News & Views of the Week

 

 Ní neart go cur le chéile
-There is no strength without unity

This treasured Irish proverb reminds us that in times of adversity, there’s one truth to hold on to;
We are in this together.

 

 

 

As our industry takes a pause for the time being we will place a hold on our weekly newsletter and thiis will be a spot for News in the travel world.

Travelers are ready to get going by the calls we have received and as soon as official word comes out from the CDC that the NO SAIL ORDER is lifted and certain restrictions are being eased we can then get serious to GETAWAY FROM YOUR EVERYDAY.

Our hope is to resume our newsltter soon but until then we will continue to post articles and specials of interest for the future anyway.

Our best to all of you at this time and please remain vigilant, and be safe, stay safe and stay healthy.

Bill and Fred

 

 

Looking Forward to a Bright Future Full of Ocean Cruises

Aug 31, 2020

Looking Forward to a Bright Future Full of Ocean Cruises

Viking recently announced its 2021/2022 global itinerary, which will be serviced by the line’s Viking Star.
Credit: 2020 Jason Leppert

The novel coronavirus has paused most ocean cruise operations around the globe, but that has not stopped cruise lines from planning voyages during and beyond the pandemic.

Everything from North American sailings to world cruises are still on the calendar for 2020 through well into 2023. Here’s what travel advisors should know for clients ready to start booking.

Princess Cruises and Windstar Cruises Cover the West Coast
A bit later into the 2021/2022 season, both Princess Cruises and Windstar Cruises are plotting signature presences along California and up to Alaska. Windstar had to put on hold a number of new itineraries in 2020 but is promoting the likes of a shorter seven-night Alaskan route for next year. Particularly interesting to Western travelers is the newly stretched and enhanced Star Breeze that will showcase California coastal and Sea of Cortez, Mexico, circuits in and out of San Diego.

Similarly, Princess will maintain its homeport of Los Angeles with a new vessel for the region. Originally earmarked for year-round sailing in the Chinese market, the Majestic Princess will replace the Regal Princess in 2021 on weeklong Mexican Riviera voyages and California Coast cruises in the fall and spring, as well as Alaska in the summer. Come 2022, the new Discovery Princess sister ship will join Majestic on comparable itineraries.

Additionally in 2021/2022, Grand Princess will sail from Los Angeles to Hawaii, plus the Baja Peninsula and Sea of Cortez in Mexico. And Ruby Princess will depart from San Francisco to Hawaii, Mexico and the California coast.

www.princess.com
www.windstarcruises.com

Caribbean and Exotics Onboard Princess Cruises
Princess also has plans to resume Caribbean operations and is setting out with five vessels on a total of 109 departures featuring its Princess Cays private island for 2021/2022. These are in addition to the season’s 17 Panama Canal runs and other far-off destinations as clients regain the confidence to travel abroad.

For instance, Diamond Princess will newly sail to South America and Antarctica from December 2021 to March 2022, highlighting the Andes, Cape Horn and Strait of Magellan in Chile.

www.princess.com

Holland America Line and Viking World Cruises
Eventually, even world cruises will pick up steam again, and several lines are preparing for their return. Viking recently announced its 2021/2022 global itinerary, which will be serviced by the line’s Viking Star and head to 27 countries and 56 ports across 136 days. The ship will depart from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and head to new Viking destinations such as Phillip Island, Australia; Eden, Australia; and Yangon, Myanmar.

Also in 2021, Holland America Line will feature a 71-day Grand Africa Voyage on the Zaandam beginning in Fort Lauderdale and visiting unique ports of call such as Safaga, Egypt; Richards Bay and Cape Town, South Africa; and Walvis Bay, Namibia; plus providing the chance to visit many wildlife reserves. The brand’s Zaandam will traverse a longer distance across 128 days in 2022 onboard its Grand World Voyage. It will head from Fort Lauderdale to 50 ports in 27 countries, territories and island nations, altogether touching four continents.

www.hollandamerica.com
www.vikingcruises.com

The Future Is Luxurious
Rounding out recently revealed itineraries are the luxury cruise brands. Seabourn will showcase a wide mix of cruise lengths in 2021/2022 ranging from seven to 36 days. New for 2021 will be Panama Canal and Central America on Seabourn Quest, and 2022 will mark the brand’s return to Egypt onboard Seabourn Ovation.

In the meantime, Silversea Cruises has a whopping 86 new voyages scheduled for 2021/2022 including eight maiden calls to Manama, Bahrain; Miyako, Japan; Makassar, Indonesia; Phillip Island, Australia; Kingstown, St. Vincent; Geelong, Australia; Vigan Salomague Port, the Philippines; and Puerto Bolivar, Ecuador. Silversea even has its own World Cruise planned in 2022 that is set to visit 69 destinations across 32 countries.

Crystal Cruises is also wasting no time opening up its voyage schedule through 2023 for both its Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony. Serenity’s calendar includes a 140-night world cruise, in addition to the Black Sea, the Mediterranean, Western Europe, the Caribbean and even Canada and New England. And Symphony’s docket is full with the Mediterranean, the Middle East, the Holy Land and Egypt, as well as Southeast Asia and India.

www.seabourn.com
www.silversea.com
www.crystalcruises.com

 

This Is Why Cruise Ships Are Mostly Registered Abroad

Sep 02, 2020

This Is Why Cruise Ships Are Mostly Registered Abroad

Cruise ships do pay domestic taxes as well as international ones, but the story about how they’re flagged is a bit complicated.
Credit: 2020 Jason Leppert

Norwegian Cruise Line’s (NCL) latest Norwegian Encore is owned by a company based in the U.S., but is named after Norway and registered in the Bahamas. And it’s just one example of seemingly conflicting cruise origins, further complicated by current concerns that cruise companies might not be paying their fair share in taxes, especially while initially offloading guests and crew during COVID-19 outbreaks.

The reality is rather complicated, but an understanding of history and policies can help clarify.

Regarding NCL, the line was originally cofounded by a Norwegian, Knut Kloster, though it no longer has any ties to Norway. The country is now merely a namesake. Parent company Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. has since expanded and owns Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises in addition to NCL.

That may clear up the nomenclature a bit. But why would the majority of U.S.-based ships operated by NCL or any other American cruise line then be registered abroad?

I reached out to the “big three” cruise lines — Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean Group and aforementioned Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, all of which are based in the U.S. — to seek clarity on behalf of any confused travel advisors and clients. 

In response, Carnival’s public relations team pointed to several in-house facts as well as data from Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).

In short, nearly all cruise ships are incorporated — or flagged — outside of the U.S. for several reasons. But one of the most crucial is that U.S. law requires that ships registered domestically must also have been built in this country. 

While there are local shipyards known for constructing military vessels, much smaller passenger craft and historic ocean liners, they are not equipped with the expertise, capacity and supply chain to assemble bigger contemporary cruise ships. In the modern era, European nations and shipyards have largely led this charge.

Interestingly, NCL operates the only notable exception. Its Pride of America is registered stateside because the vessel began construction in Mississippi as the failed Project America 1 before being acquired by Norwegian and completed in Germany. It took a special U.S. government exemption to permit the multinational ship to sail under U.S. flag, which now allows it to sail exclusively in the Hawaiian Islands.

Otherwise, the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886 dictates that foreign-flagged passenger ships carrying guests between U.S. destinations must first stop at a foreign port. But that is not to say cruise lines do not pay domestic taxes.

In fact, according to CLIA data, the cruise industry pays billions of dollars in taxes as well as fees in the U.S. annually. In 2019, that total was $1.3 billion. And per Carnival, it alone paid more than $700 million in domestic taxes and fees last year, $600 million of which directly supported our country’s port cities.

The truth is that all cruise lines contribute greatly to American and international economies. Cruise ships operate globally and, thus, are required to pay taxes and port fees wherever they go — not just in the U.S.

If the laws were to change, more cruise ships could potentially be registered domestically and have the means to sail itineraries closer to home without needing foreign ports of convenience. California coastal trips could visit Western cities without the need to detour away and call on Ensenada, Mexico, for instance.

But until that happens, cruise ships will continue to look like out-of-town cars sporting license plates from other states or, in this case, countries. At least now you know why.

 

Is flying safe? The perceived risk doesn't match reality.

By Robert Silk 

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Sep 09, 2020

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Robert Silk

Robert Silk

Is it safe to fly right now? As an airline industry beat reporter, I get that question often during these days of pandemic.

Some people just assume that airplanes are dangerous Covid-19 vectors. One relative told me recently that if I wanted to fly from Denver to Kentucky for a visit I'd be expected to quarantine upon arrival. Better, she said, to meet somewhere in-between via automobile.

Indeed, unease about flying is rampant these days. An early August Gallup poll found that 52% of American adults who flew at least once each year before the pandemic now say they would not be comfortable flying.

In one sense, such concerns are not baseless. There's no doubt that flying isn't as safe as just staying home. And I tell people that.

But just how dangerous is it? Not very, the existing data suggests. 

In a study released Aug. 2, Arnold Barnett, an MIT statistics professor whose emphasis is health and safety, estimated that flyers have a 1-in-4,300 chance of catching Covid-19 on a full flight and a 1-in-7,700 chance of catching the virus when middle seats are blocked.

The analysis, which was released without formal peer review, used as its baseline a U.S. domestic flight of two hours in length during late June, when the virus was spiking across much of the country. It also assumed all passengers would be masked. Barnett estimated Covid-related mortality risks per flight at between 1 in 400,000 and 1 in 600,000.

Such death risks, he wrote, are "comparable to those arising from two hours of everyday activities during the pandemic."

Meanwhile, documented cases of transmission on planes are scant. As of the last week of August, IATA said it was aware of fewer than 20 such incidents involving less than 50 passengers. 

Likely, the actual numbers are substantially higher, but measures to contact trace airline passengers have been far from comprehensive. For example, Reuters reported in late August that the Trump administration's push to require airlines to gather contract tracing data from arriving international passengers had stalled amid privacy concerns.

One peer-reviewed study that does address in-flight transmission looked at the aftermath of a March 9 flight between Frankfurt and Tel Aviv, which carried seven passengers who tested positive for Covid-19 immediately upon arrival.

The study's four authors determined that these seven individuals likely transmitted a total of two cases to other passengers, though even those transmissions may have occurred before or after the flight. The authors also noted that additional transmissions could have occurred, since they were unable to contact seven of the flight's 102 passengers. 

"The airflow in the cabin from the ceiling to the floor and from the front to the rear may have been associated with a reduced transmission rate. It could be speculated that the rate may have been reduced further had the passengers worn masks," said the study, which was published in the journal Public Health. 

These days, airline passengers around the world are mostly masked, except when eating or drinking. U.S. carriers have slowly come around to strictly enforcing mask mandates.

Airlines are also implementing enhanced cleaning protocols between flights. And as the German authors alluded to, their aircraft are equipped with hospital-grade air filters.

Still, flying involves plenty of touch points and often plenty of face-to-face interaction, including at airports. So, when people ask me if it's safe to fly, I say yes, but conditionally. It's not without risk, like so many activities these days. But that risk is far less acute than many imagine it to be. 

The Bahamas will ease some of its Covid travel restrictions

By Gay Nagle Myers 

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Sep 08, 2020

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The Bahamas is easing several Covid-related travel restrictions next month as part of Phase 3 of its Tourism Readiness & Recovery Plan, according to Minister of Tourism Dionisio D'Aguilar.

Effective Oct. 15, beach access will be permitted on all islands; hotels and resorts not yet open are expected to begin reopening (although Atlantis and Baha Mar have not yet announced their firm reopening dates), water taxi services and interisland air travel will be permitted and social gatherings of up to 10 people will be allowed.

Strict hygiene and safety protocols will be enforced, including a fine for not wearing a mask in public.

Indoor dining and in-store shopping will be allowed on Grand Bahama and the Out Islands but not on New Providence where Nassau and Paradise Island are located.

Attractions, excursions and tours plan to reopen on Nov. 1. However, vendors, personal watercraft operations, casinos, gyms, cinemas, festivals and ferries are not expected to reopen until Phase 4 of the tourism plan, D'Aguilar said. The date is dependent upon the success of Phase 3.

Visitors to the Bahamas still must adhere to the mandatory vacation-in-place protocol, which means quarantining upon arrival for 14 days or the length of their stay, whichever is shorter, at their hotel, private club, rental accommodations such as Airbnb or on a private boat.

Bahama entry requirements for all visitors include results of a negative Covid-19 test taken no more than five days prior to arrival and an approved Bahamas Health Visa, obtainable at travel.gov.bs. Further details can be found at bahamas.com/travelupdates.

 

What’s it like to travel to the Caribbean right now?

By Gay Nagle Myers 

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Sep 03, 2020

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Stephen and Angela Byrd celebrated their wedding anniversary on their seventh trip to the Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort in Aruba.

Stephen and Angela Byrd celebrated their wedding anniversary on their seventh trip to the Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort in Aruba.

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So what’s it like to travel to the Caribbean nowadays in the Covid-19 era, with more requirements to fulfill than just a passport, a carry-on and a tube of sunscreen (remember those days?)

I asked that question of Stephen and Angela Byrd, veteran travelers with a deep love for one particular island and resort. I wanted the perspective of seasoned travelers.

The Byrds recently returned from their seventh trip to the Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort on Eagle Beach in Aruba.

“We booked this trip in September 2019. When Covid came and the borders closed to U.S. travelers, we kept checking with Bucuti for information,” said Stephen.

“We studied the website's description of Bucuti's protocols for cleaning, sanitizing and hygiene. Very impressive,” he said. “We just knew that Covid was not going to keep us away from Aruba, not going to keep us from Bucuti.”

The Byrd’s first trip to Aruba was in 2007. A visit to the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao) had long been on their wish list.

“We booked that first trip through my nephew who was a travel agent at the time. We've since booked direct. We loved the resort and the island from that very first visit, and we knew we’d be back,” he said.

Aruba reopened its borders to U.S. travelers on July 10. The Byrds nailed down their flights for mid-August and began asking where they could take the required Covid-19 test and get the result back 72 hours prior to their departure.

“We asked our doctor, we asked at the hospital, at the lab, at CVS, but no one could guarantee anything less than a test result within seven to 10 days, so we flew to Aruba on faith and trust, knowing we would be tested upon arrival,” Stephen said.

They had filled out and uploaded the required embarkation card soon after booking their flights and received an email confirmation of approval for travel prior to departure.

Their route took them from Baltimore/Washington Airport to Miami on a sparsely-filled American flight, then on to Aruba in first class.

“Everyone wore masks. The plane was half full. We got grapes and a packet of cheese to eat,” Angela reported.

Arriving at Queen Beatrix Airport in Aruba, they were greeted at the escalator by a member of the airport's concierge services who whisked them through customs and on to the testing area.

“We got the nasal swab. My wife said it was okay, I thought it was uncomfortable,” Stephen said.

The Byrds had purchased the mandatory Aruba Travel Insurance three days prior to leaving. They had their own medical insurance as well to cover the $75 price of each swab.

Their 15-minute transfer by First Class Aruba to the 104-room Bucuti was in a black Mercedes limousine with a happy anniversary sign painted on the rear window.

Their masked driver delivered them to the resort entrance, where the masked staff, many of whom knew the Byrds from previous visits, were waiting to greet them with music and Champagne.

“There's no front desk anymore. We had pre-registered, so our concierge escorted us to our penthouse suite where we quarantined until we got our test results,” Stephen said.

The results came by text at 9:17 p.m., a little more than six hours after the swabs. Results were negative, and the Byrds ordered room service and then went to bed after their long day of travel.

Exploring the familiar resort in the following days, the couple was surprised to find so few guests.

“On our previous visits, there were many couples there. Bucuti is an adults-only resort, very romantic, and lots of weddings take place there. It was heartbreaking to see so few people,” Angela said.

Everyone they spoke with said they had made the right decision to come. “The guests, a mix of repeaters and first-timers, were happy and joyous to be there,” Stephen said.

Most of the time the Byrds dined outdoors, although the restaurants offered indoor seating as well with all tables spaced 6 feet or more apart.

“Our menu was on an iPad that had a sticker on it, which meant it had been sanitized. We gave our order to our masked waiter who delivered our food on a tray and placed it next to us on a small rack. All the dishes were covered,” Angela said.

The couple was treated to dinner in a private cabana on the beach as part of their anniversary celebration.

Ewald Biemans, founder and CEO of Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort, had used the down time during the border closure to renovate the Sand Bar, retile the main pool and redo the lobby.

“All of these changes just gilded the lily,” Angela said. “The whole place was even more beautiful than before.”

In honor of their 50th anniversary, the bartenders at the Sand Bar named a cocktail after the couple. The Byrd Marley is now a fixture on the cocktail menu.

The couple, who met when they were both 19, call Bucuti “their perfect place. We know there are other places to go, but this is the place and the island we love,” Stephen said.

Departure day came too soon. At checkout, they just turned in their key. Billing had been handled by credit card in advance.

Biemans was there to say goodbye, wish them safe travels and handle a final detail for them. The couple booked next year’s visit for the same week.

“Our hearts are with Bucuti,” Stephen said.

American Airlines deploying new antiviral coating

By Robert Silk 

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Aug 24, 2020

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American Airlines said it will start using SurfaceWise2, a surface coating that inactivates coronaviruses, within months. Photo Credit: American Airlines

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American Airlines will be one of two companies taking part in the initial deployment of a long-lasting antiviral surface protectant approved under emergency order by the EPA on Monday.

SurfaceWise2, developed by Texas-based Allied BioScience, is a surface coating that inactivates coronaviruses, including Covid-19, within two hours of application, the EPA said. It continues to work against viruses for up to seven days.

"This product is expected to provide longer-lasting protection in public spaces, increasing consumer confidence in resuming normal air travel and other activities," the agency said.

American said that it will begin spraying SurfaceWise2 on aircraft surfaces within months. The carrier eventually plans to use the product on its entire fleet as well as on American Eagle aircraft operated by regional partners. So far, however, the EPA has only approved the product for application within the state of Texas.

Along with American, the EPA will allow Allen, Texas-based Total Orthopedic Sport & Spine to trial the new product.

The agency said Allied BioScience will pursue nonemergency approval of SurfaceWise2 in the coming months. The product would be made available to the general public after that process is complete.

 

 

Conde Nast also let's us know that the wonderful city of Paris is open and business is a bit light right now.

As Paris Reopens, Residents Are Enjoying a City Without Tourists

Parisians have bars, restaurants, and even the Eiffel Tower to themselves. 

BY LINDSEY TRAMUTA

June 26, 2020

A gorgeous view from the top of St Jacques Tower which is at the very center of the city

 

If you’ve lived in Paris, you’ve no doubt entertained the fantasy of the city empty of tourists. Entirely reclaimed by locals, there would be no crowds at the Louvre, few lines to ascend the Eiffel Tower, and no selfie-stick wielding travelers to dodge on the sidewalk. But for a city that draws several million foreign visitors each year, it has long been an inconceivable scenario. That is, until confinement restrictions were lifted on May 11, allowing locals to begin returning to their favorite cafés, bars, restaurants, and parks—while the borders remain closed to everyone outside the Schengen area.

As a resident since late 2006, I have experienced the city’s many evolutions firsthand. But the confinement and post-confinement journey has been wholly unprecedented—not even during war time has the capital shuttered so completely. Now, the city is ours in a way it has never been, and may never be again. The newly pedestrianized streets, the reopened parks and riverbanks, and the additional 30 miles of bike lanes created throughout the heart of the city have turned Paris into an open-air rehabilitation center for cramped legs and hemmed-in spirits. Long naps in the grass at the Buttes Chaumont park and Luxembourg Gardens have become remedies for our collective ennui. Simply perusing the homewares at Merci or the labyrinth of books at Shakespeare & Company (masked, of course) are blissful, calm returns to the mundanities of everyday life, once so easily taken for granted.

As soon as cafés and restaurants were permitted to open—first with outdoor seating and dining areas on June 2 and then indoors with social distancing beginning June 15—the fantasy of a Paris reserved for residents reached peak appeal. Paris is unfolding as one giant block party, with café tables stretching across sidewalks, into the street, and even onto pedestrian squares, to allow establishments to operate with distance, all at no cost to the owners. Going from post-apocalyptic silence in the streets to late-night lively conversations booming from these newfound outdoor living rooms has been nothing short of exhilarating.

While it may take Parisians more time to get comfortable with the idea of eating in an enclosed space again—indoor dining remains largely lifeless—locals appear more than enthusiastic about reconnecting with friends and family à table, even if the setup is more rustic than usual (there are bistro tables and chairs set up between parked cars and metal street barriers, contactless QR-code menus, and informal tableware). If anything, observing Parisians race back to dining out (in some cases, with behavior that suggests they believed social distancing to be a gentle recommendation rather than an imperative), it’s one of the many signs that the pieces of life are snapping back into place, at least for a time.

Turned off by the idea of standing elbow-to-elbow in public transport, Parisians have also transformed the streets into a cycling highway. According to the national group Vélo et Territoire, the number of cyclists increased by 28 percent in May over the previous year, a figure which combines both Vélib bike-share users and new bike owners. Certainly, the city’s generous post-confinement bike offers, from the 50-euro voucher for bike repairs to the subsidies (up to 500 euros) for purchasing electric bicycles, were compelling reasons to make the switch.

Morning walkers and joggers travel down the beautifully maintained Champ de Mars as they head to the base of the Eiffel...

Parisians walking and jogging along the Champ de Mars.

Getty 

Riding my just-purchased bike on the rue de Rivoli past Place de la Concorde, a section of the commercial street that is ordinarily choked with car traffic, feels like I'm breaking the rules. But I'm never alone, with other cyclists and the rare electric scooter zipping past. Never has that stretch of the city felt so liberating; the area’s architectural largesse revealing itself in perfect focus. For once, without competing for her attention, it's possible to feel cradled by the enormity of the city rather than flattened by it.

On both sides of the river, there are few remaining signs of nature’s dominance over the city during the months of abandon. The grass at the Champs de Mars and Invalides parks has been manicured after growing wild—perhaps the greatest indication that life is making its return. That, and the reopening of the capital’s landmarks and cultural institutions: On June 25, the Eiffel Tower opened up (first and second floors only) and on July 6, the Louvre will follow suit (advanced bookings will now be required). The city is banking on this unprecedented calm to lure French tourists and, since the borders reopened to the Schengen area on June 15, European visitors looking for a nearby getaway. For now, that won’t include the more than 2 million American travelers who visit the city annually—the country plans to further open borders to non-E.U. international travelers on July 1, though discussions suggest that Russians, Brazilians, and Americans will not be included at that time.

While, for the most part, these are all positive signs, this isn’t the Paris of the past nor is it entirely different, either. It’s an entre-deux, an unusual in-between we’re trying to make sense of as the virus recedes. At the time of writing, there were only 81 new confirmed cases across the country, the lowest since March 4, and the French health minister is expanding France’s testing program to suss out potentially dormant clusters, beginning with Greater Paris. We may be in limbo, with the global possibility of a second wave looming large, but Parisians are hopeful that the worst is behind us.

NEWS BRIEFS FROM CONDE NAST THIS WEEK INCLUDE SOME OF THE FOLLOWING INTERESTING ARTICLES:

Medical Expert Explains Why Airplane Cabin Air is Clean

AIRLINES & AIRPORTS  DELTA AIR LINES  DONALD WOOD  JULY 07, 2020

Delta Air Lines electrostatic disinfectant sprayer.PHOTO: Delta Air Lines electrostatic disinfectant sprayer. (Photo courtesy of Delta Air Lines)

The number of travelers taking to the skies continues to rise and Delta Air Lines is working hard to ensure the safety of its passengers.

According to an interview with University of Alabama Professor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases Dr. Michael Saag, airplanes with proper health protocols such as Delta's CareStandard are safe for travelers.

Saag said as long as passengers on board the planes are properly spaced apart and wearing masks, the risk of transmission is very low. As a result, Delta continues to block middle seats and has capped capacity at 60 percent in Main Cabin and 50 percent in First Class.

Air circulation is also important to reducing the possibility of spreading coronavirus, as Delta refreshes the air in its cabins every two-five minutes. The filtration systems on board planes remove 99.99 percent of particles.

In addition, air flows down in planes, reducing transmission of the viral infection.

“The details matter,” Saag said. “If passengers are spread apart and wearing masks, then it is very safe on an airplane.”

To reduce touchpoints for passengers, they are handed antibacterial wipes upon entering the plane to disinfect their seats and the surrounding area, as well as presented with water and snacks in a bag to avoid the need for expanded food service.

The carrier is expanding its health and safety diligence to its Delta Sky Clubs, as the airline reopens the airport facilities in Chicago, Denver, Miami, Nashville, Orlando, Phoenix and San Francisco. Additional Clubs will open as travel continues to increase in the coming months.

Delta also recently resumed serving beer and wine to its first-class and Comfort+ passengers after many airlines decided to stop serving alcoholic beverages.

Why the Cayman Islands Is Turning Away Cruise Ships Until Next Year

The move is a departure from other Caribbean countries.

BY BRIAN MAJOR

September 11, 2020

 

George Town Port Grand Cayman

 

When the Cayman Islands officials announced it was closing its George Town port—one of the Caribbean’s busiest cruise destinations—to all ships through the end of 2020, the decision seemed at odds with the sentiments of their neighbors.

Currently, cruises are on pause due to the Centers for Disease Control's no-sail advisory for U.S. cruise lines; that ban is currently in place through September, though cruise lines have voluntarily paused operations through October. Tourism authorities in other high cruise-traffic Caribbean nations, including Jamaica and the Bahamas, have publicly lamented the economic loss that comes with the cruise industry being on hold. The Cayman Islands, by contrast, has become the lone Caribbean nation to voluntarily turn away cruise ships.

No doubt the country risks taking a hit from the decision: As one of the most popular Caribbean cruise destinations (the third largest, based on annual passengers), the cruise industry spent $224 million in direct expenditures in the Cayman Islands in 2018 and employed 4,622 people in the destination that year, according to the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association’s Economic Impact on Cruise Tourism 2019 report.

But the Cayman Islands is positioned to limit the impact: As a home to thriving construction and financial industries, it's less tourism-reliant than several other Caribbean countries. And while the Cayman Islands attracts more cruise vacationers than land-based travelers (1.8 million cruisers versus 502,739 land-based travelers in 2019), it still has those land-based travelers to fall back on in the short term; notably, these vacationers tend to spend significantly more and are preferred by the tourism sector.

Moses Kirkconnell, the country’s deputy premier and minister of tourism, indicated the decision was driven by safety concerns in a statement he made in late August. “We have continuously monitored the rate of infection in other countries, especially in the United States, where COVID-19 is still widespread,” Kirkconnell said. “The situation remains fluid [and] maintaining the health, safety, and well-being of the Caymanian community remains our top priority.”

Notably, the Cayman Islands is the only major Caribbean country without a modern cruise ship pier. For travelers and the local economy, the implications of that distinction are profound. Because Cayman lacks a permanent pier, cruise ships must anchor in George Town harbor and bring passengers to shore aboard lifeboats and local tender vessels. Cruise lines are reluctant to commence the complicated tender process with its largest ships, limiting the number and scope of vessels that visit.

So while the government is turning away cruise ships this year, some say the Cayman Islands is ill-suited to accommodate larger ships, which increasingly represent the lion’s share of Caribbean-cruising vessels. “They have lost millions of dollars in the last several years because they are the only port in the Caribbean that does not have an actual pier,” says Stewart Chiron, a Miami-based travel advisor whose agency, known as The Cruise Guy, is one the country’s top cruise vacation sellers.

Efforts to build a new pier go back nearly a decade. The most recent initiative, a government-backed $200 million project, led to a tense standoff between pro-port tourism stakeholders and local environmentalists earlier this year. Confronted with a court battle, not to mention the cruise traffic halt caused by the COVID-19 crisis, the government abandoned the project in February.

Now, Chiron wonders how they'll tackle the issue when cruising does resume. “Oasis-class ships [the industry’s largest vessels, operated by Royal Caribbean International] don’t go there, and the business has never materialized the way it should have," he says. "Their numbers did not go up proportionately to where they would have been had they had a pier.”

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With only two potential months left this year during which cruise lines may resume sailing, industry experts expect most of the major lines to focus on short itineraries traveling only to their private Bahamian islands, which are closer to South Florida, where most ships depart. These itineraries will allow cruise lines to closely monitor guests and their movements, and may be more attractive to health-conscious guests because of their short length.

The cruise lines have fixed piers at their private islands and can track passengers effectively on these voyages, since they won't be on excursions in local ports. “They’re saying, ‘You can’t come here,’” Chiron says. “Well, who said the Cayman Islands was on the schedule?”

Cayman officials, meanwhile, make it clear they expect cruising to return—when everyone's ready. “The cruise industry is an important tenet of our local economy and we look forward to welcoming cruise guests back to the shores of the Cayman Islands when it is safe to do so,” Kirkconnell said in his August statement. “We remain in close contact with our cruise partners and we will continue to work together to take advantage of the opportunities available in 2021.”

 

Airfare Wars—and Cheap Plane Tickets—Will Make a Comeback after Coronavirus

Experts say airfares could hit unprecedented lows after the outbreak passes.

BY BARBARA PETERSON

June 1, 2020

 

An Empty New York JFK Terminal 1 Departure Hall

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the airline business. Passenger traffic in the U.S. is down by nearly 90 percent, demand is virtually nil, and all airlines around the world are expected to rack up huge losses in 2020.

Given that there’s no reliable road map for recovery—the fallout will far exceed the downturn after 9/11, experts say—what will come next is anyone’s bet. Even with a recent uptick in bookings, airline traffic is still hovering at a dismal 12 percent of pre-crisis levels.

Any recovery depends in part on how fast carriers can reel in customers. One way to do that? Cheap plane tickets that are too low to ignore. Here’s what some top analysts and executives tell us about what to expect from domestic fares in the near future.

To lure back skittish travelers, airfare wars will make a comeback

The consensus among pundits is that in the short term, airlines will have to resort to fire-sale prices to attract hesitant travelers.

“There will be an enormous fare war to kick this whole thing off,” says Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travel Coalition, which advocates for businesses that purchase travel. “And the airlines will compete on everything they can,” he says, noting that easing typical fare restrictions and rebooking policies will encourage travelers to put their money down for a future trip, even amid the lingering uncertainty over when it will be fully safe to travel.

So what kind of discounts could we be looking at? Analysts point to China as a template. When it emerged from its coronavirus lockdown, China's national airlines began slashing fares by up to 40 percent to restart their business. “This could be a fare war like you’ve never seen before,” and it could possibly last until next year, Mitchell says.

But the timing of any cheap plane tickets will depend on a rise in demand

Until the lockdown fully eases, a fare sale may be premature. “In the short term, it doesn’t pay to try to stimulate demand when people are still under stay-at-home orders,” says Helane Becker, senior research analyst covering airlines and aviation at Cowen and Company. “As the states start to reopen and demand starts to resume, we think airlines will offer discounts to encourage travel.” With that boost, the TSA could be screening 400,000 passengers a day by August 1, she says, which, while way below the average of 2.5 million daily fliers before the COVID-19 outbreak, would still be a significant rise.

“Once that occurs, we believe we will see fares go down, especially because we expect leisure travel to recover before business travel,” she adds. The upshot: Airfares will remain low until the airline industry is able to recover demand to 2019 levels for at least one year. Becker predicts won’t happen before at least 2023, and possibly not until 2025.

The economy's role is more important than ever

With the country in a recession, demand is going to be soft for a while, says Michael Derchin, a long-time Wall Street analyst and author of the Heard in the Hangar newsletter. Both leisure and business travel “have their issues,” he notes. “But once you’ve convinced people it’s safe to fly—at least as safe as going to the movies—then to get them on the plane you’ve got to give them pretty good fares.”

Derchin notes that a typical recession lasts up to 12 months, after which demand could come back in a more concrete way. “Once we get through the first quarter of next year, then you potentially will have a semblance of a more normal world.” Another potential major challenge for recovering airlines, he says, is social distancing. Last year flights averaged more than 80 percent full, and if carriers want to continue to block middle seats, they "would have to either raise ticket prices or reduce operating expenses substantially," Derchin says. The International Air Transport Association, which has spoken out against blocking middle seats, has estimated that fares would have to rise 43 percent if a third of seats onboard planes were restricted.

But what if the new normal is a shrinking airline system?

U.S. airlines have parked 50 percent of their fleets to ride out the downturn. Some observers think that many jets will never return to service, in the U.S. at least. “Some will get sold off and go elsewhere,” says BTC’s Mitchell, citing in particular the more geriatric models. “A smaller system will emerge,” he says, with fewer planes and fewer seats for passengers to book. Less supply and more demand usually drives prices higher. Typically, in that scenario, “average costs will go up and prices will go up,” Mitchell says. And that’s especially true given the extra expense of adding new measures to protect the health of the flying public.

But if a recovery in business travel lags well behind vacation trips, then airlines won’t be able to jack up fares too far, or they’ll drive away their most price-sensitive customers.

New competitors could drive prices lower

The worst crisis in industry history would hardly seem an opportune time to launch a startup airline. But at least one entrepreneur—JetBlue founder David Neeleman—says he fully intends to carry through with his previously announced plans to launch a new U.S. low-cost carrier, Breeze, sometime in 2021. Breeze Airways' business model would keep airfares low by serving secondary cities. And if anything, the post-pandemic world might offer some unique opportunities. Those secondary markets he’s looking at will likely suffer permanent cuts in service due to the downturn. “The majors' costs had already been creeping up” even before the crisis, Neeleman says. "It might become more expensive to operate an airline, with all the new procedures, he says. But "we’ll still have lower costs” than major U.S. carriers, he adds—and therefore low fares that could force other U.S. airlines to lower their ticket prices, too.

 

The U.S. Has Its First Museum Dedicated to the Olympics and Paralympics

Opening in Colorado amid the pandemic, it's also social distancing–friendly.

BY BETSY BLUMENTHAL

August 3, 2020

 

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum Exterior

 

Fans may not be able to watch the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo this summer, but they do have a pretty good alternative: the new United States Olympic and Paralympic Museum (USOPM) in Colorado Springs, Colorado, dedicated to telling the stories of the country’s top athletes, which opened on July 30.

Designed by New York-based firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the 60,000-square-foot museum, which took about three years to build, is estimated to have cost about $91 million, according to the AP. Among the highlights visitors can look forward to across its dozen galleries are the museum’s collection of torches, including the curved Sydney 2000 model, in part inspired by the city’s famed Opera House, and the training gallery, which has six interactive activities that allow visitors to see how they stack up to Olympic and Paralympic athletes, like a track for the 30-meter dash.

Though anticipation for the first-of-its-kind complex, has run high in the years since construction began, its opening has taken on new significance, unfolding not only during a pandemic, but in a year when the games, now postponed to 2021, were set to take place. According to museum CEO Christopher Liedel, however, many of the innovations that make the museum one of the most accessible in the world are also proving useful in this new context.

State-of-the-art visitor credentials, for example, which are enhanced with RFID, or radio-frequency identification, to accommodate user preferences and possible impairments, help make for a mostly contactless viewing experience throughout the museum. If you have difficulty seeing, for example, you can register this ahead of your visit, and the RFID chip will respond accordingly, activating different technology to increase text size on digital monitors throughout the 12 galleries. Similarly, if you pre-select certain athletes in your registration, the RFID will trigger this as you enter a new room, calling them up for you to view specifically.

These same tech-enabled badges, which are similar to those used by ski resorts, also allow museum staff to monitor where people are, and to prevent overcrowding from occurring. “We were able to create controls with the RFID so that we’d know who was next to each other, where they were, and how to pattern out social distancing,” says Liedel. Consequently, the museum can also use the technology to “control flow from one gallery to the next,” and gain a better understanding of which displays draw the most foot traffic.

 

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum Interior

Visitors will find several hundred artifacts presented throughout the museum, including a collection of torches from the Games dating back to 1936.

Bill Baum

The museum’s layout, or what Liedel calls its “narrative arc,” can also help moderate foot traffic. There’s a beginning, middle, and end to the user experience, with guests beginning their visit at the top of the museum, on the third floor, before working their way down. Rather than entering through a front door with options scattered throughout, “you flow from gallery to gallery to gallery,” he says. “You’re really put on a path to move through the museum.” Galleries include a "lab" that demonstrates how science and technology, including prosthetic limbs and even performance-enhancing drugs, can factor into an athlete’s performance, and a Parade of Nations room that allows guests to experience the thrill of walking into a stadium in front of thousands of fans for the Games’ Opening Ceremony, beginning in a darkened tunnel and ending in a 360-degree multimedia experience.

Rooms contain floor signage and physical dividers to promote social distancing, Liedel says, and there are teams that sanitize each of the galleries between groups, with Purell dispensers strategically placed throughout the halls. Both guests and staff are currently required to wear face coverings in the museum, and the former are subject to temperature checks upon entry.

Per the museum’s website, visitors are “strongly encouraged” to purchase tickets ($25 per adult, and $15 per child up to the age of 12) online in advance, and pre-select a time slot—though, according to Liedel, the museum is keeping about 20 percent of tickets available for on-site purchase. Up to 35 people are welcomed inside every 15 minutes.

The museum’s rotating gallery, to be updated annually, will debut with artwork by the painter LeRoy Neiman, who served as the Olympics’ official painter for five games. The institution also honors members of Team USA who boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics in response to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, many of whom never had another chance to compete, in its Summer Games gallery.

USOPM may take a similar approach to spotlighting those whose dreams have been put on pause as a result of the pandemic. Paralympic snowboarder Brittani Coury, for example, gave up her training regimen to return to nursing, knowing that she might have to treat patients with the virus; she was inspired by the nurse who helped her through her own rehabilitation when she lost her leg. “We want to honor that,” says Liedel.

One of the museum’s most significant features, though, might be its interactive map, which displays the hometowns of all 12,174 Team USA athletes who have competed in the Olympic and Paralympic Games. “We want kids to be able to come into the museum and find that athletes don’t come from some faraway part of the country,” says Liedel. “They come from their home state or their hometown, or maybe even down the street.” It's a gesture that underscores the museum's mission. “We want to be a museum of hopes and dreams,” says Liedel.