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Coronavirus

Arrival of Royal Caribbean ships to St. Kitts delayed due to health concerns

In:
20Aug2020

Just days after the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis announced two Royal Caribbean ships would be allowed to harbour, the arrival of the first ship has been delayed as health experts consider additional information.

ZIZ reports the scheduled arrival of Rhapsody of the Seas on Wednesday, August 19, was delayed. Vision of the Seas is scheduled to arrive on August 24.

Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris told concerned locals, "much was considered and deliberated on over a two-week period before the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines was given the greenlight for safe harbour for two of its vessels".

The Prime Minister added that his experts have advised the risk is low with granting safe harbouring of both ships, as crew members on both ships are required to have a negative COVID-19 test results before boarding from their home countries.

The crew members will all be retested at the end of 14 days and only released from quarantine if they all test negative. It is only after the return of a negative RT-PCR test on day one and day 14 will they be allowed to disembark the vessels.

Moreover, the Prime Minister added the health risks to the citizens of the island are low, "but in the medium term we will benefit."

Two Royal Caribbean ships will be allowed to port at St. Kitts

In:
17Aug2020

St. Kitts and Nevis announced on Monday it will allow two Royal Caribbean cruise ships to stop at St. Kitts.

Vision of the Seas and Rhapsody of the Seas will be able to harbour at Port Zante.

Lindsay Grant, Minister of Tourism, said each crew member will be given an RT-PCR test upon arrival and quarantine for 14 days on their vessels. When all crew members receive a negative test at the end of their quarantine, they will be allowed to disembark while observing social distancing and mask-wearing safety measures.

There are currently zero active cases of COVID-19 on the island.

"The health and the safety of our citizens, residents, and of our visitors remains our number one priority […] We have taken all the necessary health and safety protocols to ensure that St Kitts and Nevis remains safe." Minister Grant noted. "This assistance represents the true nature of our people to support others in a time of need," he added.

CDC begins posting public comments on cruise ships starting up

In:
Category: 
14Aug2020

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has begun posting comments from the public on how cruises should restart again.

Since July 24, the CDC has been asking for feedback from the general public on cruise lines resuming passenger operations.

As of the writing of this post, over 900 comments submitted to the federal agency have been shared on the regulations.gov site.

Each submission has the submitter's name, along with their comments.

Strong opinions on cruising

If you take the time to browse the comments, you will find submissions that are a few sentences to many pages long.

Most of the comments seem to be in favor of cruises returning to service, and suggest new policies to keep guests safe.

"We cruisers are more than ready to resume cruising so PLEASE provide for cruising to resume! Fewer passengers, stringent cleaning procedures and no buffet lines would help." - Leelana Orr

"Covid test before you cruise. bring proof you're all clear. Temp checks when entering ships. Even cruise to ships private islands would be fine." - Elizabeth Dunai

"I have read some information via various news sources about the joint venture of Royal Caribbean & Norwegian cruise lines to develop a document of new safety protocols & processes. While not all encompassing, these new protocols & processes for keeping guests & crew safe, ultimate sanitation, etc., has made me feel confident that the cruise lines are taking Covid 19 very seriously." - Donna Gilleece

Many guest have also urged a more realistic approach to cruises that cannot eliminate all risk.

"The industry needs to be allowed to reopen and the public needs to be empowered to make decisions regarding their health and wellbeing when traveling." - Zdravko Galinec

"Truthfully the cruise ships are far more cleaner than Walmart . Please allow them to reopen even if it is at reduced capacity" - Julie Ozsoy  

Some that submitted comments urged more caution in any kind of return.

"In my opinion, cruise ships are a Covid-19 petri dish and should not be allowed to operate until a vaccine is developed or the virus infection rate significantly diminishes." - Greg Walker

And then there are a lot of comments from people who believe the CDC have overstepped their authority.

"I have worked as a federal employee for over 20 years in HealthCare and am appalled by your total abuse of power." - Robin Divers

"The cruise industry has taken a disgraceful public relations denouncement from the CDC. This is unjustified and unfair." - Anita Weiss

"Let us decide if we are comfortable, not the government. It's an abuse of a non-enumerated power." - Gerald Gleason

There is still time to submit your comments

You can submit comments online or via the mail.

To complete it online, visit the Federal Register's E-Rulemaking Portal by going to the U.S. Federal Register's website.

Be sure to use the Document ID to search for this page: CDC-2020-0087-0001.

    

Royal Caribbean: We're doing that without relying on the US government

In:
Category: 
11Aug2020

With the United States Congress mulling over stimulus and economic relief ideas, the cruise industry is already planning to go without any federal assistance.

In an interview with CNBC, Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain was asked if his company was willing to change being incorporated from Liberia to the US in order to increase the chance of getting financial relief.

Mr. Fain flat-out rejected the notion, saying that Royal Caribbean Group is, and has, been working to stay solvent without any financial assistance from the United States.

"We started with a strong balance sheet. We've taken a lot of steps to improve our liquidity. We've taken a lot of steps to bring our costs under control," Mr. Fain said bluntly. "It's a very painful process we've gone through."

"But we're doing that without relying on the US government. We're doing that on our own."

There was speculation that perhaps cruise lines, which have been hit hard by the global health crisis, might qualify for bailout money to remain operational.

Royal Caribbean and other cruise lines were subject to the same speculation in March 2020, when the first round of federal money was given out to boost the economy, but they were ultimately not included.

Royal Caribbean Group, the parent company of Royal Caribbean International, is incorporated in Liberia.

You might have to take a COVID-19 test to go on a Royal Caribbean cruise in the future

In:
Category: 
11Aug2020

Taking a test for COVID-19 before you get on a Royal Caribbean cruise might be one of the many steps the cruise line takes to keep guests safe once cruises resume.

During Royal Caribbean Group's earnings call with investors, a Wall Street analyst asked is if Royal Caribbean will follow other cruise lines in Europe and test guests before boarding.

Royal Caribbean International CEO Michael Bayley answered that it testing of guests is "very likely" to occur.

The Healthy Sail Panel of health experts is currently working on an approach to address the many concerns guests may face once cruises start again, and their initial findings are expected by the end of August.

Mr. Bailey said that while the recommendations of the panel are not available yet, he did say testing will be part of it.

"Testing is part of the thinking that we have not yet reached a point in our protocols where we're ready to publish and release for for discussion," Mr. Bailey started, "But it's very likely that testing will occur."

He also noted that in addition to the cruise industry, several countries around the world are using testing as a requirement for entry, including in the Caribbean.

There was no indication yet of whether guests, crew, or everyone on the ship would be tested, but that is likely to be part of the Healthy Sail Panel's recommendations when they are published.

With some ships beginning to sail limited cruises in Europe, it is a good test for the industry.

"We're very engaged in what's happening and we're obviously receiving a lot of feedback. It's a great learning experience for for the industry in terms of what's occurring with regards to the protocols."

"I think certainly testing seems to be very relevant and discussions are underway."

Royal Caribbean thinks a lot of people want to go on a cruise next year

In:
Category: 
10Aug2020

If there was an over-arching theme to Royal Caribbean Group's earnings call on Monday, it was the notion that its customers want to cruise as soon as it becomes available again.  

The phrase "pent up demand" was used a number of times throughout the call to characterize what Royal Caribbean sees as a public that wants to make up for lost vacation time in 2020 due to the current global health crisis.  

Over the course of the hour-long call, the phrase "pent up demand" was used five times.

Royal Caribbean International CEO Michael Bayley was the first to bring it up, saying it was a combination of a reflection of bookings and personal belief.

"I'm kind of hopeful that we're going to see a lot of pent up demand. And certainly when you look at our bookings by quarter in '21, there's a lot of activity as we move into the summer."

"And I think a lot of people have written off this summer. They've decided that there's not going to be a big summer vacation for all of the reasons that we know. But people certainly want to have a vacation next year."

 

The notion of this built-in demand has made up for a lack of direct advertising that has been cut out since the start of the shutdown.

Royal Caribbean Group Chief Financial Officer Jason Liberty saw an upward trend into mid-2021 of increased bookings.

"You see this kind of line as you kind of get into the early to mid part of the second quarter, where there's just strong demand for for the season and beyond. It's almost as if the consumer has somewhat kind of focus on that's when it will be. It will be time for them to to deal with this pent up demand that Michael had had talked about."

Willingness to pay more

Not only are consumers eager to cruise again, they are willing to pay more.

Cruise line executives talked how pricing for 2021 cruises is averaging higher than 2020, and people are still paying it.

"There's strength in the Caribbean, European products, Alaskan products and so forth," Mr. Liberty said,  "So it's not just one thing, but it's it's really clear as we get kind of mid to two and beyond that, there is there's high demand and our consumers are willing to pay at or above the historical level."

"The patterns that we're seeing is with strength and our guests are willing to to pay more than what they paid for same time last year in 2019."

This phenomena is also in part because guests have an extra 25% future cruise credit to spend, and Mr. Liberty believes this may slow down once the FCCs start being used up.

How many people have used their FCCs?

There was an interesting breakdown at the end of the call about how guests are using their future cruise credits, and the breakdown of customer deposits on hand.

Royal Caribbean indicated they have $1.8 billion in customer deposits. Mr. Liberty said about $900 million of that is in FCCs, and about 40-45% are non-refundable FCCs.

"And so far there's been about a third of those [125% non-refundable credits] FCCs that have been applied, " Mr. Liberty noted, "there's been about about 20 percent [Cruise with Confidence credits] that has been applied to date."

Are Royal Caribbean cruises cancelled because of COVID-19?

In:
Category: 
08Aug2020

The global health crisis has forced Royal Caribbean to cancel most of its cruises through November 30, 2020.

Like all cruise lines operating in North America, Royal Caribbean is working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to come up with a strategy to start cruises again.

Cancelled sailings

Here is a summary of the cancelled cruises:

  • All sailings through November 30, 2020.
  • European & Transatlantic sailings through the end of November.
  • Australia sailings through December 31st, 2020.
  • Odyssey of the Seas sailings from November 5th, 2020 through April 17th, 2021 are cancelled due to issues at the shipyard and in the supply chain.
  • February 14, 2021 Jewel of the Seas cruise.
  • Quantum of the Seas sailings departing December 2nd, 2020 – March 22nd, 2021

Guests on any of these cancelled sailings were given the option of getting a 100% refund, 125% future cruise credit, or even moving the reservation to next year at the same price.

Royal Caribbean has a goal to resume cruises on December 1, 2020 (although that date may change).

Will my cruise be cancelled?

If you still have a cruise booked and wondering what are the chances it will sail, the short answer is no one really knows.

While there are still many 2020 and 2021 cruises scheduled to sail, Royal Caribbean is still evaluating ways to make those cruises occur.

At this point, there is not nearly enough information available to have insight into what Royal Caribbean (or any cruise line) is looking for in order to resume sailings.

While it stands to reason the further out your cruise is, the more time you have for the global health situation to improve, it is impossible to quantify or wager a guess as to which sailings may or may not occur.

Why you should send your comments to the CDC so cruises can restart

In:
Category: 
07Aug2020

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has begun looking for comments from the public on cruise lines resuming passenger operations, and cruise fans will want to have their voice heard.

Ever since the CDC opened up the means for the public to comment and submit questions for use in formulating a new policy for cruise ships, many have wondered if it is worth it to fill out the form.

The general public can submit comments until September 21 via the U.S. Federal Register. 

 Charles Sylvia is the Vice President of Industry and Trade Relations for the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), and he spoke to travel agents earlier this week about the importance of letting the CDC know your thoughts.

    

 "Anyone with a pulse and an Internet connection can actually comment," Mr. Sylvia emphasized. "It's vitally important for all of you to comment from your point of view on cruise operations, what you think US cruise operations should look like, the resumption of cruise operations."  

 "This is your your only and best opportunity to tell the federal government what you're experiencing."

Ever since the CDC instituted a "No Sail" order to prevent cruise ships from offering passengers cruises from the United States, many cruise fans have lamented the order holding up the option for cruise lines to resume operations.

Mr. Sylvia indicated this Request for Information (RFI) from the CDC will used for cruise ship planning and infrastructure in the future, as well as the resumption of passenger operations.

"All the comments that are gathered will inform future public health guidance and preventative measures and related directly to the travel on cruise ships."

Anyone can comment on this subject, and cruise fans understand the strict measures cruise lines take to ensure the health and safety of their passengers, and the fact that cruise lines operate at a higher standard that imposed by regulators.

How to submit your comments to the CDC

You can submit comments online or via the mail.

To complete it online, visit the Federal Register's E-Rulemaking Portal by going to the U.S. Federal Register's website.

Be sure to use the Document ID to search for this page: CDC-2020-0087-0001.

The CDC will provide a lot of questions for you to consider, but it is up to you if you want to if you want answer all, some or none of the questions. 

You can submit your thoughts, and be sure to keep your answers free of insults or attacks on what has happened. Instead, focus on the future and explain why and how cruising should resume.

"And it's very, very easy...  to succumb to a pitfall of telling them some information, getting emotional, when you're when you're typing into the comments. And then that comment isn't considered," Mr. Sylvia warned.

Alternatively, you can mail comments to: Maritime Unit, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Road NE, MS V18-2, Atlanta, GA 30329.  Include Docket No. CDC-2020-0087 included with the letter.

Royal Caribbean cancels most cruises until October 31, 2020

In:
Category: 
05Aug2020

Royal Caribbean announced on Wednesday it was once again canceling most of its cruises through October 31, 2020 due to the current health crisis.

Cruise operations had been suspended through the end of September, but will now be extended an additional month, except for Australia sailings.

In addition, the remainder of the 2020 Europe season and the fall Transatlantic sailings have also been cancelled. This includes the planned 2020 President's Cruise on Allure of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean also added an an additional pause to their China itineraries through September 13, 2020.

Royal Caribbean hopes this additional time will allow them to work on their new safety measures.

Compensation

Guests affected by the cancelled cruises between October 1 - 31, 2020 have three options for compensation.

Lift & Shift: Select next year’s sailing with the same itinerary type, sailing length, stateroom category, and within the same 4-week window of the original cruise date, and you can take your existing reservation and move it to next year.Option expires on August 20, 2020.

125% Future Cruise Credit: To account for the inconvenience this has caused, guests are eligible for a 125% Future Cruise Credit (FCC) that is based on the total cruise fare paid at the guest-level and will be automatically issued on-or-before September 14, 2020 — if neither of the other options is selected.

Taxes and fees, as well as any pre-purchased amenities or onboard packages will be automatically refunded to the original form of payment within 45 days from the cancellation date. 

If you previously opted to take advantage of our Cruise with Confidence policy, the 100% FCC will stand, and this new option is ineligible.

Additionally, if you redeemed your Cruise with Confidence Future Cruise Credit on a sailing that is now cancelled, their original FCC will be reinstated, plus 125% of any amount paid by the guest on the cancelled reservation.

FCCs for sailings between October 1 – 31, 2020, plus remaining 2020 Europe & Fall Transatlantic season can be expected via email no later than September 14, 2020.

Refund: If you prefer a cash refund, you can do so by requesting this option on-or-before December 31, 2020.

You can expect their refund to the original form of payment within 45 days from the cancellation date. 

If you redeemed a Cruise with Confidence Future Cruise Credit on an impacted sailing and would now prefer a refund instead, Royal Caribbean will process this request in the amount of any new funds paid above the original certificate and, in turn, will reinstate the Cruise with Confidence FCC for future use.

Cruise Planner Purchases: If you had purchased any cruise add-ons, such as shore excursions, drink packages, wifi and more, you could opt to convert your Cruise Planner purchases  to an Onboard Credit valued at 125% of the total amount paid. This offer expires on August 20, 2020.

Cancelled President's Cruise

Among the many sailings impacted by this recent round of cancellations is the annual President's Cruise.

In an email to guests, Royal Caribean International CEO Michael Bayley informed guests booked on the sailing that they had no choice but to cancel.

"This is disappointing news for you and me. The President's Cruise is a wonderful opportunity for all of us to come together and celebrate the cruise line we love, our incredible crew and each other — something we have been doing since 2016."

Mr. Bayley did allude to "new ideas" and other ideas the cruise line is working on for guests that will be announced at a later date.

"Now, we wouldn't be Royal Caribbean if we weren't looking at ways, we can make the best out of every situation. We've been hard at work coming up with new ideas on how we can continue to bring our tradition to life within our current environment. I can't spoil the surprises we are planning, but I would encourage you to keep an eye out for some fun, creative ways we will celebrate together. In fact, I would say I'll meet you on the "virtual seas" soon."

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