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Sailors' Society delivers Christmas to cruise ship crew locked down at sea

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Charity worker Simon Mobsby is delivering Christmas cheer to hundreds of cruise ship crew locked down off the UK coast

Several ships, manned by skeleton crews of around 150, regularly come into Southampton port for supplies and maintenance, but the crews are restricted to a small area of the port.

Online shopping and post deliveries

International maritime charity Sailors’ Society stepped in to support the crews, inviting them to get their online shopping and post delivered to its Southampton seafarer centre and taking items to the ships when they come into port.

Centre manager Simon Mobsby delivered more than 200 parcels last month to grateful seafarers and makes trips to the supermarket for them if they need anything else. He’s expecting the demand to be greater as Christmas approaches.

'They have no access to the outside world at all, so I do it on their behalf,' he said.

Faces light up

'Their faces light up when I bring them letters and gifts from family and friends. It’s a privilege to be able to play Santa.'

The charity is also wrapping its own Christmas gifts for the crews, most of whom have been on the ships since before coronavirus hit in March. And Mobsby is even delivering gifts from one cruise ship to the other.

'People who worked together in the past are now on different ships and they’ve not been able to see each other for nine months,' he said.

'One crew sent a gift order to me on WhatsApp and I delivered the presents to the other ship. When I explained who they were from, they were over the moon.'

Sailors’ Society has received donations of gifts for seafarers from its supporters, as well as a grant from the ITF Seafarers' Trust / International Christian Maritime Association to provide small Christmas parcels in a selection of additional ports. 

 

NCLH prices and upsizes private offering of $850m notes

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

NCLH expects to use the net proceeds for general corporate purposes.

The offering, to qualified institutional investors outside the US, is expected to close on Dec. 18.

Expedition and Small Ship Cruising: A View from The Bridge

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In what should have been another year of incredible growth for Expedition and Small Ship Cruising, Seatrade Cruise Virtual hosted a panel in October that highlighted quite a different story.

Now, as 2020 comes to an end, we're looking back at the "Expedition and Small Ship Cruising: A View from The Bridge" session, a panel discussion led by Seatrade Cruise Expedition Ambassador Liz Gammon. Expedition experts discussed COVID-19's impact on operations starting back in March. They spoke openly about the challenges they faced, how they remained agile in a time of crisis, and some of the positives they found along the way.

With the situation changing on what feels like a daily basis, it can be daunting to figure out how to prepare for the future. So, instead, let's highlight the resilience we've seen from small ship and expedition cruise lines. Our panelists said it best – here are just­ a few of the positive messages they're bringing to the New Year as we look ahead to 2021.

'We strongly believe that we're going to work everything out when we start our first voyage; we expect to have all of those things accomplished. It's been tough. It's been hard. Don't give up; keep pushing.'

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Emilio Freeman, Vice President, Itineraries & Destinations, SeaDream Yacht Club

'If I look to next year, the bookings look excellent. I think clients in our area are almost addicted to these experiences, and we have seen a rebooking rate of about 80% of cancellations.'

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Hans Lagerweij, President, Albatros Travel/Albatros Expeditions

'I've been extremely grateful for the opportunity to sit back, not necessarily work less, but sit back and make those connections with my colleagues because I know that it's only going to make our industry stronger than ever once we're back in the water. So, we need to continue looking at our overarching organizations to steer us because we have this opportunity to come together. And I think we're doing a great job…I think that we work in an extremely creative industry and we know how to think on our feet, and we're excellent problem solvers. I believe that the 2021 season is totally doable.'

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Alana Bradley-Swan, Director of Product, Adventure Canada

‘The message that I've received here is one of positivity. It's one of the needs for flexibility on the ground, rules, and regulations, and you're all chomping at the bit you want to get going!’

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Liz Gammon, Creative Cruise Consulting, LizGammon.com

'I think we all know, as we sit in our bookings, we have guests dying to leave their home. They want to go to travel. They want to experience the world, and we just have to wait. As soon as science allows us to make the right decisions, we will be back without a doubt. I think the demand and the desire to want to travel is going to be even greater soon as we are.'

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Robin West, Vice President, Expedition Operations, Seabourn Cruise Line

 

So, what do our experts believe the future holds for expedition travel? Listen to this week’s Seatrade Cruise Talks Podcast to find outAt this moment in time, one thing is for sure -- passengers are incredibly eager for these experiences, and they can't wait to get out there and travel.

Want more expedition cruising? Join us for a two-day virtual conference taking place 8-9 March, dedicated to all things expedition cruising: Seatrade Cruise Virtual - Expedition Cruising.

Apex and Edge feature in Celebrity's six-ship 2022 Europe season

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Celebrity Edge will sail from Civitavecchia and Barcelona, while Celebirty Apex will sail from Amsterdam and Civitavecchia

They include Celebrity Silhouette, recently ‘revolutionized’ as part of a multi-million renovation program, Celebrity Constellation, Celebrity Infinity and Celebrity Reflection.  

New Amsterdam homeport

Celebrity Apex will sail to Scandinavia and Russia and the Norwegian Fjords from the new homeport of Amsterdam. The ship will also offer Iceland, Ireland and British Isles itineraries, ending the season with special Holy Land sailings round-trip from Civitavecchia (Rome).

Celebrity Edge will sail from Civitavecchia and Barcelona on seven-night Mediterranean cruises to destinations in Italy, France, Spain, Turkey and the Greek Islands. The ship will end the season with some longer itineraries from Civitavecchia before returning to winter homeport, Fort Lauderdale.

Celebrity Silhouette from Southampton

Celebrity Silhouette will sail from Southampton to a wide variety of European destinations, from the Norwegian Fjords to Spain, Portugal and the Italian Mediterranean. The ship wraps its European season with Canary Islands cruises in September and October. 

Celebrity Constellation will sail nine- and 10-night Mediterranean itineraries between Venice, Civitavecchia and Barcelona. Celebrity Infinity's seven-night cruises are between Venice, Lisbon and Barcelona.

And, from Civitavecchia, Celebrity Reflection will offer 10- and 11-night cruises to Italy, Turkey, Croatia, Montenegro and the Greek Islands.

 

Seashore from Miami, Seaview from Martinique in MSC's winter 2021/22 lineup

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MSC Seashore will sail from PortMiami following its inaugural summer Mediterranean season in 2021

The line confirmed its northern winter/austral summer 2021/22 program that also features Mediterranean, South America, South Africa and Arabian Gulf cruises, as well as grand voyages.

Through Jan. 3, North American travelers can save to 50% and take advantage of a Kids Sail Free offer, on select sailings, to the Bahamas, Caribbean, Mediterranean and Northern Europe. In addition, with 'Total CruiseFlex,' travelers have the flexibility to reschedule up to 48 hours before their departure to any other ship and sailing departing before April 30, 2022.

Four ships stateside

Continuing its strong presence in North America, MSC Cruises will deploy four ships from the US with sailings from Miami and Port Canaveral, a new homeport for the line starting in spring 2021. Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve in the Bahamas will be featured on nearly all itineraries from the US.

MSC Seashore

Following its inaugural Mediterranean season in summer 2021, MSC Seashore will head to PortMiami in November 2021 to sail alternating seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises.  As the first of two Seaside EVO ships, MSC Seashore has extended public spaces, more staterooms and the highest ratio of outdoor space per guest of any ship in the company’s fleet.

MSC Armonia, also homeporting in Miami, will offer a choice of three-, four- and seven-night cruises that include Ocean Cay, and on some itineraries stay overnight there.

MSC Divina will start the from Port Canaveral before moving to Miami in December 2021. Itineraries include three- and four-night jaunts to Ocean Cay and Nassau in the Bahamas, a variety of different seven-night itineraries and extended 11-night cruises (starting in December 2021) that call at Jamaica, Aruba, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica and Ocean Cay.

MSC Meraviglia's Canaveral debut

For the first time MSC Meraviglia will homeport at Port Canaveral, offering a mix of three- and four-night cruises as well as six-, seven- and eight-night cruises (starting November 2021) with full day calls at Costa Maya and Cozumel.

MSC Seaview from Martinique

MSC Seaview will also call the Caribbean home during the winter 2021/2022 season, this time homeporting at Fort-de-France, Martinique. Seven-night cruises include St. Lucia, Guadeloupe and Antigua.

Four Med ships

MSC Grandiosa will embark passengers in Genoa, Barcelona and Marseille for cruises to Palermo, Civitavecchia (Rome) and Valletta, Malta.

MSC Fantasia will also sail a classic seven-night itinerary with the choice of embarking from Barcelona, Marseille and Genoa, with calls at La Spezia, Naples and Palma de Mallorca.

MSC Magnifica will offer extended 11-night cruises with two different itineraries, one starting at Genoa sailing to Greece for Katakolon, Piraeus and Rhodes before reaching Haifa in Israel (overnight) then on to Heraklion, Civitavecchia and back to Genoa. The second itinerary, also round-trip Genoa, visits Barcelona, Casablanca (extended stay), Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Funchal, Málaga and Civitavecchia.

MSC Poesia will offer five- and 10-night cruises from Genoa before embarking on the 2022 world cruise from Genoa on Jan. 5.

Winter sun in the Gulf

The Arabian Gulf will host MSC Virtuosa and MSC Opera, with opportunities to attend the postponed Expo 2020 Dubai, which will now commence in October 2021.

MSC Virtuosa, set to debut in April 2021, will spend its first winter season in the region, homeporting in Dubai for cruises to Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas Island Bahrain and Qatar.

MSC Opera, will offer a seven-night itinerary that includes two overnights in Dubai and visits Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas and Muscat.

World cruise

MSC Poesia's 116-night world cruise will visit 43 destinations in 24 countries with nine overnight stays.

Five ships in South America

The austral summer South America program will feature four ships sailing from Brazil and a one from Argentina

MSC Seaside will sail six-, seven- and eight-night cruises from Santos, Brazil. MSC Preziosa will offer three-, four-, five-, six- and seven-night sailings from Santos as well as seve- and eight-night cruises from Rio de Janeiro, calling Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. MSC Splendida will also offer weeklong cruises from Santos, also calling Uruguay and Argentina. MSC Sinfonia will homeport at Itajai, Brazil, for six-, seven-, eight- and nine-night cruises calling Uruguay and Argentina.

Based at Buenos Aires, MSC Orchestra will sail eight-, nine- and 10-night cruises to Brazil and Uruguay.

South Africa

MSC Lirica will join MSC Musica in South Africa. MSC Lirica will homeport at Cape Town and MSC Musica at Durban between November 2021 and April 2022 to offer 14 different itineraries that range from two to 14 nights. The two ships will alternate their routes to provide a wider choice of options.

Grand voyages

In addition, MSC Cruises will offer a host of repositioning cruises operated by 11 ships. These 17- to 26-day grand voyages will be available with ships returning from the Gulf, Brazil and Argentina, South Africa, Martinique and the US, sailing to Europe for the start of the summer 2022 season.

 

 

 

Santa test drives Mardi Gras' BOLT roller-coaster

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Santa zipped along the 800-foot track featuring a hairpin curve around Mardi Gras' funnel

The ship is nearing completion at Meyer Turku for delivery later this week.

Speeds up to 40 mph

With hearty 'ho-ho-ho’s' echoing throughout the shipyard, Santa zipped along the 800-foot track featuring a hairpin curve around Mardi Gras' funnel, while achieving speeds of up to 40 miles per hour. The all-electric coaster can accommodate two riders — or one Santa Claus and his bag of toys, perhaps — in motorcycle-like vehicles that race 187 feet above the water line.

'Never in my wildest dreams would I think a roller-coaster could be on a cruise ship. It’s something we’ll be talking about at the North Pole for a long time,' St. Nick reportedly said.

BOLT was built in partnership with Munich-based Mauer Rides.

Mardi Gras is scheduled to debut April 24 at Florida's Port Canaveral.

 

Late spring but, more likely, summer for Americans to travel Europe's rivers

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'We are ready to cruise whenever people can cruise,' AmaWaterways' Rudi Schreiner said

'We are ready to cruise whenever people can cruise,' the AmaWaterways president/co-owner said Monday in a one-to-one interview.

Given the COVID-19 surge and uncertainty surrounding vaccine distribution, bookings for spring have tailed off recently and booked travelers have rescheduled for later in the year, Schreiner told Seatrade Cruise News.

Fall/winter strength

However, bookings for summer and fall, and especially fall and winter 2021, are 'strong,' while 2022 is 'very strong,' Schreiner said. Plus, AmaWaterways is already filling charters and group sailings in 2023.

It's too early to say whether the vaccine approval is fueling sales. That may take a week or two to know. Meanwhile, the booking situation is positive, calls are coming in and inquiries are increasing.

For Ama, 45% of passengers on canceled sailings have opted for a future cruise credit, while 55% requested refunds. The majority — 80% to 85% — of those choosing FCCs have applied them to a new sailing though travelers can change their booking without penalty, and many have done so.

Last April/May, many rebooked for the coming spring, but now they're moving to September or later.

'My gut feeling is we will start late spring cruising, possibly with a few ships, possibly with Europeans and hopefully with a few Americans,' Schreiner said. 'But I still think summer will be the time when it can really start. By March/April, people will have a very good idea of how safe it will be to go in the summer.' If the vaccine distribution goes well, fall/winter will be 'pretty much as usual.'

Sparked by Qantas becoming the first airline to state proof of a COVID vaccination will be required to fly, other airlines are likely to follow suit and Schreiner thinks some countries could make it a requirement for entry, just as some African countries, for example, require a yellow fever vaccination. He believes travel policies in Europe will continue to be set at the national level, not in EU groupings as when the Continent first reopened. So there may be a patchwork of regulations.

Open travel not likely until 2022

'I don't believe there will be open travel, maybe not until 2022,' Schreiner said. 'COVID will be around in 2021.'

Schreiner doesn't think AmaWaterways would mandate vaccination for boarding, but the line will comply with whatever national requirements are in place.

'Completely new rules will come out,' he predicted.

'If there are no strict rules, we will apply the strict rules on board,' he added. 'You can't let your guard down.'

This may mean proof of a negative COVID test, and Ama will continue the practices it set when becoming the first (and only) US-based river cruise line to sail in Europe during 2020, with one vessel, for the German-speaking market.

Protocols included pre-boarding health questionnaires, COVID tests for crew, daily temperature checks for passengers and crew, masks, no self-service food or beverages, plexiglass dividers in lounges to ensure distancing, a designated shipboard public health officer and reduced capacity.

COVID-free in 2020

On charter by a German tour operator, AmaKristina sailed from July to November, when Germany shut down domestic travel/hotel operations, ending river voyages. Ama had no reported COVID cases.

The line didn't require travelers to get COVID tests this year because the virus was so well controlled in Germany for most of the time the cruises were offered.

The original plan was to limit occupancy to 50% however the average passenger count per voyage over the four months was around 60 on a 170-passenger ship. Eighty percent of Ama's accommodations have balconies, and the lower-level staterooms (with just windows) were not offered for sale.

Each stateroom has its own fan coil ventilation system, so air isn't recirculated. And in the public rooms, there's no air conditioning blower but rather an 'air fog' system where the cold air comes out between openings in the ceiling panels, reducing the risk of blowing the virus around.

Profiting from experience

The season was 'not a money-maker,' Schreiner said. 'It was an excellent learning experience.'

Vaccine distribution the key

2021 travel will depend on how fast vaccines are distributed and how widely they're accepted. Schreiner noted some people won't get vaccinated and others will wait to see about reactions to the vaccine.

He doesn't believe the type of vaccination booklets that Americans used to tuck into their passports years ago will be adequate proof. As with COVID tests, it's too easy to falsify paper documents, so Schreiner thinks some type of passport-linked electronic verification will be needed.

The Ama chief estimated 70 to 80 river vessels operated in Europe this year, including those of Phoenix Reisen, Nikko Tours, Lüftner Cruises, Douro Azul and Scylla, among others.

'The European market was fairly strong,' Schreiner said. Some COVID cases were reported, but generally the news was positive.

 

Psychologist advocates for mental health first aider on board cruise ships

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Charles Watkins joins an expert panel for the live webinar 'Caring for Crew: Mental Health On Land And At Sea' on December 18

The protocol would start with a person on board knowing what to do in a traumatic event, being trained in psychological first aid and being able to apply those techniques as quickly as possible,’ says Watkins, ‘because the quicker you act, the easier it is to stabilise everyone on board to make them feel safe and secure.’  

According to Watkins, a clinical background is not required to be able to deliver psychological first aid, meaning training could be given to those working in other roles on board cruise ships. ‘It’s there for people who don’t come from clinical backgrounds, but are maybe interested in the subject or are generally very empathetic: they like to listen or talk to people, have a way with words or they are able to connect in some way or some form with the topic. Those are the people who would be trained, they would be regular non-clinical people.’

MHSS provides a 24/7 helpline service, where those on board cruise ships can reach out for emotional relief, psychoeducation, and sleep and mental hygiene advice. So far, it has received phone calls from both crew members and captains wishing to impart advice to other seafarers, as well as urgent calls for crisis interventions.

Culture

‘Some cultures may be more apt to express anger; some cultures may not show anger at all. In some cultures, it’s a sign of weakness to show anger, so crew members bottle it up and that can turn into something else: depressive episodes, sadness, isolation. So, understanding culture helps understand the individual, and that helps to design the intervention and to improve communication,’ observes Watkins.

Coronavirus

‘Some crew members get frightened by news articles on spikes in numbers in their own country, they read about it a lot and ruminate as they try to find out what’s going on,’ explains Watkins. ‘It’s a direct effect in terms of worrying, creating anxiety, having to use social media much more than they used to, then you have restlessness and sleeplessness.

‘Concern about people at home often creates worry, but also not knowing when they can leave the ship. Some people might have extended their contract for a long time, without knowing when the pandemic will allow ports to open for crew changes. That waiting can really create a lot of anxiety when they’re stuck there on the ship.’

So says Watkins, ‘not being able to control what happens, not being able to leave [the ship] and then worrying about the very fact that it [the virus] could be in close proximity and you could be exposed to it, can certainly be a serious thing.’

Breaking down barriers

While ‘the negative stigma is losing its strength and the positives are cropping up of mental hygiene and good coping strategies,’ Watkins asserts that there are still obstacles to overcome to prevent mental health issues being ‘the dark hole that nobody understands.’

‘People are afraid of losing their job because of mental health related issues, they might think they will be declared unfit for sailing, so it’s sometimes very hard for people to be able to trust the process of opening up: they don’t know how much they can share.

‘Bullying is still a big topic, it doesn’t happen as often as it used to, but it’s still there… I think that’s something very important to highlight; that it should never be accepted and [managers] should step up when they notice it.’

Supporting crew members on and off the vessel

‘It starts with recognising crew members at risk,’ outlines Watkins. ‘We offer support by showing crew members short videos that explain what they can do to positively influence their mental health on board.

‘We always look at things holistically: foods that specifically decrease stress levels, aid digestion, help you stay motivated and influence hormones positively when you eat them. We’re looking at it all from all sides and making sure crew are getting the best out of all areas.’  

Register 

Sign up for Seatrade Cruise Talks live webinar 'Caring for Crew: Mental Health On Land And At Sea' on December 18 at 2pm GMT/9am EST to hear more from Clinical Psychologist Charles Watkins MSc, alongside Michael Lopez, vice president human resources, Royal Caribbean Group; Peter Broadhurst, senior vice president, Inmarsat; Pam Kern MS LMSW, mental health professional and former seafarer and moderated by Seatrade's Holly Payne. 

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

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The company expects to use the net proceeds for general corporate purposes. The notes will be guaranteed by certain subsidiaries on a senior unsecured basis.

The notes are being offered only to qualified institutional investors outside the US.

Cautionary statements list CDC compliance

Amid the usual lengthy list of cautionary statements is the ability to comply with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Framework for Conditional Sailing Order and to 'otherwise develop enhanced health and safety protocols to adapt to the current pandemic environment’s unique challenges once operations resume and to otherwise safely resume our operations when conditions allow.'

Also mentioned: 'Coordination and cooperation with the CDC, the federal government and global public health authorities to take precautions to protect the health, safety and security of guests, crew and the communities visited and the implementation of any such precautions.'

 

Hearing adjourned on New Zealand volcano eruption that killed Ovation cruisers

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‘We have concluded that 13 parties did not meet their obligations and should face charges in court,’ Phil Parkes said

Set for Tuesday, the hearing will now be held March 5 following a request from parties involved for more time to review the evidence provided by WorkSafe New Zealand and receive legal advice.

Huge fines

WorkSafe Chief Executive Phil Parkes said 10 parties face charges which carry a maximum fine of NZ$1.5m each under New Zealand’s Health and Safety at Work Act.

Parkes said three individuals have been charged under Section 44 of the Act which requires directors or individuals with significant influence of a company to exercise due diligence that the company is meeting its health and safety obligations. 

If convicted, these three people face fines of up to NZ$300,000 each.

Largest investigation

Parkes described the investigation as the ‘largest and most complex’ ever undertaken by the organisation.

He said those charged could not be identified as they have the right to seek a suppression order on their names at their first court appearance.

‘My hope is those connected with this terrible tragedy will get comfort from knowing those we consider did not meet their obligations will have to account for their actions and inactions in court,’ he said. 

As reported here, on December 9 last year a group of 38 people from Ovation of the Seas were on a day trip to White Island, or Whakaari, 48 kilometres off the coast of New Zealand’s North Island, when the volcano erupted. Many died and others suffered horrific burns.