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Carnival Corp. offers use of ships as floating hospitals

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Carnival Corp. has offered use of its ships as temporary hospitals for non-coronavirus patients to free up space at land-based hospitals to treat patients with Covid-19. 

President Trump announced at a press conference on Thursday that he had spoken with Carnival Corp. chairman Micky Arison on Thursday morning. “He’s going to make ships available,” he said.  

The president has already ordered that two Navy hospital ships be deployed to areas hits hard by coronavirus. The USNS Comfort will head to New York Harbor and the USNS New York will be dispatched to a location on the West Coast. If needed, the Carnival ships could supplement those efforts. 

“In addition to the big medical ships that you have coming, if we should need ships with lots of rooms, they will be docked at New York and Los Angeles and San Francisco, different places, so I want to thank Micky Arison. That’s Carnival Cruise Line,” the President said. 

In a statement shortly afterward, Carnival Corp. said that select ships from its many brands -- including Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and P&O Cruises Australia -- would be made available to help with a possible shortage of land-based hospital beds. 

“As part of the offer, interested parties will be asked to cover only the essential costs of the ship’s operations while in port,” the company said. 

“If needed, cruise ships are capable of being quickly provisioned to serve as hospitals with up to 1,000 hospital rooms that can treat patients suffering from less critical, non-Covid-19 conditions,” Carnival Corp. said. 

Temporary cruise ship hospital rooms can be quickly converted to accommodate remote patient-monitoring devices over the ship’s high-speed WiFi network, the company said. The ships would be capable of providing cardiac, respiratory, oxygen saturation, and video-monitoring capabilities. Rooms have bathrooms, private balconies and isolation capabilities if needed.

The company said the ships would be able to provide up to seven intensive care units in their onboard medical centers with central cardiac monitoring, ventilators and other medical devices.

Carnival said various decks could house multiple medical functions, the company said.

 

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Military can get a discount on some Princess cruises and always gets a $50 - $250 (based on number of days) onboard credit if applied for. Once you apply for it on one cruise, they give it to you auto

A couple of thoughts here: I've done 86 nights so far and have had inside, window and balcony rooms.  Inside was not bad at all and so much cheaper on the particular cruise I was on (Antarctica).  If

My wife and I did a five day cruise from Singapore on the Genting Dream last Feb.  We stopped in Port Klang, Penang, and Phuket.  It was a great experience and we plan on doing another on from Hong Ko

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What Is the Economic Impact of the Cruise Industry in the United States?

Cruising is a global industry, with economic contributions that extend beyond the taxes cruise lines pay and the onboard personnel they employ. In the United States alone, cruise lines support a domino effect of businesses that ultimately employ hundreds of thousands of people and contribute billions of dollars to the economy.

A November 2019 report titled "The Contribution of the International Cruise Industry to the United States Economy" from the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the industry's trade association, outlined the direct and indirect ways the international cruise industry creates its economic footprint. Cruise Critic took a look at that, as well as other reports, to examine the industry impact.

Employment & Expenditures

According to Statista, a provider of market and consumer data, the North American cruise industry directly employed about 246,000 people in in the United States and Canada in 2018.

Direct employment by the cruise lines in the U.S. (including those working in the lines' corporate offices and in call centers taking reservations) in accounted for wages and taxes paid to U.S. federal, state and local tax jurisdictions of $1.67 billion in 2018, according to CLIA's report.

The industry's impact on indirect jobs --  which can include anything from port services and taxi or bus drivers to food and beverage suppliers, apparel and textile manufacturers, real estate purchases and leases, and more -- is greater.

According to the CLIA report, the cruise industry's direct expenses in the United States amounted to about $23.9 billion, resulting in an estimated 172,326 direct jobs throughout the U.S. economy, paying $8.32 billion in wages and salaries in 2018. Included in these direct expenses are purchases of a variety of goods and services, including food and beverages, fuel, insurance and business services, among others.

 In 2018, the cruise industry was a main source of business for 78,800 U.S.-based travel agents, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The economic chain continues as these businesses purchase their own goods and services from other businesses.

Passenger & Crew Spending

But cruise lines are not the only ones contributing to the economy. Travelers taking cruises are also spending money, particularly in the cities from which they depart.

In 2018, 12.7 million cruise passengers boarded ships at U.S ports, according to Statista. U.S. homeports are located on the East Coast, the West Coast and the Gulf Coast, spreading the industry's economic impact to multiple states.

Most cruisers spent money on some combination of hotel rooms, rental cars, parking, gas, food, taxis or Ubers/Lyfts, and other local goods and services. Passengers (and crew) spent $4.67 billion in the United States in 2018, according to the CLIA report.

In Florida, specifically, onshore spending by passengers and crew produced just over $1.2 billion, the CLIA report said. 

In Seattle, in a typical year, an estimated 1.2 million cruise ships passengers pass through the cruise port. Their spending (on hotels, restaurants and related goods and services) totals about $467 million annually, according to a report from the Port of Seattle.

Similarly, according to the Port of Los Angeles, 11 cruise ships passed through the Los Angeles World Cruise Center in 2018, handling about 519,000 passengers; each time a cruise ship calls there, it adds an estimated $1 million into the local economy, the port says.

Case Study: Alaska

There's also a domino effect from passenger and crew spending, particularly in areas of the U.S. that are heavily dependent on cruise visitors, like Alaska.

According to the report, "The Role of Visitors in Alaska's Economy," prepared by the McDowell Group in 2018, the economic chain works like this: Visitors and cruise companies spend money on goods, including food and beverages, souvenirs and fuel, as well as services including tours, lodging and recreational activities. The companies that provide said goods and services then spend money on restaurant supply goods, inventory for their stores, fuel, utilities, building maintenance, accounting services and publishing. Employees of all the above spend money on groceries, clothing, restaurants, medical care, real estate and recreation.

In 2017, direct visitor spending by crew members accounted for $22 million, while direct cruise line spending and payroll accounted for $297 million.

In terms of direct payments to the State of Alaska, the cruise industry paid $33.3 million in 2017, including $19.9 million from the commercial passenger vessel tax.

https://www.cruisecritic.com/articles.cfm?ID=5278&et_cid=3325808&et_rid=16703363&et_referrer=NULL

 

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Virgin Voyages Rolls Out New Health Protocols to Make Its Ships Safer

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Virgin Voyages is well aware that there are a whole lot of eager travelers who are still nervous about stepping foot on a cruise ship right now. That’s why the company is implementing a strict new set of health and safety measures to help put passengers at ease.

On Thursday, Richard Branson’s nascent cruise line announced an extensive set of health protocols in a press release. Dubbed “Virgin Well,” the comprehensive program was designed in collaboration with health and science specialists with the aim of making traveling by cruise ship safer for passengers and crew as the company prepares for its maiden voyage.

Cruise lines around the world have been forced to suspend service because of the global pandemic, and Virgin Voyages was no different; it had to postpone its launch. The company’s first ship, the Scarlet Lady, was originally scheduled to set sail on its inaugural season in April. Because of the outbreak, that date was postponed until August and has now been pushed back to a “soft open” in October, assuming that travel restrictions have been lifted by then.

When the Scarlet Lady does finally leave port, it will do so with reduced ship capacity. The new boat, which has never sailed with passengers (or sailors as the company calls them) before, will be outfitted with a cutting-edge air purification system from AtmosAir Solutions, virus neutralizing air filters and thermal monitoring cameras. The boat will also make use of virtual queues instead of physical lines, while all public spaces will have fresh air. Additionally, all passengers and crew will be subject to rapid Covid-19 testing and a pre-boarding health check before boarding. Crew will also be tested regularly during their time on the boat.

“The health and wellbeing of our Sailors is our number one priority, so we rolled up our sleeves with leading experts to further innovate and create an even healthier way to travel and still have an incredible vacation,” said Virgin Voyages CEO Tom McAlpin. “We appreciate some people will be apprehensive about traveling, so we are committed to being led by science and creating ways to give people confidence to explore the world while feeling safer, more relaxed and free to enjoy themselves.”

While the entire travel industry has been disrupted by the Covid-19 outbreak, cruise lines have been hit especially hard. The CDC and US Department of State even discouraged Americans from taking cruises earlier this spring after two ships belonging to Princess Cruises experienced onboard outbreaks. Since then, numerous lines, including Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Carribean, have suspended service indefinitely.

https://www.msn.com/en-ph/travel/news/virgin-voyages-rolls-out-new-health-protocols-to-make-its-ships-safer/ar-BB15GiDT?ocid=msedgdhp

 

 

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This an email sent to Cruise Lines International Associations (CLIA) members.

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June 19th 2020

CLIA Announces Voluntary Suspension of Cruise Operations from U.S. Ports

Dear CLIA Members and Partners,

Earlier today, the Global Board of Directors voted to voluntarily extend the suspension of U.S. cruise passenger operations until 15 September 2020 for all ships that are subject to the CDC's current No Sail Order (vessels with the capacity to carry 250 or more). We will continually evaluate the evolving situation and make a determination as to whether a further extension is necessary. 

While we know this decision will have tremendous implications for the greater cruise community—including many of you, our valued travel agents, ports, cruise suppliers and service providers travel agencies and agents, cruise suppliers and service providers—it has become clear that barriers to the resumption of U.S. cruise operations will not be resolved by 24 July, the expiration date of the current CDC No Sail Order. With that said, and given the devastating impact the suspension of cruise operations is having on U.S. jobs and the economy, we are hopeful that this extension will allow for a thoughtful and productive dialogue with the CDC regarding the future of cruise operations in the United States. 

While this is not welcome news, please know that CLIA is committed to supporting every member of our cruise community through these difficult times. As we strive towards a safe resumption of operations, we will continue to promote and share the importance of this community and the industry-wide commitment to public health and safety, which is further demonstrated by the decision to extend the suspension of U.S. operations.

Very shortly, CLIA will distribute a press release announcing the voluntary extension of the current suspension in the U.S. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to reach out should you have any questions and thank you, as always, for your continued support and commitment to the cruise community.

 

 

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SkyMan

I wonder what some of those retired permanent cruisers are doing.  The ones that don't have a real residence and just go from cruise to cruise.

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Dafey
48 minutes ago, SkyMan said:

I wonder what some of those retired permanent cruisers are doing

Not a good time to go to a nursing home!

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SkyMan
5 minutes ago, Dafey said:

Not a good time to go to a nursing home!

I imagine some have children to visit but I wonder if some aren't allowed to stay on board in port?  They are, of course, well respected by their respective cruise lines and I would think it would be wise for the lines to let them stay with proper separation, etc. I don't know if they would be allowed to though.

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September 2020 – The Healthy Sail Panel, a group of globally recognized experts assembled by Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., has concluded cruising can be safer in the current health environment with a robust set of science-backed protocols. Through research and their relevant experience in various disciplines including public health, infectious diseases, biosecurity, hospitality and marine operations, the panelists have outlined more than 70 recommendations. Take a look at the five focus areas the group has identified in collaboration with co-chairs Governor Mike Leavitt, former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.

Healthy-Sail-Panel_Full-Recommendations_9.21.20_FINAL.pdf

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CLIA Cruise Line Members to Mandate Pre-Boarding Testing For All Passengers

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October 07, 2020 | Adam Coulter UK Managing Editor

Members of the Cruise Lines International Association have agreed to pre-boarding COVID-19 testing on all passengers and crew, regardless of geography.

CLIA's global CEO Kelly Craighead made the announcement today at the world's biggest cruise conference, Seatrade, as "as a core element of initial resumption globally."

"I'm pleased to announce that effective today all CLIA Ocean cruise line members worldwide have agreed to conduct 100 percent testing of passengers and crew on all ships with a capacity to carry 250 or more persons -- with a negative test required for any embarkation," said Kelly Craighead, CLIA Global CEO.

"Recognising no measure in isolation is sufficient to prevent the introduction onboard of COVID-19, we see testing as an important initial step to a multi-layered approach that we believe validates the industry’s commitment to making health, safety, and the well-being of the passengers, the crew, and the communities we visit our top priority."

A statement from CLIA described the move as "a travel industry first and an example of the cruise industry leading the way".

The news will come as no surprise to US ocean lines, all of whom agreed to pre-boarding testing in a report from the Healthy Sail Panel submitted to the Centers for Disease Control last month.

However, the news appears to contradict restart plans drawn up by CLIA in the UK with the UK Chamber of Shipping just last week which explicitly do not include mandatory pre-boarding testing for passengers -- just for crew.

The announcement also did not specify what kind of pre-boarding COVID-19 testing would take place. All of the large ship lines that have resumed cruising safely -- MSC Cruises, Costa Cruises and TUI Cruises -- have done with mandatory pre-boarding testing. All these lines require a negative COVID-19 test before boarding, although the timelines are slightly different.

MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises do rapid testing in the terminal, with a more thorough PCR test given if a positive result shows up. On TUI, passengers must show a negative test taken before sailing.

When asked at the time why the framework submitted to the UK government omitted pre-boarding COVID-19 testing, Tony Roberts, VP UK Princess Cruises and Chair of CLIA UK & Ireland, said:

"The framework is exactly that -- it's a framework -- and it talks about medical screening, as part of that embarkation process. The reason that it's not specific about exactly what that entails is because it's a framework document which should be based on a risk-based approach."

Andy Harmer, CLIA UK & Ireland director, said: "Today’s announcement enhances the UK Framework published by the the UK Chamber of Shipping last week, further distinguishing the cruise industry as a leader within the travel sector.

"As the scientific understanding of COVID-19 is constantly updated, the UK Framework will likewise continue to evolve to reflect those changes."

The news is moot as the Foreign & Commonwealth Office still advises against all ocean cruising and there is still no indication when that ban (which does not apply to river cruising) will be lifted. In addition, most UK cruise lines have suspended operations until next spring.

"The advice from the authorities is still not to cruise until sometime next year," said Carnival Corp CEO Arnold Donald speaking at a State of the Industry Panel straight after the announcement.

"We'll see if that changes over the coming weeks or months or not and I'm sure it will be dependent on their assessment of the pandemic in the UK itself."

https://www.cruisecritic.com/news/5646/#

 

 

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CDC Lifts No-Sail Order for Cruise Ships For November 1; Expect Limited Restart

October 30, 2020 - Aaron Saunders Contributor

After nearly eight months, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has lifted the No-Sail Order that has restricted all cruise travel to and from the United States, technically allowing the industry to restart operations November 1.

The order, originally issued by the CDC on March 14 and extended twice since then, was overwritten in a Friday filing released by the agency.

The filing is called a "framework for conditional sailing" and outlines the testing process that the cruise lines must go through to resume operations safely. The first phase calls for testing and safeguards for crew members, followed by "simulated voyages" to make sure that cruise lines can mitigate the risk of COVID-19.

After that, the agency will allow a "phased return" to cruise passenger voyages.

"This framework provides a pathway to resume safe and responsible sailing. It will mitigate the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks on ships and prevent passengers and crew from seeding outbreaks at ports and in the communities where they live," CDC Director Robert R. Redfield said.

"CDC and the cruise industry have a shared goal to protect crew, passengers and communities and will continue to work together to ensure that all necessary public health procedures are in place before cruise ships begin sailing with passengers."

The CDC's new guidance will be in effect for cruises to and from U.S. ports of call until November 1, 2021.

What Does the Framework for Conditional Sailing Mean?

As part of the CDC's framework for conditional sailing, lines must demonstrate adherence to testing, quarantine and isolation, and social distancing requirements to protect crew members while they build the laboratory capacity needed to test crew and future passengers.

Much like Royal Caribbean chairman and CEO Richard Fain had suggested, the CDC will first want operators to conduct simulated (mock) voyages with volunteers playing the role of passengers to test the line's ability to mitigate COVID-19 risk.

Once operations are approved, passengers and crew will be required to undergo COVID-19 testing at both embarkation and disembarkation.

The CDC has also indicated it will help cruise lines establish a laboratory team dedicated to the industry that will provide information and oversight for COVID-19 testing. It will also aid in updating its color-coding system to indicate vessel status; update technical instructions as needed; and update its necessary forms to ensure COVID-19 data collection for passengers.

Complying with this Framework for Conditional Sailing will be the first step in a staggered resumption of cruise operations. Voyages are initially restricted to one week or less in duration.

How Soon Can Cruises Resume?

The phased approach is what North American cruise lines were advocating all along.

All cruise lines have suspended their North American operations until at least December 1, while many operators have pushed their restart dates well into 2021. The Cruise Line Industry Association has imposed a voluntary ban on cruising through October. 31.

Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean are among those to have suspended till December 1. Executives have previously given timelines ranging from 30 to 60 days to bring a ship from layup to the point where it is ready for operational service again.

Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line has already stated its intention to resume operations December 18, sailing two-night voyages from West Palm Beach, Florida, to Freeport, Bahamas, on Grand Classica.

While the No-Sail Order was in effect, cruise lines endeavored to find new ways to keep passengers healthy onboard and create protocols in case of outbreaks. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings teamed with Royal Caribbean Group to create an industry-wide Healthy Sail Panel, chaired by former Utah Governor and former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt, and Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The panel concluded a safe return to cruise was possible, delivering a 65-plus-page report to the CDC outlining a total of 74 action points that lines would undertake to safely resume cruising.

During this time, limited sailings have resumed in Europe aboard AIDA, Costa, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and TUI following guidance from the European Union's Healthy Gateways panel. While some lines have suspended sailings again because of recent COVID-19 spikes and new lockdowns in Europe, the Europaen lines have shown that cruises can be completed safely, thanks to robost new protocols.

Those recommendations were released to cruise operators by the EU on June 30.

Many lines, including Royal Caribbean, stated that test cruises with company employees only would be the first to set sail in order to fully implement and tweak, if necessary, health and safety protocols.

While no lines have announced exact restart plans as of this writing, most probably will only do so with a handful of ships initially, leading to more cancellations going into 2021 as the industry employs a staggered approach to the restart of cruise operations.

During Royal Caribbean's third quarter earnings call on Thursday, chairman and CEO Richard Fain stressed that any return to service would be a measured one, with short sailings aboard a handful of ships.

"This whole concept of the trial voyages is really quite important," Fain told investors. "We're not just suddenly coming back. It's going to take a while to organize those voyages and we'll have an opportunity to see those protocols in action."

"Then, only on a ship or two at first, we expect to begin sailing again. They will be short cruises with limited destinations and controlled shore excursions."

CDC Still Recommends Americans Avoid All Cruise Travel

The CDC still has one additional tool to deter would-be cruise passengers, issuing guidance that recommends American travelers avoid all ocean and river cruises worldwide and slapping cruise travel with a "Level 3 Travel Health" Notice.

While the order was issued March 17, a recent update of the CDC's page calls into question the CDC's willingness to fully endorse cruise within the United States.

"CDC typically posts travel health notices for countries and other international destinations, not transportation, such as ships, airplanes, or trains," notes the Level 3 Travel Warning for cruise ships. "Because of the unprecedented nature of the novel coronavirus pandemic, and the increased risk of transmission of COVID-19 on cruise ships, the U.S. government is advising U.S. travelers to defer all cruise travel."

With the exception of a handful of sailings that have resumed in Europe and elsewhere, the majority of cruise operations have been stopped since March.

The CDC's guidance does not apply to citizens outside the United States. Currently, numerous other countries, including Canada, Mexico and much of Europe, have Level 3 warnings.

The CDC's warning comes as domestic coronavirus cases within the United States are on the rise. As of October 30, there were over three million active cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., along with over 234,000 deaths.

Cases have also increased in Europe in recent weeks. New lockdown measures in France and Germany have caused AIDA to suspend its planned November voyages, and Costa has restructured its Italian itineraries.

The agency had not issued any similar guidance for domestic or international air travel within the United States, nor has it issued warnings for hotels, theme parks or other crowded events that have since resumed.

What's Next?

The next step for the industry is to slowly ramp up operations again. This could require redeploying ships, changing itineraries, or introducing new health and safety requirements depending on the state of the global health pandemic.

The continued guidance by the CDC urging Americans to avoid all cruise travel also poses problems from an insurance perspective: Most policies will not cover travel to a place where a warning against all travel has been issued.

However, major port gateway cities like Miami have campaigned strongly for the cruise industry after a report by the Federal Maritime Commission highlighted the devastating economic damage that would result from a shutdown of all cruise operations.

On Thursday, Transport Canada extended its own cruise ban for vessels carrying over 100 persons from entering Canadian waters; and for vessels carrying over 12 persons for Canada's Arctic waters. That order is now set to expire on the evening of February 28, 2021. And while no cruises are sailing to Canadian ports during that time, the signal it sends to the industry is one of caution that Canadian ports may be some time from being ready to accept the cruise industry back.

https://www.cruisecritic.com/news/5687/

 

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Video Alert: Crew Start Journey To Rejoin Quantum of the Seas Cruise Ship In Singapore

October 28, 2020 | Chris Gray Faust Managing Editor

Crew members from around the world have signed contracts to join Quantum of the Seas as it gets ready for its December 1 restart in Singapore -- and one entertainment staffer is documenting his journey for everyone.

In his day job, Alaska resident Riley Tench works as a lighting technician for Royal Caribbean, but he's known more widely for his social media presence. His YouTube channel  has 39,000 subscribers, and he's also active on Instagram and Twitter.

In a peppy YouTube video titled "I'm Going Back To Work!" Tench outlines his quarantine process to rejoin the ship, which will sail a series of cruises in Singapore just for residents of that country.

First, Tench flew to Miami, where he underwent a two-week quarantine in a Miami hotel room. After the long flight to Singapore, he will go through another 14-day quarantine onboard the ship, in a balcony stateroom, before moving into crew quarters.

The cruises will not stop in any ports, and Tench said that as a crew member, he will not be allowed to get off in Singapore or anywhere else. His contract runs from October 26 to March 25, 2021, which mirrors the long time that it took for him to get home from the ship once the COVID-19 pandemic started and cruises were shut down in March.

During his months at sea, Tench made several YouTube videos documenting the process. They are well worth watching, if only to get a behind-the-scenes view of what it was like for crew members to live through the different quarantine requirements and issues the lines had repatriating people home. He was finally able to go home to Alaska on July 11.

Still, Tench said it will be "a fun challenge" to return to the ship.

"I'm literally just signing up to get stuck on this cruise ship again for five months which is kinda crazy when I say it out loud," he said. "But whatever guys, I'm kind of excited."

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During November, Tench and his coworkers will get Quantum of the Seas ready to go for its December 1 restart. He said he feels like he's in a privileged position to be able to start working again in the cruise industry.

"I really wish there was a way for cruise ships to just magically start up and everybody to get back to work, but that's not the reality we live in," he said. 

Another bonus to going back to work: being reunited with his girlfriend, Cass, who has been in several videos. The two will stay separated during their onboard two-week quarantine, before getting into their cabin.

Expect more live videos from Tench as the Singapore cruises begin.

"My goal over the next five months is to show you, my viewers, first hand, exactly what steps we're taking to cultivate a safe and healthy environment onboard," he said. "And not only that, but an enjoyable environment -- an environment (where) you're going to actually want to go on a cruise.

"Because I genuinely believe that despite this pandemic, despite all of this, that it is not only still possible to have a healthy and safety cruise vacation but to have one that is fun and memorable and exciting. ... Something that you can spend your money on and actually feel good about when you go home."

Happy travels, Riley -- we'll be watching!

https://www.cruisecritic.com/news/5693

 

 

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CDC Says Cruises Can Set Sail Again But Passengers Will Not Be Allowed On Board 😂😂...

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Just Back From SeaDream: Lessons The Cruise Industry Can Learn From A COVID-Interrupted Trip

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Sue Bryant Contributor

SeaDream Yacht Club's first cruise out of Barbados to the Grenadines on November 7 ended abruptly when a passenger tested positive for COVID-19 on the fifth day of the voyage. The ship, SeaDream I, returned immediately to Barbados, passengers confined to their cabins, the party over.

A total of seven passengers and two crew would eventually test positive. The small luxury line has canceled sailings through the end of 2020, although it's still selling Caribbean cruises from January to April 2021.
 

We were onboard, reporting live as events unfolded. Here's our take on what the cruise industry can learn from the event.

Testing tent Barbados
 

Multiple Testing is Necessary -- But Not Always Foolproof.

SeaDream touted its multiple-testing program, one that was designed to create a cruise ship "bubble" of COVID-free passengers. Each passenger had to have two negative tests before boarding the ship.

One, of a standard approved by the Barbados government, was required to enter the country and had to have been taken within 72 hours of landing. SeaDream also performed its own tests, conducted by the ship's doctor, in full PPE, on the quayside, before boarding. The line has three Abbott ID Now machines onboard that can process a nasal swab in 15 minutes. We were also due to have a third test on day five of the voyage to allow us entry back into Barbados at the end.

The process worked effectively for the passengers who were on the line's transatlantic sailing -- and seems to be doing the same on lines in Europe that mandate pre-boarding tests. But even multiple tests didn't prevent an outbreak once new passengers had joined in Barbados. COVID-19 can take several days to incubate and show up on a test. Even if a passenger is fine when they board their flight to Barbados, they can pick up the virus on an airplane or by tacking on a hotel stay in a different city before arriving.
The only thing that could create a true bubble might be a quarantine in the departure port city before being allowed to board the ship.
 
SeaDream I
 

Staying Outdoors as Much as Possible is Preferable.

SeaDream is essentially an outdoor experience. All meals are taken outside, and the main bar is al fresco. Balinese beds are spacious enough for couples to lounge on without being in direct contact with their neighbors. The pool area is large enough with the smaller capacity, and watersports took place off the back of the ship every day during the first half of our voyage.

With the ship less than half full, we had a good environment for a socially distanced vacation. The only time spent indoors was dinner on the first night, in the restaurant, which was only half full, and pre-dinner drinks in the Main Salon for the cruise director’s nightly briefing. This was a seating only area, with waiter service. In the Top of the Yacht al fresco bar, every other bar stool was blocked off and tables spread out.
One thing that SeaDream ships do not have, however, is balconies. So our time in the great outdoors came to an end once our quarantine began. Lockdown would have been far more palatable if we had had a balcony and on any other ship, I’d go for a balcony cabin.
 
St  Vincent
 
You Can Enjoy a Cruise with Carefully Planned Shore Excursions.
 
While there was a sense that we were guinea pigs on this first cruise, with excursion plans changing daily, one thing was clear: the local authorities, and SeaDream, were treating our social "bubble," such as it was, seriously.
 

There were no normal excursions, and we were not allowed to wander around and mix with local people. We were supervised by local police on a beach in St Vincent and allowed to go snorkeling in Tobago Cays. Transfers in Barbados were in government-approved cars, driver and passengers wearing masks, and we sat at the back of our van to socially distance from our driver. Because we were technically in transit in Barbados, there was no contact with local people there.

I accepted this and in a way, knew it was coming, It helps not to take the itinerary too literally. The first day, for example, said “Kingstown, St Vincent” but this was a technical stop for clearance, not an opportunity to go ashore.
 

Later that day was the supervised beach excursion. I certainly missed the chance to interact with local people and wander around towns, but I hadn’t expected anything “normal.”

The times we did get off the ship were highly enjoyable. When big ships start in the Caribbean again, private islands and resorts will come into their own, as it's a protected environment that can keep the bubble intact.
 
If a COVID Case is Discovered, Action Needs to be Quick.
 
Everything moved fast once the positive case had been confirmed. There was no time to reflect; the captain made the announcement around midday Wednesday, as we were anchored off Union Island in the Grenadines, that one passenger had felt unwell and had tested positive that morning. We were told to go straight to our cabins and remain there. Captain Lund turned the ship around and headed straight back to Barbados.
 

The ship's doctor immediately ran tests on all crewmembers, which later that night, according to Captain Lund, were all negative. The contacts of the original patient were tested and five of his family group of six were positive. One other couple also tested positive, bringing the total to seven passengers.

The Barbados authorities boarded the ship late at night and conducted their own tests on the crew, which also came back negative and compatible with the ship's rapid tests. Two crewmembers would subsequently develop COVID-19 a few days later (again showing that it can take time for positive results to show up).
 
Passengers were tested on Thursday, first by the ship's doctor and then the Barbados authorities. There were no positive results.
 
Passengers in Ship Quarantine Need to be Made Comfortable.
 
As we were stuck in quarantine, a system for feeding us swung into action. A menu would be pushed under the door. We'd check off what we wanted, push the menu back and food would arrive, all wrapped in cellophane. It would be left on a tray for us to take. We'd then put our used dishes outside the cabin and they would be collected.
 
Crewmembers in masks also came around with fresh towels each day. Two in full PPE also appeared daily to take our temperatures and oxygen levels with a pulse oximeter. The crew were calm and efficient, despite the fact that this was a new situation for them.
 

Understandably, SeaDream tried to keep a little of its magic going, even though we were in lockdown. We’d missed the line’s trademark Champagne and Caviar Splash beach party, which had been due to take place on a beach in Mayreau on the Thursday. So when glasses of champagne and little bowls of caviar were delivered to the cabins, passengers were delighted by the gesture.

Something that became very important was fresh air breaks. We spend Wednesday afternoon and all of Thursday in our cabins. On Thursday, the highlight of my day was being allowed into the reception area for a COVID test.
 

By Friday, we were getting pretty desperate; remember, SeaDream’s ships have no balconies. We were allowed out for one hour per deck on Friday afternoon, although the pool was closed. To feel the sun and breathe fresh air was blissful – and seeing shipmates, albeit at a distance and in masks – was wonderful. Should this happen again, cruise lines need to factor in fresh air breaks as part of their lockdown system. It’s so important for morale and mental health.

Communication Needs to be Good, Both Onboard and for Future Guests

Communication during the crisis for those of us onboard was generally very good and surprisingly personal. Captain Lund called me in the cabin every day and, I believe, answered my questions with complete transparency. Every time a general announcement had been made, a note came under the door with that announcement in writing.
 

There were, however, some long gaps between announcements. I appreciate that SeaDream was working flat out to resolve the situation and was in the hands of the Barbados authorities. But when you're sitting in that cabin for the third day running with no balcony, slow internet and a lot of questions and anxieties, the minutes do crawl by, and even a short message saying very little is better than silence.

Meanwhile, passengers booked on the November 14 sailing were waiting for the cruise line to make a call on that voyage – which would influence whether they should board flights and take scheduled COVID tests. It points to the need for cruise lines to act quickly with upcoming sailings too – and it’s likely that they might be forced to err on the side of caution, canceling to save upcoming passengers logistical headaches.
 

P H O T O 2020 11 11 16 01 43 2

 

Masks Need to be Mandatory, From the Get Go

SeaDream had started the Caribbean season under the premise that masks would not be required onboard. In a webinar this fall, the hotel director was clear in stating that he felt masks were counter to the SeaDream luxury experience, which relies on bonding between the excellent crew and passengers.
 

The passengers on the three-week transatlantic crossing, which had preceded this first Barbados cruise, had not worn masks as they had been together for 21 days, isolated and regularly tested. The hope was that this policy would continue, thanks to the double-testing protocol for embarking guests. The crew did wear masks on the quayside and at any other time off the ship.

Three days into the cruise, SeaDream changed the policy for both passengers and crew. We received a letter saying that the instruction had come from the company's shoreside medical advisors. Captain Lund stood up at a socially distanced seated drinks reception one night and announced that the social media storm that had ensued from photos being published of the trip had nothing to do with the decision.
 

The ship is likely glad they took that measure, as it could have prevented COVID from spreading more than it did (although let's be clear: Mask policies don't keep the virus from getting onboard). And yes, in hindsight we should have worn masks from the beginning. Most people have no problem with this in the current circumstances of the pandemic, as it's something that is regularly required when you are at home in most countries and states.

 
If you're one of those who feel your vacation experience would be ruined by wearing a mask, you probably shouldn't be traveling in the current climate.

Sending Passengers Home on Commercial Flights Raises Issues.

The Barbados authorities told SeaDream that all passengers with two negative tests (the ship's and the shoreside test) could leave as planned on their "in transit" transfers. The positive cases were transferred to an isolation facility. Anybody staying on in Barbados had to follow the standard protocols to stay on the island: five days in quarantine in an approved facility and a negative test before being allowed to roam free.

Everybody left the ship Saturday and most flew home on commercial flights. The decision raised questions about why were able to do this, considering that we had potentially been exposed to COVID. Perhaps the Barbados government should have isolated us on the island for five days, as they would other arriving passengers. Perhaps in future, this would be the protocol.

In any case, for all the strict protocols on the ship, boarding the aircraft for the return flight was a free-for-all, with a shocking lack of social distancing among those taking the flight as the airplane passengers scrambled onto buses, some people without masks.

It's Difficult for the Cruise Lines and Passengers to Follow Up.

I'm a little surprised at the lack of follow up so far. I, for one, would be interested to know if any fellow passengers had developed symptoms since returning home. I know that many have taken COVID-19 tests, as have I (still negative) and others are quarantining at home away from their loved ones. I have shared my own health information with SeaDream, but it's now up to the rumor mill to figure out who is still healthy and who isn't.
 
It turns out, though, that privacy laws prevent tthe line from revealing who is positive or negative. We checked with the line and were told that it is impossible for them to force people to give them medical information once they leave the ship. They are also not allowed to share the names of people infected onboard, merely contact trace and inform those who have directly exposed.
 

P H O T O 2020 11 11 15 16 37

 

COVID-19 Cases Will Slip Through, Even with Stringent Measures.

The worst happened and COVID-19 slipped through the net, in this case. We don't know how and we don't know the circumstances of the original spreader. Clearly, the two snapshots of his health, one 72 hours before arrival and one on the quayside, did not pick up evidence of the virus. We all fill in pre-cruise health screening questionnaires. If you felt a bit sick, it’s imperative to answer honestly then to account for a potential lag between when the test picks up a positive case.
 
It's important to remember that SeaDream had operated a successful summer season in Norway, with more than 20 incident-free departures. Large ships with MSC, Costa and other lines have successfully resumed, reacting quickly when COVID-19 cases do come up.
 

Ultimately, successful cruising in the age of COVID is going to depend on many factors – just as it does on land. A vaccine, of course, but also quarantine and testing before boarding and perhaps increased testing on board. Individual responsibility. Taking careful consideration in who is welcomed onboard, in terms of COVID cases within countries. Watertight travel insurance.

And finally, an acceptance that there is always going to be risk involved in travel.
 
 
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