Norwegian Cruise in choppy waters as pre-pandemic occupancy still a year away

MIAMI — Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd) forecast a loss for the current quarter and revenue below estimates as occupancy rates remained stubbornly below pre-pandemic levels, sending its shares down 12 percent this week.

Its second-quarter occupancy of 65 percent compared with more than 107 percent in 2019, a level the company does not expect to reach till the second quarter next year.

In contrast, rival Royal Caribbean Group forecast triple-digit occupancy by the end of this year and Carnival Cruise Line expects to approach 110 percent during its current quarter. 

The industry looks to cruise towards full occupancy after the pandemic brought it to an 18-month standstill, but self-imposed constraints as well as onboard COVID-19 cases, labor shortages and volatile demand stand in the way.

“2022 has been a very lumpy year. It will continue to be a bit lumpy for the second half given where our load factors (occupancy percentage) are expected to be,” Chief Financial Officer Mark Kempa said on an earnings call.

Norwegian Cruise in choppy waters as pre-pandemic occupancy still a year away
U.S. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings cruise ship Marina arrives at the Havana bay, Cuba March 9, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini/File Phot

For the third quarter, Norwegian Cruise projected occupancy in the low 80 percent range, revenue of $1.5 billion to $1.6 billion and a net loss. Analysts were projecting earnings of 30 cents per share on revenue of $1.88 billion, according to Refinitiv IBES.

The cruise operator also blamed higher labor and fuel costs for a fourfold increase in total cruise operating expenses in the reported quarter.

Its adjusted loss was much wider than estimates, but the company forecast slightly positive adjusted core earnings for the second half of 2022 on strong onboard spending by its affluent guests and easing food and fuel costs.

The owner of the Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises brands said its cumulative booked position for 2023 was in line with a record 2019 as it has increased capacity by 20 percent.

REUTERS

Reporting by Praveen Paramasivam in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Protect You and Your Baby: Stay Up To Date With Vaccines: VIDOH

You have the power to protect yourself and your baby each pregnancy from serious diseases like whooping cough and flu.

By staying up to date with vaccines before and during pregnancy, you can pass along immunity that will help protect your baby from some diseases during the first few months after birth, the Virgin Islands Department of Health said.

Vaccines given before pregnancy may also help protect you from serious disease while you are pregnant, including rubella, which can cause miscarriages and birth defects, according to the VIDOH.

Protect You and Your Baby: Stay Up To Date With Vaccines: VIDOH

Recommended vaccines: Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine:

At least a month before becoming pregnant Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine: During the third trimester of every pregnancy

Yearly seasonal flu vaccine: By the end of October, if possible.

2nd Firefighter Dies as Cuba Controls Big Oil Facility Fire

HAVANA — Officials said that a second firefighter has died in Cuba, where crews have controlled a massive blaze that began last week at a key oil storage facility amid a deepening energy crisis.

The 24-year-old firefighter identified as Elier Correa had been hospitalized in extremely critical condition, according to government news site Cubadebate. Another 14 firefighters are missing after lightning on Friday sparked the fire, which has injured 130 people and destroyed four of the facility’s eight tanks.

2nd Firefighter Dies as Cuba Controls Big Oil Facility Fire
A  firetruck is on site at a deadly fire at a large oil storage facility in Matanzas, Cuba, Tuesday, Augudy 9, 2022. The fire was triggered when lighting struck one of the facility’s eight tanks late Friday, Aug. 5th. (Yamil Lage, Pool photo via AP)

The blaze also forced officials to evacuate more than 4,900 people and temporarily shut down a thermoelectric plant after it ran out of water as countries including Mexico, Venezuela and Bolivia sent help.

Clusters of fire and smoke remain at the Matanzas Supertanker Base in the island’s western region, but authorities don’t expect them to spread. Meanwhile, firefighters said they hope they can soon access the areas where their colleagues went missing Saturday at dawn.

The Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment said that it has observed a decrease in smoke via radar images, adding that air quality is being controlled.

The facility operates an oil pipeline that receives Cuban crude oil that powers thermoelectric plants. It also serves as the unloading and transshipment center for imported crude oil, fuel oil and diesel.

Authorities have not provided an estimate of damages or said how much it has lost in key fuel supplies.

2nd Firefighter Dies as Cuba Controls Big Oil Facility Fire
A Cuban firefighter stands between Mexican soldiers as they work to put out a deadly fire at a large oil storage facility in Matanzas, Cuba, Tuesday, August 9, 2022. The fire was triggered when lighting struck one of the facility’s eight tanks late Friday, Aug. 5th. (Yamil Lage, Pool photo via AP)

Coast Guard Rescues 68-Year-Old Man From A Capsized Vessel Offshore Pawleys Island

CHARLESTON, S.C. — A Coast Guard Station Georgetown boat crew rescued Stacy Hicks, Thursday, after his vessel capsized nine miles offshore Pawleys Island.

A good Samaritan contacted a Station Georgetown watchstander at 6:08 p.m., stating a vessel capsized and a man was in the water wearing a life jacket.

Coast Guard Rescues 68-Year-Old Man From A Capsized Vessel Offshore Pawleys Island
A U.S. Coast Guard Station Georgetown crew responded to a capsized vessel offshore Pawleys Island, South Carolina, August 11, 2022. The Station Georgetown crew arrived on-scene and recovered the man that was wearing his life jacket from the water with no medical concerns. ( U.S. Coast Guard Photo courtesy of Georgetown)

The responding Coast Guard boat crew rescued Hicks from the water and transferred him to Station Georgetown with no medical concerns. 

“The crew responded quickly and effectively resulting in getting on-scene and recovering the boater,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Joshua Hughes, Station Georgetown boarding officer. “The most helpful part of the case was that the boater was wearing his life jacket and stayed with the vessel.”

Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire Department also launched to assist with the case.

Coast Guard Rescues 68-Year-Old Man From A Capsized Vessel Offshore Pawleys Island
A U.S. Coast Guard Station Georgetown crew takes a photo with a 68-year-old man that capsized his vessel offshore Pawleys Island, South Carolina, August 11, 2022. The man was wearing his life jacket and stayed with his vessel until the Station Georgetown crew came to rescue him. ( U.S. Coast Guard Photo courtesy of Georgetown)

A New – and Faster Way – To Request A Social Security Card

Do you need an original or replacement Social Security Number card? We now have a new – and faster – way for you to start online.

When you go to our Social Security Number and Card webpage at www.ssa.gov/ssnumber, we now ask you a series of questions to determine whether you can:

· Complete the application process online. Currently, applicants with a valid driver’s license or identification issued by Washington D.C. or 46 participating states can complete their entire Social Security card process through their personal ‘my Social

Security’ account at www.socialsecurity.gov . Under this process, Social Security can electronically validate said identifications and, consequently, issue the new card. We continue working to expand this service to people whose IDs were issued in Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as the 4 pending states and other US territories.

· Start the application process online, then bring any required documents to your local office to complete the application, typically in less time.

Once you complete your application (online or in-person), we will mail the card after we process the application. Please understand that we don’t issue cards at our offices. All cards are created and mailed from our headquarters in Maryland.

Finish your application in the office

If you need to visit an office, please follow these steps to complete the application:

1. Learn what types of documents you need to bring to your local office.

2. Print and save the online control number shown once you complete the online application.

3. Bring the online control number – along with the documents – to your local office within 45 days to finish your application. Find your local office using our Office Locator at www.ssa.gov/locator

4. Check in at the kiosk when you arrive.

5. Meet with one of our employees to verify the information that you completed online and review documentation.

That’s it! You’ll receive the card in the mail, usually within 7 – 10 business days. We’re continuously expanding our services to put you in control and help you secure today and tomorrow for you and your family. Please share this information with your friends and family – and post it on social media.

Clarify questions on Social Security at www.socialsecurity.gov, calling 1-800-772-1213 o visiting your local field office, which address is available at www.ssa.gov/locator/.

Expert Column By Víctor Rodríguez
Public Affairs Specialist
Social Security Administration
For the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico

FEMA Approves Replacement of St. Thomas Hospital

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — After several years of debate and reviews, the Office of Disaster Recovery has received a final decision from FEMA approving the replacement of the Roy Lester Schneider Hospital on St. Thomas.

FEMA required copious amounts of documentation to accept the territory’s position that the hospital received sufficient damage to warrant full replacement. The territory and FEMA have revisited the prudent replacement of Roy Lester Schneider Hospital (RLSH) numerous times dating as far back as 2018.

FEMA Approves Replacement of St. Thomas Hospital
Schneider Regional Medical Center and Hospital in Charlotte Amalie

The next step is for both parties to agree on a total cost to rebuild. FEMA will collaborate with the Territorial Hospital Redevelopment Team and ODR to determine the reconstruction cost. Once a cost is agreed upon, funds will be obligated to the territory opening the door for the construction of a new, modernized facility. 

“In collaboration with our Architects of Record, EYP, the THRT has already commenced with the conceptual planning process to develop design approaches to construct the replacement facility without disrupting the provision of quality healthcare as the existing facility would have to remain in operation,” said Darryl Smalls, Executive Director of Territorial Hospital Facilities and Capital Development. 

Since 1982, the health care facility has expanded to cover a wide range of services, including maternal, dental, emergency, acute, pediatric, oncology and clinical care.

“Improving the territory’s healthcare system remains a top priority for the Bryan/Roach Administration,” said Adrienne Williams-Octalien, director of the Office of Disaster Recovery. “Our office thanks FEMA for doing its part in making good on promises made during a meeting held last October to review several requests for projects pending replacement. This significant step could not have been realized without the unwavering support of Delegate Plaskett and FEMA’s willingness and commitment to reassess the territory’s multiple submissions.”

FEMA Approves Replacement of St. Thomas Hospital

The design will take approximately one year. Once complete, the project will be put out to bid.

Firefighters Extinguish Fire In La Grande Princesse Wednesday

CHRISTIANSTED — Firefighters responded to a structure on fire on the north shore of St. Croix in the early morning hours Wednesday.

The 911 call center dispatched the Virgin Islands Fire and Emergency Medical Services (VIFEMS) to a structure fire in La Grande Princesse at 4:09 a.m., the Office of the Governor said.
Three units from the Herbert L. Canegata Fire Station initially responded to the scene, and, upon arrival, fire crews found the structure fully engulfed in flames, according to the OG.
First arriving crews were joined by additional units from the agency’s other three stations.
At approximately 6:53 a.m., the fire was brought under control.
No fire personnel were injured, and no other structures were damaged.
Fire crews used 22,000 gallons of water to extinguish the blaze.

Schedule of Events Honoring Governor Charles W. Turnbull

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Here is the schedule of events in honor of Governor Charles W. Turnbull, whose body will lie in state at The Battery on St. John today and at Government House on St. Thomas tomorrow.

A public viewing took place at Government House on St. Croix on Wednesday.

There also is a candlelight service planned that will take place at Emancipation Garden on St. Thomas, as well as a funeral service at Christchurch Methodist and interment at Eastern Cemetery, followed by a repast at Fort Christian on Saturday on St. Thomas.

According to Governor Albert Bryan’s proclamation, the U.S. and Virgin Islands flags on public buildings and grounds are to be flown at half-staff until sundown, Saturday, August 13, 2022.

Schedule of Events Honoring Governor Charles W. Turnbull

Governor Bryan also is asking all owners of all private and federal buildings in the Territory to fly their flags at half-staff “in honor of Governor Charles Wesley Turnbull, who dedicated his life to the field of education, the preservation of our Caribbean history, and to the people of the Virgin Islands. His commitment to public service, including two terms as Governor of our Territory, will be so honored,” the Governor’s proclamation states.

The schedule is as follows:

•         August 11: Governor Turnbull will lie in state at The Battery in Cruz Bay, St. John, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

•         August 12: Governor Turnbull will lie in state at Government House on St. Thomas from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Parking will be at Fort Christian parking lot, and shuttle service will be provided to and from Government House.)

•         August 12: A candlelight vigil will take place in Emancipation Garden on St. Thomas from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Those wishing to give a brief two-minute tribute should RSVP to GovernmetHouse@go.vi.gov.

•         August 13: A viewing will take place at Christchurch Methodist Church at 9 a.m.

  • The funeral service will take place at Christchurch Methodist Church at 10 a.m. Masks are required for all those inside the church. (Parking will be at Fort Christian parking lot, and shuttles will take people to and from Christchurch Methodist.)
  • Interment at Smith Bay Eastern Cemetery on St. Thomas immediately after the funeral service.
  • Repast will take place at Fort Christian on St. Thomas following interment.

Members of the public are invited to attend all events.

Schedule of Events Honoring Governor Charles W. Turnbull

Best Hacks For The Travel Apocalypse

SAN JUAN — Planning to squeeze some travel out of the rest of summer? Good luck — you will need it.

Flight cancellations have already soared past last year’s total. Delays affected 890,000 flights in the first half of the year. Prices have shot up as pandemic-weary travelers are desperate to go anywhere. Luggage ‘graveyards’ are piling up at airports worldwideas missed connections increase.

Welcome to the travel apocalypse.

“It’s definitely the worst I’ve ever seen,” said Meena Thiruvengadam, founder and editor-in-chief of the site Travel With Meena (travelwithmeena.com). “Now is definitely the time to be more strategic.”

To help you navigate through travel hell, we canvassed top experts for tips on discounts and how to sidestep potential disasters.

USE THE RIGHT CREDIT CARD

Have you had it up to here trying to get airline compensation for delays and cancellations? Even if you succeed, you may end up frazzled after a long battle.

“My best hack for navigating the travel apocalypse is to always book travel on a credit card that offers trip coverage,” said Brian Kelly, founder of popular travel site The Points Guy.

“When the airlines melt down, it’s much easier to get compensation from your credit card than it is from the understaffed airlines.”

GO CARRY-ON

Minimize the chance of things going wrong – and save money – by limiting yourself to a carry-on. Checking a bag amplifies the odds of your stuff getting lost, or delayed, or stolen or damaged.

The first checked bag typically costs around $30, and the second $40 on most carriers. The perk of a ‘free’ checked bag pushes up the airfare.

“Traveling light will make it easier if you have to rebook flights for any reason and give you a lot more flexibility,” said Thiruvengadam. “It will also minimize the chances of your bag getting lost or stuck in one of the many airport piles around the world.”

CONSIDER CRUISING

Cruises offer enticing deals as virus-phobic travelers avoid large groups in confined spaces.

According to the site Cruise Critic, August’s average starting cost per person is $108/night for the Caribbean, $56/night for the Mexican Riviera, and $125/night for the Mediterranean – with the lowest starting fares far below that.

“There are so many deals to be had right now because people are still a little nervous about cruising,” said Laura Begley Bloom, a travel expert and content strategist.

“One of the best value cruise lines is MSC, an Italian-owned line. Check out these rates: $498 per person for a seven-night trip from Miami to the Caribbean. That comes out to $71 a night – and includes all your food.”

THINK TWICE WHILE ONLINE BOOKING

Most people book trips online, leading to a couple of “classic mistakes,” said Peter Greenberg, travel editor for CBS News.

The first is that the algorithm might show you flight connection times of barely over half an hour – because a computer does not know any better and assumes everything will go smoothly and on-time (highly unlikely).

“That’s not just ridiculous; it’s suicidal,” Greenberg said.

The second mistake is thinking that Expedia, Travelocity or any other site show all available options.

“You might have to do the unthinkable and actually have a conversation with someone, either with a travel agent or the airlines themselves,” Greenberg said.

“Because what they are seeing on their screens is not always what you are seeing on your screens. If you are only looking online yourself, you are doing yourself a disservice.”

REUTERS

Editing by Lauren Young and Richard Chang Follow us @ReutersMoney

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Record Amount of Algae Threatens Economy, Wildlife on Caribbean Coasts

SAN JUAN — Near-record amounts of algae, or water plants, are covering Caribbean coasts from Puerto Rico to Barbados. The plants are killing fish and other wildlife, producing bad smells and gases, and hurting tourism.

The University of South Florida’s Optical Oceanography Lab said nearly 22 million metric tons of brown algae called sargassum appeared in the Atlantic Ocean in June. That was 20 percent more than the record set in 2018. And unusually large amounts of sargassum have floated into the Caribbean Sea.

The plants recently surrounded Pinel Island near the French Caribbean territory of Saint Martin. The normally clear blue waters turned dark brown forcing officials to stop boat service and cancel fun activities on the water.

Oswen Corbel is the owner of Caribbean Paddling. He said he had to close his St. Martin business on July 22 and does not expect to reopen until late October. He estimated he has lost at least $10,000. “Maybe I should give up. … Sometimes I think I should go into the mountains and herd sheep, but this is what I know to do,” he said.

Record Amount of Algae Threatens Economy, Wildlife on Caribbean Coasts
Lakes Beach is covered in sargassum in St. Andrew along the east coast of Barbados, Wednesday, July 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Kofi Jones)

The effects of overgrowth

The United Nations’ Caribbean Environment Program said some reasons for the overgrowth include a rise in water temperatures, chemical fertilizer and wastewater that feed the brown plants.

Lisa Krimsky is with Florida Sea Grant, a program working to protect the coast. She said as algae break down, they change water temperatures and the acidity of the water. In turn, that hurts other living things such as seagrass and corals.

The algae have hurt humans, too. The government of the French island of Guadeloupe issued a health alert in late July. It warned some communities about high levels of hydrogen sulfide gas escaping from the rotting algae. The gas, which smells like rotten eggs, can affect people with breathing problems.

Record Amount of Algae Threatens Economy, Wildlife on Caribbean Coasts
Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority plant in Christiansted harbor on St. Croix

Last month, the USVI warned of unusually high amounts of sargassum getting into the machinery at the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority desalination plant near St. Croix. The Richmond plant is struggling to produce fresh water from seawater leading the U.S. government to declare an emergency due to water shortage.

Benefits of sargassum

Small amounts of sargassum help clean water and take in carbon dioxide. It is an important part of the natural environment for fish, turtles, shrimp, crabs and other creatures. It is also used in fertilizer, food, biofuel, building materials and medicinal products.

But it is bad for tourism and the environment when too much builds up near the coast or on beaches.

On Union Island, which is part of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the algae invasion has recently forced some tourist areas to close for up to five months.

Record Amount of Algae Threatens Economy, Wildlife on Caribbean Coasts

Large masses of sargassum also have hurt the Caribbean’s fishing industry. They damage boat engines and fishing equipment and prevent fishermen from reaching their vessels and fishing grounds. Fewer fish are caught. Barbados, where the beaches are covered with reddish-brown algae, has been hit especially hard.

Too much sargassum was thought to cause the recent deaths of thousands of fish in the French Caribbean island of Martinique. Activists are now worried about how it affects endangered turtles. Some are dying at sea while struggling to move through the algae. Some are unable to lay their eggs over the algae-covered sand.

Some island nations use heavy machinery to remove algae from the beach. But scientists warn that it causes erosion and may also destroy the nests of endangered turtles.

Record Amount of Algae Threatens Economy, Wildlife on Caribbean Coasts
Seaweed covers the Atlantic shore in Frigate Bay, St. Kitts and Nevis, Wednesday, August 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)

By DÁNICA COTO/Associated Press