As Virgin Voyages Prepares To Set Sail How Do Its Covid Measures Line Up
All the sails are set for next weeks long-awaited official launch of Richard Bransons new cruise line, Virgin Voyages, and its first ship, Scarlet Lady. After 18 months of rough seas and many delayed starts, the newly-christened cruise leads a fleet of four new ships slated to hit the water over the next two years.
Lonely Planet writer Zachary Laks hopped on board the spanking new Scarlet Lady when it docked in New York City, ahead of its maiden Caribbean voyage in October, to get a first look at the lines new design features and COVID-19 safety measures. Here’s what he found out.
Review Of Norwegian Cruise Line
Due to the Coronavirus crisis, NCLH’s entire fleet is with an expanded cancellation policy. All bookings on pre-scheduled itineraries were given the option to cancel without penalties.
Eventually, NCLH canceled all NCL cruises leaving between March 14, 2020, and July 2021. Operations resumed in July-August 2021.
Next are listed all NCL ships and their scheduled first departure dates/homeports in 2021 – BLISS , BREAKAWAY , DAWN , ENCORE , EPIC , ESCAPE , GEM , GETAWAY , JADE , JEWEL , JOY , PEARL , SKY , SPIRIT , STAR , SUN , PRIDE OF AMERICA .
- In late-March 2021, NCL canceled through October-November all voyages scheduled for the ships ENCORE , JEWEL , Sun , BLISS , JADE , JOY , GEM .
- In early-April 2021, NCL announced new schedules for the ships JADE , JOY and GEM . Previously the boats were planned to restart as follows – JOY , GEM , JADE . JOY’s ex-Greece program was canceled in May. GEM’s ex-Dominicana program was canceled in June.
- In late-May 2021 were canceled JOY’s Caribbean roundtrips from Montego Bay Jamaica and BLISS’ Alaskan program from Seattle .
- In late-June were delayed the restarts of 5 ships . These cancellations affected DAWN’s Mediterranean schedule and STAR’s Europe-Iceland-UK .
The Cruise Industry Stages A Comeback
After watching thousands of passengers get ill and more than a year of devastating financial losses, the global cruise industry is coming back to life. And it says it knows how to deal with the coronavirus.
By Ceylan Yeginsu and Niraj Chokshi
Nothing quite demonstrated the horrors of the coronavirus contagion in the early stages of the pandemic like the major outbreaks onboard cruise ships, when vacation selfies and videos abruptly turned into grim journals of endless days spent confined to cabins as the virus raged through the behemoth vessels, eventually infecting thousands of people, and killing more than 100.
Passengers on the Diamond Princess and Grand Princess, two of the worst-hit ships, were forced to quarantine inside their small staterooms some without windows as infections on board spiraled out of control. Every day anxiety and fear mounted as the captains of the ships announced new cases, which continued to spread rapidly through ventilation systems and among crew members, who slept in shared quarters and worked tirelessly throughout the day to deliver food to guests.
At the time, it was difficult to imagine how the ships, which carry millions of passengers around the world each year, would be able to sail safely again. Even after the vaccination rollout gained momentum in the United States in April, allowing most travel sectors to restart operations, cruise ships remained docked in ports, costing the industry billions of dollars in losses each month.
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Perfect Day At Cococay
Nestled in The Bahamas, the private destination formerly known as CocoCay is got a major face lift. You can find all new attractions like a helium-balloon ride that takes you up to 450 feet above the island, a freshwater pool so big, its the largest in all of the Caribbean, a lightning-fast zip line experience, luxurious overwater cabanas, and a water park with the tallest waterslide in North America Daredevils Peak and the largest wave pool in the Caribbean. All the cruises sailing from the New York area to The Bahamas include a stop there, so choosing a getaway that works with your schedule is easy.
Will Vaccinations Be Required
Some companies are reluctant to depend on testing alone, after the SeaDream 1, a ship that had aspired to be a model for a safe return to cruising, cut short its Caribbean voyage last year because several passengers tested positive for the coronavirus, despite the fact theyd had a negative test before boarding.
Most major cruise lines have not decided whether they will require vaccinations for future sailings and are waiting for further scientific guidance once inoculation becomes more widespread around the globe.
In Britain, Saga Cruises and P & O said that they would require all guests to be fully vaccinated before boarding their ships throughout 2021. Royal Caribbean announced sailings from Israel to Greece in May, where all crew members and passengers over the age of 16 must be vaccinated.
It is really exciting to see how quickly and dramatically the science has advanced, even in just a few weeks, said Richard D. Fain, chairman and C.E.O. of the Royal Caribbean Group. Weve been getting more and more experience with sailings abroad out of Germany, Singapore, the Canary Islands and Italy and we will continue to learn and adapt as new knowledge and scientific discoveries like the vaccine come to the fore.
Follow New York Times Travel on, and. And to receive expert tips on traveling smarter and inspiration for your next vacation. Dreaming up a future getaway or just armchair traveling? Check out our 52 Places list for 2021.
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Norwegian Brings The New To New York
New ships. New experiences. Cruise from the city that never sleeps and wake up to sandy beaches down south. Treat yourself to some tropical hustle and bustle on a cruise from New York on board a variety of our ships including Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Getaway, or Norwegian Epic. Enjoy some sun in The Caribbean, Bahamas & Florida, and Bermuda. Or re-discover the picturesque coast of Canada and New England. Vacation on your schedule with no set dining times. Bid the Big Apple adieu on your way to the next big thing with Norwegian Cruise Line.
New York And Boston Eager To Open Up
Both Flynn Cruiseport Boston and the Manhattan Cruise Terminal executives are eager to see cruising return to the east coast. Before the pandemic started, Boston Port served more than 400.000 cruise passengers, which injected more than $100 million into the local economy. Twenty different cruise lines regularly sailed from Boston.
Massport Port Director Michael Meyran:
We look forward to welcoming cruise passengers back to Flynn Cruiseport Boston this summer and providing an opportunity for New England residents and others to experience Bermuda. Massport and Crystal Cruises are actively working on a port agreement that will align with local and state public health authorities, as well as meet all the necessary CDC protocols.
New York has been a traditional stop-off port for Crystal Cruises, and the port is more than happy to welcome one of its ships back again.
Steve Levitsky, vice president, Cruise Ports America:
Ports America is extremely pleased to welcome Crystal Symphony back to New York City as her homeport. We have had a long-standing partnership with Crystal Cruises for many decades serving their vessels at Manhattan Cruise Terminal and throughout many ports in the U.S. and we look forward to a successful return this fall.
Crystal Cruises sailed for the first time earlier this month from the Bahamas with Crystal Serenity, making Crystal Symphony the second Crystal Cruise ship to commence operations in the Americas.
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Ships Resatrt Despite Setbacks
Despite this setback, Carnival Cruise Line continues with its phased-in return to service, and hopefully, New Orleans will be ready for the next scheduled departure on September 12. That voyage will be a seven-day Western Caribbean cruise.
Eight Carnival ships have already resumed operations, including out of Florida, Texas, California, and Washington State. It has not been all smooth sailing as Carnival Panorama, based out of Long Beach, California, is suffering from a maximum cruising speed issue. 27 people also became infected on the Carnival Vista recently on a cruise out of Galveston.
The cruise line continues to follow the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , guidelines, and updates have been made to its protocols to keep everyone onboard its ships protected. This will be the same for Carnival Glory once the ship eventually begins sailings out of New Orleans.
Carnival Glory is among the first ships to receive its new red, white and blue livery and just recently completed a dry dock in France. The ship is 110,000 gross tons and has a guest passenger capacity of 2,980 at double occupancy, However, once the vessel resumes sailings, she will sail at around 70% capacity just like other ships that have already restarted.
No Us Bailout For The Cruise Companies
While they employ many Americans, the major cruise companies are all incorporated abroad and were ultimately left out of the $2 trillion federal stimulus known as the CARES Act, with lawmakers chafing at the prospect of bailing out foreign corporations largely exempt from income taxes. Environmentalists lobbied against the aid, citing the industrys poor track record on climate issues. And criticism over how the companies handled early virus outbreaks on board ships sapped any remaining political will to help. Huge losses mounted as questions swirled about whether cruise lines could avoid bankruptcy.
All our conversations here were, At this cash burn rate for each of these companies, how long can they survive? said Pete Trombetta, an analyst focused on lodging and cruises at Moodys.
Cruise lines were forced to send most cruise workers home, keeping small skeleton crews on board to maintain their ships. After months without work or an income, many of the workers, who are frequently drawn from countries like the Philippines, Bangladesh and India, fell into debt and struggled to provide for their families.
Its been a very difficult 15 months and we had to make some very tough cuts along the way like the rest of the industry, said Tom McAlpin, president and chief officer of Virgin Voyages.
There has yet to be a ruling in the case.
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New York Cruise Guide
While a popular cruise port for most major cruise lines, New York City is a vacation in itself. Before or after taking a cruise to the Caribbean, the Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada and New England, or sailing on a world cruise, the cosmopolitan city of New York offers an endless list of attractions and excursions to check out.
Explore the highlights of Manhattan on a walking tour or take a Helicopter ride over famous landmarks like the Empire State Building, Central Park, Rockefeller Center and more. Its also a great pedestrian-friendly city to explore local dining, entertainment and nightlife by foot on your own schedule. Subway lines, taxis, busses, bicycles and ferries are affordable and easily accessible and can easily take you to several boroughs throughout the city, including Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and the Bronx. Pick up some souvenirs by the Statue of Liberty, or designer goodies at the ultra-hip SoHo, or stroll through Greenwich Village for nifty craft shops and bookstores. Enjoy art on every corner, whether its the glistening lights of Times Square, or the exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim Museum. Once youre done with the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple, youll appreciate the contrast of unwinding on a calm cruise at sea.
Exclusive: Nyc To Reopen Cruise Terminals In Late September
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New York City plans to welcome cruise ships back to its Manhattan terminal starting in late September, amNewYork Metro has learned.
The citys quasi-public Economic Development Corporation will allow the mega ships back to Big Apple berths for the first time since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, according to agency spokesman Chris Singleton.
We are working with two cruise lines to resume sailings out of NYC in late September, Singleton told amNewYork Metro in an email.
The agency expects about 50-60 cruise departures by the end of the citys current fiscal year on June 30, 2022, according to minutes of EDCs June 22 board of directors meeting.
The big boats will start docking at the EDCs Manhattan Cruise Terminal at Pier 88 and Pier 90, according to a presentation by the agencys assistant vice president for asset management Bianca Sosa from the June meeting.
Pier 90 hosted the enormous US Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort during the early pandemic, supposedly to support overflowing city hospitals, but the vessel sat largely empty for its month-long stay.
EDC also manages the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal next to the Atlantic Basin in Red Hook, but officials didnt say when they expect to reopen that dock.
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What Happens If Someone Tests Positive For Covid
Virgin Voyages has the protocols in place to ensure that passengers who test positive at any point during the trip receive complimentary medical care on board and are moved to a terrace cabin in an isolated zone away from other passengers. The ship crew will conduct thorough contact tracing to determine any possible exposures.;
If you test positive, Virgin will also offer a pro-rated refund of your journey, will pick up the costs for any land-based quarantining, as well as change fees incurred for travel arrangements home for you and your traveling party.
When Will Cruises Resume A Line
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The Great Cruise Shutdown is finally coming to an end.
A growing number of cruise ships also;are restarting operations in Europe and other destinations around the world, and small vessels;have resumed operations on U.S. rivers and intracoastal waterways.
Still, only a very small fraction of the worlds cruise vessels are currently back to sailing. It could be many months before a majority of cruise vessels are operating, and some lines already have said it could be well into 2022 before they return to normal service.
Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench into the launch plans for startup lines Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection and Virgin Voyages. Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection has now pushed back its inaugural voyage to Nov. 10. Virgin Voyages has pushed back its big debut in Miami to the fall . Both lines were originally due to debut in 2020.
For more cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPGs cruise newsletter.
Heres a look at when major river, ocean and expedition cruise brands that market to North Americans say theyll resume operations:
Adventure Canada has canceled sailings on Ocean Endeavour until 2022.
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Do I Have To Wear A Mask On Board
For now, masks are required for the testing site prior to boarding, the ship terminal and the shuttle services. While onboard, the line recommends passengers wear masks when moving around the ship and when youre not able to be physically distanced. They provide masks in the cabins and throughout the ship.;
The night I was there, mask compliance was observed, with most guests removing their masks in the many outdoor settings.;
What Safety Measures Will Be In Place
With coronavirus measures constantly changing, it is difficult to predict exactly what cruises will look like, especially in the United States.
Last year, the Cruise Lines International Association, the industry group that represents most of the largest cruise companies, announced a mandatory set of health protocols that will be implemented as part of a phased-in resumption of operations.
The core elements include:
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Cruise Line To Begin Sailings From Boston And New York
Crystal Cruises to begin sailings to Bermuda from Boston in August and New York in September.
Luxury cruise operator Crystal Cruises will start sailing from Boston in August and New York in September of this year. Crystal Symphony will be the companies second vessel to commence operations after Crystal Cruises started operations from the Bahamas at the start of this month with Crystal Serenity.
Crystal Symphony will have Boston and New York as homeports, sailing from New Yorks Manhattan Cruise Terminal and Flynn Cruiseport Boston. She will be the first vessel to start operations on the Northern Eastcoast of the United States since the industry paused operations now more than 16 months ago.
Whats Going On With Alaskan Cruises
Little known quirks of maritime law have led some cruise lines that specialize in Alaskan expeditions to cancel all sailings from ports in the Lower 48 states through the end of 2021.
Understand;Vaccine and Mask Mandates in the U.S.
Though they seem like American companies, many of the big cruise lines like Princess and Holland America, are, in fact, foreign-owned. According to United States law, foreign-flagged cruise ships are not permitted to cruise between U.S. ports without first visiting at least one foreign port. So cruises from Western cities like Seattle have typically stopped in Vancouver, Canada, on their way to Alaska.
But in February, Canadian authorities extended their ban on cruising through February 2022, effectively shutting down the Alaskan cruise business until then.
Earlier this month, senators introduced a bill that would waive the requirement that ships stop in a foreign port, but a vote could still be months off.
While Alaska cruises are on hold, cruise companies are pivoting to offer land tours of the state using their lodging and tour networks.
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