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March 26 updates: Celebrity Apex crew test positive, sick Costa crew evacuated, Vasco da Gama to isolation, CroisiEurope delays

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CMV's Dean Brazier, MD Australia, said no health issues have been reported among passengers on Vasco da Gama

Keep checking back. This is being continuously updated.

Celebrity Apex crew test positive

Seven crew members aboard Celebrity Apex at Chantiers de l'Atlantique have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the regional health agency, and are in strict isolation. Their close contacts were reportedly being tested. The ship has been at the yard, ready for hand-over, with some 1,400 crew who've had to remain on board due to French regulations.

Two people on the ship reportedly had tested positive and were isolated on board. Even so, a large crew party was held March 21.

A spokesperson for parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. did not address specifics but said: 'We appreciate the support of French authorities and public health officials and are following their guidance for the protection of our crew’s health. Strict shipboard protocols are in place for our crew members who remain in isolation under medical supervision, and we are working to return them safely home.'

Medical evacuation for Costa Magica, Favolosa crew in Miami

The US Coast Guard facilitated medical evacuations for as many as 13 crew members from Costa Magica and Costa Favolosa offshore from Miami. With respiratory symptoms consistent with pneumonia and bronchitis, they required life-critical care ashore, according to a PortMiami statement.

Both ships were ordered to remain three miles offshore while the disembarkation plan was approved, with tenders to transport the crew to Coast Guard Base Miami Beach, and Miami-Dade Fire Rescue to take them from there to area hospitals.

'We're a global community and cannot turn our backs on those requiring life-critical care,' Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said.

The two Guadeloupe-based ships have been sailing without passengers following Costa Cruises' temporary suspension

Further delays at CroisiEurope

CroisiEurope, which earlier suspended sailings through April 15, is delaying further. All river and coastal cruises are suspended through April 30, while cruise safaris in southern Africa will not operate through May. Mekong cruises are to resume Aug. 14.

Passengers on canceled sailings are being contacted and will be able to book a later trip.

All new bookings made between March 9 and May 1 for departures until Aug. 31 may be canceled up to 30 days before departure, without penalty, apart from fee routing and administrative costs.

Vasco da Gama diverted for isolation

Cruise and Maritime Voyages’ Vasco da Gama will arrive in Fremantle Friday but won’t be allowed to disembark passengers.

'At this stage, we have been informed the ship will be sent to nearby Rottnest Island where passengers will be isolated for 14 days,’ Dean Brazier, MD Australia, said.

No health issues reported

‘As CMV was not informed of this decision (by the premier of Western Australia) in advance, we are only now beginning to notify passengers and their travel agents,’ Brazier said. ‘We have recorded no health issues with our guests who are on board.

‘When they arrive our guests will have been at sea for 13 days straight without disembarking the ship or being in contact with anyone who was not a guest or crew member of CMV and we are disappointed that they will now have to wait a further 14 days until they can return home.’

Earlier, the ship took part in a dramatic mid-ocean transfer of Australian passengers from Columbus off the coast of Thailand, reported here.

 

When this passes, 'Great vacations will be in huge demand': Fain

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'We're ... making sure that the day we begin sailing again — and it won't be that long before we do — we're able to offer our guests safe, healthy and enjoyable cruises from day one,' Richard Fain said in a message from his yard at home

'We have teams planning our return to market as we speak, and we also have teams studying to make sure that our health and sanitation procedures are best in class and make use of the hard lessons we've learned over these last few months,' Fain continued in his latest video message aimed at inspiring travel advisors.

'I still believe without a doubt in the long term'

'While the short term is continuing to look tough, I still believe without a doubt in the long term,' Fain said. 'Celebrity Apex is coming, Odyssey of the Seas is coming and it will always be a Perfect Day at CocoCay.

'People are going to be ready for a vacation and they're going to remember how you stood by them, and they're going to stand by you.'

Speaking from home

The Royal Caribbean chief spoke from the tropical yard of his Miami manse, as employees are in their second week of working from home. He said he was capturing his message from an iPhone on a tripod.

'If anything, the pace is even faster at home than it was at the office. Our immediate focus is on keeping our guests and our employees safe, even while the last few ships are returning to port,' Fain said.

'But we're putting just as much effort, and just as much focus, into making sure that the day we begin sailing again — and it won't be that long before we do — we're able to offer our guests safe, healthy and enjoyable cruises from day one.'

Travel advisors' role will be 'even more critical'

Fain underscored Royal Caribbean's belief in the 'tremendous value' travel advisors provide to the company and to their customers. In the 'new world' to follow the current crisis, he said travel advisors' role will be even more critical: 'People need facts, and your ability to provide that expertise and your ability to educate the public on the value of a cruise is going to be invaluable.'

Fain encouraged travel advisors to use this 'really weird' time to better prepare for the times ahead. They should reach out to clients and think about ways to respond when the current period of isolation ends.

Work now will 'pay off in spades'

'I know it's been a tough and unrewarding effort recently, but it will pay off in spades, just as seeds planted in the spring blossom in the new harvest,' he said.

Lindblad appoints two additional directors

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Tad Smith

Smith most recently was president and CEO of Sotheby’s, a New York Stock Exchange-listed company that he sold for $3.7bn in late 2019. Earlier, he served as president and CEO of Madison Square Garden, an entertainment conglomerate, following a stint as president, local media at Cablevision Systems Corp. He also has held executive roles at Reed Elsevier Group PLC, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, BMG Entertainment and New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission, and served as an adviser at McKinsey & Co.

Sarah Farrell

Farrell is an associate at ValueAct Capital, a San Francisco-based investment firm. She joined in August 2018, after serving as an analyst in Blackstone's Private Equity group. Prior to Blackstone, Farrell was an analyst at JP Morgan in the mergers & acquisitions group and worked as an equity research associate in UBS's investment banking division.

'I have known Tad for decades and the principals at Value Act for several years. They are both proven value creators that share our passion for Lindblad's mission and conviction about the massive opportunity in front of us,' Lindblad Chairman Mark Ein said.

The appointments are effective immediately. Farrell and Smith will stand for re-election by shareholders at the company’s 2020 annual meeting.

 

CDC clarifies live, infectious virus NOT found 17 days later on Princess ship

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Certain Diamond Princess cabins were voluntarily preserved for study before disinfection

Virus survives on surfaces only up to 72 hours

A US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report about COVID-19 outbreaks on cruise ships was misinterpreted by some, prompting the CDC to link to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine which found infectious SARS-CoV-2 can survive for only up to 72 hours on plastic and steel and up to 24 hours on cardboard.

Princess Cruises also provided additional context to the CDC’s report.

Certain cabins preserved for testing before disinfection

Not mentioned in the report is the fact that Princess volunteered to preserve select cabins on board Diamond Princess that had been occupied by positive cases. This testing was done in full collaboration with the Japan Ministry of Health and CDC, the line said, and the findings were expected because the rooms were preserved for this testing.

This testing was designed to support the two public health agencies in collecting more data to inform further research on the virus.

RNA findings indicated virus had been present

According to researchers at Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases, what was detected on surfaces was SARS-CoV-2 RNA, not live virus, in select cruise ship cabins after they were vacated. This testing was intentionally conducted before disinfection occurred.

RNA, short for ribonucleic acid, is material that carries the genetic information of many viruses. It can indicate if the virus was present but does not indicate the virus was still alive. 

Cruise stocks rise on $2 trillion US stimulus

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Congress and the Trump administration agreed on a $3 trillion package. The details are still being worked out

Travel-related stocks had already begun to rebound in recent days in anticipation of the economic stimulus.

Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings both shot up more than 23%, with RCL closing at $42.41 and NCLH at $16.96. Carnival Corp. rose nearly 14%, to $15.55.

Even though news outlets reported the bailout would help the cruise industry, neither Cruise Lines International Association nor major cruise operators had anything to say about themselves on Wednesday.

Help for cruising's key distribution channel

What's known is that travel advisors are getting help, and they are critically important to the health of the cruise business.

As the bill currently stands — it's possible changes will be made before it passes Congress and gets signed into law by the president — travel advisors would have access to several assistance programs.

$25bn airline assistance includes 'ticket agents'

According to the American Society of Travel Advisors, the $25bn chunk of the relief package designated to support passenger airlines will benefit travel sellers.

ASTA explained the treasury secretary is authorized to make up to $25bn in loans, loan guarantees and other investments in support of passenger airlines, 'ticket agents' — the statutory term for travel agencies — and other related aviation businesses. The treasury secretary must consult with the secretary of transportation in allocating these funds. ASTA said that once the bill is enacted, it will work with the treasury and transportation departments to implement this provision.

Other elements that should help travel advisors include small business interruption loans/paycheck protection, economic stabilization loans for severely distressed sectors and unemployment benefits for the self-employed.

The latter, ASTA said, was a priority given there are currently around 40,000 independent contractors working in the travel industry. Their business income has seized up along with every other part of the industry, but these self-employed individuals typically do not have access to federal and state unemployment benefits.

Along with ASTA, it's also known the cruise industry had been strongly advocating for travel sellers.

'We know they're hurting and we are determined to help their comeback, right alongside ours,' said Rob Zeiger, global chief communications officer, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

Loan guarantees?

There may be other elements in the massive relief package that benefit cruise lines, but those were not immediately clear. 

In a recent interview, Carnival Corp. President and CEO Arnold Donald said a cash bailout was not sought from the government, however loan guarantees would be helpful.

Loan guarantees would facilitate securing additional financing to boost liquidity and help keep cruise lines afloat as they ride out the business downturn.

Hygensea can act as an immune system for cruise ships, medical expert Vikand says

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Hydroxyls are like the detergent of the environment, Vikand's Peter Hult said, adding: 'It's bringing the outdoors indoors to reduce pathogens'

Hygensea System

Vikand, a leading provider of medical services to more than 170 cruise ships globally, hopes to play a part by promoting ship-wide use of the air and surface cleaning system Hygensea.

This claims to eliminate up to 99.999% of airborne viruses and bacteria within one to two hours, including the MS2, recognized as a surrogate to COVID-19 by the US Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization. It also kills over 99.9% of viruses, bacteria and mold on hard surfaces and porous materials within hours, effectively creating an immune system for the ship, according to Peter Hult, CEO and president, Vikand.

Integrated into HVAC systems

Hult said the Hygensea System is easily integrated into existing HVAC systems or can be designed into a new system. While there's no evidence HVAC systems spread COVID-19, when people sneeze or cough, the virus becomes aerosolized and can infect others who breathe it in. COVID-19 also spreads when people touch surfaces with the virus and then their mouth, nose or eyes.

Hygensea kills the virus in the air and on the surfaces, differentiating it from spray or liquid products that clean only surfaces.

Hydroxyls, a concept used by NASA

The system generates hydroxyls, a concept long used by NASA to clean the air inside sealed spacecraft.

The sanitizing process occurs at a molecular level using airborne hydroxyls and the natural organic oxidants they form, which are generated by a process similar to the action of the sun’s UV energy reacting with oxygen and water vapor outdoors. The technology uses only UV energy to generate hydroxyls indoors where they do not exist naturally. There are no added chemicals.

The UV energy transforms water vapor directly into a stream of hydroxyls. These powerful oxidants react instantly with naturally occurring volatile organic compounds to form a cascade of natural oxidants in air to sanitize indoors just like the sun does outdoors.

'The detergent of the environment'

Hydroxyls are like the detergent of the environment, Hult explained. 'In simple terms, it's bringing the outdoors indoors to reduce pathogens.'

Some cruise ships currently use the Hygensea System in their casinos to remove the smell of tobacco smoke. With the improved air quality, people stay longer so there's a revenue payback. The system is also used in shipboard medical centers and garbage rooms, and one vessel has it in some guest suites.

But Hult sees a compelling need for ship-wide use — in restaurants, public spaces, children's areas and all guest rooms. Vikand, the exclusive distributor of the Hygensea System to the maritime industry, is talking with some high-profile cruise lines that are seeking solutions to protect passengers, restore confidence and recover from the coronavirus crisis.

The system is easily retrofitted while a ship is in operation, according to Hult, who said it can be done in a week or two, depending on the ship's size. However, even vessels in the same class may have different HVAC systems, so an assessment is required to make a plan.

Vessel design and engineering experts Knud E. Hansen are working in partnership with Vikand to bring a complete HVAC engineering system to their clients.

Added benefit: energy conservation

There's an energy conservation benefit, too. With the Hygensea System, air recirculation can be maximized without degrading air quality. This saves energy and, by Vikand's calculations, fuel consumption can be reduced by a significant 1% to 3% on a full-ship installation. That's good for the environment and helps recover the cost of the investment. 

Going forward, public health at sea will be an even bigger focus than in the past, but with approaches like the Hygensea System, this can create a positive story for the industry, Hult said.

March 25 updates: More lines extend suspension, Costa/MSC challenges, Alaska season delay, RMI supports seafarers

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Keep checking back. This is being continuously updated.

P&O Cruises Australia extends suspension

P&O Cruises Australia extended its voluntary pause in operations across Australia and New Zealand. It now plans to resume operations on May 15 in Australia — an extra 30 days to what had previously been announced.

This will affect sailings by Pacific Dawn and Pacific Explorer. In New Zealand it will suspend Pacific Aria's voyages until June 30.

The company said it will contact people whose cruises are affected. Those who have paid in full for voyages cancelled during the extended suspensions have two options — a full refund or a 200% future cruise credit. Travel agent commissions are protected for bookings paid in full and for the total amount of future cruise credits.

AQSC and Victory will also return later

American Queen Steamboat Co. is extending its temporarily suspended operations across all boats through May 16. Twenty sailings between April 11 and then are impacted, and customers will get a 125% future cruise credit.

Sister brand Victory Cruise Lines now plans to resume service May 17. Passengers on the four cruises that were to depart between April 24 and then will be contacted and offered a 125% future cruise credit.

Carnival Cruise Line: Stay tuned

Carnival Cruise Line acknowledged other lines are extending suspensions and said it expects to share a decision by Friday. 

Dream Cruises drops October-February Australia season

Dream Cruises announced Explorer Dream will not operate a second season Down Under between October and February, as planned.

‘While Explorer Dream will not return to Australia and New Zealand in the immediate future, we will be back,’ Brigita Devries, VP sales and marketing Australia and New Zealand, said.

‘We are deeply saddened by this decision,’ Devries said, ‘however we must take these extraordinary precautionary measures in order to limit the spread of the virus and play our part in recovery. We hope that by acting early, we will minimise the number of passengers affected.'

Those affected by the cancellation will receive a full refund or a future cruise credit towards any voyage until December 31, 2021, with an additional A$250 on-board credit.

Costa Deliziosa takes on provisions

After refueling in Mauritius on Tuesday, Costa Deliziosa docked this morning in La Reunion for a technical call. Five containers, mainly of food, were delivered. Three passengers from the island were allowed to disembark and must self-quarantine although no health problem has been declared on the ship.

There are 2,800 passengers aboard. Costa Deliziosa is supposed to be heading to Italy.

Costa Victoria in Civitavecchia

After a nearly two-month voyage, Costa Victoria has arrived in Italy. All of the approximately 700 passengers have been confined to their cabins since an Argentine woman tested positive for corinavirus in Crete and disembarked in Greece. The ship was to end its cruise in Venice on March 28.

Civitavecchia's mayor is calling for the port's closure to cruise ships.

Costa pair heading to Miami

Costa Favolosa and Costa Magica, both in the Caribbean and without passengers, are now underway to PortMiami, with arrival expected Thursday, The Miami Herald reports. 

MSC Splendida in Marseille

MSC Splendida, which docked Tuesday evening in Marseille with 1,700 passengers and no known health problems, has disembarked French residents but there are challenges repatriating the other nationalities given the flight and rail cancellations. 

Seattle warns on Alaska season delay

Though it's no surprise given Canada's earlier decision not to take cruise ships carrying more than 500 people until July, the Port of Seattle has now stated it expects a delay to the start of the 2020 cruise season 'until the resolution of the public health emergency.' Earlier, the port had canceled the season's first two calls in April, both transits.

'The eventual return of our cruise season is something we fully expect as an important contribution to living wage jobs, local small businesses, and our region’s economic recovery,' Port of Seattle Commission President Peter Steinbrueck said. 'We also recognize the critical role Seattle cruise plays in supporting the Alaska economy for over 20 years.'

Each homeport sailing is calculated to create approximately $4m in regional business activity, with a full cruise season generating nearly $900m statewide and supporting 5,500 jobs.

Marshall Islands Registry urges seafarer support

The Republic of the Marshall Islands, one of the world’s largest maritime registries, encouraged countries to recognize and protect seafarers as key transport workers amid restrictions around the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Many countries have imposed travel bans and restrictions on crew changes. The unforeseen consequence is the prevention of the change of ships’ crews, either to join a ship or for crews to be relieved and return home. The RMI Registry has received a number of complaints from operators and individual seafarers stating that the prevention of repatriation is adding to their emotional stress and adversely affecting their well-being.

'On behalf of all seafarers ... the RMI Registry urges governments to recognize the contribution of seafarers towards keeping vital supply chains open, and to devise plans to allow them to board a designated ship and to be repatriated at the end of their contracts.'

To this end, the registry endorsed Circular Letter No. 4224, issued by International Maritime Organization's secretary general, as well as the stance taken by the UK government designating seafarers as key transport workers. 

CMV passengers still booking

Cruise & Maritime Voyages reported bookings are still being made for later in 2020 and 2021, when it is hoped travel restrictions will have lifted.

New flagship Amy Johnson is to sail its maiden voyage in April 2021 and will then position alongside Columbus sailing from London Tilbury. The program, which went on sale Feb. 20, is already some 27% sold. Three Amy Johnson cruises from Tilbury in 2021 are proving to be top sellers and are all well over 50% sold.

'During a very difficult trading period, people are clearly looking forward to the future and planning their 2021 cruising holidays, and at the same time maximising on our "Buy One, Get One Free" deals which extend, subject to availability, until 31st May 2020,'  CMV Sales Director Lisa Jacobs said.

American Cruise Lines' flexible cancellation policy

Following American Cruise Lines' suspension of operations through April, the company rolled out flexible options for passengers and said it will protect travel advisor commissions for bookings impacted by COVID-19.

New and existing bookings on cruises departing through August may be canceled for any reason up to 24 hours before, for a 100% voucher. Passengers on suspended cruises can get a full refund or a 125% future cruise voucher.  Commissions will be paid based on the original sailing date.

 

Royal Caribbean group extends global suspension of cruises at least another month

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This includes Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Silversea Cruises and Azamara.

Previously April 11

When announcing the suspension on March 14, the company had expected to resume sailing April 11.

Alaska, Canada/New England later

Because of previously announced port closures for Canada, the Royal Caribbean group expects to return to service for Alaska and Canada/New England sailings July 1.

'We are working with our guests to address this disruption to their vacations, and we are genuinely sorry for their inconvenience,' the company said Tuesday. 'We are also working with our crew to sort out the issues this decision presents for them.'

Adding Quantum, Royal Caribbean goes to four Alaska ships in 2021

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Currently based in Asia, Quantum of the Seas will join sister ship Ovation of the Seas at the Port of Seattle next year

Earlier, the company had announced Ovation of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas and Serenade of the Seas there, for a second year running.

Joins Ovation in Seattle

Quantum will join sister Ovation of the Seas at the Port of Seattle, with Quantum sailing Mondays and Ovation on Fridays.

Ports are Juneau and Victoria, BC, plus Sitka or Skagway or Icy Strait, depending on the date, and scenic cruising of Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier.

Arriving from Asia

Quantum of the Seas is currently based in Asia, where it sails seasonally from Tianjin, China, and Singapore — though Royal Caribbean's global operations are currently suspended to at least May 12.

A company spokeswoman said the plan to move Quantum to Alaska was decided late last year.

In 2021, China is going to get its first Oasis-class ship, Wonder of the Seas, scheduled to debut mid-year in Shanghai.

March 24 updates: Savona saga, MSC Fantasia, Zaandam-Rotterdam rendezvous, Poseidon's Arctic plans, Haifa and hope

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Disembarkation from MSC Fantasia resumed in Lisbon after a pause when two passengers tested positive for coronavirus

Keep checking back. This is being continuously updated.

Costa Luminosa winding down

Costa Luminosa, docked 72 hours earlier in Savona, by Tuesday evening had only about 500 crew members on board — all asymptomatic. All passengers were disembarked, with public health protections, along with more than 200 crew who were heading home or, if symptomatic or tested positive, to be housed in armed forces barracks in Turin. Nine people are currently hospitalized, the last, a Filipino crew member.

Of the 500 crew on board, 80 to 100 will remain with the ship while the others — Indonesians, Filipinos, Indians — were to leave on charter flights. Soon Costa Luminosa will move to another berth in the port where it will be fully sanitized and await the resumption of cruise operations.

Border standoff

Complications continue, though. For example, three Ligurian drivers who were taking passengers home to Romania are stuck on the border between Hungary and Romania.

Their bus, hired by Costa Cruises, crossed Slovenia, Austria and Hungary to the Romanian border, where it was blocked. Romanian border police disembarked the passengers, saying it was not necessary to take them to their destination because Romanians would do it. At that point the drivers should have returned, but the Hungarians did not let the vehicle pass. The bus was in the space between the two countries under the snow, and the drivers weren't allowed to get off to eat or go to either country to find a hotel.

MSC Fantasia disembarkation restarted in Lisbon

MSC Fantasia, alongside in Lisbon since Sunday following a trans-Atlantic crossing from Brazil, resumed disembarking passengers today under the supervision of local authorities and subject to health checks. Everyone was supposed to get off Sunday, however after a first group of Portuguese nationals left the ship, two guests tested positive.

Disembarkation is now expected to continue at least through Thursday. For the great majority of guests, MSC Cruises has organized direct charter flights or other transportation, by nationality.

During its crossing, MSC Fantasia not stopped at any ports prior to Lisbon. MSC Cruises said it had checked all passengers and crew's health and travel histories prior to embarkation.

Zaandam to get support from Rotterdam

Thirty passengers and 47 crew have now reported to Zaandam’s medical center with influenza-like symptoms, up from a total 42 people previously. Those who feel sick and their close contacts have been isolated while all passengers are staying in their staterooms for now. The ship is carrying 1,243 passengers and 586 crew.

Since all ports along Zaandam’s route up the Pacific Coast of South America are closed to cruise ships, Holland America Line deployed Rotterdam to rendezvous and provide extra supplies, staff, COVID-19 test kits and other support as needed. Carrying 611 crew and no passengers, Rotterdam departed Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Sunday afternoon.

The ships are scheduled to meet by the evening of March 26 off the coast of Panama.

Poseidon still committed to the Arctic

Poseidon Expeditions suspended Sea Spirit operations for the balance of March and April. Postponed until 2021 are a sub-charter in the mid-Atlantic and a cruise to Portugal, Spain and France. After completing its Antarctica season, the ship is heading north from Montevideo, Uruguay, where passengers disembarked March 19.

For the next 2020/21 Antarctic season, final payment is due 60 days out instead of 90 days, and deposits are reduced to 10%.

Steve Wellmeier, managing director of the company’s US office, said Poseidon remains committed to its 2020 Arctic season but is letting travelers re-book or transfer to a 2021 Arctic departure, beginning from 60 days and up to seven days prior. Final payment is due 60 days out instead of 90 days and deposits on new bookings are halved, to 10%.

The Russian Federation's borders recently closed to all foreign travelers until May 1, however Poseidon’s three North Pole voyages aboard 50 Years of Victory remain scheduled, beginning July 12 from Murmansk. Final payment is due 60 days out, instead of 90 days. 

Haifa hearts the cruise industry

Haifa Port created a video message on behalf of Israel to cheer cruise industry friends around the world: 'We love you and we miss you, and we hope to see your beautiful ships coming to the Holy Land really soon.' 

#HopeFloats

Each night at 7:30, all the ships anchored around Grand Bahama Island — including five belonging to Holland America Line — are sounding their horns in solidarity. According to a tweet @HALcruises, this is 'letting the world know that we are strong, safe and healthy on board, and we are thinking of everyone. #HopeFloats.'

Aboard Nieuw Amsterdam, for one, a different crew member is selected to sound the horn each night.