October 15, 2021

Canada to allow cruise ships Nov. 1st

Radiance of the Seas at Hubbard Glacier – Alaska
Radiance of the Seas – Royal Caribbean International

(Nadine El-Bawab CNBC) – Canada will allow cruise ships to operate in its waters starting Nov. 1 if operators comply fully with public health requirements, the country’s minister of transport announced on Thursday.

Earlier this year, the Canadian government had extended its ban on cruises until the end of February 2022. Speaking outside the Ogden Point Deep-Water Terminal in Victoria on Thursday, federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra and B.C. Transportation Minister Rob Fleming said this would give cruise ship operators time to prepare for the 2022 cruise ship season.

“Our government is now ready to announce that we are accelerating the timeline for resuming cruise ship activity. I am announcing today that cruise ships will be allowed in Canadian waters as of November 1st of this year,” Alghabra said during a news conference.

Canada’s federal transportation department, in a statement Thursday, said it was ready to welcome back cruise ships earlier than anticipated due to the improved public health outlook in Canada as Covid cases drop and vaccinations increase.

The cruise industry brings in more than $4 billion annually for the Canadian economy, indirectly generates 30,000 jobs and is vital for the tourism sector, according to the transportation department.

This decision comes a week after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made clear that the country will not let in unvaccinated tourists anytime soon, despite the hurting tourism sector.

And the restart of cruises will be dependent on the public health situation at any given time especially in areas where the cruises will dock, Alghabra said Thursday. The Canadian government is still advising citizens to avoid all travel on cruise ships outside the country, he said.

In the U.S., the cruise industry has been one of the last to return to pre-pandemic operations after several high-profile outbreaks on ships last year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently allowed cruise operators to begin sailing again, with strict health protocols in place.

Canada and the U.S. extended the ban on non-essential travel across their land border until at least July 21.

 

NCL applies to start sailing again from U.S. ports on July 4

The 169,000 ton Norwegian Encore.

(Reuters, Nivedita Balu) Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd said on Monday it had sought the approval of U.S. health authorities to restart trips from U.S. ports from July 4 with mandatory vaccinations for travelers, bringing new hope to the ravaged industry.

The company’s announcement follows the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest guidance last week to the cruise ship industry, including the need for COVID-19 vaccinations.

The move by CEO Frank Del Rio is a bold salvo amid the cruise industry’s escalating frustration with the CDC. Criticism has mounted since Friday, when the agency said travel for vaccinated people was low risk — but also laid out a raft of additional conditions, under a “conditional sailing order,” that cruise lines need to meet before getting permission to operate from U.S. ports.

“I’d like to hear an argument why we couldn’t sail,” Del Rio said in an interview with The Washington Post. “If everyone on board is vaccinated and following the protocols, there is absolutely no need for the conditional sail order to exist as it is known today.”

Del Rio made his case to the CDC in a letter dated Monday.

Frank Del Rio, chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., has sought the approval of U.S. health authorities to restart trips from U.S. ports from July 4.
Frank Del Rio, chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., has sought the approval of U.S. health authorities to restart trips from U.S. ports from July 4. PHOTO BY MARK ELIAS/BLOOMBERG
In the letter, Norwegian Cruise said that its plan was in line with the latest guideline and that it aimed to kick start trips at a 60% capacity starting July 4.

Norwegian also said it would increase the capacity by 20% every 30 days and ramp up departures from U.S. ports for its fleet of 28 ships spread across Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

In addition to the vaccine requirement for passengers of all ages, the company will require negative coronavirus tests, face coverings, contactless food service and other measures.

“We believe that through a combination of 100% mandatory vaccinations … we can create a safe, ‘bubble-like’ environment for guests and crew,” Del Rio said.

Shares of Carnival, Norwegian Cruise and Royal Caribbean closed up between 3% and 7% on Monday.

While Carnival Corp noted that the latest guideline was “largely unworkable and stood in stark contrast to the approach taken in other travel and tourism sectors,” Royal Caribbean said it was “reviewing and studying” it.

In a statement, the CDC sounded unmoved by Del Rio’s request, reiterating the approach it has laid out in its order.

“Cruising safely and responsibly during a global pandemic is difficult,” the statement said. “While cruising will always pose some risk of COVID-19 transmission, following the phases of the conditional sailing order will ensure cruise ship passenger operations are conducted in a way that protects crew members, passengers, and port personnel; particularly, with emerging COVID-19 variants of concern.”

Other cruise lines have announced plans to start cruising again for Americans outside the United States – including the Bahamas, Bermuda, Caribbean and Greece. In most cases, those cruises will require either everyone on board or those 18 and older to be fully vaccinated.

The Cruise Lines International Association, which represents the three companies, also said the guidance was “burdensome and ambiguous” and urged for a controlled return to service this summer.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, threatened to file a lawsuit if cruises continued to be blocked this summer, according to several media reports. Del Rio copied DeSantis and other elected officials from Florida, home to the world’s busiest cruise ports, on his letter.

With additional reporting from Hannah Sampson, The Washington Post

Urgent Need for Ships to Start Sailing, Says FMC

The U.S. Federal Marine Commission urges cruises to resume in Florida.

By Kenneth Griffin – (The Cruise Examiner) – Last week, the US Federal Marine Commission made its voice known in the world of cruising by backing a return to the seas by the mammoth worldwide fleet of cruise ships that has been laid up, but particularly those that traded from the previously busy ports of Florida.

A report issued by US Federal Maritime Commissioner Louis Sola says there is an urgent need for the cruise industry to resume sailing from Florida cruise ports, citing staggering losses to revenue, local employment and the contributions cruisers make to other tourism sectors such as the airline and hospitality industries.

In its latest, commissioner Sola indicates that Florida has lost $3.2 billion in economic activity and 49,500 local jobs paying approximately $2.3 billion in wages as a result of the suspension of cruising following the COVID-19 pandemic and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s No-Sail Order, in effect through September 30.

The report notes that Florida is home to the top-three cruise ports in the world, with 59% of all US embarkations taking place in 2018. Including the corporate and administrative staff of the cruise lines headquartered in Florida, the cruise industry was responsible for over 149,000 jobs in the state and $7.69 billion in wages.

The cruise industry produces in $8.49 billion in direct spending each year within Florida.
Sola said: “the financial consequences of laid-up cruise ships are being seen in government coffers and the pockets of working men and women. Across Florida, people recognize the vital necessity of the cruise industry contributing to the economy again.”

Losses for the 2020 cruise season have been staggering for some of Florida’s largest turnaround ports, which also include Port Everglades.

Before the pandemic, Miami welcomed 6.8 million cruise passengers, a world record. As Florida’s busiest cruise port, and one of the largest and busiest in the world, Miami is responsible for over 30,000 local jobs, $5.8 billion in economic value and $188 million in local and state taxes. Miami estimates it will tally a $55-million loss this year.

Losses for Port Canaveral are pegged at 79% of its annual passengers and 16,000 jobs. With no cruises sailing from the port since early March, though, the annual $1.3 billion that is contributed to the local economy by the cruise industry in Port Canaveral and its surrounding area is at high risk.

Nearly 13,000 people were employed directly by the cruise industry in Port Canaveral in 2019, a number that rises to 23,745 if indirect jobs are included as well.

In Key West — Florida’s only cruise port to function solely as a port of call — the cruise industry contributes over $85 million in economic benefits, provides 1,250 local jobs and makes up 15% of the city’s total tax revenue.

The suspension of the cruise industry within Florida also has an impact on other industries within the United States. Cruise passengers contributed nearly $2 billion in fares to the airline industry in 2019. They also contributed $1.1 billion to the local economy in Miami-Dade County from overnight hotel stays, food and beverage, shopping and transportation, etc.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has also joined the FMC in voicing his concern that cruising activity should resume soon. The report notes that the Fact Finding 30 commission will also be assessing the economic impact of the loss of the cruise industry in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest next.

Cruise Industry has Plan to Return to Sea

Cruise ships in Miami during a normal turnaround weekend.

By Shannon McMahon, Washington Post

(Sept. 23, 2020) On the same day the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention withdrew updated covid-19 guidance stating that the coronavirus is airborne and can spread in poorly ventilated indoor spaces, a panel of experts assembled by cruise giants Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line outlined its recommendations to the CDC for a potential safe return to cruising.

The guidelines, which were filed on the final day of a two-month CDC window for public comments relating to cruise ship travel, include a new focus on “air management” in addition to lower capacities, shorter sailings, required testing and masks, and enhanced cleanings and medical staff on voyages.

The Healthy Sail Panel, which was formed in July, includes epidemiologists, cruise executives and former heads of federal agencies. The panel on Monday recommended 74 general health and safety best practices to cruise lines that seek to operate again.

With these initial recommendations “the pathway to initial resumption is made more clear,” said Brian Salerno, the Cruise Lines International Association’s senior vice president of maritime policy, in a news conference following the release of the recommendations. In the news conference, cruise industry leaders outlined what they think a timeline for a return to cruising, which has already occurred in Europe, might look like in North America. Some said they hope some late-2020 sailings can be salvaged, despite the CDC’s current no-sail order through Sept. 30 and the voluntary cruise line suspensions in place through Oct. 31.

Cruises will have fewer passengers, more medical staff

Cruises have long been associated with their massive ship sizes, fitting thousands into floating cities. But a coronavirus-era cruise will have fewer people on board and will initially be shorter in terms of time spent at sea. The panel recommends “trip lengths of no more than ten days at first,” since cruises any longer “usually entail stops at several ports, and introducing this level of risk early in the return to service phase would be inadvisable.”

Crowd control will require both fewer passengers and more medical staff than past sailings, with the panel calling for “cruises to sail at reduced capacity once sailing resumes as a way to facilitate physical distancing” of at least six feet.

Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald said also he expects to make modifications to certain cabins to create isolation rooms and potential “ICU” beds.

100 percent testing and mandatory masks

The aim of the new recommendations is to “maintain a healthy ‘bubble’ within which cruises can operate.” Cruise executives say testing 100 percent of passengers and crew before sailings will be key, with potential for retesting during sailings. Crew are required to isolate for seven days onboard before departure after receiving their negative test and should be retested before departure.

All passengers will be required to wear masks “whenever physical distancing cannot be maintained.”

You could be denied boarding (or re-boarding)

Shore excursions “must meet strict protocols agreed upon by cruise lines, health authorities, and destinations,” Adam Goldstein, CLIA global chair, said in a news conference about the recommendations on Monday. If cruisers don’t agree to the disembarkation terms of creating a bubble, or break that bubble, they won’t be permitted to sail.

The executive chairman of MSC Cruises, Pierfrancesco Vago, said “the resumption of cruising can take place in a healthy and safe way” with protocols like those enacted in Italy, where MSC has already resumed cruising and recently made headlines for removing bubble-breaking passengers.

New focus on air quality

Increasing fresh air and using newer ventilation systems is also a focus of the panel’s recommendations. Ships should “use a variety of indoor air management strategies aimed at reducing occupant exposure to infectious droplets/aerosols,” it states. “All cruise operators should upgrade the HVAC systems on their ships to, ideally, MERV 13 filters to minimize pathogen dispersal from infected guests and crew.”

The panel recommends that cruise operators pay special attention to areas where individuals would be most vulnerable to airborne transmission, like indoor common areas, and prioritize increasing the number of air changes per hour in those areas. “More specifically, isolation rooms in medical facilities on board should have six to 12 air changes per hour.”

U.S. cruise lines are eager to sail before the end of the year, if it’s safe

When cruise executives were asked about their timeline for a return to cruising, they both stressed the need for safety first and a hope to begin sailing later this year. CLIA president and CEO Kelly Craighead told reporters that the organization is hopeful some late-2020 sailings could depart if the CDC lifts its no-sail order by Nov. 1.

Cruise line CEOs were more measured. “When I think about resuming cruise operations I think about my elderly mother and my young children” being onboard, Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Frank Del Rio said. He plans to take his family on the first Norwegian Cruise to sail. “We are very confident that the procedures … will allow us to cruise safely, but we’ve not put a time factor on it.”

Similar to tourism reopenings, slow and steady phases of capacity and health protocols will mark any return to cruising: The Healthy Sails Panel highlights “a formal process to review health and safety experiences related to covid-19 on cruises to enhance best practices and shared learnings for continuous improvement.” Included in that phasing is the potential for capacity to be gradually increased “as conditions permit.”

The World Travel and Tourism Council estimates that 197 million travel and tourism jobs could be lost by end of year, amounting to $5.5 trillion dollars of the world’s GDP, WTTC spokesperson Gloria Guevara said. Donald said cruise lines would likely need 30 days after receiving CDC permission to train staff, acquire testing equipment and enact changes on ships before departures can begin.

Caribbean Cruise runs into Covid-19 Port Closures

The 30,000 ton Sirena is s smaller ship carrying 688 passengers.

By Steve Blake

The cruise industry is reeling as a result of cancelations and port closures due to Covid-19 (coronavirus) issues. We had several cruises planned for the winter season and first ran into problems when our ship, the MS Westerdam, was denied entry to ports. That story has been told in my previous post. We arrived home from that cruise for a three-week interval before flying to Miami for a Caribbean cruise onboard Oceania’s MS Sirena. We did not expect problems because we left March 7, 2020, before the worldwide concern set in.

We arrived in Miami one day before our cruise was set to depart. Life appeared pretty normal in Miami. We shopped for food and wine and stayed overnight in a boutique hotel. Our Uber driver took us to the port the next morning to find our ship, the MS Sirena. Seven large cruise ships were in port and traffic was heavy. We could see lineups of happy passengers waiting to check-in for their cruises. We finally found our ship by itself at a different berth.

Check-in was easy but we could see stepped-up health checks. Our temperature was taken prior to being allowed to go upstairs to enter the registration hall. We were given an additional health questionnaire specifically dealing with the Covid-19. After completing the two forms, we went to a security post where we handed in the forms and were allowed into the registration hall. The rest of check-in was similar to other cruises.

After boarding the ship, we were aware of more thorough cleaning and disinfecting of the ship. However, it was not until a couple days into the cruise that the Captain told us that the ship was going to increase further the health and disinfecting protocols for the safety of passengers and crew. Things that were immediately noticed were increased vigilance on hand sanitizing. You could not enter a public room without a crewmember there reminding you to sanitize. Constant reminders to wash your hands were made throughout the day.

The dining room was not preset with dishes. Once you were seated, your table was set. You no longer had bread, butter, salt or pepper at your table. These would be brought to you as needed. All items in the buffet were served to you rather than helping yourself.

Plastic covers were placed over the elevator buttons to protect the internal wiring from the strong disinfectants being used. More staff were assigned to cleaning and disinfecting and would be seen constantly wiping down handrails and arms of seats. If you got up from your chair in the buffet to get food, your chair arms would be disinfected before you returned to your seat. With the closed environment of a cruise ship and how easy it is for colds and other viruses to spread, this should be the new normal.

We had two sea days before arriving at our first port in St. Barts. The seas were rough, sometimes as much as an 18-foot swell, and we had a strong headwind. The Captain informed us that we could not make St. Barts in time and that, unfortunately, we would be missing the island, spending another day at sea, and making our first port in Martinique.

Oceania’s Sirena at Martinique.

We arrived in Martinique and the following port of St. Lucia with no problems. The shore excursions went ahead and everyone enjoyed the charm of the islands. When we were in Martinique, we saw the first signs of trouble brewing. A Costa cruise ship was anchored offshore and we could not see any tender boats going to and from the ship. We were told there were a couple passengers with Covid-19 and the ship was waiting for a solution as it was being denied entry to the port.

After St. Lucia, the Captain came on the PA to tell us that as of March 13, 2020, Oceania had “voluntarily and temporarily paused cruise operations” due to Covid-19 issues. Ports had started to close to cruise ships. We were to cruise back to Miami where we would disembark. First we would make a “technical” stop on the island of Antigua to off-load the EU passengers who were no longer allowed to enter the USA. We would tie up in the port but nobody else was allowed off the ship. About three dozen passengers disembarked. The UK passengers were allowed to enter the USA for their flights home.

The next five days were spent at sea as we slowly made our way back to Miami. We missed the scheduled ports in Antigua, Puerto Rico, and the Bahamas. Flying home was easy as the airports were very empty. We were asked general health questions before boarding flights and then upon arrival in Vancouver, were informed of the need to self-isolate for 14 days. The world is different today and we only hope that the problems resolve so the cruise industry can return to its former glory.

One couple tells their story being aboard the Westerdam

Author Stephen Blake just arrived back in Canada with his wife Susan posing with Holland America Line President Orlando Ashford after their ‘adventure’ aboard the Westerdam. Here is their story of 14 days at sea.

By Stephen Blake

We finally arrived home safe and sound after wondering if we were ever going to find a port to take us! It was quite the journey and a great adventure. We must say that Holland America treated all of us on the Westerdam royally and we have no complaints. In fact, we have a lot of praise for the way they handled the situation.

We started our trip in Hong Kong on January 27. All went well, even though we knew that the coronavirus (Corvid-19) was making the rounds in China. For that reason, we decided to pass on the side-trip to Macau and just stayed in Hong Kong. Almost everybody was wearing a mask, so we decided to do the same. There were line-ups for masks in front of drug stores that stretched for blocks. Most stores were sold out. At that time there were only one or two cases of Corvid-19 reported in Hong Kong. We spent our four days touring and joined the Westerdam on February 1st.

We filled out a health form to get on the ship. One of the criteria was that we could not have been in China in the last 14 days. We heard over 300 people in China who planned to take the trip were informed that they would not be allowed to go. Another group of people who don’t live in China, but who had traveled there, were also denied boarding. We ended up with only 1450 passengers down from a 1950 possible capacity. The ship had originally been sold out.

We sailed away with our first destination of Manila, Philippines. An immigration official from the Philippines was on the ship testing passengers with a heat-sensing camera. The whole ship’s contingent was paraded past the camera to ensure we had no sick people. On the next day at sea, the Captain came on the speaker and said he was very sorry but the President of the Philippines has denied us entry. They decided that no ship, which had visited China, Hong Kong or Macau, would be allowed into the Philippines. We were disappointed but a new port was put on our trip to make up for losing Manila.

At the same time, the Captain told us that we would not be ending our cruise in Shanghai. We would now end in Narita, Japan. A new itinerary was given to us. We were to land the next day in Hualien on the east coast of Taiwan. As we approached Taiwan, Hualien pulled its permission. We diverted to our next port and were to do an overnight stay giving us two days in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Great!

We arrived in Kaohsiung and were screened again when we left the ship. We had a great day travelling out to Lotus Lake and visiting a number of temples. We returned to the city and explored around and visited a market. It was very easy to use the underground so we traveled on our own. While we were having dinner back on the ship, the Captain told us that the Taiwanese had pulled their permission for us to be there. We were to stay the next day but forbidden to leave the ship. They allowed us to do our fuel bunkering and then we had to leave. The crew scrambled to change the ports again because we were not permitted to land at Keelung, where we were to overnight and visit Taipei.

It was off to Japan. Before we arrived at our first port, the Japanese pulled our permission to land at any ports in Japan. That also affected where we would end our cruise. At this time we were informed that the cruise was cancelled and we would head for a port where we could disembark. Holland America was very good and gave everyone a full refund on the cruise plus gave us future cruise credits equal to the amount we paid for the cruise. Susan and I like the sea days and the crew filled the activities with historical lectures, entertainment and lots of food! They also gave everyone free Internet and phone calls home. Free drinks were served one evening and wine was served with our dinners. Shipboard life was great and most passengers were quite content.

We were told we were heading in a southwest direction and that there were two ports that were willing to take us. The head office in Seattle, along with the ship’s crew, were working on which port would be best for us to connect with flights home. Even though it was reported in the news, based on some passenger’s comments, we were never told we were on the way to Guam. We were finally told that we would be going to Laem Chabang in Thailand for flights home from Bangkok.

As we arrived in Laem Chabang, we were told that we would not be allowed to berth at the dock but would have to anchor off an island until health authorities could come on and check everyone. We were given a warship escort to make sure we adhered to their demands. Before we arrived to our anchorage, we were told that permission was pulled and Thailand would no longer allow the Westerdam to land or anchor. Out to sea we went again!

Westerdam docked in Sihanoukville, Cambodia.

The next day, we heard that we were sailing for Sihanoukville, Cambodia and we would fly home from Phnom Penh. We arrived on Thursday, February 13th and waited for information on when we would be leaving the ship and our travel arrangements home. We originally had our own flights booked but since they were from Shanghai and later changed to Narita, they were of little value.

Holland America told everyone that they would pick up the cost of flying us all home. We would go by chartered planes to Phnom Penh and then connect to our other flights. The Captain woke us up at 6:00 am to tell us that the Prime Minister of Cambodia was coming to visit us at 7:00 am and to greet the first lot of passengers leaving the ship. We were all to go to the decks to cheer him and wave the scarves that the Prime Minister had generously delivered to all the passengers the night before. Fortunately, our balcony suite faced the dockside so we just went out on our balcony to watch and wave.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen (center holding flowers) visits Westerdam.

The media were gathered on the dock along with air traffic control and police. At the appointed time, two helicopters flew in and landed beside us on the dock. The Prime Minister came out and shook hands and presented flowers to the first group of 140 passengers leaving for the airport. He gave a speech in Cambodian, which was not understood by anyone except the Cambodians. Rough translation was that he welcomed us and said there was nothing to fear because none of us were sick. The first group arrived in Kuala Lumpur and were screened again. One elderly American woman had an elevated temperature and was taken to hospital along with her husband, who had come down with pneumonia. She supposedly tested positive for Covid-19 and the game changed again! Susan and I were to fly to Phnom Penh in the second wave on Saturday. We were given another temperature check as we left the ship. The Deputy Governor of Sihanoukville came aboard our bus to wish us well and safe journey home.

We were no longer permitted to fly through Kuala Lumpur. We were allowed to fly to Phnom Penh where we were taken by bus to the Sokha Hotel, a 5-star palace across the river from the city. We were given rooms and told we would get our flight departure information the next day. Now, because of the one lady who was sick, we had to get retested for the virus. We had already been thermo-tested about 8 times. This time we were getting the full treatment. We lined up for nose and throat swabs and our tests were sent off to a lab for testing. Amazingly, they were only able to test about 60 percent of the people on Saturday. We wouldn’t get our results until the next day and no homeward flights could be booked until the results were back.

On Monday, we were given a tour of the city from the Mayor of Phnom Penh. Buses were brought to the hotel and we loaded on. The Mayor came on each bus and wished us good luck and safe travels. We expected to fly home on Monday, the next day. Just before we left on our police escorted bus tour, we were informed that the President of Holland America had flown in and was giving us a cocktail party at 6:00. The Cambodian police and army stopped all the traffic and cleared the streets so our bus entourage could drive unimpeded through the city. We were really treated royally.

We got back to the hotel and changed for the party. As we were preparing, we got a phone call telling us our test results were negative and we would be flying out that night. We were to be ready to leave at 7:30 to the airport. I got the details of our flights, went online and selected our seats. We would fly to Narita, Los Angeles and then to Vancouver. Flights home were good, but it was a long day.

On arrival in Vancouver Tuesday morning, everyone on the airplane got up, collected their bags and was waiting to leave. Over the speaker, we were all told to sit down again. In came two ambulance paramedics and two Canada Customs agents wearing masks. I said to Susan that they were coming for us. They were! They asked some general health questions and took our temperatures. All eyes in the airplane were on us! Our temperatures were good so the Customs officers took us off. The two passengers across the aisle from us had done a trip from Vancouver to LA and back and weren’t feeling well. The ambulance attendants took them off and two other Customs officers escorted them out. Our Customs pair had us fill out a health questionnaire with contact information. We were told to keep the pens they gave us because they didn’t want to touch them after we had! We were told to drop our forms in envelopes they held open so they wouldn’t have to touch them. Too funny! We were taken through the terminal, by-passed all the normal lines, and led into the secondary area. The Customs officers collected our bags and took us out a side door. They said good-bye and we were on our way home.

That is the gist of our trip and hope you get an appreciation for the adventure we had. It turned out to be a great 4-day Hong Kong stay, 13-sea day and one port free cruise, and a grand three-day stay in a 5-star hotel. We cannot praise Holland America enough for the way they handled this situation that evolved as we travelled. They could not have made any better decisions with the information available. We are very happy with the way things turned out.

Windstar Cruises Expands Shore Excursion Program

Windstar Cruises continues to build on its impressive array of shore excursions.


Windstar Cruises has dramatically broadened its award-winning shore excursion program over the last three years, more than doubling its options for guests to upwards of 2,500 choices. The increase is a direct result of the line’s expanded global deployment to new regions like Alaska, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Egypt, and the Holy Land.

The small ship leader in destination delivery and diverse itineraries now sails to over 330 ports of call worldwide, with 700 cruise departure dates available through 2021. The company’s global expansion offers cruise guests itineraries that are immersive in a particular region or country such as Grand Japan, Around Iceland on the line’s all-suite ships, or Grand Caribbean Adventure on Wind Surf, the world’s largest sailing ship. In addition, nearly half of Windstar’s itineraries offer late night departures and overnights in port for more diverse excursion selections, including evening tours and overnight or multi-day options such as exploring Spain’s mystic inland region in the new “Beyond Ordinary: Alhambra In Depth & Insider’s Granada Overnight Tour.”

With smaller ships that can access and stay longer in smaller ports, Windstar’s shore excursions are authentic and personalized, allowing time and space to explore local cultures. To help guests navigate the many choices and match shore excursions to their interests, activity levels, and budgets, Windstar offers three shore tour categories. The award-winning line has recently debuted 10 Beyond Ordinary Tours, in-depth experiences offered in select ports. These tours complement the small ship line’s popular Concierge Collection and Essentials Collection, offered in every port.

Beyond Ordinary tours are comprised of the most over-the-top experiences that deserve to be called “once in a lifetime,” such as a panoramic helicopter flight from Monte Carlo that transports guests to Alain Ducasse’s La Bastide de Moustiers in Provence for a Michelin-starred lunch. A bit less high-flying but still exceptional is an excursion in Roses, Spain, with access to the Sant Pere de Rodes Monastery for a private yoga session on the rooftop, followed by brunch with views of the Mediterranean Sea.

Sky Princess Completes Successful Sea Trials

The 3660 passenger cruise ship, Sky Princess, completed sea trials to test out all systems.


International premium cruise line Princess Cruise has accomplished another major milestone in preparation for the debut of its newest ship, Sky Princess, with the completion of sea trials. The new cruise ship set out to sea from the construction dock at Fincantieri Shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy and was put through a series of maneuvers to test the propulsion, steering and navigational equipment.

After a successful six days of trials, Sky Princess is now back in the shipyard for further exterior and interior finishing to prepare for the maiden Oct. 20, 2019 seven-day Mediterranean & Adriatic cruise from Athens to Barcelona. The ship will sail a series of Mediterranean voyages before debuting in North America on Dec. 1, 2019 for sailing a season of Caribbean cruises from Ft. Lauderdale.

The 3,660-guest Sky Princess shares all of the spectacular style and luxury of her sister ships – Regal Princess, Royal Princess and Majestic Princess. The ship also will feature breathtaking Sky Suites, with expansive views from the largest balconies at sea. In addition, two entertainment experiences have been announced for Sky Princess – Phantom Bridge, a world’s first game combining digital and physical elements for the ultimate immersive escape room, and Take 5, the only jazz theater at sea, celebrating the iconic sounds, culture and history of jazz.

In addition, guests can make the most of their vacation time with the Princess MedallionClass™ experience, featuring the complimentary OceanMedallion™ wearable device that delivers an entirely new level of service and creates a vacation that is more simple, effortless and personalized.

The Princess Cruises fleet continues to expand with Enchanted Princess in June 2020, and three additional ships arriving in 2021, 2023 and 2025.

Additional information about Sky Princess and Princess Cruises is available through a professional travel advisor, by calling 1-800-PRINCESS (1-800-774-6237), or by visiting the company’s website at www.princess.com.

Tips For Visiting Your Cruise Casino

An on-board attraction for many is the ship casino.


The casino on a cruise ship can be a big draw. Granted there’s a ton of activity on most every cruise ship, but a lot of passengers enjoy the chance to try out a casino in a more casual environment. That is to say, it’s easier to indulge in this kind of activity if all you have to do is walk down the hall, as opposed to going out of your way to visit a casino resort on land. If it’s part of your trip, rather than the entire goal, it just feels a little more relaxed.

Visiting a casino on a cruise ship is largely a traditional experience, but there are a few differences, and there’s generally a different atmosphere. It’s something you may want to give at least a little bit of thought to before traveling.

Know The Hours

You might think of casinos as being open 24/7 by nature, or at least being open pretty much any time you could possibly want to be in them. This is the case in some of the world’s biggest casino hubs, to be sure. But it actually isn’t the case on most cruise ships simply because of gambling laws. While there are exceptions, such as when ships dock in Bermuda, for the most part cruise ship casinos are closed when in port, whether day or night. This should be clear enough when you’re on board a ship, but it helps to remember it heading into your trip, because nothing is more frustrating than gearing up for a few hours at the gaming tables and then finding the doors closed.

Know What To Wear

Particularly if you’re not a regular casino gamer, you might have certain ideas about what to wear for this kind of activity. You’ve probably seen famous actors wearing tuxedoes to Vegas casinos, or seen images of people similarly dressed at world famous venues like the casino in Monte Carlo. This is fine, and can add a certain pageantry to the experience. But a casino cruise is generally more casual. We’d actually direct you not to Vegas or Europe but to a piece on fashion choices to consider when visiting a Canadian casino. These are more casual establishments in general, so the proposed dresscode is more like what you might wear on a cruise. In a phrase, however, dress nicely, but not necessarily fancily.

Expect More Beginners

Broadly speaking, casinos can be a little intimidating. There’s no harm in plopping yourself down at a slot machine and gaming alone, but sitting down at a card table can be daunting. For this reason it helps to know that casinos on cruise ships tend to have more beginners. Serious card sharks rarely play at sea (or so they say), and plenty of people in the ship casino will just be tourists who want to check it out and maybe have a little fun. This contributes to a more casual overall atmosphere.

Learn How To Play Blackjack

This is just one of many games that will likely be available in your ship’s casino, but it’s a great one to start with. The machines, from slots to video poker, don’t really give you the full experience. Bigger and more complicated games like poker and craps can take a little more getting used to. But blackjack is fairly easy to pick up, and gives you that awesome feeling of sitting at a table handling cards, sipping a cocktail and trying to win some chips. You can learn how to play simply by reading about it (and possibly pick up some great mathematical strategies as well), and focus on enjoying the games once you’re there.

Remember The Casino’s Goals

This is a quick one, but keep in mind above all else that the ship you’re on is a money-making machine, and the casino too is trying to generate revenue. Just because the atmosphere is a little more easygoing than most land-based alternatives doesn’t mean the odds are any better. That’s not to scare you off, but simply to remind you to be responsible.

Carnival Victory in drydock for new guest options

Carnival Victory, upgraded extensively in 2015, is undergoing more upgrades in drydock this winter.


MIAMI – Carnival Victory is in the midst of an extensive, multi-million-dollar dry dock that is adding a wide variety of food and beverage innovations, as well as two luxurious Captain’s Suites and new deluxe ocean view staterooms.
The new spaces, which are being added during a 17-day visit to dry dock in Freeport, Bahamas, include:

· Guy’s Burger Joint: a free-of-charge poolside venue developed in partnership with chef and restaurateur Guy Fieri serving hand-crafted burgers and fresh-cut fries enjoyed amidst a décor that celebrates the chef’s California roots and love of car culture.

· New Accommodations: Several new cabin categories will be added to Carnival Victory, including 260-square-feet Scenic Ocean View staterooms and 320-square-foot Scenic Grand Ocean View accommodations as well as Captain’s Suites, spacious 820-square-foot cabins offer a large extended balcony, two full-size bathrooms, separate sleeping quarters and a large living room.

· RedFrog Rum Bar: a poolside watering hole offering the quintessential Caribbean vacation vibe with refreshing Caribbean rum-based frozen drinks and beers, including Carnival’s own private label draught brew, ThirstyFrog Red.

· BlueIguana Cantina: a complimentary poolside Mexican eatery where guests can enjoy authentic freshly made burritos and tacos on homemade tortillas, as well as an elaborate toppings and salsa bar.

· BlueIguana Tequila Bar: a fun and festive outdoor bar offering a laid-back Mexican-themed atmosphere and tequila-based frozen drinks and beers, perfect for chillin’ by the pool.

· Bonsai Sushi Express: the success of the full-service Bonsai Sushi restaurants has spawned this casual, convenient yet equally tasty offshoot featuring a mouth-watering array of sushi, sashimi, rolls and more.

· Re-Branded Deli: the ship’s deli has been completely renovated with an updated design and new menu offerings, including seven sandwiches such as meatball, buffalo chicken, and The Cubano, along with Southwest chicken, falafel and turkey wraps.

· Cherry on Top: The “sweetest spot on board,” Cherry on Top is the gateway to the joys of simple indulgences with bins of bulk candy, fun-and-fanciful gifts, just-because novelties, colorful custom apparel and more.

These spaces complement Carnival Victory’s numerous other onboard amenities, including a 14,500-square-foot spa, a 214-foot-long water slide, a Punchliner Comedy Club offering adults-only and family-friendly performances, and Seuss at Sea, an exclusive partnership with Dr. Seuss Enterprises.
Carnival Victory operates year-round three- and four-day cruises from PortMiami. Three-day cruises depart on Fridays and call at Nassau, while four-day voyages depart Mondays and visit Key West and Cozumel or Nassau and the private Bahamian island of Half Moon Cay.