There are 6 big breaking cruise news items, and stories, that you need to know about this week
This is another of my Tips For Travellers cruise updates, where I unpick the biggest cruising news, and discuss what it means for you as a cruiser. Let’s start with some good positive cruise news about Caribbean cruising.
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#1 Caribbean Cruising Starting Up
SeaDream Yacht Club’s SeaDream 1 called into Portsmouth England on 19 October to pick up 19 guests before setting sail for Barbados.
The ship had previously embarked passengers in Oslo and Rotterdam.
SeaDream 1 will home base in Barbados for the winter, and from November 7th be sailing 6- and 8-night Caribbean cruises calling on St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada. So, if you want to cruise in the Caribbean this year then you have one option for sure. SeaDream will be the first cruise line definitely sailing in the Caribbean. They are doing this by avoiding starting up out of USA ports.
Although, as their ships, or Yachts as they like to call them, only carry 112 passengers, they do not actually fall under the USA No-Sail ban. This ban only applies to ships carrying over 250 guests. So they could sail out of the USA in theory!
SeaDream’s cruises are open for International Travellers who will have to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test on arrival into Barbados, which has to be performed at least 72 hours before arrival, and will undergo a further pier-side test before boarding.
Guests will only be able to go on cruise line excursions in the ports. Any passenger wanting to go ashore will be allowed to do so only in organised groups to beach and land sites agreed by the islands.
SeaDream 1 was the first cruise ship to take passengers on board in the UK since the March shutdown.
The UK Government currently advises against any form of ocean cruise travel, which means any UK guests joining the ship would have to have taken out special travel insurance from an insurer willing to cover travellers cruising against government advice.
Normal policies are invalid if you travel against your government’s advice.
#2 Carnival Notice To Return To USA
One of the most controversial developments in recent days, is an order from the U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Floridamthat Carnival Corporation has to give 60-days notice to the court before their ships can re-enter United States waters.
Carnival removed all their ships from United States waters not long after the CDC no-sail order. Many of them are off the coast of the Bahamas waiting to return to start sailing out of US ports.
This could really impact when they could resume cruising when the no-sail order is lifted, as it would take at least two months before they could head to USA ports. This affects all their lines including Carnival, Princess, Holland America and Seabourn.
The reason for the 60-day notice was part of a ruling against Carnival Corporation for ongoing cases for breaking environmental regulations, some of which they pleaded guilty to back in 2017 and 2019. The Judge wants more reassurance that equipment and measures have been put in place for each ship, and hence the notice to enable checks to take place.
Carnival are working to try and get the order down to just two-weeks notice. So, we need to watch how this plays out as it could have a big impact on timing of their return to service.
#3 Antarctica Season Cancelled ?
Regular followers of the channel and updates, will know that I was due to go to Antarctica on a Ponant expedition ship in November, and that they cancelled the season initially up to Christmas. The Antarctica season runs from end October to early March. Most of the other major players had started to cancel to then as well.
It now looks like the Antarctica season for 2020 / 2021 will not run at all.
One of the biggest players, Hurtigruten, has been the first to cancel the entire season, with the rest expected to follow shortly. This is not unexpected as to join the cruises you fly through either Chile or Argentina, and most of the international flights are still banned and looking at not opening anytime soon. So, moving ships all the way down there does not make sense.
In related news, Hurtigruten have now split their business into two. There is now a dedicated Expedition Company, focusing on areas like the Arctic, Antarctica, Greenland, British Isles and South America.
Then there is Hurtigruten Norway running the traditional Norway Coastal Voyages that it has been doing since 1893. These are all year round between Bergen in the south and Kirkenes on the Russian Border.
#4 Covid in European Cruises
You may have seen some headlines about Covid cases in recent days on some of the cruises running in Europe, most noticeable about Carnival Cruise Corporation’s Costa Cruises. I want to unpick and explain what happened, and why it is not all bad news.
Costa Diadema was running a series of charters for a French tour group carrying only French passengers.
The first sailing had 600 guests (that’s on a ship that can carry 4,900 passengers). It sailed out of Genoa on a 14-night itinerary visiting Italian and Greek ports. The Italian and Costa protocols require all guests to be tested again at the end of the cruise before returning to Italy.
7 asymptotic cases were identified. Those guests were isolated and disembarked in Palermo in a agreement with Italian authorities.
Contact tracing on the ship took place, which is aided by the use of a wearable medallion that tracks who guests have spent over 15 minutes in close contact with. All the crew were tested and no other cases were identified on that sailing.
This, I think, shows how strict protocols which include testing along with ongoing physical distancing and tracking on board can identify, and lead to only isolating those people affected. In the run up to the shutdown, any case on a ship would have sent entire ships into lock down and all guests being quarantined for extended periods of time.
The new protocols are showing promise that a less draconian, but effective way, to manage outbreaks is workable.
#5 2021 Cruise Fares
I receive many comments and questions about 2021 cruise fares, all focused on if they are going to be significantly higher and should you book now. The concern is that the inability to cruise for almost a year will lead to huge demand and push fares up.
I have always been of the view that this will not be the case. There are a significant number of people that would have cruised that will not want to any longer, and demand will be lower as new protocols will also mean many people will hold back until cruising returns more to the way it was previously.
This was confirmed this week as the cruise corporations updated on their financial performance, as required by law.
Royal Caribbean, for example, advised that bookings are running below Covid-19 levels and pricing for 2021 is (and I quote here) “Pricing for 2021 bookings is relatively flat year-over-year”
2021 cruise fares look to be at best around the level they were, and once cruising opens I still stick by my prediction that you will find great deals.
#6 European River Cruising
The 2020 European river cruising season has effectively been called off. While a few lines catering for European guests, like CroisiEurope, have been sailing, the major lines that are mostly filled by US, UK and Australian guests have confirmed no river cruises for 2020.
The latest to cancel is AmaWaterways, joining Uniworld Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Scenic, Emerald Waterways and Viking Cruises that will sail no ships in Europe in 2020. AmaWaterways did run some charters on AmaKristina for German guests.
Those are the 6 biggest news stories breaking that I felt you need to know about, and what I think they mean for us as cruise lovers.
Gary Bembridge’s Tips For Travellers aims to help you make more of your precious travel time and money on land and when cruising the oceans or rivers of the world. To help you, in every video I draw on my first-hand tips and advice from travelling every month for over 20 years and average of 10 cruises a year.
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