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'Get them to stay': RCL leaders urge agents to instill confidence in cruisers

Carol Cabezas, Dondra Ritzenthaler, Vicki Freed.jpeg
From left, Azamara's Carol Cabezas, Celebrity's Dondra Ritzenthaler, Royal Caribbean's Vicki Freed

Virus of fear

'There are two viruses — the very serious coronavirus but, equally as serious, the virus of fear,' said Vicki Freed, SVP sales and trade support & service, Royal Caribbean International.

Overcoming the fear is what the group's new 'Cruise With Confidence' 48-hour cancellation policy is designed to do.

Safety net

'It gives clients a safety net,' Freed said during a live webcast Friday that drew nearly 4,500 travel advisors — a hefty number.

She maintained shipboard environments are 'very clean' and said advisors can disseminate the cruise lines' sanitation information and additional protocols such as her company's effective-immediately mandatory temperature screening prior to embarkation.

The ability to cancel up to just 48 hours prior to sailing at no penalty is 'extremely generous,' according to Dondra Ritzenthaler, SVP sales and trade support & service, Celebrity Cruises.

'Get them to stay'

'We're doing everything to instill confidence,' she said. ''Go out and be so confident in getting your guest to stay on their cruise. We really want to motivate you to get them to stay.'

Carol Cabezas, chief operating officer, Azamara, told advisors to tell ciients: 'You don't lose. You might as well hang on.'

Freed said the 'Cruise With Confidence' policy, announced today, generated immediate and extremely positive feedback from retail partners.

Call center: Bookings are sticking

During the mid-afternoon webcast, she reported more than 90% of the call center conversations to that point indicated people were keeping their booking.

Those who do cancel get a 100% future cruise credit to be applied to any sailing in 2020 or 2021.

'If they cancel, make sure you get the customer to book the future cruise with you,' Ritzenthaler said, and encourage rebooking in 2020.

Reach out — but wash your hands

Freed said the worst thing travel partners can do is disengage: 'Your clients want to be reassured. Be proactive: Reach out to your clients.

'We are going to get over this hurdle,' Freed assured. 'We're with you, we're in this with you.'

As a sign-off note, she added: 'Wash your hands.'

Trump administration reportedly weighs discouraging people from cruising

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Cruise line leaders were scheduled to meet with Mike Pence on coronavirus containment

No decision has been made but the Trump administration has discussed this as part of its potential coronavirus containment strategy, according to a Reuters exclusive.

Ahead of Mike Pence meeting

As earlier reported, key cruise leaders including Adam Goldstein, chairman of Cruise Lines International Association, are scheduled to meet with Vice President Mike Pence Saturday afternoon at Port Everglades. Pence is heading the US response to the virus.

CLIA: Restrictions at odds with WHO

Reacting to the report, CLIA said: 'Any action to restrict cruising is unwarranted, and at odds with the World Health Organization which continues to advise against the application of travel or trade restrictions to countries experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks.

Singling out the travel and tourism industry, and cruise lines specifically, will have significant detrimental impacts — some possibly irreversible — on the national and local economies, CLIA warned.

According to the association, the cruise industry supports more than 421,000 American jobs and contributed nearly $53bn to the US economy in 2018. Cruise activity, CLIA added, 'supports travel agencies, airlines, hotels and a broad supply chain of industries that stretches across the United States. With the proactive measures in place by the cruise industry based on prevailing guidance from global health authorities, restricting cruising is unreasonable and will have long-lasting detrimental effects on the US economy well beyond the travel and tourism industry.'

The Reuters report came on a day that coronavirus test results were awaited from 45 people aboard Diamond Princess, off the California coast. Gov. Gavin Newsom has said the ship will not be allowed to dock pending information on the health status on board.

Cancellation policies revised

Also today, an increasing number of cruise operators rolled out more flexible cancellation policies and some incentives for travelers.

Four brands in the Royal Caribbean family are now allowing people to cancel within 48 hours of departure and get a future cruise credit to apply to any sailing before the end of 2021. Carnival Cruise Line and Princess Cruises were among those giving on-board credit to encourage people to keep their travel plans.

Prior US advice on cruising

Nearly two weeks ago the US urged Americans to reconsider travel by cruise ship to or within Asia. By then, most operators had already revised itineraries.

21 people on Grand Princess have coronavirus in first test batch

FILE PHOTO: JAKE TOMLINSON Grand Princess and Golden Gate.jpg
Grand Princess is shown here during an earlier visit to San Francisco. The ship remains offshore

Twenty-one people on Grand Princess, including two passengers and 19 crew, tested positive for coronavirus.

This was the number confirmed late Friday afternoon in the first batch of 45 samples taken Thursday on the ship. It is currently off the California coast.

Mike Pence outlines the plan

Announcing the results, US Vice President Mike Pence said there are plans to bring the ship to a noncommercial port, and that everyone on board would be tested.

All passengers confined to their rooms

Meanwhile, all passengers and the affected crew will remain isolated in their rooms. Food and beverage service are being provided by room service.

Princess Cruises said it was notified of the results just as Pence was giving his news conference.

The line is working with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine what additional precautionary measures may be needed. The medical team was collecting information about any prescription medical refill needs.

3,533 people on board

There are 3,533 people aboard Grand Princess, including 2,422 passengers and 1,111 crew. They represent 54 nationalities.  

MSC Opera bypasses Malta after threat of local protest

The Malta prime minister's office said there was no evidence of coronavirus on board

Doctors threatened industrial action

The prime minister's office said MSC Cruises agreed to bypass the island to 'avoid unnecessary public unrest.' Local doctors had threatened industrial action if MSC Opera were allowed to call.

Review shows no evidence of COVID-19

In a statement, the prime minister's office said a review of the ship's medical records found no evidence of coronavirus on board.

MSC Opera had visited Corfu Thursday after public health authorities gave the go-head there. The day before, Piraeus authorities had allowed the ship to continue without restrictions.

On Wednesday Austrian health authorities informed MSC Cruises that a man on MSC Opera's prior voyage, Feb. 17-28, tested positive for coronavirus March 3.

The Austrian man had returned directly home through northern Italy on Feb. 28 immediately after disembarking from his cruise in Genoa.

Next scheduled stop: Messina

MSC Opera's next scheduled call is Messina, Italy, on Sunday. 

Fridtjof Nansen debuts in Dover ahead of Hurtigruten's homeporting next winter

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Fridtjof Nansen is a sister ship of Roald Amundsen, the world’s first battery-hybrid powered cruise ship

Fridtjof Nansen is a sister ship of Roald Amundsen, the world’s first battery hybrid powered cruise ship.

The call comes ahead of next year’s official launch of Dover’s new venture with Hurtigruten.

For the first time in its 127-year history, Hurtigruten will offer winter sailings from Dover, with the port becoming the UK homeport for Maud (ex Trollfjord) for 13 turnaround calls in her 2021/2022 Norway Expedition programme. As earlier reported, Trollfjord will be renamed Maud after a complete refit before being deployed on expedition cruises. 

Sustainable approach

Sonia Limbrick, Head of Cruise at the Port of Dover said: ‘We are thrilled to welcome Hurtigruten here today and host such an extraordinary cruise ship ahead of her inaugural voyage. With their environmentally friendly and sustainable approach, Hurtigruten represent everything that Port of Dover Cruise champions.’

Anthony Daniels, UK General Manager for Hurtigruten said: ‘Sustainability is at the core of our operation and with the introduction of our second hybrid ship we hope to continue to set the benchmark in the cruise industry as leaders in sustainable cruising.’

Hurtigruten’s Norway Expeditions from Dover will commence in October 2021 and be available through to March 2022.


Four Royal Caribbean brands allow cancellation up to 48 hours before cruise


This applies to Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara and Silversea.

Passengers will receive a full credit for their fare, usable on any future sailing in 2020 or 2021.

Applies on sailings through July

The policy applies to both new and existing cruise bookings with a sailing date on or before July 31.

'Our previous policy set earlier deadlines for guests to cancel their cruises, and that added unnecessary stress,' said Richard Fain, chairman and CEO. 'Trying to guess a month or more in advance where areas of concern about coronavirus might be is challenging for medical experts, much less a family preparing for vacation.

Rain check allowed amid fast-changing circumstances

'When circumstances are as fast-changing as they have been recently, it's good to know you have the option to take a rain check,' Fain continued. 'We think putting more control in our guests' hands helps them make informed decisions about whether to keep their existing vacation plans or trade out for a more convenient time or itinerary.'

Several other lines followed suit. See 'NCL, Oceania Cruises, Regent adopt 48-hour cancellation policy.'

Carnival allows rebooking of cruises through May, credit for those who sail

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Passengers booked on Carnival Radiance in Europe will be notified of itinerary changes and advised of a special offer

The line is also providing incentives for those who sail.

Travelers who keep their booking as scheduled for departures between March 6 and May 31 will receive on-board credit. The amounts are $100 per cabin for three-/four-day cruises, $150 per cabin for five-day cruises and $200 per cabin for cruises of six days or longer.

The credits will automatically apply; there is no need to call Carnival.

Carnival Radiance itinerary changes/bonus

Passengers booked on Carnival Radiance in Europe will be advised of some itinerary changes in the next few days and a special offer for sailing. This spring, Carnival Victory is undergoing a $200m transformation in Cadiz to emerge as Carnival Radiance.

Flexibility to change dates

Passengers who booked prior to March 6 for cruises between now and May 31 are allowed to move their booking to a new date and receive a future cruise credit in the amount of the non-refundable cancellation fee.

Those booked on cruises departing between March 9 and March 31 can move their booking to a future date up to three days before sailing. If the cruise departs between March 6 and March 8, they should call Carnival now.

Passengers booked on sailings departing between April 1 and May 31 can move their booking to a future date by March 31.

Future cruise credit good through March 2021

The future cruise credit must be used for a sailing by March 31, 2021.


Princess Cruises eases cancellation policy for sailings through May

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Passengers who choose to sail will get on-board credit in amounts based on cruise length

The details vary by departure date.

For sailings before or on April 3, passengers who cancel up to 72 hours before departure will receive a future cruise credit for 100% of the cancellation fees.

For sailings leaving April 4 to May 31, passengers who cancel by March 31 will also get a future cruise credit for 100% of the cancellation fees.

For departures June 1 to June 30, the final payment date was reduced to 60 days prior to sailing, down from 90 days.

On-board credit for sailing

Travelers who keep their booking as currently scheduled for departures between March 9 and May 31 will receive on-board credit. The amounts are $100 per cabin for three-/four-day cruises, $150 per cabin for five-day cruises and $200 per cabin for cruises of six days and longer.

Future cruise credits will automatically be applied to each passenger's Captain's Circle account after they cancel. Future cruise credits may take up to 10 business days to be processed.

Full details are here.

AmaWaterways to introduce Nile vessel in 2021

The 68-passenger AmaDahlia will feature 34 luxurious accommodations, including 24 balcony suites measuring up to 430 square feet

Four Seasons stays before and after in Cairo

AmaDahlia will operate an 11-night 'Secrets of Egypt & Nile' cruise and land adventure. Included are a seven-night round-trip cruise from Luxor paired with three nights pre-cruise and one night post-cruise in Cairo at the five-star Four Seasons, Cairo at The First Residence.

President and Co-founder Rudi Schreiner said AmaWaterways is pleased to return to the Nile with 'luxurious accommodations, delectable cuisine and enriching experiences designed to engage with local communities and historic sites.'

Private access

Passengers will follow expert guides to legendary locations like the Great Hypostyle Hall of Karnak, the Temple of Luxor and the Valley of the Kings and Queens. They will get private access to the Tomb of Queen Nefertari and a Nubian village. While in Cairo, they'll visit the Great Sphinx and three Pyramids of Giza and the Egyptian Museum, and have a private tour of the principal workplace of Egypt's president, the Abdeen Presidential Palace, considered one of the most luxurious palaces in the world.

68-passenger AmaDahlia

The 68-passenger AmaDahlia will feature 34 luxurious accommodations, including 24 balcony suites measuring up to 430 square feet. Amenities include a sun deck and swimming pool, fitness room, hair and nail salon, two massage rooms and two restaurants. Nightly entertainment will include a belly dance show, a Galabeya (a traditional Egyptian gown) party and a Darawish show.

The program, with intra-Egypt flights between Cairo and Luxor, will operate from September to May each year. Optional extensions include three nights in Dubai or four nights in Jordan (Amman and Petra) before and four nights in Israel (Jerusalem) after.

Bookings by June 30, 2020, offer early booking rewards that may be combined with Past Guest Privilege Rewards.

Seabourn rolls out 'Book With Confidence' program

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The future cruise credit must be used to book a new sailing within 90 days for any published voyage departing before Dec. 31, 2021. Here, Alaska

'Book With Confidence' is aimed at reassuring travelers wary of coronavirus uncertainty.

Applies to bookings made March 2 through April 30

It applies to existing bookings and new bookings made between March 2 through April 30 for sailings departing between April 1 and Oct. 15. The credit will be equal to the amount of the nonrefundable portion of their deposit and cancellation fee.

The future cruise credit must be used to book a new sailing within 90 days for any published voyage departing before Dec. 31, 2021.