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March 19 updates: Zaandam, Marseille takes ships, Braemar cruisers are home, Fiji, Great Lakes/St. Lawrence outlook

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Following a screening by health officials in Marseille after arriving trans-Atlantic, Costa Luminosa disembarked a number of passengers there and will now head to Italy

Keep checking back. This is being continuously updated.

Zandaam final destination unknown

Holland America Line's Zaandam is going to make a service call at Valparaíso, Chile, on Friday, and then head north. The line is still working to finalize details about the best place for passengers to disembark and head home.

The ship was turned away from Punta Arenas earlier even though HAL said there are no known or suspected cases of COVID-19 among the 842 passengers and 542 crew.

Marseille steps up

Even as France is on partial lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus, the Port of Marseille is taking cruise ships that are temporarily going out of service, so travelers can get home.

When Costa Luminosa arrived today from a trans-Atlantic crossing with some 1,400 passengers, the ship was cleared following screening by health authorities. Disembarking passengers include French residents and others, based on transport logistics. Costa Cruises organized transfers and flights and is working with authorities in Italy to disembark the remaining people in Savona. 

After that, Costa Pacifica, on a positioning itinerary from Buenos Aires to Europe, was cleared to disembark. The ship is to depart Friday with Genoa arrival planned Saturday.

According to Marseille Cruise Club, Costa Smeralda, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises' Europa 2 and AIDAsol all disembarked Sunday and are temporarily laid up in Marseille.

Braemar cruisers are back home

All 684 passengers from Fred. Olsen's Braemar are back in the UK, having arrived on four chartered flights from Havana, Cuba, today, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab confirmed. He once again thanked Cuba.

So did Peter Deer, managing director of Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, who acknowledged 'the Cuban authorities, the Port of Mariel and the Cuban people for their support. Other countries would not allow Braemar to dock once we had confirmed cases of coronavirus on board. Thanks to their kindness, we are now able to get people home. Your support will not be forgotten. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.'

Fiji and Blue Lagoon Cruises

On Thursday the Fiji government announced that anyone entering Fiji from overseas must self-quarantine for 14 days.

The port of Lautoka is under lockdown and Blue Lagoon Cruises, which released its 2020-21 programme last month, has suspended services.

Great Lakes outlook

As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Donald Trump announced the only movement across the US-Canada border will be for trade in 'goods,' it is presumed this means no tourism visits and thus no cruising, according to Stephen Burnett, executive director, Great Lakes Cruising Coalition & Cruise Ontario.

'Therefore, at this time, Great Lakes cruising is on hold,' Burnett said. However, he added the bulk of the season happens later in the summer and in the fall.

'We have reached out to every Great Lakes cruise line and also to some of their suppliers,' Burnett continued. 'All of them are studying the situation closely and in some cases their fleets have already been parked. All of them are looking ahead to when this will be over, but while we are social distancing and doing our part to delay the spread of COVID-19, our cruise season is looking bleak.'

Cruise the Saint Lawrence

'With each passing day, we more clearly appreciate the extent to which businesses across the tourism sector with direct or indirect involvement in the Saint Lawrence cruise industry operations are increasingly and significantly impacted by the COVID-19 coronavirus,' said Tony Boemi, president, Cruise the Saint Lawrence.

'We empathize with and understand the situation in which these entrepreneurs and their employees find themselves,' he continued. 'That said, we remain confident that our governments will propose economic measures intended to support the socioeconomic fabric of our industry.'

Landry & Kling 'ambassadors of hope'

Landry & Kling Global Cruise Events is busy rebooking customers due to the global cruise moratorium and, 'Believe it or not, we're also booking new cruises right now for groups and charters,' President and CEO Joyce Landry said in a video message

She added that Landry & Kling decided to be 'ambassadors of hope. So we're here to cheer you up if you call us ... We're positive about the future.'

 

Carnival Corp. is offering cruise ships for coronavirus support

PHOTO: ANNE KALOSH Carnival funnel.jpg
Ships from four Carnival Corp & plc brands, including Carnival Cruise Lines, are being offered

Ships would be used for non-coronavirus patients

As presaged here, cruise ships would help take the pressure off land-based hospitals so those facilities can handle COVID-19 patients. Carnival Corp. confirmed its vessels would not be housing coronavirus cases.

Trump's shout out to Micky Arison

During his Thursday briefing, President Trump announced Micky Arison would be making the ships available. 

Carnival Corp. is calling on governments and health authorities to consider using the ships as temporary healthcare facilities to treat non-coronavirus patients, freeing up additional space and expanding capacity in hospitals ashore. 

As part of the offer, interested parties will be asked to cover only the essential costs of the ship's operations while in port.

How cruise ships would be converted and what they can provide

If needed, the cruise ships are capable of being quickly provisioned to serve as hospitals with up to 1,000 cabins that can treat patients suffering from less critical conditions. These cabins can be quickly converted to install and connect remote patient monitoring devices over the ship's high-speed network, providing cardiac, respiratory, oxygen saturation and video monitoring capabilities. The cabins also have bathroom facilities, private balconies with access to sun and fresh air, and isolation capabilities, as needed.

Additionally, the cruise ships would have the ability to provide up to seven intensive care units in their medical center equipped with central cardiac monitoring, ventilators and other key medical devices and capabilities. Similar to land-based health facilities, cruise ships can also house multiple medical functions in disparate locations by using different decks to separate each required medical area.

Supported by the regular crew

The temporary hospital cruise ships would be berthed at a pier near the community in need and operated by the ship's crew, with all maritime operations, food and beverage, and cleaning services provided by crew members on the ship. Medical services would be provided by the government entity or hospital responsible for fighting the spread of COVID-19 within that community.

Contact info

Governments or health authorities with interest can contact Monica Puello by email at MPuello@Carnival.com or by phone at +1-305-406-8656.

See also 'Splendid case study — how the first passenger ship was transformed for coronavirus relief'

Mid-ocean ship swap ensures CMV cruisers will get home

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Tenders carry passengers between Columbus and Vasco da Gama off the coast of Thailand

Australians en route to Fremantle

Australian and New Zealand nationals remained on board Vasco da Gama, while 176 were transferred from Columbus to Vasco da Gama, which sailed in the afternoon for Fremantle where passengers are expected to disembark on March 27.

Europeans heading for Tilbury

In turn, 63 European passengers were transferred from Vasco da Gama to Columbus to join other Europeans before setting sail for Tilbury where passengers are expected to disembark on April 13.

Inaugural season

The 1,220-passenger Vasco da Gama had just completed her inaugural 2019/20 season in Australia where she was based in Adelaide and Fremantle and was on the return northbound voyage to Tilbury. 

Cruise & Maritime Voyages has suspended all its cruises globally and its ships are heading to the nearest available disembarkation port so that passengers currently at sea can return home.

Could cruise ships become floating hospitals in the war on coronavirus?

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A need for hospital beds in major cities like New York. Here, a cruise ship alongside at the Manhattan terminal

While some think it's a good idea, it poses enormous complexities.

'It would be a really good thing,' according to Peter Hult, CEO and president, Vikand, a leading provider of medical services to more than 170 cruise ships globally. He pointed to the need for hospital beds in major cities like New York.

Military hospital ships are called up

President Trump on Wednesday said he was dispatching two military hospital ships to help with the crisis. USNS Comfort is going to New York Harbor, while USNS Mercy is being readied to deploy to a location on the US West Coast.

Military ships are used to treat trauma and combat casualties and are not equipped with contained spaces to handle infectious diseases. However, they could help take the pressure off shoreside hospitals by taking over non-coronavirus cases.

That likely would be the idea with cruise ships, as well.

Or they might be used to quarantine people who have been exposed but are not seriously ill, an idea being considered for an Italian ferry, according to news reports.

If it were possible for a cruise ship to be used for medical purposes, specialized equipment and adaptations would be needed. And, afterward, it might be difficult to bring back into service because of public perceptions. For that reason, Hult said, lines may be looking at using vessels they intend to retire.

Surplus cruise ship capacity

There is going to be plenty of surplus cruise ship capacity in the near future, with hundreds of vessels temporarily going out of service. Given that it may be hard to get people cruising again, for reasons of perception and/or economic stress, lines may be faced with laying up ships longer anyway.

Veteran cruise executive Bruce Nierenberg, a proponent of cruise ships for medical support, brushed off concerns about image problems for a ship that does hospital service. If it were not possible to thoroughly sanitize rooms, people would never be able to visit hospitals that have treated infectious disease cases, he argued.

'Part of the solution' 

Moreover, such an effort would let cruise lines become 'part of the solution instead of being constantly portrayed as a contributor to the problem as they originally were,' Nierenberg said.

Even a single cruise ship with 2,000 beds could make a big difference, according to Hult, who noted all the cooking and support facilities are there, and medical staff could be housed on board.

Disaster relief precedents

Cruise ships have been used for disaster relief before, for example, as housing for first responders following the earthquake in Haiti and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. And a flotilla of ships delivered food, supplies and skilled personnel after Hurricane Dorian last year.

'I think the cruise industry is perfectly positioned to do this. It's the right thing to do,' Hult said.

Major cruise operators did not respond to requests for comment.

March 19 update: See 'Carnival Corp, is offering cruise ships for coronavirus support'

NCLH to dock shoreside pay 20%, move to four-day week

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The company said these moves would take effect March 30 and are anticipated to be in place through June 22.

NCLH is also working to temporarily discontinue the employer 401(k) match benefit.

US shoreside team members 

This plan is for US shoreside team members only, an NCLH spokesperson said Wednesday, adding that no decisions have been made with respect to international teams.

'Loyalty, passion and determination' valued

'As a people-first organization, this decision was not taken lightly,' the spokesperson said. 'We remain committed to our team members and value their loyalty, passion and determination as we navigate this global situation.'

Last week NCL announced the temporary suspension of all cruises between March 13 and April 11, to support efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19.

On March 12, NCLH began borrowing from revolving credit facilities that total $1.55bn. This was a precautionary measure, the company said in a filing, to increase its cash position and facilitate financial flexibility in light of current uncertainty in the global markets.

Shares dip to $7.03 in trading

After trading as low as $7.03 Wednesday, NCLH shares closed at $7.77, off $2.26. In the past 52 weeks, the stock has traded as high as $59.78.

Iona conveyance: 'Cruise fans, please stay home'

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Iona at the Papenburg outfitting dock prior to undertaking its conveyance to the sea

The spectacle of a giant ship moving in reverse through the narrow waterway, past cows grazing in meadows, usually draws thousands of onlookers to the riverbanks, bridges and locks.

P&O Cruises' Iona was scheduled to leave the Papenburg yard's outfitting dock on Wednesday evening for its journey to the sea.

Avoiding crowds

Due to the public health authorities' advice about avoiding crowds to stem the transmission of coronavirus, Meyer Werft encouraged people to 'please stay home this time.' Instead, they were invited to keep abreast of Iona's progress via the shipyard's social media channels.

As per established safety procedures, Iona would be proceeding in reverse for better maneuverability, with two tugs providing assistance.

Weather and tidal conditions permitting, P&O Cruises' next generation, LNG-powered ship was planned to arrive in Eemshaven, Netherlands, Thursday evening.

Iona will then go through several days of technical and nautical tests on the North Sea.

March 18 updates: Hurtigruten halts, Braemar flights from Cuba, Galveston shelter, Genting policy

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Hurtigruten's expedition cruises are suspended through April 28 and Norwegian coastal voyages through April 19

Keep checking back. This is being continuously updated.

Braemar alongside at Mariel

Fred. Olsen's Braemar is alongside at Cuba's Port of Mariel. All 682 passengers are set to fly back to the UK. Three chartered British Airways flights are scheduled to land at London Heathrow Thursday morning.

Anyone who has tested positive for coronavirus or has flu-like symptoms, plus their companions, will return on a separate flight to MoD Boscombe Down, Wiltshire. Public Health England will require those who are ill to self-isolate for 14 days.

Hurtigruten halts

Like the rest of the cruise industry, Hurtigruten last week committed to pause operations in US waters for 30 days. Now, the company is also pausing global expedition cruise operations through April 28 and Norwegian coastal voyages through April 19.

Hurtigruten said there have been no suspected or confirmed cases of coronavirus on any of its ships.

Galveston shelters ships

Four Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruise ships that homeport in Galveston will be berthed at cruise terminals 1 and 2 during their 30-day voluntary sailing suspension. The Port of Galveston said no COVID-19 cases have been reported in association with these cruise ships or the Galveston waterfront.

Genting's flexible cancellation policy

Under Genting Cruise Lines' new ‘Cruise As You Wish’ assurance, new and existing bookings made for any Dream Cruises or Star Cruises sailings up to July 31 may be canceled up to 48 hours prior to sailing for a 100% future cruise credit. The credit may be redeemed on any sailing embarking by the end of 2020.

Cruise veteran champions nontoxic Bioesque to disinfect/clean

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Nontoxic, noncorrosive, food-surface safe

Rumbarger represents Bioesque Solutions in Boca Raton, Florida, whose botanical products are powered by Thymox Technology. The active ingredient is thymol, a component of thyme oil.

Noncorrosive, food-surface safe

'It’s not only a disinfectant, but a powerful cleaner. It can literally be sprayed on anything on board a ship without any corrosiveness. It’s all food-surface safe,' Rumbarger said. Kill times for pathogens are rapid, he added.

Research shows Thymox has strong antimicrobial efficacy but is nontoxic and biodegradable. The US Environmental Protection Agency lists thyme oil as a minimal risk pesticide, and thymol is a 'generally recognized as safe' molecule used as a food additive (flavoring agent) in many countries. As a disinfectant, its mode of action is inducing instability in microorganisms’ membrane, causing cell content leakage and death.

Rumbarger noted Thymox is highly regarded in the remediation industry for cleanups from natural disasters. It also is used in hospitals, hotels, restaurants and schools. Many large US retailers sell it directly to commercial accounts.

'Modern way of addressing outbreak prevention'

'My mission is to get the cruise industry to embrace a modern way of addressing the outbreak prevention and control on board plus the sanitizing and cleaning of the vessel on a daily basis,' he said. Two European cruise brands and one large US-based cruise company have placed orders for Bioesque products, while others are testing them.

Rumbarger knows ships. He previously was senior director of hotel operations at Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises. He also worked as a general manager at sea for Silversea Cruises, and had earlier experience in newbuild operations at American Classic Voyages, and in shipboard financial operations and administration at Royal Caribbean International and Carnival Cruise Line.

Industry is receptive

'Overall, the industry is receptive,' he said, adding that the coronavirus situation is shedding light on new solutions. 'I look at it as a possible re-do for them as they come out of a bad situation with an opportunity to address several of their [public] perception issues.'

Chantiers de l'Atlantique slows work but Celebrity Apex delivery date holds

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The delivery of Celebrity Apex is still expected late this week. The ship will remain at the yard at least until early April

Celebrity Apex to remain on site

The handover of Celebrity Cruises' second Edge-class ship is still expected late this week. All officers and crew are on board.

A Celebrity spokeswoman said Celebrity Apex will remain at the yard at least into early April.

Its short inaugural sailings planned for Southampton at the end of March are off, in line with coronavirus precautions and parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.'s suspension of global operations until April 11. As earlier reported, the naming ceremony is to take place later this year in Fort Lauderdale.

Trade union pressure

Under pressure from trade unions and employees asking for the Saint-Nazaire yards to close, Chantiers management took several actions. The sheet metal and assembly workshops as well as the cabin factory are closed for this week.

Staff in the design offices are allowed to work from home. For employees who can't do that, work is being organized to limit the number of people simultaneously present.

People working on the ships themselves are permitted to stay home for the next three days, while it is up to subcontractors to decide if they want their own employees to continue.

Australia juggles cruise ship movements in wake of coronavirus edict

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The country banned cruise arrivals from foreign ports for 30 days last Sunday.

Cruise ship movements

The Port Authority of New South Wales has listed Artania and Ovation of the Seas departing Sydney on Wednesday and Ruby Princess and Celebrity Solstice arriving Thursday.

Silver Whisper, currently at anchor off Sydney, is scheduled to move to the White Bay Terminal to disembark passengers starting Thursday, and then to depart Friday. Seabourn Encore is listed to arrive Sunday.

Golden Princess is expected March 25, Queen Elizabeth March 26 and Radiance of the Seas March 27.

Self-isolation for returning Australians

On Wednesday Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison reiterated those disembarking Australians are to self-isolate for 14 days. International passengers are required to go straight to the airport to fly home. 

At the same time, Morrison said a Level Four travel ban has been instituted for the entire world. 

Highest level

Level Four is the Australian government’s highest level of advice

He said this is the first time this has happened in Australia’s history.

Do not travel abroad

‘The travel advice to every Australian is ‘do not travel abroad,’ he said. ‘That is a very clear instruction.’

The Level Four ban is indefinite and Australians currently overseas, including those who have disembarked from cruise ships, should return as soon as possible.