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Seattle cancels first calls of the cruise season, Canada weighs a delay

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Two transit calls, on April 1 and April 5, were canceled at the Port of Seattle

Seattle canceled cruise ship visits on April 1 and April 5, both transit calls.

Seattle has been at the forefront of the US coronavirus outbreak.

'This region is in a public health emergency and we will cancel the first two sailings of our cruise season,' Port of Seattle Commission President Peter Steinbrueck said Wednesday. 'The health, safety and well-being of our residents is our top priority.'

The port said it will continue working with first responders, cruise lines and local leaders, and consider current public health guidance, as well as enhanced actions that lines are undertaking, to determine future sailings.

Canada

Canada's government was close to making a decision to delay the cruise season on both coasts, according to The Globe and Mail.

This followed the recommendation of British Columbia's chief public health officer.

'We are in a very critical time around the world and it is my belief that we should be delaying our cruise season until we are safe internationally,' Dr. Bonnie Henry told reporters from Victoria on Monday.

Earlier that day, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, recommended Canadians avoid all cruise ship travel.

Viking halts river and ocean operations until May 1

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Torstein Hagen said the 'situation has now become such that operating as a travel company involves significant risks of quarantines or medical detentions'

Chairman Torstein Hagen broke the news today in a video and a letter sent to booked guests.

Hagen said COVID-19 has made travel 'exceedingly complicated,' with an increasing number of ports, including Venice, Monte Carlo and Bergen, temporarily closed to cruise ships. As well, major attractions such as the Vatican and other museums have been closed, and some countries are imposing restrictions on public gatherings and visitors.

River cruiser infected, 29 to be quarantined

'In recent days we have had an experience where a river cruise guest in Southeast Asia was exposed to COVID-19 while in transit on an international airline,' Hagen said. 'While this guest is not exhibiting symptoms, she has been placed in quarantine. Separately, the remaining 28 guests will also be quarantined.'

Hagen continued that the 'situation has now become such that operating as a travel company involves significant risks of quarantines or medical detentions.'

Suspending embarkations from March 12

Viking is suspending operations of its river and ocean vessels embarking from March 12 to April 30 — at which time, Hagen said, he believes Viking will be in a better place to provide the experiences guests expect and deserve.

He added that, being a private company 'with strong finances,' Viking has the flexibility to act without concern for quarterly profit expecations. 

Generous compensation or full refund

For travelers whose cruise falls within the window of suspended operations, Viking is offering a future cruise voucher valued at 125% of all monies paid to Viking or a refund equal to the amount paid. Passengers will have 24 months to use their future cruise voucher to reserve any river, ocean or expedition cruise.

For additional flexibility, if they are unable to use their voucher, travelers will automatically receive a refund equal to the original amount paid to Viking, after the voucher expires. The future cruise vouchers will be fully transferable.

Cruise lines' plan includes age/health screening, evacuation for acute care

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Among a raft of proposals, screening at embarkation would be elevated with travelers required to respond to additional health-related questions and undergo temperature checks. Pictured here: Caribbean Princess at Port Everglades

Screening for others with comprised health

As well, screening at embarkation would be elevated with travelers required to respond to additional health-related questions. Anyone with a chronic medical condition, such as a compromised immune system or undergoing chemotherapy, would need to go through a secondary screening before being allowed to board, according to someone familiar with the plan.

As earlier reported, cruise lines began to check temperatures at embarkation over the weekend, initially at US ports. This practice is intended to be ramped up to all ports.

Boarding would continue to be denied to passengers and crew who have traveled through certain countries within 14 days. This has already been in effect for some time and the list currently includes China, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea and, more recently, Italy, with the possibility of Japan being added. The places will change in response to the spread of COVID-19.

Providing for acute care

The cruise lines would also provide for airlift evacuation of anyone needing land-based care for coronavirus. Basically, operators would ensure a process for dealing with people requiring acute COVID-19-related medical care that does not draw on government resources and funding. 

Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday night said he had received a 'comprehensive proposal' from the cruise industry and his task force would be reviewing it over the next 24 hours.

It is now up to the government to accept, reject or ask the cruise industry to modify the plan, according to a person familiar with it.

CLIA defers to the task force

For now, Cruise Lines International Association is not commenting about details of the plan.

'It is appropriate and fair and in keeping with the spirit of the discussions with the White House to give the Vice President and the task force time to digest it before discussing externally,' a spokeswoman said.

Prevention, detection and care

She added that CLIA is 'proud of the plan as submitted, which focuses on prevention, detection and care, 'and further demonstrates the cruise industry’s commitment to public health and safety and its willingness to go above and beyond to address the challenge facing our global community.'

AAPA asks US to include cruise ports in coronavirus aid package

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'Integral part of the cruise ecosystem'

'Cruise ports are an integral part of the cruise industry ecosystem, and, as such, are experiencing enormously detrimental financial impacts as a result of this crisis,' AAPA President & CEO Christopher Connor said in a letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

'Cruise operations would not exist without ports, and, accordingly, cruise ports must also be backstopped when consumer confidence falls. Public port authorities in the United States provide the space and related infrastructure for cruise lines to operate,' Connor continued.

'US port authorities are the entities making the capital investments that allow all modes of waterborne transportation, including cruise ships, to function efficiently and deliver goods and services all across America.'

13m cruisers, hefty economic impact

AAPA noted ports are key to the more than 13m international cruise-goers who bring significant tourism dollars to communities across America.  

The association said the US cruise industry had a total economic impact of more than $52.7bn in 2018, a 10% increase over 2016. 2018 also saw a new peak in the cruise industry’s US spending. Passengers and crew spent a record $23.96bn on goods and services while cruise activities generated 421,711 domestic jobs, resulting in more than $23.15bn in wages and salaries.

In addition to including assistance for cruise ports in any aid package considered by the Trump administration and the Congress, AAPA recommended several ways the federal government could help weather the downturn in economic activity resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

Other asks

The association would like to see a boost in the Port Intermodal Investment Program grants that advance technology-supported safety and design efficiency improvements, help improve resilience to withstand weather-related crises and help leverage private and local investments for shovel-ready projects like terminal construction and harbor expansions.

Furthermore, AAPA requested the repeal of the '301' China tariffs as a way to increase domestic consumer spending and help American manufacturing.

Virgin Voyages postpones Miami launch festivities

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Scarlet Lady earlier bypassed New York, where a showcase event had been scheduled March 6

The ship arrived at PortMiami on March 7 and activities were to take place next week.

No health issues on board

Virgin Voyages said it has no health concerns or issues on board.

But, 'in light of the current global headlines, we want to ensure everyone feels it is the right time to celebrate with us ... We feel that postponing our launch celebration to a future date is the responsible thing to do.'

Missed New York

This follows Scarlet Lady skipping a planned call in New York for a showcase event on March 6.

The ship was shown off to first mates (travel agents), media and VIPs during  events in Dover and Liverpool. 

 

EU decision on Chantiers-Fincantieri expected by end April

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Celebrity Apex is nearing completion at Chantiers de l'Atlantique. The French shipbuilder could come under Italy's Fincantieri in a proposal being studied by EU antitrust authorities

Important concessions? 

Reuters reported EU competition authorities would probably not give their approval unless Fincantieri makes important concessions, which were not specified.

No comment

Margrethe Vestager, the commissioner for competition, said Wednesday she never comments publicly on matters that haven't been adjudicated. The deal is still being studied, she told French television (BFM Business), but added a decision is expected by the end of April.

The European Commission opened its probe into the proposed Fincantieri-Chantiers combination in late October. 

More can be done to reassure people about cruising, risk expert says

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Jennifer Holland's research showed people feel safe on cruise ships and place enormous trust in the lines to look after them, take them to safe places and take all the precautions to prevent them from getting sick

Timely, accurate information from authority figures

Timely, accurate information from key authority figures has shown to be most effective in creating a feeling of safety about cruising, according to Dr. Jennifer Holland, cruise & tourism researcher/lecturer, competitive marketing, School of Sport and Service Management, University of Brighton.

Feeling safe and trust are key

'Feeling safe and trust are more important than anything else. Providing more information on the measures and health protocols provides reassurance, and much more can be done to highlight what the individual lines and [Cruise Lines International Association] are doing,' she said.

Holland's PhD study, completed last year, explored risk perceptions in ocean cruising. She looked at risk in relation to physical, financial, social, psychological, time, opportunity, functional and health aspects. 

'My research found that people feel safe on the cruise ships and place enormous trust in the cruise lines to look after them, take them to safe places and take all the precautions to prevent them from getting sick,' Holland said. 'Being in a familiar home-like environment reduces the perception of risk, and prior travel experience also reduces risk perceptions.'

Even during outbreaks, people trust

Holland noted the ongoing quarantine and travel disruptions are the latest in a long history of health outbreaks impacting cruise travel, including H1N1, influenza, measles, dengue fever, Legionnaires' disease and norovirus.

'Even during times of outbreaks, my study showed passengers still trust and this should be reassuring to cruise lines and industry that the message is getting through,' Holland said. 'Risk is an inherent part of travel and while most tourists accept this, research shows many people choose to cruise specifically because they feel safe and trust in the cruise line.'

Non-cruisers' attitudes

The long-term implications of coronavirus on attitudes about cruising, particularly among people who haven't cruised, are a great concern right now.

According to Holland's findings, although many non-cruisers worry about getting sick on a ship, other risks are much more influential in deciding to go on a cruise, 'so the effects of the COVID-19 crisis may hopefully be limited.'

She found non-cruisers worry more about social and psychological risks, with concerns about not being 'the type of person' to go on a cruise — not old enough, not needing to be looked after, the rise of 'cruise-shaming.' These, in Holland's view, are more important to vacation decision-making than worries about health risks.

WHO still advises against blanket travel restrictions

The professor noted both the UN World Tourism Organization and World Health Organization have said restricting travel beyond the most affected areas is not effective and will have negative repercussions, and those without underlying conditions should be encouraged to still travel and go on their holidays.  

At least three countries, including the US, Canada and Australia, currently have cruise-specific cautions. The US is advising citizens, particularly those with underlying health conditions, not to travel by cruise ship. The Public Health Agency of Canada is recommending Canadians 'avoid all cruise ship travel.' Australia is asking people to 'reconsider taking an overseas cruise.' (Australia's directive doesn't include domestic cruises.)

Holland said while the crisis is evolving and being closely monitored, and cruise lines and operators are 'taking every precaution and measure possible ... the mass panic and fear, especially in ports turning away ships with no virus, is not helpful,' and could lead to the collapse of vulnerable companies.

Sapphire Princess adds new itineraries in Western Australia

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Aerial view of Broome’s racecourse, which attracts visitors from around Australia for the Broome Cup Week

Redeploying from Asia

As previously reported, the 2,670-passenger ship’s Asia voyages were cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak and she will arrive in Australia in May, six months earlier than planned, for a year-long deployment.

In her new programme she will sail along the Western Australia coast, calling at Albany, Broome, Exmouth, Geraldton, the Kimberley coast including Kuri Bay and offer scenic cruising around Yampi Sound, Busselton and Fremantle. 

New experiences in Kuri Bay

‘This coming (Australian) winter season we are launching new experiences in Kuri Bay,' Michael Mihajlov, destinations director for Princess Cruises, said.

Mihajlov said passengers will be offered a flight aboard a rare 1940s Mallard flying boat. ‘We’ll also be offering guided walking tours,’ he said.

Cruise Broome Chairman Shayne Murray said the new Princess itineraries will give passengers the opportunity to attend some of the region’s most sought-after events.

Murray said these include Broome’s Cup Week, which attracts visitors to the racecourse from all around Australia, and the ‘Staircase to the Moon’ phenomenon, when the moon’s reflection across the mudflats of Roebuck Bay creates a glowing image of a stairway to the moon.

Ready for large ships

Sapphire Princess will visit the Port of Broome, which can now handle large cruise ships 24/7, three times during these events.

‘We’re delighted to welcome the biggest cruise ship to the Kimberley’s Kuri Bay and showcase one of Paspaley’s working pearl farms,’ Tony Thiel, GM Paspaley’s Pearl Production and Operations, said.

‘It is a great opportunity for Paspaley to share our story on how the finest South Sea pearls are cultured in one of the most untouched, remote areas on the planet,’ Thiel said.

Three Metro Cruise workers at Port Everglades have coronavirus

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Worked at Port Everglades cruise terminals

These employees worked at various cruise terminals in Port Everglades, providing embarkation services.

'We were unaware that any of our part-time employees were sick until we were notified by the authorities,' Metro Cruise Services President Anthony Newman said Tuesday. 'We then immediately notified all of our Port Everglades employees that one of their associates had tested positive and advised them that, if they have any symptoms, they should seek medical assistance and not report to work.'

Metro Cruise Services added it is assisting the relevant governmental agencies with their inquiries.

Florida declares state of emergency

The news followed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' declaration of a state of emergency on Monday. This allows officials to mobilize resources to fight coronavirus more effectively.

Broward County's Emergency Operations Center moved to a Level 2 activation Tuesday, initiating emergency response activities that help support partners including Port Everglades.

The county also formed a business team to address issues related to the port, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau and other high impact business areas.

Normal business operations are being maintained.

US reviews cruise lines' coronavirus plan as stocks revive on Trump's pledge of help

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Vice President Mike Pence said the coronavirus task force would be reviewing a 'comprehensive proposal' from the cruise lines in the next 24 hours

The government's coronavirus task force received a 'comprehensive proposal' from the cruise industry on Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence said.

Screening, evacuation and picking up the tab

'The proposal includes advanced screening, improving medical services on ships, providing for airlift evacuation and land-based care at the expense of the cruise lines for anyone that might be infected, not only with the coronavirus but any serious illness,' Pence said. 'We'll be reviewing that in the next 24 hours.'

He added: 'The President's objective is for us to make cruise lines safer even as we work with the cruise lines to ensure that no one in our particularly vulnerable population is going out on a cruise in the near future.'

The US currently advises that 'older adults and travelers with underlying health issues should avoid situations that put them at increased risk for more severe disease. This entails avoiding crowded places, avoiding nonessential travel such as long plane trips and especially avoiding embarking on cruise ships.'

Grand Princess update

Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said the Grand Princess disembarkation at the Port of Oakland was 'progressing well.'

As of noon Tuesday, 548 passengers were off the ship, including 228 Canadians who had already been repatriated on a charter flight and Californians who had been bussed to Travis Air Force Base for their testing and quarantine. Twenty-six people who required treatment — only two of those were diagnosed with coronavirus on the ship — were also transported to medical facilities.

The goal was to get all the Californians ashore today and then the UK citizens. Work to repatriate other nationalities was under way. Non-California US residents will be going to Texas and Georgia quarantine facilities.

Pence reiterated that everyone from the ship will be tested and isolated.

Cruise stocks revive on Trump's nod

US stocks rebounded on the Trump administration's proposal for considering economic stimuli including possible payroll tax relief and resources for paid leave so nobody has to go to work sick.

Cruise shares, hammered on Monday, rose on President Trump's vow to help the cruise and airline industries 'through this patch.'

Carnival Corp. ended the day up nearly 11%, at $24.02, Royal Caribbean closed up 7%, at $51.67, and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings rose about 3.5%, to $20.50. Lindblad Expeditions Holdings gained more than 13%, settling at $10.22.

S&P negative credit watch

But Standard & Poor's Global Ratings placed Royal Caribbean and Carnival Corp. on its negative credit watch, citing reduced demand for cruises and rising travel fears. 

'Bailout for tax-exempt cruise lines?'

During Pence's coronavirus task force update, a reporter asked about a 'bailout for tax-exempt cruise lines.'

The question went unanswered by National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow, and the briefing was adjourned.