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Search On For Handcuffed Woman Who Jumped From Carnival Cruise After Hot Tub Row

MIAMI — The United States Coast Guard is continuing to search for a woman who jumped off a Carnival cruise ship while handcuffed following a reported hot tub disturbance on Wednesday (February 16), Daily Mail reports.

The incident took place on the Carnival Valor, which was located about 150 miles off the coast of Southwest Pass, Louisiana, when the 32-year-old jumped off the cruise ship’s Deck 10 at around 2:30 p.m.

Witnesses said the woman, who has not been named, was handcuffed as she jumped off the ship and reportedly hit a lifeboat and possibly a railing during her fall before crashing face first into the Gulf of Mexico.

Search On For Handcuffed Woman Who Jumped From Carnival Cruise After Hot Tub Row

Several passengers said security on the cruise ship attempted to detain the woman following a disturbance with a man in the hot tub area of the 10th deck, WAFB reports.

“Security got her out of the hot tub,” said Kim Barnette, a passenger on the ship, via WAFB. “Whenever they got to take her into custody, apparently she was upset and went over the rail. And, that was at about 2:30,”

“Apparently, she was handcuffed, she jumped over the side of the ship,” added Darrell Morris, another passenger, via WAFB.

The U.S. Coast Guard confirmed it is still undergoing a missing person search for the woman as of this morning.

“We have a fix winged air asset onsite conducting search patterns,” a spokesperson told Daily Mail. “There is still an ongoing investigation as to the cause of the woman going overboard.”

The Coast Guard was called at around 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday and sent two sets of helicopter crews to help search for the missing woman.

The Carnival Valor was returning to New Orleans, Louisiana following its round trip to Cozumel, Mexico at the time of the incident.

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Bryan Clarifies Territory’s COVID-19 Cruise Protocols In Light Of New CDC Guidance

CHRISTIANSTED — Governor Albert Bryan clarified the territory’s COVID-19 requirements for cruise lines in light of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) relaxing its sailing guidelines.

“In many ways, our protocols and guidelines are even more stringent than some of the CDC’s guidelines. While we don’t want to turn away any of our cruise partners, the Administration’s primary goal is to keep our residents and visitors safe during this pandemic,” Governor Bryan said. “We met with each cruise line that visits the USVI and they have signed contracts agreeing to comply with our protocols and regulations. The CDC making its cruise ship guidelines optional won’t affect any of our agreements with the cruise lines.”

Under the current agreements the GVI has with its cruise line partners:

  • Ships cannot exceed a 1% positivity rate, and if a ship exceeds that, neither passengers nor crew will be allowed to disembark.
  • Any passenger or crew that tests positive cannot disembark.
  • Ships must have COVID-safe procedures in place in case of emergencies that require a transfer to the hospital.

Meanwhile, the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands have noticed that the folks from the U.S. mainland have a blatant disregard for the COVID rules and regulations of the territory.

“Yet the people coming on plane can take taxis wearing no mask be all over east end,” Michael Campbell said. “Downtown and everywhere else no mask. And even some so bold to blurt out they are not vaccinated and don’t care.”

The CDC uses a color-coding system to monitor COVID cases aboard cruise ships and all ships on the current list are either green, yellow or orange, which means the volume of Covid cases they have reported meets the CDC’s threshold for investigation.

Starting January 15, participation in the CDC program will be voluntary, and those ships choosing not to participate will be designated gray, which means the CDC has not reviewed them for COVID safety.

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Royal Caribbean Bookings Take A Hit As Omicron Fears Worsen

MIAMI — Royal Caribbean Group said today it was grappling with a drop in bookings and a rise in cancellations as COVID-19 cases surge in the United States, driven by the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

U.S. cruise ships have been gradually returning to the seas since late June, but an increase in Omicron cases has sparked calls for a temporary ban on cruising, including from Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat.

Since the Celebrity Cruises parent resumed operations from U.S. ports in June, the company’s cruise ships have ferried 1.1 million passengers, with 1,745 people testing positive for COVID-19 and 41 being hospitalized.

“Our case count has spiked, but the level of severity is significantly milder,” Royal Caribbean’s chief medical officer, Calvin Johnson, said.

The company said load factors for sailings in the first half of 2022 remain below historical levels, although it said the recent disruption was not as severe as that experienced during the Delta variant wave earlier this year.

Royal Caribbean shares rose nearly two percent in early morning trade as it said bookings for the second half of 2022 continue to be within historical ranges.

Some cruise liners recently had to hold off on disembarking passengers due to active COVID-19 cases on board, or to bring in more workers as a precautionary measure.

Royal Caribbean said on Thursday it was seeing disruptions at some destinations and that it had canceled or “significantly modified” 16 destination calls out of 331.

The company also said disruptions brought on by the Omicron variant and its impact on labor availability were hurting its ability to offer some onboard services.

Carnival Corp’s Cunard unit on Wednesday said its Queen Mary 2 cruise would miss a scheduled stop at New York and extend its stay in Barbados.

—REUTERS

Reporting by Deborah Sophia in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Carnival Says Most Itineraries Unchanged Even As Omicron Cases Rise

MIAMI — Carnival Corp said this week a majority of its ships’ itineraries were unchanged despite a surge in cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant, which has threatened to stall a recovery in the cruise industry.

The world’s largest cruise operator, however, said a few destination ports were reviewing their protocols and processes due to the fast-spreading new variant.

Many passengers and media reports, including those from CNN and Euronews, said authorities of a few ports in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico and Mexico disallowed passengers to disembark from cruise ships that were carrying active COVID-19 cases.

“Looks like my cruise this Friday is a cruise to no where,” wrote one Reddit user on a Royal Caribbean forum late Monday.

Carnival said on Monday it would find an alternative destination should it be forced to cancel a port.

Royal Caribbean Group did not respond to a Reuters request for comment, while Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Limited declined to comment.

“The cruise lines’ reaction to the substantial increase in COVID-19 cases caused by the Omicron surge is largely hit or miss,” said James Walker, a Miami-based maritime lawyer.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also identified more than 85 cruise ships with COVID-19 cases on board, the agency said on Tuesday.

On Monday, the CDC said 68 ships with COVID-19 cases had met its threshold for an investigation.

The Omicron variant has sparked concerns that United States health officials may reintroduce a temporary ban on cruising, just months after U.S. cruise operators resumed guest operations.

—REUTERS

Reporting by Ananya Mariam Rajesh and Praveen Paramasivam in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Maju Samuel

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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ABC Islands Tell 2 Cruise Ships ‘Go Home’ After Showing Up Riddled With COVID-19

MIAMI — A COVID-19 outbreak took place on a South Florida-based cruise ship for the third time this week, as the number of coronavirus cases in Florida hit its highest level since the start of the pandemic.

An undisclosed number of passengers and crew aboard the Carnival Freedom cruise caught the virus so the ship was denied entry to Bonaire and Aruba, Carnival said in a statement.

The ship has 2,497 passengers and 1,112 crew members and was scheduled to return to Miami on Sunday following an 8-day cruise. Passengers were required to be vaccinated and they were tested before leaving last Saturday, according to Carnival.

“Carnival Freedom is following all protocols and has a small number on board who are in isolation due to a positive COVID test,” the statement said. “Our protocols anticipate this possibility and we implement them as necessary to protect the health and safety of our guests and crew.”

ABC Islands Tell 2 Cruise Ships 'Go Home' After Showing Up Riddled With COVID-19

Ashley Peterson, a passenger on the ship, tweeted a photo of a December 22 letter from the ship’s captain apologizing for being unable to make stops in Aruba and Bonaire. The letter said passengers would get $100 per room in onboard credit, as well refunds for planned excursions.

Meanwhile, a Royal Caribbean cruise ship was refused entry to three islands after dozens of vaccinated crew and passengers tested positive for COVID-19 just days after setting sail.

The Odyssey of the Seas will not be allowed to make port at Curacao and Aruba, two of just three stops in its itinerary before returning to Fort Lauderdale, Florida on December 26.

Some 55 fully vaccinated crew members and passengers have become infected on the eight-day round trip that set off on December 18.

It means tourists onboard the 5,500-passenger liner will spend Christmas Day at sea with activities and entertainment reduced to prevent spread of the virus.

Health officials in Curacao refused to allow the ship to dock because the percentage of infected people on board was too high, the Curacao Chronicle reported. 

Dr. Izzy Gerstenbluth, an epidemiologist on the island, said that when it was found that more than one percent of crew members were infected, passengers were banned from disembarking.

“The day before yesterday, 18 crew members were positive, yesterday 36 and this morning there were 51,” he told the publication.

“In addition, several crew members have not been quarantined, so there is a good chance that passengers have also been infected.”

The ship was scheduled to arrive in Aruba on Thursday, but it was also been refused entry there. 

The outbreaks come days after at least 48 people aboard the company’s Symphony of the Seas ship tested positive for COVID-19 when the cruise docked in Miami. 

It was the third outbreak this week affecting cruise ships operated by Carnival and Royal Caribbean departing Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

Florida had 31,758 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, breaking a record for the most cases in a single day since the start of the pandemic in the U.S. in March 2020, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The new record was driven by the spread of the new omicron variant through the Sunshine State.

The previous single-day highest number of cases was in last August, during the height of the delta variant wave in Florida, when 27,802 cases were reported.

[wpedon id=23995]

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Omicron Sends Cruise Ship Shares Plummeting; Investors Look To Fed

NEW YORK — Wall Street ended lower on Monday, with shares of Carnival Corp and several airlines tumbling as investors worried about the Omicron coronavirus variant ahead of a Federal Reserve meeting later this week.

Travel-related stocks fell, with the fast-spreading variant accounting for around 40 percent of COVID-19 infections in London and at least one death in the United Kingdom.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Carnival Corp and Royal Caribbean Cruises all slumped, while the S&P 1500 airlines index shed more than two percent.

“It’s transportation, restaurants, all the things that if it got bad enough that we started putting new restrictions on people, it would not be good for them,” said Tom Martin, senior portfolio manager at Globalt Investments in Atlanta. “They have all been bid over the past several months by the idea that we were going to get back to business as usual.”

Most of the 11 major S&P 500 sector indexes fell, with only defensive sectors, including consumer staples, utilities and real estate gaining.

According to preliminary data, the S&P 500 lost 43.56 points, or 0.92%, to end at 4,668.46 points, while the Nasdaq Composite lost 220.88 points, or 1.41%, to 15,409.72. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 313.98 points, or 0.87%, to 35,657.01.

Omicron Sends Cruise Ship Shares Plummeting; Investors Look To Fed

Apple Inc. dipped, even after J.P. Morgan raised its price target on the iPhone maker to the highest on Wall Street. The company is close to becoming the first in the world to hit $3 trillion in market value.

Investors expect an increasingly hawkish tone out of the Federal Reserve’s two-day meeting that wraps up on Wednesday. The U.S. central bank is expected to signal a faster wind-down of asset purchases, which could also usher closer a start to interest rate hikes.

“Everyone is focused on the Fed this week and what guidance we get in terms of bond purchases and interest rates. There’s an expectation that there will be an acceleration of tapering, and there’s a little anxiety leading up to that,” said Ryan Jacob, chief portfolio manager at Jacob Internet Fund.

A Reuters poll of economists sees the central bank hiking interest rates from near zero to 0.25%-0.50% in the third quarter of next year, followed by another in the fourth quarter.

Positive updates about vaccines and antibody cocktails to combat the new COVID-19 variant, along with a recent reading on inflation that was in line with consensus, pushed the S&P 500 index to a record closing high on Friday.

Pfizer Inc rose after it agreed to acquire Arena Pharmaceuticals in a $6.7 billion all-cash deal. Arena’s shares surged about 80 percent.

— REUTERS

Reporting by Noel Randewich in Oakland, Califoria; Additional reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal and Bansari Mayur Kamdar in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel, Shounak Dasgupta and Dan Grebler

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Could COVID-19 Keep Cruise Lines Homeporting In The Caribbean Indefinitely?

Will the decision by several U.S. cruise lines to home port in the Caribbean this summer become a permanent fixture, or is it just a temporary workaround?

The widespread suspicion that it is the latter, was succinctly voiced in one recent online posting on Tribune242’s website in The Bahamas: “These cruise people aren’t coming here because we’re such an attractive destination to home port in. They’re coming here because they think we’re a bunch of dummies who will do anything they say, and they don’t have to put up with ironclad safety travel restrictions.“

For government and the tourism industry, however, the test will be whether home porting arrangements agreed for this summer can be retained or whether the cruise lines will simply return to Florida when the pandemic and the strict U.S. hygiene restrictions on sailings out of U.S. ports end.

In normal times, the principal reason for choosing a home port relates to ease of passenger access from a line’s principal markets and proximity to the locations included in cruise itineraries. It also depends on the ability of a port to be able to provide the support, fuel and supplies the lines require, and a country’s willingness to facilitate the movement of crew.

Could COVID-19 Keep Cruise Lines Homeporting In The Caribbean Indefinitely?

Other requirements relate to port infrastructure and efficiency, an ability to handle a large number of passengers simultaneously, the availability of local transport and other passenger services, security, proximity to an international airport, and generally a satisfactory regulatory and fiscal environment. For these and other reasons, Florida has developed over time as the location of choice for the principal U.S. lines that sail into the Caribbean.

Uniquely however, several pandemic-related factors have created a window of opportunity this year for the Caribbean to change its relationship with the cruise lines through homeporting.

Firstly, the cautious approach being taken by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention means that it may well be November at the earliest before cruise companies are able to resume near normal sailings out of the U.S. to the Caribbean. Before then, its Conditional Sailing Order requires a phased approach to the resumption of cruising, involving simulated voyages with volunteers for those lines which cannot meet the requirement that almost all passengers and crew on each sailing are fully vaccinated. Secondly, a politically-driven legal challenge by the governor of Florida against the CDC is underway. This relates to the CDC’s requirement for mask wearing while boarding cruise ships. Florida State law now bans the use of digital health passports and forbids businesses to base entry based on vaccination status. The issue, which the courts have sent for mediation, has seen Norwegian Cruise Line’s Chief Executive Office Frank Del Rio indicate that it may move its ships out of Florida and observe that it “can operate from the Caribbean for ships that otherwise would have gone to Florida.”

Some Caribbean governments and port authorities have sought to demonstrate during the pandemic that they have the facilities the cruise companies require by offering safe haven to the many idle cruise ships moored in Caribbean waters. Some, like Barbados, have additionally gone out of their way to demonstrate they are a “trustworthy partner” by continuing to honor pre-existing provisioning and other obligations while helping facilitate humanitarian support and arrangements for the repatriation of stranded crew.

All of which has caused several cruise lines to consider what they had largely previously resisted: home porting some of their vessels in the Caribbean.

In recent weeks, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, MSC, Seabourne, Crystal, Viking Cruises, Celebrity and others have announced that they will be variously homeporting this summer season in Antigua, the Bahamas, the Dominican Republican, Jamaica, and Sint Maarten, bringing significant new economic benefit to each of the ports and countries concerned.

At best, this should offer new commercial opportunity to local suppliers, employment, and the wider hope that cruise visitors sailing out of Caribbean ports will subsequently return for a longer stay.

Could COVID-19 Keep Cruise Lines Homeporting In The Caribbean Indefinitely?

As Lisa Cummins, Barbados’ minister of Tourism and International Transport observes, Barbados and other Caribbean governments have wanted to see for some time more homeporting operations and hope that the incorporation of pre- and post-stay vacations will encourage cruise passengers to return. The island also intends to use the experience to develop a southern Caribbean cruise alliance for summer itineraries based on Barbados.

Caribbean tourism is structured in such a way that hotels and others onshore bear the brunt of the sector’s tax burden, contributing heavily to destination improvement initiatives and local social causes, by helping to market their destinations, and enhancing and protecting the environment.

That is why this column has pointed out before the need for a cruise industry that is genuinely Caribbean-focused and developmental rather than just using the region to benefit the owners of the big cruise companies. Homeporting would be one way of proving this, and if viable and popular with passengers, it should become an annual summer feature of sailings in the Caribbean.

Unfortunately, the cruise lines have proven over the decades to be fickle commercial and developmental partners, playing off to their advantage one country against another, raising well-documented concerns that range from the environmental to the extent to which they leave revenue behind.

It is true that in times of crisis, the cruise lines can be a good corporate partner as they recently demonstrated in St. Vincent, but they should be doing more. They need to be wholeheartedly engaged. Apart from better protecting the region they make use of, they should be assisting the development of the Caribbean tourism product, supporting local business and playing a direct role in post pandemic economic recovery.

The homeporting of some ships each summer would demonstrate this.

This is the moment when there ought to be a much wider regional discussion on what it would take post-pandemic to incentivize the use of summer homeporting hubs in the region and to explore whether “multi-porting” around larger islands should be encouraged. It would also be a good time to attract the owners of the large number of smaller “expedition” cruise ships now under construction and better suited to smaller ports to locate permanently in the Caribbean.

— David Jessop is a consultant to the Caribbean Council and can be contacted at david.jessop@caribbean-council.org.

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More Flee La Soufrière Volcano In St. Vincent and the Grenadines

KINGSTOWN — More people fled their homes on the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent on Sunday as La Soufrière volcano rumbled loudly for a third day and the heavy weight of its ashfall damaged some buildings.

Residents reported widespread power failures early in the day, though authorities restored electricity to most of the island by late afternoon.

The eruption Friday of La Soufrière prompted many people to evacuate their homes, and others who had remained in place sought shelter elsewhere Sunday.

The volcano’s rumbles were heard in the capital of Kingstown, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) south.

“I’m just here wondering when it’s going to calm down,” resident Kalique Sutherland said.

The eruption could continue for some time, said Richard Robertson, the lead scientist at the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Center.

“It’s likely that at some point it would quiet down and hopefully we would have a break so that we could recover a little bit more, but don’t be surprised if after the break it picks up like this again,” Robertson said.

Elford Lewis, a 56-year-old farmer who evacuated his home on Sunday morning, said the ongoing eruption is worse than the last big one in 1979.

“This one is more serious,” said Lewis, who witnessed the big eruption decades ago.

An eruption of the 4,003-foot (1,220-meter) volcano in 1902 killed roughly 1,600 people.

About 16,000 people have had to flee their ash-covered communities with as many belongings as they could stuff into suitcases and backpacks. However, there have been no reports of anyone being killed or injured by the initial blast or those that followed.

Ralph Gonsalves, the prime minister of the 32 islands that make up the country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, has said people should remain calm and keep trying to protect themselves from the coronavirus. He said officials were trying to figure out the best way to collect and dispose of the ash, which covered an airport runway near Kingstown, and fell as far away as Barbados, about 120 miles (190 kilometers) to the east.

About 3,200 people took refuge at 78 government-run shelters, and four empty cruise ships stood ready to take other evacuees to nearby islands, with a group of more than 130 already taken to St. Lucia. Those staying at the shelters were tested for COVID-19, with anyone testing positive being taken to an isolation center.

Nearby nations, including Antigua and Grenada, also offered to take in evacuees.

By KRISTIN DEANE The Associated Press

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Are Cruise Ships Destined For The Scrap Heap Of History? That Story Is Already Being Written

IZMIR, Turkey — These ships once carried thousands of passengers on all-inclusive cruise vacations.

But as the coronavirus pandemic continues to have a devastating effect on the travel industry, major cruise lines are scrapping some of their ships in an effort to stay afloat.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently warned all American travelers against cruise ship travel worldwide as the no sail order is set to expire in just a few days.

The level 3 warning states that the “CDC recommends that travelers defer all cruise travel worldwide.”

Some people in the territory are wondering out loud and on social media whether or not St. Thomas will ever return as the third most visited cruise ship port in the Caribbean Sea.

Meanwhile, the cruise ship industry has taken stock of the continuing trend foisted on the industry by coronavirus and is taking draconian measures to cut its financial losses.

Aerial photos from Izmir, Turkey show five large cruise ships being pulled apart for scrap metal at the Aliaga ship recycling port.

Are Cruise Ships Destined For The Scrap Heap Of History? That Story Is Already Being Written

Three Carnival Cruise Line ships are being broken down for their parts, including the Fantasy, Imagination and Inspiration, all of which were recently sold due to the pandemic. The remaining two being junked belong to Royal Caribbean Cruise Line (RCCL).

Last month, Carnival announced that they were “accelerating the exit of 18 less efficient ships” from their fleet.

Reuters reports that business at the Turkish dock is booming as thousands of workers dismantle the ships, stripping windows, railings, walls and floors from the vessels.

Prior to the pandemic, the ship-breaking yards usually worked on old cargo or container ships.

“But after the pandemic, cruise ships changed course towards Aliaga in a very significant way,” said Kamil Onal, chairman of a ship recycling workers group, in an interview with Reuters. “There was growth in the sector due to the crisis. When the ships couldn’t find work, they turned to dismantling.”

Onal said as metal parts are stripped from the vessels, hotel operators come to the port to buy non-metal fittings from the former cruise ships.

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Carnival Announces Resumption Of Some Cruises Will Begin On August 1

MIAMI — Good news for those who have booked Carnival Cruise trips later in the year.

The company announced today that voyages will resume on August 1.

Carnival Cruise Line officials said that all North American cruises until July 31 remain canceled, but on August 1 specific ships will once again set sail.

“Don’t know whether to laugh or cry,” Hortensia Encarnacion said this morning on the V.I. Free Press‘ Facebook platform.

Nyrone Hodge agreed.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” Hodge wrote.

The ships that will embark on a cruise on or after August 1 include:

  • Carnival Dream
  • Carnival Freedom
  • Carnival Vista
  • Carnival Horizon
  • Carnival Magic
  • Carnival Sensation
  • Carnival Breeze
  • Carnival Elation

Other ships in the fleet with homeports in North America and Australia will have their trips canceled through at least August 31, with the Carnival Spirit Alaskan cruise from Seattle canceled, as well as the Spirit’s Vancouver to Honolulu cruise slated to start on September 25 and the Honolulu to Brisbane trip for October 6.

Guests whose trips are impacted by the coronavirus shutdown will be notified by email from the Carnival Cruise Line.

Trips will resume on eight ships leaving from Miami and Port Canaveral, Florida, and Galveston, Texas, according to REUTERS.

All other cruises in North America and Australia will remain suspended through at least August 31st, Carnival said.

Customers who had booked cruises that are impacted by cancellation will receive an email with instructions for how to claim a refund or other “cancellation offers.”

Carnival typically offers the option of full refunds or future cruise credit for canceled trips.

On April 1, Carnival said it has raised $6.25 billion by issuing new debt and equity on Wednesday, borrowing at a high cost to weather the economic storm of the coronavirus pandemic.

Carnival Corporation is the world’s largest cruise operator.