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Cruise industry resumption plans still blanketed in thick fog

April 8, 2021 Cruise News, Headline News No Comments Email Email

While the cruise industry remains hopeful governments around the world will soon give the green light for the resumption of full schedules – the picture is far from clear.The early resumption of voyages in Europe quickly ran aground thanks to COVID-19 for a number of cruise lines – including the closely screened yacht operator SeaDream with just 54 couples on board.

What is clear is that when larger ships start cruising again here from Australia, it will be a very tightly managed exercise with an enormous amount of oversight from various health authorities and regulators. P&O Australia does remain positive about a pathway for the industry’s return to service. The current rolling pause affects voyages scheduled from June 18 to July 30, 2021. The company has also cancelled sailings to PNG and the Solomon Islands for the remainder of 2021 given the uncertainty around borders. This also affected the 2021 Cairns season where the Pacific Explorer was to be based for two months from October. President Sture Myrmell said the company was continuing “discussions with governments and health authorities to develop a framework for the staged resumption of cruising.”

We are ready to resume the leading role as Australia’s home-grown cruise line, he added.

It’s hard to imagine big ship cruising from Australian ports will get underway before the end of the year – but local operators like True North has been cruising from WA since 4 July. Coral Expedition cruises has also been operating safely since October with all-Australia crew and passengers. New Zealand small-ship operator Island Escape Cruises has received authorisation from Australian regulators to operate its planned Great Barrier Reef and Kimberley coastline itineraries in 2021. On the international stage while some cruise lines have been able to resume operations including Dream Cruises in Singapore and Taiwan, others are still on pause until at least June.

In the U.S. a Conditional Sailing Order remains in place until November 1, 2021. Cruise operators will need to meet specific requirements in order to operate before then. Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Crystal Cruises are however hopeful to restart North America cruising in June or July.

In the UK, multiple cruises have their sights set on the industry reopening domestic cruises after May 17.

MSC Cruises has announced it will deploy its latest flagship for British guests to enjoy safe summer sailings around the UK. MSC Virtuosa will make its maiden voyage on 20 May with guests on board from Southampton as the first of a series of 3 and 4-night mini-cruises before she begins 7-night cruises from 12 June with three embarkation ports in England and Scotland. All voyages will be for British residents only.

In Canada, the news is very grim – the transportation authority has extended its ban on cruise ships for an entire year to February 28, 2022.

The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) is confident that cruising will resume from the US in a phased way as soon as this summer.
Brian Salerno, CLIA’s Senior vice-president, Maritime Policy, said he was “very hopeful” the U.S. would see a resumption of cruising over the summer months.

There is little doubt that the long wait has fuelled tremendous demand for cruise product. The industry was booming in Australia before the virus struck. According to Vacations & Travel, If advanced bookings for ocean cruising is anything to go by, it’s clear that travellers can’t wait to get back to the high seas.

Earlier this month Oceania Cruises set a new benchmark, achieving an all-time record number of bookings in a single day when it released its 2022/2023 Tropics & Exotics Collection. Just weeks before that, the cruise line’s 180-day around the world voyage scheduled for 2023 sold out in just one day. I am not even touching on fairly new entries into the market like Viking. I will be cruising with them next March hopefully – as we search for the fabled Northern Lights.

The major cruise lines continue to tempt Australian customers with a long list of incentives ranging from cabin upgrades to free internet and drinks plus cash to spend onboard.
Seabourn, the ultra-luxury cruise line, has relaunched its “Early Bonus Savings” promotion.
Guests who pay their booking in full by June 30, 2021, will receive an additional 10 percent savings off the base cruise fare. The promotion applies to select voyages that depart on or after November 1, 2021, and now includes voyages through fall 2022 and winter and spring 2023.

Small expedition operator Hurtigruten is offering off the beaten track cruises aboard new hybrid electric–powered ships, MS Roald Amundsen and MS Fridtjof Nansen and expedition ships, MS Fram and MS Spitsbergen. These cruises feature South America, Central America, the Caribbean, the Mexican Riviera, Svalbard, Iceland, and more.

Small-ship specialist Emerald Cruises (www.emeraldcruises.com.au) has unveiled the 2023 program for its new ocean-going 5-star luxury super yacht, Emerald Azzurra. The 2023 brochure features the yacht’s highly anticipated first voyages to the Black Sea on two new itineraries, plus the collection of popular Adriatic, Mediterranean and Red Sea cruises. The new 15-day Mykonos, Gallipoli & Essence of the Black Sea itinerary sails from Athens to Istanbul and calls at Mykonos, Çanakkale, Bartin, Sinop, Trabzon (all Turkey), Batumi (Georgia), Sochi (Russia), Odessa (Ukraine), Sulina (Romania), Varna and Nessebar (both Bulgaria) en route.

Celebrity, now moving up a rung to luxury status, is promoting its new Celebrity ApexSM, second ship in the revolutionary Celebrity Edge Series, with her first sailing June 19, 2021. On offer are Eastern Mediterranean itineraries of 6–8 nights beginning in Athens. Visit Greek islands and Israel—complete with drinks, Wi-Fi, and tips included. Perhaps the biggest wow feature on Celebrity Apex is a movable deck, which Celebrity calls “the Magic Carpet”.The tennis-court sized deck is cantilevered off the side of the ship and can move up and down, from the bottom at Deck 2 and up to Deck 16.
When stationed on Deck 2 for instance the Magic Carpet will serve as a throughway for passengers getting onto and off of tender boats, as they will be able to walk directly from the ship onto the Magic Carpet and then onto the tender without any need for ramps or stairs. This will make it much easier for mobility challenged cruisers to get between the cruise ship and the tenders
.
Early cruise bookers and past passengers are snapping up capacity on Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ luxury ships, with inventory sold so far in 2022 approaching the 50% level as fares set to rise from 1 April 2021.
MSC Cruises has a Ready to Sail promotion. Valid on all 2022 departures from 1 March to 6 December, 2022 guests can enjoy $200 onboard credit per cabin for cruises up to 7-nights, $400 onboard credit for 8 to 14-night cruises and $600 per cabin for cruises 15 nights or more.
All bookings made by 30 June, 2021 will be risk free – booked guests can cancel for a full refund up to 15-days prior cruise departure or request a free move cruise.

Royal Caribbean’s newest ship, Odyssey of the Seas, is sailing out of Haifa, Israel starting in June 2021.

Vision and Adventure of the Seas head to the Caribbean this June, offering seven-night tropical escapes from The Bahamas and Bermuda. Vaccinations will be required for adult guests to sail on both ships and guests under the age of 18 will need to provide a negative RT-PCR test result.
Jewel of the Seas will be cruising from Cyprus starting July 10, 2021

In a note to RCL passengers CEO Michael Bailey said vaccine requirements for our new sailings this summer, in particular, have raised concerns. “I want you to know that we understand. This environment we are in is one we’re navigating as best we can with the ever-evolving information that tells us what will help reduce the chances of COVID-19 impacting any cruise.”

Jalesh Cruises India is the first Asian cruise shipping company to permanently shut down during the pandemic and five other cruise companies (four in Europe and one in the USA) have announced in recent months they are going out of business or filing for bankruptcy due to financial troubles related to the COVID crisis. Like Jalesh, most are small but the list also includes CMV-Cruise and Maritime Voyages – the UK’s second-largest cruise brand. On June 23 2020, five ships within the CMV fleet were detained by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, including the MV Columbus, MV Vasco da Gama, MV Astoria, MS Astor, and MS Marco Polo.

Written by Ian McIntosh

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