number of culture-changing initiatives within sales that have contributed to the onward success of Holland America Line.'

Most recently Sutter was senior director of sales, leading the national accounts and field sales teams in support of North American travel partners. Her career in the travel industry began as a shipboard translator and future cruise consultant with Royal Caribbean. She also had shoreside sales roles at Royal Caribbean and, subsequently, Celebrity Cruises. In 2013 Sutter joined Holland America for the first time as a business development manager.

Fathom stint

Her return to the line in 2017 was preceded by a director role with Carnival Corp.'s Fathom social impact brand where supported business development and trade marketing.



NCLH closes upsized $850m private offering of notes

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The net proceeds are expected to be used for general corporate purposes.

The amount was increased to $850m from the initially announced $500mThe notes will be guaranteed by certain NCLH subsidiaries on a senior unsecured basis.

The notes were offered only to qualified institutional buyers outside the US.

Crystal extends relaxed booking policies for all 2021 itineraries

The extended policies apply to Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony, pictured here, and to Crystal River Cruises, Crystal Yacht Cruises and Crystal Expedition Cruises

This includes Crystal Cruises, Crystal River Cruises, Crystal Yacht Cruises and Crystal Expedition Cruises.

Crystal Confidence 3.0

For 2021 sailings, the adjusted Crystal Confidence 3.0 policies relax the final payment deadline to 60 days prior to first date of service, while travelers who pay in full 90 days prior to first date of service will get an additional 2.5% off their cruise fare. The early final payment savings deadline is normally six months.

Travelers sailing in 2021 may cancel their booking with no penalty up to 60 days prior to their first date of service.

These policies were previously implemented for voyages through June 2021 only; the new extension through the end of 2021.

Crystal's cancellation policy entails a 25% penalty from 61 to 30 days before the trip, 50% for 30 to eight days prior and 100% for seven days or fewer.  

Reduced deposits of 15%

For all voyages in 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024, Crystal will continue to offer reduced deposits of 15%, compared to the normal 25%, and waived administrative fees for all new bookings through the 'Easy Book' program.

No money down window extended

In addition, the company's no-money-down deposit window has been extended through Feb. 22 for all new and existing bookings for 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024 ocean, river, yacht and expedition voyages.

Crystal voyages are currently suspended through April.

Lindblad and Island Conservation launch Galápagos Relief Fund

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Young Lindblad travelers observe a Galápagos tortoise

This will provide immediate financial relief for the people of the Galápagos Islands who have been devastated by the socioeconomic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tourism accounts for more than 80% of the Galápagos economy so, in March, when travel restrictions suddenly halted travel, it caused profound hardship for families, businesses and the community at large. In the first two months of the pandemic alone, the islands’ economy lost $50m, almost a quarter of the annual income. The Galápagos Chamber of Tourism recently reported that visitor numbers between July and October dropped a staggering 95%.

The economic devastation also poses a serious threat to the conservation of this extraordinary archipelago.   

Funding for micro-loans

Donations received by the Galápagos Island Relief Fund will enable Fundación Un Cambio Por La Vida, a local nonprofit organization, to disseminate micro-loans to the people of the Galápagos.

The monies will provide immediate financial relief, address the basic needs of vulnerable families, allow children to stay in school and help sustainable businesses survive, grow and begin developing new income sources. These lines of credit will support hundreds of community enterprises and initiatives in the areas of local entrepreneurship and strengthening existing businesses, sustainable food production for food security, emergency aid for vulnerable families to meet basic living costs and education. And the community can continue protecting the ecosystems and wildlife of this UNESCO World Heritage site.

Islanders are struggling

'The people of Galápagos are struggling more than I’ve seen in my 53-year relationship with the Islands,' Lindblad Expeditions Founder and CEO Sven Lindblad said. 'Stimulating the local economy through community micro-loans has the power to activate a thriving system, helping entrepreneurs and small business owners develop new ideas to complement sustainable tourism, and meeting the needs of the local community long after the pandemic is over.'

$500,000 goal

The goal is to secure $500,000. The main fundraising mechanism will be an outreach to Lindblad travelers who have sailed to the Galápagos. The line has also set up a matching program, where every $1 donated to the Galápagos Island Relief Fund (up to $50,000) will be matched 3:1 by an equivalent dollar-for-dollar donation from each: Sven and Kristin Lindblad's Wanderlust Fund, Lindblad Expeditions and the Lindblad Expeditions board of directors.

Every dollar raised (100% of funds donated) will stay in Galápagos. Persons interested in supporting the fund may do so at Donations made through Island Conservation, a 501(c)3 charity, are tax deductible in the US.

The Grinch delivers holiday cheer to Carnival crew

The Grinch hands out cards to crew members

No longer a mean one, the Grinch delivered more than 10,000 hand-written cards from the line’s fans and employees.

Carnival has a longstanding partnership with Dr. Seuss Enterprises.

Operation Happy Holidays

Operation Happy Holidays was kicked off by Carnival Brand Ambassador John Heald and promoted by the line’s personal vacation planners and on Carnival’s Facebook page, asking guests and employees to bring some holiday cheer by sending cards to the roughly 125 crew members on each of its 23 ships who are maintaining the vessels as the company prepares to resume service.

Carnival reported a 'sensational' response, with Fun Ship fans delivering in a big way, posting photos of themselves writing cards or mailing them at the post office.

From Camp Carnival kids to Galveston port police

Even the kids from the Camp Carnival child education center at the company’s Miami headquarters got into the act, creating handmade cards for team members on board. The Port of Galveston Police Department also showed their thanks and appreciation by submitting more than 500 cards. Galveston is one of Carnival’s most popular ports.

While crew members are accustomed to being away from family during the holidays, usually the ship is filled with passengers.

'This year’s holiday season is different and our most sincere thanks and appreciation to everyone who stepped up and made our crew feel special and are making their holidays brighter,' Carnival President Christine Duffy said. 'Operation Happy Holidays is a testament to our wonderful guests and employees who go to great lengths to remember our crew who are the secret behind our success.'


Fred. Olsen launches 2022 Balkans itinerary

Bolette will call at lesser-known destinations including Durres in Albania and Kotor in Montenegro

 Departing from Southampton on June 14, 2022 the vessel will sail for 18-nights calling Cartagena, Spain, Strait of Messina, Kotor, Montenegro, Dubrovnik, Croatia, Neum, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Split, Croatia, Durres, Albania, Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy, Tangier, Morocco. 

Highlights include the opportunity to visit Dubrovnik’s UNESCO-listed Old Town, protected by the centuries-old city walls, or a visit to the ruins of Diocletian’s Palace in Split.

Neum marks a maiden voyage for Fred. Olsen and includes visits to the historic village of Počitelj and the reconstructed Ottoman bridge Stari Most; Kotor marks another maiden calls. 

‘Every destination on this cruise has historical significance in shaping the Balkans as we know it today,’ said Martin Lister, head of destination experience and itinerary planning, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines. ‘With ancient structures, ruins and archaeological finds all telling the story of how various empires battled for control of the region.

‘It also offers opportunities to explore some lesser-known destinations, such as Durres in Albania and Kotor in Montenegro, as well as Neum in Bosnia and Herzegovina, all of which are steeped in fascinating history.’

Lister added, ‘This sailing has been made possible by the faster speeds of Bolette.’ 

Sixth 2022 itinerary 

This is the sixth itinerary to be released from Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ 2022 programme. Previous releases include: a 15-night Rugged and Remote Spitsbergen cruise aboard Balmoral; a 10-night Revisiting Prussia cruise aboard Braemar in August; a 19-night Canada in the Fall cruise aboard Borealis; a 28-night Black Sea Discovery with the Mediterranean sailing aboard Balmoral and the 101-night World Cruise aboard Borealis.

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines will release its entire 2022/23 programme in March.

Passengers booking by January 29 receive up to £250 per person to spend on board.

Carnival takes delivery of LNG-powered Mardi Gras

Carnival's Mardi Gras is North America's first cruise ship to be powered by LNG

‘Mardi Gras’ technology, venues and accommodations will make this a game-changing vessel in North America,’ commented Christine Duffy, president, Carnival Cruise Line. ‘With this delivery, we can now focus our collective efforts on the building of her sister ship, Carnival Celebration, which will arrive from Turku in 2022 in time for our 50th birthday.’

North America's first LNG-powered vessel, Mardi Gras is scheduled to enter service from Florida’s Port Canaveral in April.

Design features 

Carnival’s newest addition is 340mtrs, has 19 decks and holds 5,200 passengers. It comprises a 64km/h roller-coaster, BOLT, plus a three-stories-high atrium, which opens to floor-to-ceiling windows. Movable LED screens drop down at night to help transform the space for entertainment.

Dining and entertainment venues are dispersed through six zones. 

Passengers will be able to choose from more than 2,600 staterooms and 180 suites across 11 categories.

Meyer Turku CEO Tim Meyer said, ‘With these sophisticated [LNG] systems, she will be one of the most environmentally friendly ships to sail the North American waters. I am very proud of our team of shipbuilders and would like to thank everyone involved for their dedication during the building process.’

Oceania Cruises CEO Binder sells $2.27m NCLH shares

Following the sales, Bob Binder still holds 228,831 NCLH shares.

Binder sold the shares in two tranches, each in multiple trades, on Dec. 15. Some 35,066 shares were sold at an average price of $24.32 per share, and 56,418 shares were sold at an average price of $25.04.

Part of a trading plan

The shares were sold as part of a Rule 10b5-1 trading plan adopted by Binder on Sept. 15. Rule 10b5-1 permits major holders to sell a predetermined number of shares at a predetermined time.

Following the sales, Binder still holds 228,831 NCLH shares.

NCLH closed at $25.41, down 5 cents, on Thursday.