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Managing Passenger and Crew Movements Ashore

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If the herculean effort to improve shipboard health and safety weren’t enough, the cruise industry is addressing passenger and crew movements ashore with the same fervor. To learn exactly how, we caught up with Luis de Carvalho, CEO Bermello Ajamil & Partners Europe, who will be leading the Seatrade Cruise Virtual workshop, How to Manage Passenger and Crew Movements in The Future.

1. Which methods for movements ashore are currently being discussed by cruise lines and ports?

This issue must balance the need to keep the passengers and ships from contacting the virus, while at the same time targeting to maximize economic impacts on the communities. Today most of the destination passenger movements are still not controlled, but we can consider several models to achieve this balance:  Model_Luis.png
2. Bermello Ajamil & Partners Europe has published A Blueprint for a Healthy Cruise Industry. How has the response been? And what are the biggest hurdles to success both for the cruise lines and the destinations?

The response has been very encouraging. There is a significant demand for updated and comprehensive information and communication between industry stakeholders, which is required not only for a successful start but for long-term solutions.

Keys to sustainable success:

  • Protocols must be scalable
  • Protocols need to be coordinated for the entire journey – door to door
  • Lines need to clearly articulate a goal and expected outcome that makes cruising safer than other hospitality experiences

3. Communication will be vital in shifting not only the perception of traveler safety but in adapting to a fluid COVID situation over time. How do you recommend cruise companies and destinations lay the groundwork, and what measures or technology can be used to ensure the communication is effective and efficient?

Most of the technology already exists, and suggested protocols are being developed. In my opinion, we need to create useful and practical communication platforms between the different stakeholders to share solutions across the board. But that needs to translate into action and decision making for implementation on the field. We speak to a significant number of ports worldwide, and still, many of them are waiting to see what to do next. Cruise lines need to get ready, but ports, destinations, and providers need to get ready too!

4. What are you most looking forward to with Seatrade Cruise Virtual? 

Given the circumstances, this virtual event is the closest that we will have to gather our cruise colleagues and professionals. So, I am looking forward to offering my contribution by organizing this workshop with Seatrade Cruise. Managing people in small discussion groups where they will need to “work” and present results can be very beneficial, and the results of this workshop will hopefully help the participants in understanding what they need to do in each of their areas.

 

For more information on Luis’s workshop, “How to Manage Passenger and Crew Movements at Your Ports and Destinations in the Future” taking place Wednesday, 7 October at 14:00 PM GMT, and the full Seatrade Cruise Virtual schedule, CLICK HERE.

Celebrity Apex back at Saint-Nazaire for 'mini trials'

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Celebrity Apex is pictured during its pre-delivery sea trials earlier this year

The ship is to undergo sea trials between Belle-Ile and Noirmoutier.

Should have taken place earlier

These 'mini trials' should have taken place before the newest Celebrity Cruises ship headed to Southampton but were delayed by Chantiers de l'Atlantique's schedule. Once they're completed, Celebrity hopes the ship will be able to start its trans-Atlantic crossing.

According to local media, Celebrity Apex didn't come back to the port but moored off the coast of Pornichet. A small team dedicated to sea trials from Chantiers and contractors have boarded the ship, Chantiers said.

Celebrity Apex was handed over to its owner in March and had remained docked at Chantiers' Penhoet wharf due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ship moved to make room for MSC Virtuosa and had been anchoring off the coast since Aug. 23 before leaving Sept. 21 for the visit to Southampton the following day.

Azamara reports strong demand for 2022/23 cruises

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An Azamara ship at Kotor, Montenegro

During the first week of opening the new itineraries for sale, Azamara chalked up three times more bookings for its new voyages compared to last year’s deployment announcement of 2021 and winter/spring 2022 itineraries.

'Despite current global challenges, we are pleased to see that travel partners and cruisers have a strong interest in our new voyages,' Azamara COO Carol Cabezas said. 'We value our resilient trade partners and loyal guests, as they are driving this performance. This demonstrates that they want to sail with Azamara again as soon as it is safe to do so.'

Double Upgrade + Double Points

The strong demand also follows what the line called a 'very successful' launch of its 'Double Upgrade + Double Points' promotion. Compared to the same time frame prior, bookings increased 55% following this promotion.

Country-intensive voyages

Azamara said travelers continue to show a big interest in the line's country-intensive voyages, with three of the four most popular destination-intensive itineraries in Northern Europe. Additionally, the top five voyages include British Open itineraries, which are proving to be most popular for 2022, followed by the Suez Canal Europe to Asia, Dubai World Cup, Scotland Intensive and Suez Canal Asia to Europe itineraries.

More cruise ships set to arrive at Gothenburg Port

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The calls have been handled just like any other regular call with a whole series of risk-mitigating measures based on social distancing and with a particular focus on hygiene’, comments Martin Eskelinen, cruise operation manager, Gothenburg Port Authority. ‘The first calls were with a relatively low number of guests which gave us a good chance to test and develop our protective measures further in consultation with the vessels.’

Receiving cruise passengers amid coronavirus

Gothenburg was one of the first ports in Northern Europe to receive cruise ships during the pandemic where passengers and crew went ashore. Passengers had the chance to explore Gothenburg independently guided by tourist staff wherever necessary.

From America Cruise Terminal, guests and crew were able to enter the city on foot and by means of guided walking tours. Cruise vessels have also used their own Zodiacs to explore the city from the waterside.

‘The same guidelines apply to cruise passengers as they do to tourists in general when it comes to permission to enter Sweden,’ commented Eskelinen.

Health and safety

Ahead of cruise ships arriving, visiting cruise lines and the Port of Gothenburg exchange plans for handling passengers and protective measures. Ships are required to submit a Maritime Declaration of Health before arrival - a routine which has been applied by the Port since the beginning of February and is required for all vessels that call. 

No coronavirus on board TUI's Mein Schiff 6, Greek authorities confirm

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The original tests results were inaccurate and the vessel will resume its itinerary

Multiple retests

Final antigen tests were conducted earlier today with test results coming in this afternoon. The original positive tests came from a land-based laboratory; since then, the 12 crew members have undergone three further tests, including two PCR tests and one antigen test. Twenty-four other crew members were also tested with the results negative.

‘The safety of the guests, the crew, but also the Greek population is the top priority for TUI Cruises. I would like to thank all the responsible authorities for their good and professional cooperation in connection with the unclear test results on board Mein Schiff 6 and I am pleased that the voyage can be continued for all guests tomorrow with shore excursions in Piraeus,’ said Wybcke Meier, CEO, TUI Cruises. 

TUI restarted cruise operations in Greece on September 13 with Mein Schiff 6's latest sailing September 27 from Heraklion.

The vessel is set to proceed with a planned stop in Corfu after shore excursions in Piraeus tomorrow.

Health and hygiene 

TUI developed its health and hygiene protocols with medical experts, and adapted all processes before and during the cruise, introducing a mandatory health questionnaire, compulsory pre-cruise PCR testing, daily temperature checks for guests and crew, digital check-in and staggered check-in times, and distancing in guest and crew areas. 

The passenger capacity is limited to a maximum of 60% with only balcony cabins and suites occupied and ‘additional cleaning and disinfection measures’ put in place. 

Fincantieri to deliver Enchanted Princess

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Enchanted Princess is pictured during sea trials in July

Fifth of six Royal-class ships

This is the fifth Royal-class ship for Princess Cruises.

Enchanted Princess had been planned for June delivery but that was set back because of the yard's earlier closure due to Italy's COVID-19 lockdown.

The ship follows Sky Princess, Majestic Princess, Regal Princess and Royal Princess in the series. Coming next is Discovery Princess, the final Royal-class ship.

Vodohod joins CLIA, aims to ‘demystify Russia’

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The company aims to expand awareness of its brand across Europe

John Warner, md, Vodohod says, ‘The immense Russia waterways and Vodohod as a brand largely remain a secret to the international river cruise traveller. We hope by partnering with CLIA we can demystify Russia as a destination and help educate the industry about the benefits of Russian river cruising with Vodohod.’

Vodohod CEO Rishat Bagautdinov also added that the company ‘looks forward to contributing to CLIA’s important work in advocating for our industry.’

Vodohod has 26 river cruise ships and has offices in London and Moscow. Its destinations include Dudinka, Krasnoyarsk, Moscow and St Petersburg

‘Over recent months, the river cruise sector has been slowly starting up again, as ships gradually resume sailings’ says Andy Harmer, director, CLIA UK & Ireland. ‘The recent addition of Vodohod to CLIA bears testament to the continued desire for travellers to cruise.’ 

Educational webinar  

CLIA is hosting a live webinar, ‘New To CLIA’ from 9-10am on October 7, 2020. Hosted by Andy Harmer, it will introduce agents to new CLIA cruise line members. 

 

A chat with new Windstar President Chris Prelog

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Chris Prelog as a waiter aboard Seabourn Legend in 2000, two years after his cruise industry start, and now as Windstar president

Now at the helm of Windstar Cruises, he never imagined this trajectory — especially since he wasn't sure he'd make it through his first contract at sea in 1998. He'd traveled half-way around the world from his native Austria to Australia, arriving jet-lagged and 'without sea legs' to Seabourn Legend and sailed across the notoriously rough Tasman Sea to Hobart. ('Without sea legs' is putting it mildly — he needed a shot to manage.)

It was January. Prelog had gone from the dead of winter in Austria to Sydney's summer heat. Phoning home, he told his father he didn't think he could stick it out.

'I can do this'

But then the ship arrived in Bora Bora and, there on the beach, Prelog decided, 'I can do this,' he recalled with a laugh.

Plus, he enjoyed the camaraderie. 'What ships do is bring people together. You build lasting relationships with the crew, guests and officers.'

Prelog worked his way up through the hotel department and then shoreside at Seabourn, spending 18 years there, ultimately as VP hotel operations and purchasing. He came to Windstar as VP fleet operations in November 2016 and was promoted to chief operating officer in February this year when President John Delaney left.

He's been overseeing the $250m Star Plus initiative to lengthen and upgrade three ships and the 'Beyond Ordinary Care' COVID-19 protocols, a major focus during this time out of service.

Having those years at sea helps Prelog appreciate what it takes for the crew to implement things on board. He also learns from them: 'It works both ways.'

Prelog is well-versed in operations. The 'newness part of the job' is coping with the whole pandemic. 'Everyone in the industry is going through this learning curve,' he said. 'I'm positive the cruise industry will come back very strongly because the industry has always adapted so many times in its history.'

Strong 2021 bookings

In fact, 'We're seeing our guests returning and booking strongly for 2021. We're also seeing a lot of new to brand guests. We believe the small ships will be well-positioned to operate in the post-COVID-19 era.'

This is a natural outcome of social distancing and the taboo on big gatherings. 'Guests are looking for deeper, unique experiences with smaller amounts of people congregating,' he said.

The sales and marketing area may be new for Prelog, but he's supported by a strong team at Windstar and its parent company, Xanterra, based in Denver. He's worked closely with his boss, Andrew Todd, CEO of Windstar and of Xanterra Travel Collection, and the Denver team for a long time, and views it as a 'great partnership' that's supportive on all fronts.

It's a 'matrix organization' with overlapping functions, Prelog explained. Windstar handles the operations and the expansion projects (that group is led by VP John Gunner). The commercial team reports to Betsy O'Rourke, chief marketing officer for Xanterra, and HR and accounting report to Denver, as well.

Where the magic happens

Windstar's Seattle offices are still closed. As for working remotely long-term, time will tell.

'We are a people industry, a service industry ... the magic happens by the personal interaction, having discussions around the water cooler and in meetings,' Prelog said. But he doubts everyone will go back to a five days a week, in-office schedule.

As for the crew, 'absolutely they want to come back. They're committed to Windstar, and Windstar's committed to them.'

Sailings are suspended through 2020, so it will be some months yet.

Star Plus update

Fincantieri's Palermo shipyard, where the Star Plus ship lengthenings and updates are taking place, is back 'in full production ... The yard is doing very well. We're very positive that all the enhancements we set out to do will be completed and including the various upgrades to the HVAC systems.' Windstar's 'Beyond Ordinary Care' program includes HEPA filtration and UV-C light to fight COVID-19.

Star Breeze is scheduled to be delivered in one month and will debut on new Caribbean cruises in the spring before transiting the Panama Canal to sail in the Sea of Cortez and then Alaska. Star Legend is in the drydock, with its new midsection inserted and is welded back together. It's to come out in March in the Mediterranean. And Star Pride is to enter the Palermo yard at year's end and should emerge in July for Northern Europe cruises.

The 'stretched' ships will have capacity for 312 passengers each, but some cabins will be set aside for isolation/quarantine. It's not decided how many people will be carried initially, but Windstar is looking at how to manage occupancies in the restaurants, spa and other facilities.

With Prelog's first ship, Legend, part of the Windstar fleet, everything has come full circle.

Addicted to small ships

'All six ships are really special to me,' he said. 'I really enjoy operating those size of ships. It is a unique experience and such high camaraderie among guests and crew, and that's what makes this special. It makes you addicted to small ships.'

 

Cunard announces promotion for Queen Elizabeth bookings

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Overnight European stays and Mediterranean fly-cruises are part of Queen Elizabeth's itinerary in 2021

Simon Palethorpe, president, Cunard said: ‘As an added incentive, guests can enjoy a complimentary upgrade on their suite or stateroom booking. For example, guests can experience a Queens Grill suite for the fare of a Princess Grill suite or an upgrade to a Balcony when selecting an Inside stateroom.’

Prices for a Balcony stateroom start at £299 per person for a British Isles cruise with the upgrade applied. 

2021 itineraries 

Queen Elizabeth’s 2021 itineraries will include a series of overnight port calls to Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Lisbon, Rotterdam, Singapore and Auckland, with late evening departures from Amsterdam, Barcelona, Rotterdam, Aqaba, Colombo and Fremantle. The vessel will also be sailing a series of fly-cruises in the Mediterranean, departing from Barcelona.

The 2021 programme starts in Southampton on March 26 and ends on December 19 in Melbourne, Australia. 

Mein Schiff 6 arrives at Piraeus, further testing under way

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Greek authorities have approved the ship entry to Piraeus coastal waters

It comes as all latest test results come back negative, according to TUI Cruises. 

Asymptomatic crew 

TUI claims that the six crew who tested positive for coronavirus on Sunday and the additional six crew members who received positive test results on Monday, are asymptomatic. They and 24 other members of the crew were isolated on board Mein Schiff 6 yesterday, with a spokesperson for the company commenting that ‘no tests on guests are necessary’ as 'no guests are affected or belong to contact group 1', which refers to the group that has been impacted.

They went on to add that the cruise is set to continue as organised ‘as soon as the Greek authorities give their approval’ and that it plans to reschedule shore excursions in Piraeus for Wednesday, which had originally been scheduled to take place today. 

A journey to Corfu will be visited one day later; no further impact on the cruise is anticipated by the cruise line.

Cooperation with Greek authorities

TUI claims to have conducted 150 PCR tests on crew – as routinely occurs on board TUI vessels every 14 days – in Heraklion on September 27, where 12 came back positive. The results were then retested with the ship’s own PCR testing equipment and returned negative. 

The cruise line expects the results of a fourth test, carried out by Greek authorities, later today. 

TUI says its ‘processes are running as agreed with the Greek government’ and that it is in ‘very close communication with them about all necessary steps.’ 

TUI cites possible error in Heraklion

The cruise line did not rule out a potential fault in testing in Heraklion where the vessel departed on Sunday and where the positive results were produced.

The spokesperson for the company added that ‘collaboration with Greek officials is excellent and we have received immediate and reasonable support’ regarding their concerns.

Mein Schiff 6 is carrying 922 passengers, all of whom are German, and 666 crew members; Capt. Simon Böttger has made announcements to passengers throughout the incident. 

Health and hygiene 

TUI says it developed its health and hygiene protocols with medical experts, and adapted all processes before and during the cruise, introducing a mandatory health questionnaire, compulsory PCR testing before the cruise, daily temperature checks for guests and crew, digital check-in and staggered check-in times, and distancing in guest and crew areas. 

The passenger capacity on board is limited to a maximum of 60 percent with only balcony cabins and suites occupied and ‘additional cleaning and disinfection measures’ put in place.

TUI says 'each ship has always had its own on-board hospital with trained personnel' and its 'existing structures and already very strict measures to prevent the spread of viral diseases have been further tightened and adapted to the current situation.