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CDC Scraps COVID Warning For Cruise Travel After 2 Years

ATLANTA —The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Wednesday removed its COVID-19 notice against cruise travel, around two years after introducing a warning scale showing the level of coronavirus transmission risk on cruise ships.

The move offers a shot of hope to major U.S. cruise operators such as Carnival Corp, Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd that have struggled to bring in revenue since the pandemic started.

Cruise operators had also said the health agency was discriminating against the industry, when hotels and airlines could operate with limited or no restrictions.

CDC Scraps COVID Warning For Cruise Travel After 2 Years
VIPA Executive Director Carlton Dowe (right) welcomed Wonder of the Seas Captain Robert Hempstead to St. Thomas on March 22.

“While cruising will always pose some risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers will make their own risk assessment when choosing to travel on a cruise ship, much like they do in all other travel settings,” the CDC said in a statement.

The guidelines for traveling on cruise ships on the health agency’s page no longer shows a scale for its warning. Instead, it now only says guests should make sure they are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines before boarding the ships.

CDC Scraps COVID Warning For Cruise Travel After 2 Years

REUTERS

(Reporting by Praveen Paramasivam in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath)

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World’s Largest Cruise Ship – Wonder of the Seas – to Visit St. Thomas This Month

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — The most majestic cruise ship in the world will sail into the Crown Bay harbor on Tuesday, March 22.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s Wonder of the Seas is scheduled to berth at the Austin “Babe” Monsanto Marine Terminal at 7 a.m. on March 22.

An onboard Plaque and Keys Exchange Ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. between the captain of the ship, the Virgin Islands Port Authority, and other government and private sector officials to welcome the inaugural arrival. It will depart at 4 p.m.

World’s Largest Cruise Ship - Wonder of the Seas – to Visit St. Thomas This Month
VIPA Executive Director Carlton Dowe welcomed Wonder of the Seas Captain Robert Hempstead to St. Thomas.

The Wonder of the Seas is the RCCL’s newest of its Oasis-class fleet. It boasts eight unique neighborhoods, including the all-new Suite Neighborhood, a redesigned pool deck, an AquaTheater, and an all-new Wonder Playscape, featuring an underwater world studded with slides, climbing walls, and games.

There are 19 swimming pools onboard, plus 20 restaurants, 11 bars, an ice rink, casino, and even its own Central Park.

The 236,857 gross ton ship has a maximum passenger capacity of 5,518 passengers at double occupancy or 6,988 passengers maximum plus 2,300 crew. Of the ship’s 18 decks, 16 are for passengers.

Cruise ship schedules for the territory are posted on VIPA’s website: https://www.viport.com/schedules-seaports.

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Royal Caribbean Joins Rivals In Canceling 2022 Sailings To Russia

MIAMI — Cruise operators Royal Caribbean Group and Viking Cruises canceled sailings to Russia, joining their rivals and many Western brands in suspending operations in the country after its invasion of Ukraine.

Celebrity Cruises, owned by Royal Caribbean, said it was removing Russian port city St. Petersburg from upcoming itineraries, adding that it would visit other Scandinavian ports in its place.

Silversea Cruises also said it would re-route summer voyages scheduled to stop in Russia and Ukraine, while Royal Caribbean International said it had canceled its visits to St. Petersburg on all its summer itineraries.

The changes to itineraries mark yet another blow to the recovery of the U.S. cruise industry, after the Omicron coronavirus variant earlier this year forced operators to cancel sailings.

Other major operators MSC Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd also recently modified their itineraries, while Carnival Corp said it would follow suit.

Several Westerns brands, from Boeing Company to Ford Motor Company, have joined in on an unprecedented wave of corporate actions against Moscow, although Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation.”

REUTERS

(Reporting by Praveen Paramasivam in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel)

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Royal Caribbean Warns Omicron Variant Will Delay Its Return To Profitability

MIAMI — Cruise operator Royal Caribbean Group said today that the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant would delay its return to profitability by a few months after posting a bigger loss than expected in the fourth quarter.

The Omicron surge has in recent months forced cruise operators to change their trip itineraries and even cancel voyages, dealing another blow to an industry that just resumed sailing from U.S. ports in mid-2021.

The impact was especially strong during the holiday period and continued into January, Royal Caribbean said, as several frequent cruise passengers also stayed away from voyages and rescheduled their trips.

The company forecast a net loss for the first half of 2022 and said it would be profitable in the last six months of the year. Analysts polled by Refinitiv had estimated a loss for the first quarter and a return to profits in the second.

Royal Caribbean shares were down one percent before the bell.

In the quarter to Dec. 31, total revenue came in at $982.2 million, missing analysts’ estimates of $1.04 billion.

Adjusted net loss of $4.78 per share was also larger than expectations of a $3.92 per share loss.

However, Royal Caribbean said bookings have started to pick up and were at pre-Omicron levels today.

—REUTERS

Reporting by Praveen Paramasivam in Bengaluru; Editing by Aditya Soni

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas Set For St. Thomas Debut Next Month

ORLANDO — And then there were five. Royal Caribbean took delivery of the latest of its fleet of world’s largest cruise ships, Wonder of the Seas, which is set to debut at Port Everglades on March 4 and tapped to move to Port Canaveral this fall. It will make its St. Thomas debut on March 22.

The ship comes in at 1,188 feet long, 217 feet wide with 18 decks and 2,867 staterooms. Its gross tonnage is 236,857 with a 6,988-guest maximum capacity, the highest among all Oasis-class ships.

The other four ships in the class each held the title of world’s largest cruise ship starting with Oasis of the Seas in 2008 followed by Allure of the Seas in 2009, Harmony of the Seas in 2016 and Symphony of the Seas in 2018. In reality, the first four ships have been only incrementally larger, according to Royal Caribbean President and CEO Michael Bayley.

The original, Oasis of the Seas, is only seven feet shorter than her sister, Wonder, measuring 1,181 feet in length; and tips the scales at 226,832 gross tons, 10,025 less than her sister. Put in perspective, the difference accounts for just a little more than your average NBA player in length and nearly 2,000 African elephants.

Wonder of the Seas debuts four years after Symphony of the Seas, and has some new design features while keeping much of what has made its sister ships popular.

“Taking delivery of Wonder of the Seas is the culmination of 30 months of ingenuity and partnership across more than 2,000 committed crew members and workers who are among the best at what they do,” said Bayley. “Along with taking the revolutionary Oasis Class ships to a new level of wonder, innovation and adventure, Wonder sets the stage for the spring and summer vacations families and all travelers alike are looking forward to in the new year.”

The ship was handed over from officials with shipbuilder Chantiers de l’Atlantique to Royal Caribbean officials at a traditional flag-changing ceremony in Marseille, France, on Thursday.

Wonder of the Seas had its first steel cut in April 2019 with its keel-laying in October of that year. A sixth Oasis-class ship, also to be built at Chantiers de l’Atlantique, is slated to debut in 2024.

The company originally planned to send Wonder of the Seas to China, but shifted strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. It’s now set to make its official debut from the Fort Lauderdale port in just over a month where it will sail into April on seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries including stops at Royal’s private Bahamas island Perfect Day at CocoCay.

At the end of April, the ship will migrate back to Europe for voyages out of both Barcelona and Rome in the Mediterranean through October.

It will then return to the United States headed for year-round service from Port Canaveral beginning in November. It’s the first time the Orlando-area port will be getting an Oasis-class ship the same year that it debuted. Port Canaveral has hosted three of its sister ships and currently hosts Harmony of the Seas.

Unlike the other four ships in its class, Wonder of the Seas has one more neighborhood among its design for a total of eight with the introduction of the Suite Class Neighborhood. In it, suite guests will find an elevated Suite Sun Deck with a plunge pool, bar and loungers. The neighborhood is home to private dining experience Coastal Kitchen serving global dishes, plus the Suite Lounge. Dedicating a large space within the ship that’s exclusive to suite guests is a move similar to MSC Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line.

For everyone on board, a new bar called The Vue offers panoramic vistas from above the pool deck, and at night features a colorful mosaic canopy.

A new barbecue venue called The Mason Jar Southern Restaurant & Bar was recently announced. Similar to seated barbecue venues popular of the latest Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Line ships, the restaurant will feature brunch, dinner and late-night fare along with live music.

Other dining venues on board include Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar, Wonderland, Asian venue Izumi, American steakhouse Chops Grille, American seasonal dishes at 150 Central Park, Johnny Rockets, Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade, El Loco Fresh and Cantina Fresca.

On the top deck is the new Wonder Playscape, an open-air kids play area with slides, climbing walls, games, puzzles and an interactive mural activated by touch.

Similar to other Royal ships, the main pool deck received a Caribbean feel overlay that includes the multi-story bar The Lime & Coconut. Back again are the line’s three-waterslide design of The Perfect Storm, a kids waterpark called Splashaway Bay and several unique lounge spaces such as hammocks, in-pool loungers and mini covered casitas.

Like other Oasis-class ships, Wonder of the Seas features the Central Park space in the interior, Boardwalk, Pool & Sports Zone, Entertainment Place, Royal Promenade, Vitality Spa & Fitness Center and Youth Zone. The ship also has the popular Ultimate Abyss dry slide, zip line, AquaTheater, twin rock-climbing walls, carousel, FlowRider and ice skating rink.

“Wonder of the Seas will energize cruising in a bolder and bigger way,” said cruise line parent company Royal Caribbean Group President and CEO Jason Liberty. “Adding this ship to our already best-in-class fleet elevates the company in continuing to lead the industry with new features and innovation.”

By RICHARD TRIBOU/The Orlando Sentinel

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Celebrity Cruises And Royal Caribbean International End Cruises To Nowhere

MIAMI — Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean International, each subsidiaries of Royal Caribbean Group, have canceled cruises as COVID continues to spread.

Celebrity has postponed the restart on its Celebrity Eclipse, canceling multiple sailings in the process, Susan Lomax, spokesperson for Celebrity, told USA TODAY late Sunday. Celebrity pushed the ship’s resumption of sailing from the end of March to the end of April, before the ship begins its Alaska sailing season.

Four “Pacific Coast” sailings were nixed as a result:

  • March 26
  • April 2
  • April 9
  • April 16

The cruise line made the decision as “part of our continuous review of our operating plans as we return to service,” Lomax said.

Passengers who had been booked on the canceled sailings have been offered a 100 percent refund or a “lift and shift” to a “coastal” sailing on the line’s Celebrity Millennium. 

Optional? CDC’s new COVID mitigation program will be voluntary for cruises. Here’s what that means.

‘We found out while we were flying’ :Last-minute cruise cancellations leave travelers scrambling.

Royal Caribbean International canceled another sailing after canceling sailings on multiple ships earlier this month.

The line’s two-night sailing on Independence of the Seas originally set to depart on January 22 has been scrapped “as a result of the ongoing COVID-related circumstances,” Royal Caribbean said in a statement shared by spokesperson Lyan Sierra-Caro Monday.

Passengers who were booked on Independence of the Seas’ Jan. 22 sailing are receiving “compensation options” including a full refund, according to the statement.

Norwegian Cruise Line has also canceled sailings on the majority of its ships.

‘Turning into a nightmare’: Norwegian cancels sailing mid-cruise, passengers to be stuck on board for days

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RCG’s Explorer Of The Seas Cancels Cruise Visits To St. Thomas and St. Croix

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — The Royal Caribbean Group has canceled planned visits to St. Thomas and St. Croix, authorities said.

The Explorer of the Seas will not call on Crown Bay Marina in St. Thomas today or the Ann E. Abramson Marine Facility on St. Croix tomorrow, the Virgin Islands Port Authority said.

RCG's Explorer Of The Seas Cancels Cruise Visits To St. Thomas and St. Croix

The Explorer of the Seas is a Voyager-class cruise ship owned and operated by Royal Caribbean International, completed in 2000. The ship can accommodate at least 3,000 guests.

NOTICES OF ALL CANCELATIONS TO VIPA’S CRUISE PORTS ARE POSTED TO THE WEBSITE: https://www.viport.com/schedules-seaports

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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 Cancels Voyages On 4 Ships Due To COVID-19

MIAMI — Royal Caribbean International announced on Friday it has canceled voyages on four ships because of “ongoing COVID-related circumstances around the world.”

“In abundance of caution, Royal Caribbean International is pausing operations” on some ships, the company said in a statement.

The cruise line said it moved forward with the cancellations despite its health and safety measures, including vaccination and testing requirements for guests and crew.

Royal Caribbean said guests booked on the canceled sailings would receive compensation options, including a full refund.

Royal Caribbean Cancels Voyages On 4 Ships Due To COVID-19
The Royal Caribbean cruise ship “Spectrum of the Seas” is seen docked at the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal in Hong Kong, China October 22, 2021. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

The cancellations affect the following voyages:

• Vision of the Seas’ return to cruising is postponed until March 7, 2022

• Serenade of the Seas sailings from January 8 – March 5, returning after dry dock on April 26, 2022

• Jewel of the Seas sailings from January 9 – February 12, returning on February 20, 2022

• Symphony of the Seas sailings from January 8 – January 22, returning on January 29, 2022

“We regret having to cancel our guests’ long-awaited vacations and appreciate their loyalty and understanding,” the cruise line said in a statement. “Our top priority is always the well-being of our guests, our crew and the communities we visit.”

The cruise line says refunds may take up to 45 days.

“Please know that each and every request is receiving the same level of care and dedication,” the cruise line’s statement read. “And rest assured, your refund will be honored and it is coming – it’s just taking a little longer than expected and we’re very sorry about that. We thank you for your patience and understanding during this time.”

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Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Cancel Voyages Amid Omicron Spread

MIAMI — Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line on Wednesday canceled sailings amid rising fears of omicron-related coronavirus infections that have dampened the nascent recovery of the pandemic-ravaged cruise industry.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. called off its Spectrum of the Seas cruise for January 6 after nine guests on its January 2 trip were identified as close contacts to a local Hong Kong COVID-19 case.

The contacts have tested negative, but the cruise ship will return to Kai Tak Cruise Terminal in Hong Kong on January 5 to test all guests and crew who must take a second test on January 8, the company said.

A similar decision to cancel trips by Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. was made against the backdrop of the United States reporting the highest daily tally of any country for new coronavirus infections on Monday.

“Due to ongoing travel restrictions, we’ve had to modify a few sailings and unfortunately have had to cancel,” the 17-ship strong cruise operator said, with the embarkation dates for a few canceled sailings as far out as late April.

Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Cancel Voyages Amid Omicron Spread
A passenger looks out from the Spectrum of the Seas cruise ship docked at Kai Tak cruise terminal in Hong Kong, Jan. 5, 2022. Thousands of passengers were being held on a cruise ship in Hong Kong for coronavirus testing. Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

The cruise line, which requires everyone on board to be vaccinated, has also had to cut short a 12-day round trip from Miami on its Norwegian Pearl ship, citing “COVID-related circumstances.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week advised people to avoid cruise travel after launching investigations into onboard cases on more than 90 ships. The health agency scrutinizes a ship if at least one percent of the guests test positive.

Norwegian Cruise said guests, who were supposed to embark on the canceled sailings on the eight ships, will receive full refunds and bonus credits for future bookings.

The omicron-led travel uncertainty is also causing guests on other sailings to cancel their bookings as a few ships have also had to skip ports due to onboard infections.

“We booked the cruise last March and assumed that things would be getting back to normal… by mid-December, I was mentally prepared for a change of plans,” said Holly Bromley, a consulting arborist, who canceled her booking on Norwegian Epic.

Bigger industry rival Carnival Corp. said it has not canceled any upcoming voyages, but its shares fell on Wednesday to close down 2.6%. Royal Caribbean lost 2.1 percent and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings 3.6 percent.

Meanwhile, the impact of the the two cruise lines’ cancellations was immediately being felt in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“IMPORTANT NOTICE: There will be NO ships at the Austin “Babe” Monsanto Marine Terminal on Thursday, 06 January 2022,” the Virgin Islands Port Authority said on Facebook Wednesday.

— REUTERS

Reporting by Praveen Paramasivam in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Ananya Mariam Rajesh; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Arun Koyyur

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.