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Sun Princess, Sea Princess latest Carnival Corp. ships sold

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Sun Princess, left, was among the world's largest cruise ships when it debuted in 1995. Sea Princess, right, followed in 1997

Princess Cruises did not disclose the buyers. The sales are part of Carnival Corp. & plc's plan to accelerate the removal of less efficient ships.

Contributed to growth in Australian cruising

'Sun Princess and Sea Princess contributed to significant growth in Australian cruising,' Princess President Jan Swartz said. 'Both ships defined the premium cruise experience with Australians and New Zealanders spending close to 14 million nights aboard these ships. While it is never easy to say goodbye to any ship in our fleet, this will allow us to deploy newer ships enhancing our offerings for Australia cruisers and focus on bringing into service exciting newbuilds like the upcoming delivery of Enchanted Princess.'

Sun Princess among largest cruise ships at its 1995 debut

Sun Princess was introduced in 1995 as the first of the new Sun class of ships and debuted in the Caribbean. The 77,441gt, 2,000-passenger vessel was among the largest cruise ships in the world at the time. Alaska and the Panama Canal were among other destinations for Sun Princess before it began homeporting in Australia in October 2007.

The ship also helped Princess open the Japanese market in 2013.

1997-built Sea Princess

Sister ship Sea Princess arrived in 1997 and more recently became known for world cruises, having completed six of those since 2013. During its time based in Australia, Sea Princess traveled the equivalent of 35 times around the world.

Before joining Sun Princess in Australia, Sea Princess sailed in Europe and Alaska as well as the Caribbean, including homeporting in Barbados in the mid- to late-2000s.

The two ships are currently in Singapore's coastal waters. 

Due to their imminent depatures from the fleet, Princess canceled Sun Princess sailings from Dec. 28 and Sea Princess sailings from Dec. 23. Passengers are being contacted with options or may request a full refund.

Michael Bayley hopeful things have entered a 'new phase'

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'Let's start out super-safely and let's figure out how to all work together to return cruising to what everybody loves,' Michael Bayley said

COVID-19 infections are down, testing is improving and there are promising signals on vaccines.

Altogether, he hopes 'this is the beginning of the end to this terrible journey everybody's been on.' Finally, there's some momentum.

The president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International spoke to Seatrade Cruise News about advances in addressing the virus, details about the new protocols, the public's reaction to them, what kind of tests will be required and what he tells people who grumble about masks.

Americas Cruise Task Force

He also delved into the Americas Cruise Task Force he co-chairs that's working toward a common standard for destinations from the Caribbean to Central and South America. This standard likely will lead to a shore excursion certification program.

Bayley called the results of the Healthy Sail Panel 'extraordinary, incredibly detailed and thoughtful.' Their recommendations form the protocols that will go to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for consideration.

'We are optimistic that the CDC will review and respond to those recommendations, and I feel as though we're moving into a different phase of this, as a company and as an industry,' Bayley said.

Hopeful of US resumption in 2020

He's optimistic cruising could restart from the US in 2020, though there's more communication and coordination that needs to be done with CDC first.

'We have a shared goal of making sure that when we do return, it's done in a very safe way for our guests, employees and communities,' Bayley said.

'I feel like things are lining up. Everything's beginning to fall in place.'

But he's not being overconfident: 'There's work to do.'

After approval is given, Royal Caribbean likely would start with one ship on a short cruise, then try a slightly longer trip to a private destination and carry employees and their families, to 'make sure the protocols work perfectly.'

Controlled excursions/tour operator certification

When the line starts to visit regular destinations, everyone initially will have to take part in a Royal Caribbean excursion if they wish to go ashore. Eventually, excursions could be broadened to tour operators certified as adhering to the company's protocols.

Bayley co-chairs the Americas Cruise Task Force with Barbados Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley. More than 40 countries are participating, including all the destinations in the Caribbean, Central and South America visited by cruise ships. There are seven subcommittees and regional working groups. The aim is to come up with universal guidelines that will dovetail into the cruise lines' protocols.

PCR testing for all

The Healthy Sail Panel called for 100% COVID-19 testing for passengers and crew, not specifying the kind of tests. It's likely they'll be the 'gold standard' PCR tests.

The cost, speed and integrity of testing is improving day by day, Bayley noted, with the experts predicting 'significant changes' in the coming weeks.

Reaction to the recommendations

Royal Caribbean has conducted regular consumer research since March for feedback on protocols as they've been adapted and modified.

On Monday Bayley posted the Healthy Sail Panel recommendations on his Facebook page at 7 a.m. and by 9 there were 40,000 comments. The reactions range from 'They're wonderful' to 'I'm not going if I have to wear a mask.'

When people gripe about masks, Bayley responds: 'For loyalists who love to cruise, you've been cooped up in your house for months. Is it such a sacrifice to wear a mask for a few days when you're on a cruise? I'm happy to do it. I'm fed up with all of this and I think everybody is.'

'Let's start out super-safely'

These things won't go on forever, in society or on ships.

As he sees it, 'Let's start out super-safely and let's figure out how to all work together to return cruising to what everybody loves.'

The Healthy Sail Panel wasn't able to come up with specific parameters, for example, the local incidence of SARS-CoV-2, that would indicate it is 'safe enough' to begin sailing again. Instead, these experts suggested that 'ultimately, the thoroughness of a cruise operator’s testing plan and implementation of on-board mitigation measures should be the driving factor in creating a safe environment for cruising.'

Asked to elaborate, Bayley explained virus statistics are important but they don't predict individual behavior or if a particular person has been exposed. So the panel decided the best approach to minimize risk would be testing everybody — this allows a perimeter to be drawn around the ship so the community on board is virus-free, a 'pragmatic, sensible approach.'

Attesting to adherence

Anyone who's been on an airplane or at a hotel lately comes back with tales about protocols not being practiced by other travelers, or enforced.

How will Royal Caribbean address that on its ships?

'Communication pre-sailing is really important,' Bayley said. Travelers will be required to attest through digital means that they'll comply.

It's part of the guest code of conduct to 'make sure everybody understands what's expected of each other to keep everybody safe.'

Crew will be schooled in the protocols and their execution, along with customer-service training about enforcing them.

Oceania Cruises scores record bookings in Labor Day upgrade sale

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Oceania Cruises is encouraged by 'increased interest in small-ship luxury travel experiences.' Here, Sirena

New-to-brand customers

Almost half of the new reservations came from new-to-brand customers.

'We are especially encouraged by increased interest in small-ship luxury travel experiences from aspirational travelers and the continued support of our travel advisor partners,' said Bob Binder, president and CEO, Oceania Cruises.

Fewer than 5% of bookings used FCCs

Oceania Club members, the line’s loyalists, comprised slightly more than half of the new reservations with fewer than 5% of reservations using future cruise credits from canceled voyages.

The line said the volume of new reservations validated its recent commitment to enriched sales tools and online reservations capabilities for travel partners and the additional investment in digital outreach to consumers and travel advisors.

Citing strong demand for voyages in 2021 and the first half of 2022, Oceania will be launching its summer 2022 season of itineraries to Europe, Alaska, Bermuda and Canada/New England in November, its 2023 world voyage in January and the balance of winter 2022/23 itineraries in February.

CLIA lines commit to universal COVID-19 testing for US-based cruising

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This applies to lines subject to the US no-sail order.

'Unlike any other sector of travel, every cruise line member of CLIA will test every guest and crew member,' association Global Chairman Adam Goldstein stressed.

Plus mandatory masks, controlled excursions

Other requirements that will be uniform for CLIA member lines operating to/from the US are mandatory mask-wearing by all passengers and crew aboard ship and during shore excursions, whenever physical distancing cannot be maintained.

Physical distancing will be required in terminals, on board ships, on private islands and during excursions.

Lines have committed to air management and ventilation strategies to increase fresh air on board and, where feasible, to use enhanced filters and other technologies to mitigate risk.

Advance arrangements with private providers for shoreside quarantine/medical care

All lines will have risk-based response plans tailored for each ship to manage medical needs, dedicated cabin capacity allocated for isolation and advance arrangements with private providers for shoreside quarantine, medical facilities and transportation.

In addition, shore excursions will be permitted only according to the cruise operators’ prescribed protocols, with strict adherence required of all passengers and denial of re-boarding for those who don't comply.

Cruise lines have shared the findings of their expert consultants — a veritable army of world-class epidemiologists, public health and infectious disease specialists — and the resulting protocols with each other and through CLIA in the interest of making the entire industry safe to sail. These include the 'Health Sail Panel' recommendations, MSC Cruises' blue-ribbon panel, Carnival Corp. & plc's noted experts and the protocols of other member lines.

Everything serves to mitigate risk to make cruising safer.

Collaboration, not competition

'We all share these goals and will get there by collaboration, not competition,' said Richard Fain, chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean Group, during a CLIA news conference Monday. 

The protocols may change as knowledge advances, added Arnold Donald, president and CEO, Carnival Corp. & plc. A body of experience is being amassed as lines like Costa, AIDA, TUI, MSC and others resume sailing overseas.

The specific type of testing CLIA lines require is not mandated, however Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman of MSC Cruises, indicated the availability of fast, more reliable, less intrusive testing is 'accelerating.'

The European precedent

What's happened in Europe has given a 'foundation for optimism,' Goldstein said.

MSC Cruises has been operating for five weeks there, and Vago spoke to the news conference after just disembarking MSC Grandiosa at Civitavecchia (Rome).

'Guests are happy. They see these protocols are working,' he said. 'We have demonstrated cruising can take place in a safe way.'

Stateside restart still possible in 2020?

When cruising can begin in the US is not known, however the leaders are hoping there may still be a chance in 2020.

Donald estimated it would take 30 days from getting the green light to crew up a ship, conduct training and get other matters in order, a time-frame Vago agreed is reasonable.

Approval from US officials is still needed. All the leaders stressed a restart won't happen until they themselves are confident it's safe to do so.

'I think about my elderly mother and young grandchildren being on board,' said Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings.

Gloria Guevara, president and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Countil, applauded CLIA's protocols and said WTTC is an advocate for testing.

'We need to resume travel, especially to the 1,000 destinations around the world that receive cruises,' she added. Jobs are depending on it: 121m tourism jobs have been lost or impacted by the pandemic, Guevara said, a figure expected to grow to 197m by year's end.

 

Miscommunication is the cause of ongoing crew repatriation crisis, says CLIA’s Joost van Ree

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Confusion at consulate offices has led to additional challenges

The comments were made by van Ree during a panel session at the recent CrewConnect Europe virtual event at which he described the ‘extremely difficult and complex’ ongoing repatriation efforts that began in mid-March with ‘immediate and quite aggressive action.’

He asked: ‘Is a crew member a critical worker, yes or no? Legally, there is no difference but there are many misunderstandings and false assumptions, and they often occur at local level. Because, very often, the consulates are outsourcing their services to private companies, then the communication doesn’t go very well.

‘The situation changes so fast you cannot plan ahead - and the consulate can be open, but the private company is closed.’

Speaking from Rotterdam, van Ree added that the ‘miscommunication’ extends to ‘several departments and institutions in every country’, including ‘departments of immigration, ministries of health, ministries of foreign affairs and local consular services.’

Unable to retrieve ships

One of the major issues that has emerged from cruise lines repatriating crew members by sea is how to retrieve the vessels thereafter. So says van Ree, ‘That’s now also causing a problem because...11% of the global fleet are in Asia, around 27 ships, and we almost cannot get them back home.

‘One of the reasons is the flight connections, because it’s hard to bring European or American crew members [or] main officers into Asia, because those countries don’t want foreigners on their soil. Even if they go straight to the ships, they don’t want them in their countries and it takes a lot of time and hassle to get them there.’

He continued, ‘The Asian crew that are there and want to go on the ship, they need Schengen visas in order to get into Europe and that’s also complex, because European countries issue a limited amount of visas [and] the people from airplanes have priority because they say ships can wait. So that’s a big issue to bring the ships back into Europe again.’ 

Industry-wide restart

‘We will sail again and we will be stronger and better than ever… bookings are strong’, says van Ree, however an industry-wide restart is ‘hard to predict.’ He added that CLIA is ‘taking a holistic approach, a door-to-door strategy’ because ‘the scientific knowledge of the virus is changing daily.’

He also claimed cruise lines are going further to prevent coronavirus on board their ships than airlines and said CLIA ‘promotes’ cruise lines making their own plans for mitigating infection, saying they have ‘put in a lot of effort’ despite their ‘limited amount of staff.’

Tests for all, masks in 74 'Healthy Sail Panel' recommendations to CDC

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The Healthy Sail Panel's 65-plus-page report includes 74 detailed best practices to protect the public health and the safety of passengers, crew and the communities where cruise ships call.

Five key areas

There are five key areas. First, aggressive measures to prevent SARS-CoV-2 from entering a ship through robust education, screening and testing of crew and guests prior to embarkation. Second, reducing transmission via air management strategies and enhanced sanitation practices. Third, implementing detailed plans to address infection on board, including contingencies for on-board treatment, isolation and rapid evacuation and repatriation. Fourth, closely controlling shore excursions and fifth, enhanced protection for crew.

Protocols, not community infection levels, should inform resumption decision

The panel said it was unable to suggest specific parameters, for example, the local incidence of SARS-CoV-2, that would indicate it is 'safe enough' to begin sailing again. Instead, it suggested that 'ultimately, the thoroughness of a cruise operator’s testing plan and implementation of on-board mitigation measures should be the driving factor in creating a safe environment for cruising.'

The panel of globally recognized experts has been working together for months and is chaired by Mike Leavitt, former secretary of health and human Services, and Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.

'Taken as a comprehensive approach, we believe the panel's robust public health recommendations will help inform strategies for a safe resumption of sailing,' Gottlieb said.

Ambitious, cross-disciplinary approach

'This panel undertook an ambitious, cross-disciplinary, public health examination to develop standards and guidelines that create the highest level of safety in the complex environment of a cruise ship,' Leavitt added. 'We studied the industry's experiences combating the pandemic and we then incorporated the many lessons learned and advances made by medicine and science over the past six months. The panel's recommendations are grounded in the best scientific and medical information available and are intended to meaningfully mitigate public health risks to those who sail.'

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain and NCLH President and CEO Frank Del Rio said that in addition to CDC, the findings will be submitted to other authorities around the globe for review and approval as an important milestone in the process of resuming sailing around the world. Any cruise operator or industry can use them.

Many similar protocols, independently drafted, are already in practice by cruise operators that have restarted sailing in Europe and elsewhere.

Among the 'Healthy Sail Panel' specifics:

- Passengers should be tested for COVID-19 between five days and 24 hours before boarding

- At embarkation passengers should undergo an additional health screening

- Crew members should be tested between five days and 24 hours before leaving their home then quarantine on board for seven days and be retested before beginning duties

- Passengers and crew should undergo daily temperature checks

- Passengers and crew should wear a mask in accordance with CDC guidelines. Crew with prolonged passenger contact should wear additional PPE

- Ship capacity should be reduced to allow physical distancing. Density of crew areas should be managed, and single-occupancy crew cabins used whenever possible

- In terminals, touchless check-in and speedier boarding should be facilitated

- Enhanced sanitation, particularly of high touchpoints, on board and in destinations. Disinfectants should be on the Environmental Protection Agency's List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 or national equivalent for terminals located outside the US, which must also comply with local government regulations

- A variety of indoor air management strategies should be used to reduce exposure to infectious droplets/aerosols. HVAC systems should be upgraded to, ideally, MERV 13 filters

- Shipboard capacity to treat critically ill patients, designated quarantine facilities, redundant/backup medical personnel

- Thorough mobilization response plan to address various debarkation scenarios of infected individuals and their close contacts

- Contact tracing methodologies to ensure potential infections are identified as quickly as possible

- Initially, shorter cruises and itineraries as simple as possible, using private, cruise line-operated destinations or ports where there can be tight control of the onshore experience

- Passengers going ashore should be on only cruise line-sponsored or verified excursions initially

The full report is here

Costa Cruises adds second ship to Med restart

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Costa Diadema's embarkation carried out in accordance with the procedures set out in the Costa Safety Protocol

Earlier this month Costa Deliziosa started cruises from Trieste.

And like Deliziosa, Diadema's West Med itinerary will only call at Italian ports and is reserved for guests resident in Italy. After Genoa, she is visiting Civitavecchia (Rome), Naples, Palermo, Cagliari and La Spezia.

Thamm waves Diadema off

On hand to see the departure were Genoa Mayor Marco Bucci and CEO Costa Group & Carnival Asia, Michael Thamm.

‘Genoa welcomes with great joy the departure of the first Costa Cruises ship from Liguria. Costa Diadema’s journey in the western Mediterranean represents a tangible sign of recovery of one of the fundamental supply chains for the economy of our city,’ Bucci said.

‘At last Costa’s cruises are back in Genoa and Liguria, our home for over 70 years. We’re setting sail again gradually and responsibly, with safety protocols that are unrivalled in the tourism industry. The initial response from our guests has been most encouraging,’ said Thamm.

Liguria is featuring prominently in Costa’s return to cruising, with a total of around 80 calls in this part of northwest Italy between now and the end of the 2020/21 winter season.

From October 10 Savona will be the homeport for Costa Smeralda, which will be offering one-week cruises in the Western Mediterranean.

After a series of cruises intended for the French market, from November Costa Diadema will also be moving to Savona, for 12-day cruises to the Canary Islands and 14-day cruises to Egypt and Greece. 

Costa Firenze's debut

Costa Firenze will make her debut on December 27, again sailing in the Western Mediterranean, and calling at Genoa and La Spezia every week.

Meanwhile, from October 22 to mid-December La Spezia will see the arrival of AIDAblu, operated by the Costa Group’s German brand AIDA Cruises, on seven-day cruises devoted entirely to Italy.

Costa’s cruises sailing on or after September 27 will be available for all European residents in any of the countries listed in the most recent Prime Ministerial Decree.

 

Virgin's Valiant Lady to offer longer cruises from Miami, new ports

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Valiant Lady is pictured after its float-out at Fincantieri's Sestri Ponente in June

This follows its debut Mediterranean season from Barcelona.

15 nights trans-Atlantic

Valiant Lady will reposition with a 15-night trans-Atlantic crossing from Barcelona stopping at Ibiza, Málaga (overnight), Cádiz and Funchal.

From Miami, the ship will undertake six-night Western Caribbean and eight-night Eastern Caribbean cruises.

New ports: St. Croix and Roatán

The eight-night itinerary features a new destination for Virgin, St. Croix, along with San Juan, Puerto Plata and The Beach Club at Bimini.

The shorter cruise has Roatán as a new stop, along with Costa Maya and The Beach Club at Bimini.

ECOsubsea equips Dover port with eco friendly hull cleaning technology

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Disney Magic is said to have been cleaned using the ECOsubsea system

The ECOsubsea system consists of a remotely operated vehicle that crawls along the ship’s hull to allegedly remove more than 97% of detritus, later used for energy production.

The mechanism will be available to visiting cruise vessels, with the Port claiming to have already used it for cleaning Disney Magic.  

Sustainable

Collaboration between the Port and ECOsubsea contributes to the UN Sustainable Development Goals by ensuring 10% to 15% less fuel is used, minimising vessel air pollution by 5 – 15% and reducing the spread of invasive species between continents. The technology also protects marine owing to the sea to land filtration system which collects organic biofouling and alien invasive species.

‘The Port of Dover is committed to proactively managing and delivering a sustainable port’, says Sonia Limbrick, head of cruise, Port of Dover. ‘I am sure this intense cleaning regime will have a positive impact on our Port and wider environment.’

Collaboration

Tor M. Østervold, ceo, ECOsubsea adds, ‘I look very much forward to collaborating to broaden the services offered to vessels entering the Port and simultaneously contribute to a healthier water environment.’