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Holland America offers free inside stateroom with veranda or suite booking

The offer applies to select 2021 Alaska, Europe, Caribbean and Mexico cruises departing through Dec. 18. Here, a Koningsdam Neptune Suite

This ‘Buy One, Gift One’ offer is combinable with the ‘View & Verandah’ deal that includes stateroom upgrades, free gratuities, beverage package, one-night specialty dining, 10% off the price of shore excursions and more.

Book by Jan. 5

'Buy One, Gift One' runs from Dec. 17 through Jan. 5 and applies to select 2021 Alaska, Europe, Caribbean and Mexico cruises departing through Dec. 18.

Free stateroom can be single or double occupancy

Single or double occupancy is permitted with the free interior stateroom, with no additional charge for single occupancy. Travelers who want to upgrade the free interior stateroom can do so for the difference in the fares between the interior and the desired stateroom category.

'View and Verandah' promotional amenities do not apply to travelers in the interior stateroom, and taxes, fees, port expenses and gratuities are additional for each person.

Royal Caribbean's Empress and Majesty of the Seas to exit

Empress of the Seas, left, was introduced in 1990, and the larger Majesty of the Seas, right, came in 1992

The ships have been sold to an undisclosed party, based in Asia-Pacific, that will release details for future sailings at a later time.

'Made indelible marks on the cruise industry'

'Empress and Majesty of the Seas made indelible marks on the cruise industry with their revolutionary design and size. Touted as the cruise industry’s most groundbreaking ships when they were introduced, they continued to make history throughout their more than three decades of service,' said Michael Bayley, president and CEO, Royal Caribbean International.

'Saying goodbye to these two beloved ships is a major moment in Royal Caribbean’s history — one that is difficult but necessary,' he continued. 'With plans for new, innovative ships to join our fleet in the upcoming years, we look forward to our guests and crew continuing to make new memories with us.'

Short cruise market and, later, Cuba

Empress was the first Royal Caribbean ship designed for three- and four-night cruises when introduced in 1990, with initial sailings visiting the Bahamas from Miami. Empress also became the first cruise ship to sail from Cape Liberty in Bayonne, New Jersey, when Royal Caribbean opened the terminal in 2004. In 2017, the ship took center stage again for the line's inaugural Cuba cruise.

Majesty capped the Sovereign class

Majesty also played a crucial role. The third ship to round out Royal Caribbean's Sovereign class and the brand's largest at the time, was more than twice the size of the average cruise ship upon its 1992 debut. Deployment began with seven-night Western Caribbean cruises from Miami.

5 Minutes with Seatrade Cruise News

Read the full stories: 

1. NCLH proposes $500m private sale of senior notes due 2026: 

2. Windstar delays to May, drops 2021 Alaska plans, US, Mexico ports: 

3. Trans-Tasman bubble gets the nod, but not for cruise ships yet 

4. Hearing adjourned on New Zealand volcano eruption that killed Ovation cruisers: 

5. MSC resolves to end to single-use plastic by close of 2021: 

6. US lawmakers press CDC for cruise industry COVID-19 response records: 

With special thanks to Tarragona Cruise Port Costa Daurada.


Celebrity sales leaders: End to 'no sail' is near and what's behind 'New Luxury'

'Once those clocks start to tick at the 60 days, then we're back. So we're encouraged,' Dondra Ritzenthaler said

Test cruises and 60-day wait

'There are a lot of things we have to do,' under the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's conditional sail order, noted Celebrity's Dondra Ritzenthaler, SVP sales, trade support & service.

'Phase One (crew testing and building the laboratory capacity needed to test future passengers) we think will be done by the end of December. And then Phase Two happens where we ask permission to do the [trial cruises] then we have time to do that, then we have to wait 60 days after that,' Ritzenthaler said.

'... Now we know that once those clocks start to tick at the 60 days, then we're back. So we're encouraged.'

'The end is really near'

In early December, Celebrity announced it won't be sailing before March.

'We are hopeful that we can be back in March,' Ritzenthaler told the Signature owners and travel advisors. 'It depends on when the CDC's 60-day window starts to tick for us, based on them giving us permission. But whether it be March, or whether it be April, I'm so confident that the end is really near.'

'New Luxury'

Turning to brand positioning, Signature President and CEO Alex Sharpe said Celebrity fields 'revolutionary' ships and often gets rates better than what's typical in the premium sector. He asked about the transition from 'Modern Luxury' to 'New Luxury' branding.

Celebrity's Keith Lane, VP sales, laid out where 'New Luxury' fits in on a sequential scale starting with 'mass,' then 'contemporary,' 'premium,' 'new luxury' and 'ultra-luxury.'

'Where everybody saw us before was in the upper end of premium,' Ritzenthaler added. Now Celebrity hopes to strike a distinction.  

The Retreat aboard Celebrity Edge and Celebrity Apex, comprising all-suite accommodations, a private restaurant, lounge and sun deck, dedicated butlers and concierge staff plus a host of perks, is 'a small ship within a medium-sized ship,' Lane said.

'New Luxury,' Ritzenthaler continued, gives clients who've traveled on smaller luxury ships 'something new and fresh. What's new and fresh is The Retreat.

'You can leave The Retreat and get all these things — shops and shows and martini bars and things you just can't get on small ships because there's no space.'

The Retreat amenities are available across the fleet but were purpose-built for the Edge series.

'Always Included' pricing

Ritzenthaler explained a key New Luxury component is the 'Always Included' pricing that bundles in drinks, tips and Wi-Fi. Now the entry-level fare is the same as most all-inclusive brands, she said. There are two upgrade options, with the upper one part of The Retreat package.

Significant at this time of needing to support the distribution network more than ever is that advisors earn commission on items like tips, drinks, and on-board credit which didn't happen before.

Gen Xers

Ritzenthaler added all-inclusive pricing is important to leverage multigenerational travel and Generation X marketing.

There's been a lot of talk about millennials. Lane noted boomers, pre-COVID, were the staple for cruising along with some Gen Xers peppered in. During the hiatus, Celebrity conducted significant Gen X research.  

'A lot of people took a one-year pause on their vacation, so there's pent-up savings and pent-up demand to go somewhere,' Lane said. 'But the Gen X demographic is the one that said during the pause they're not going to take life for granted any more. And they're in their highest earning years. We really think they're going to be part of the comeback, including the boomers and the millennials.

'That was a genesis of New Luxury and Always Included,' he summed up.

Big and bold

With the new branding and pricing, Celebrity aims to come out 'big and bold,' in Ritzenthaler's words.

Lane told the Signature owners and advisors to stay tuned for 'cool incentives and benefits' rolling out in early 2021.


Swan Hellenic signs partnership agreement with India’s Travel Planners

It follows the strategic partnership between Swan Hellenic and Tam Wing Kun Holdings

‘Convinced of the tremendous potential of the Indian market both now and in the future,’ 

Swan Hellenic CEO Andrea Zito, said, ‘Thanks to the specialist experience of Travel Planners, we’ll be able to offer our guests outstanding support with all the benefits of full sea-sky integration to carry them from India’s main cities to our ships and back again around the world.’ 

Travel Planners, which has over 30 years’ experience across the travel and tourism sector in India, serves niche travellers, including sports lovers, wildlife and expedition enthusiasts. 

S. Dasgupta, managing director, Travel Planners, added, ‘The growing aspirations of adventurous Indian travellers to visit amazing and relatively unexplored territories can now become a reality.’

The cruise line signed an agreement with Tam Wing Kun Holdings in September to expand its presence in Asia.  


CruiseMaine hosts planning session for potential 2021 cruise season

'We all need to work together to plan for all possibilities if we want to get cruise and really our whole economy up and running again,' Eastport Port Authority's Chris Gardner said. Eastport is pictured here

Attendees included representatives from Maine ports, the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others involved in businesses or attractions that benefit from cruise passenger visits.

The US CDC's framework for conditional sailing order outlines numerous requirements that a cruise ship must meet and several requirements for shoreside operations including contingency planning for potential COVID-19 cases.

Overview of CDC requirements

Tuesday’s CruiseMaine meeting provided an overview of CDC's requirements and included a presentation by Ioannis Bras of Five Senses Consulting & Development, based in Greece. Bras, who has a background in risk mitigation and cruise ship operations, helped draft the new health and safety protocols adopted by Greek ports before passenger operations resumed there last August.

First step toward a statewide plan

'One of our key objectives at CruiseMaine is to help our member ports with regulatory compliance,' said Sarah Flink, executive director of CruiseMaine. 'Although the beginning of our season is still several months away and may very well be delayed further depending on health metrics and other factors, we know safe resumption of cruise operations in Maine will involve everyone from longshoremen to tour operators to medical facilities.

'Our goal with this meeting and the rest of the planning process,' she continued, 'is to provide all stakeholders with timely, accurate information and ultimately, to create a statewide plan for how we can once again safely offer our renowned, warm Maine welcome to cruise visitors.'

Need to work together

'None of us can operate in a bubble in Maine,' said Chris Gardner, executive director of the Eastport Port Authority. 'We all need to work together to plan for all possibilities if we want to get cruise and really our whole economy up and running again. This meeting is a good start, and I look forward to getting to work in January on the rest of the plan.'

With Canada key to Alaska cruising, could Biden help 'mend fences?'


Yet Canada has had stricter, more consistent COVID-19 mitigation policies and much lower infection rates than the US. The border remains closed to most travelers.

Canada acted decisively early in the outbreak to block cruise ships, and its current ban extends through February. Sources recently told Seatrade Cruise News the government remains wary about allowing this traffic, given the majority of cruisers will come from the US.

'We've got to mend that fence,' said Alex Sharpe, president and CEO, Signature Travel Network.

Need to restore confidence

'The easiest path back is for the Canadians to have confidence in our administration and their handling of COVID and these numbers to start to flatten,' he said.

Sharpe implied there may be ways to 'circumvent' the US Passenger Vessel Services Act so foreign-flag cruise ships could sail in Alaska without the mandatory call at a foreign port. That would be unprecedented, though. (And, recently, a Holland America Line sales executive said she knew of no such efforts.)

'Critical component to a really successful 2021'

In any case, Sharpe stressed having Canada to diversify the destination and give multiple launch points and cruise lengths is 'a critical component to a really successful 2021. Alaska's going to be important,' he said. 'Some of these cruise lines that have dedicated a big number of ships there for 2021 are going to need to make this work.'

Sharpe suggested the new Biden administration 'could have a positive impact in this, but it's yet to be seen how active a role they'll take and how the Canadians will react to the changes. Some of it is just going to be wait and see how the [coronavirus] numbers are in January and February.'

Fred. Olsen announces tentative 2021 restart schedule

Borealis and Bolette will resume operations in April and May, respectively; Balmoral (pictured) sails June 9

Bolette will follow on May 19 and Balmoral on June 9. 

‘While it is regrettable that our pause in operations is longer than we originally anticipated, we have said right from the start that we will not resume sailing until we are confident that it is safe for us to do so, and we stand by that,’ said Peter Deer, managing director, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines.

He added, ‘It is important that we fully understand the advances in the roll-out of the vaccine, testing capabilities and other scientific developments and what they mean for how we can operate.  

‘This is not a process to be rushed, and we are confident that by deferring our return to sailing just a while longer, with our two new ships among the fleet, we can come back better and stronger than ever without compromising on guest experience.’


Braemar, which operates a Mediterranean and Caribbean fly-cruise programme, will remain in lay-up through 2021. ‘Initially, we believe it may be more complex for us to operate the planned fly cruise programme and we will therefore instead focus on our extensive ex-UK itineraries during 2021,’ continued Deer.

The vessel will resume sailing in 2022 to destinations that ‘make the most of her smaller size.’ They will be announced as part of Fred. Olsen’s 2022/23 itinerary launch in March.


Ponant’s Le Jacques-Cartier granted class notation for underwater radiated noise

Sound tests were carried out on the vessel in September off the coast of Morgat, in the Gulf of Morbihan, Brittany

NR614 establishes requirements for the measurement of underwater radiated noise and the acoustic sound signature emitted by self-propelled ships, to support the management and mitigation of sound on marine life.

Mathieu Petiteau, director of newbuilding, research & development, Ponant, said the certification recognises ‘years of research and development dedicated to the creation of the Ponant Explorers series.’ 

He added, ‘It perfectly illustrates Ponant's commitment to making environmental protection its priority, right from the design of ships.’ 

The URN notation is valid for 5 years at a maximum speed of 13 knots; it is in addition to the Bureau Veritas Comfort 1 certification previously issued across the Ponant fleet by Bureau Veritas, having achieved the lowest possible noise impact level for passengers.

Le Jacques-Cartier 

Sound tests were carried out in September off the coast of Morgat, in the Gulf of Morbihan, Brittany. Using a measurement buoy in the form of a floating line with three hydrophones, Bureau Veritas, with technical support from acoustic specialists Quiet Oceans, analysed sound radiation from Le Jacques-Cartier to assess the vessel's acoustic signature.


In 2017, the cruise line reduced the speed of its vessels in a feeding area for whales to reduce underwater noise – part of the Port of Vancouver’s ECHO program. It went on to extend the measures, limiting the average speed of its fleet to 10 knots.

Ponant has also contributed to the European collaborative research project AQUO, which studies the modelling of underwater noise and highlights the impact of sound radiation linked to maritime transport on wildlife. 

It has published recommendations for optimising the construction of future ships based on the collaboration and carries on the work with PIAQUO – an implementation project using the AQUO tools and approach. 


Arctic search and rescue partners pioneer virtual tabletop exercise

PHOTO: SAREX Svalbard CRUISE_Beach_camp_Photo_SAREX_Svalbard.jpg
The exercise involved evacuating a cruise ship and setting up camp on a nearby beach. This photo from a live exercise shows what such a camp may look like

The participants were invited to play out a scenario in which an expedition cruise vessel temporarily loses steering and grounds on a submerged shelf in a remote part of the Arctic. As the scenario progresses, the players must figure out how to evacuate the unstable ship and establish a beach camp. The 175 passengers and 120 crew and staff must be kept safe while awaiting rescue, initially by an expedition cruise vessel and eventually by professional search and rescue (SAR) responders.

Groups consisting of SAR responders, ship officers, expedition staff and the cruise operator home office collaborated to determine the challenges, constraints and opportunities involved.

The organizers

The Annual Joint Arctic Search and Rescue Tabletop Exercise (SAR TTX) is organized by the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators, the Icelandic Coast Guard and the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre North Norway. The overall objective is to enhance safety and preparedness in the Arctic maritime domain through strengthened collaboration between the Arctic expedition cruise industry, SAR entities and authorities.

According to AECO Executive Director Frigg Jørgensen, this annual SAR TTX event allows the participants to learn from each other and explore opportunities for improvement.

'The cruise industry already has robust safety protocols in place and is aware of the industry’s responsibility for preparedness. This event makes it possible to further develop and enhance equipment, training and standard operating procedures,' Jørgensen said.

Practice and gain insight

Capt. Auðunn Friðrik Kristinsson, director of maritime operations, Icelandic Coast Guard, called the exercise an opportunity to practice and gain valuable insight.

'This event helps the different sectors involved in a rescue operation understand the procedures, capabilities and perspectives of the other parties. It also allows the professionals working in the field to get to know the actual people that they will be dealing with in the case of a real incident. This can be very beneficial and contributes to better communication and a more efficient response,' Kristinsson elaborated.

The Joint SAR TTX was attended by 26 AECO members and SAR entities from Canada, Iceland, Greenland, Faroe Islands, Svalbard, mainland Norway, US, Finland, UK and New Zealand.