Travel agents picket MPs officers over stalled cruise ship industry


Travel operators across the country will picket federal MPs’ offices today in a bid to get the travel industry back up and running.

Last month the Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, said that ships would be banned from entering Australia until at least February 17.

The chief executive of the Gold Coast-based Bob Wood Cruise Group, Jay McKenzie, said uncertainty around the stalled cruise ship industry was crippling her business. 

“Unfortunately, come the middle of December they decided to extend the cruise ban until February 17.

“We have a real concern that within the next three or four weeks they’re just going to roll that ban over again.”

The Robina-based agent said many different sectors of the travel industry rely on cruising, including booking agents.

a closed travel agency displays closed signs on its doors
The Australian Federation of Travel Agents says Australians are holding over $8 billion in international travel credits.(AAP: Mick Tsikas)

“There are companies like mine which is a destination management company,” she said.

“We look after the various ships when they come into the ports along the Queensland coast and around Australia.

“We’ve got one of the largest providers of cruise ship entertainers based here. We’ve got produce growers, wineries, tour guides and they’re all based here on the Gold Coast.

Ms McKenzie said the industry needed a road map to provide certainty so cruise line companies can begin the process of scheduling cruises.

“It takes two to three months to get a cruise ship into Australian waters,” she said.   

“Even if they do say on February 17 that the ban is not going to be extended, we won’t see a ship here until the end of May, beginning of June.” 

Funding sought

During the pandemic travel agencies had access to JobKeeper and targeted grants, but the chief executive of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA), Dean Long, said more support was needed.

“That’s broken up into two tranches: One a business support package which will assist in cash flow; the second part will be a skills retention package which is about $100 million to help their businesses re-engage their employees.”

Qantas plane taking off.
The Australian Federation of Travel Agents said more than 15,000 people have left the industry during the pandemic.(AAP)

Mr Long said Australians are holding more than $8 billion in international travel credits and there was a shortage of agents to process travel arrangements.

“We’ve lost over 15,000 employees through the first 24 months of this pandemic,” he said.

“Without additional support we are looking at losing another 10,000.”

Walked away 

Annie Ajayi lives on the Gold Coast and worked as a travel agent for more than 18 years, until recently.

“It’s just been a roller-coaster ride,” she said.

Ms Ajayi said her former employer operated five travel businesses, but since the pandemic his workforce has been whittled from 35 staff down to five.  



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Visiting a cruise line’s private island? Don’t make these 11 mistakes






Visiting a cruise line’s private island? Don’t make these 11 mistakes





















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What it’s like to cruise during Omicron


Editor’s Note — Sign up for Unlocking the World, CNN Travel’s weekly newsletter. Get news about destinations opening and closing, inspiration for future adventures, plus the latest in aviation, food and drink, where to stay and other travel developments.

(CNN) — Cruise ships turning around mid-voyage. People placed in quarantine cabins on board. Voyages abruptly canceled. Crew members trying to appease unhappy customers.

It all feels a bit like deja vu, but the cruise industry is soldiering on as the Omicron coronavirus variant makes its presence felt at sea as it has on land.

In the early days of the pandemic, cruise ships became synonymous with Covid-19, as virus-hit vessels struggled to disembark passengers and crew. The cruise industry subsequently shut down for months, and while some European journeys recommenced in summer 2020, cruise ships didn’t navigate US waters for another year.

When cruising did return, it was with stringent rules designed to mitigate the impact of Covid-19. This combination of mask-wearing, testing, vaccinations and increased medical facilities led Martyn Griffiths of industry body Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) to tell CNN Travel in June 2021 that cruise ships were “one of the safest vacation environments available today.”

Vessels weren’t guaranteed virus-free, CLIA said, but the goal was to avoid severe illness and major disruption.

Six months later, as the highly transmissible Omicron spreads around the world, the situation seems a little more precarious.

Health and safety

“There is no doubt that the Omicron variant has cast a great deal of uncertainty into the travel and tourism sector overall,” said Bari Golin-Blaugrund, another CLIA representative, in a recent CNN Travel interview.

Golin-Blaugrund made the case that while there have been several recent reports of Covid outbreaks on board the world’s cruise ships, Covid cases are a “minority.”

She said cruise lines remain confident in their health and safety measures, adding that these measures “are proving successful to virtually eliminate severe outcomes,” as hospitalizations are minimal.

While fully vaccinated people are not immune to Omicron, Dr William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert at Vanderbilt University, told CNN Travel that “booster shots improve the individual’s protection against getting severe disease.”

However Schaffner cast doubt on cruise lines’ ability to control the spread of the virus on board, even with fully vaccinated passengers and crew, and additional levels of protection in place such as mask wearing and regular testing.

“It’s not so clear how much boosting helps to diminish transmission, especially in such high potential transmission circumstances where people are so close together for such prolonged periods of time,” he said.

Schaffner suggested any traveler who chooses to go on a cruise at present is likely aware of the potential risk and uncertainty, and will have weighed this up before boarding.

“I think they must share a certain confidence in what it is that both the cruise line industry, as well as their fellow passengers are doing in order to mitigate the risk,” he said.

“And to a degree, they must feel themselves if not invulnerable, but likely to survive an infection. I mean, you would have to go through that kind of thinking before you decided to go cruising at the present.”

Passengers disembarking the Celebrity Apex cruise ship in Crown Bay Marina in Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, on January 19, 2022.

Passengers disembarking the Celebrity Apex cruise ship in Crown Bay Marina in Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, on January 19, 2022.

Gabby Jones/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Certainly, unlike the passengers caught up in the Covid fallout of Spring 2020, those on cruise ships today are aware Covid-19 is a risk, in the sense that they could catch it and fall ill, or the virus could disrupt travel plans.

British traveler Joy Bailey experienced first-hand what happens during a Covid outbreak at sea when she flew with her husband from the UK to Florida to embark on a Christmas/New Year sailing on board the Celebrity Equinox in late 2021. The 2,850 passenger capacity vessel operated by Celebrity Cruises was sailing at 60% capacity.

Bailey told CNN Travel that she accepted “we’re all going to get Omicron at some time,” but hoped the decreased capacity and other measures enforced by Celebrity Cruises would mitigate the likelihood of her catching the virus on board.

From the outset, Bailey said she was a little uncomfortable as many passengers ignored Celebrity Cruises’ face mask policy.

Five days into the journey, she tested positive. Bailey spent the rest of the voyage confined to a quarantine cabin, joined there by her husband when he tested positive a few days later.

Isolating on the ship was “good and it was bad,” according to Bailey.

The couple had a balcony cabin, so they could sit in the sun to pass the time. But they also describe waiting an hour on the phone to order meals.

When the voyage came to an end, Bailey told CNN Travel she was advised by Celebrity Cruises to head to a hotel she and her husband had pre-booked in Fort Lauderdale. The couple now faced a longer stay there before their return to the UK, as Bailey’s husband was still isolating.

The cruise company told them to contact its “care team” on shore to get assistance re-arranging their flight, but according to Bailey, the couple struggled to get through to the number provided. When they did get through, they were told no help could be given because they weren’t in Celebrity’s designated isolation hotel.

“That was a crazy moment,” said Bailey. In the end, they contacted their travel agent, who contacted Celebrity directly and changed their flight.

Celebrity paid for Bailey’s stay in isolation. She and her husband were also offered up to $100 a day to spend on food. The cruise line is also covering the days they lost on the cruise itself.

“All in all, it wasn’t too dreadful,” said Bailey. “But the experience with Celebrity on the ground in Miami was awful. I think they were just overwhelmed.”

This was Bailey’s first cruise in the wake of Covid. Pre-pandemic, she would cruise every couple of years. Testing positive on board hasn’t put her off traveling by sea, she said, but she’d like to see better coordination between the ship and the ground staff.

“We deeply regret this guest’s experience as it was not in keeping with the high levels of care and service we pride ourselves on providing,” a Celebrity Cruises spokesperson told CNN Travel in response to Bailey’s claims.

“We quickly learned from the experience and have since introduced a dedicated concierge team to ensure the needs of any guests impacted onboard are met every step of the way.”

Changing itineraries

Daniel Jay Park on board the January 9 sailing of the Norwegian Gem, which unexpectedly became a "cruise to nowhere."

Daniel Jay Park on board the January 9 sailing of the Norwegian Gem, which unexpectedly became a “cruise to nowhere.”

Daniel Jay Park

The current Omicron chaos has also led cruise lines to cancel sailings, sometimes mid-voyage.

Passenger Daniel Jay Park said the unexpected termination of his January 9 sailing on board the Norwegian Gem — a 294-meter-long ship which was sailing with a reduced capacity of 800 — didn’t impact his enjoyment of the voyage.

The ship set sail from New York before cutting its voyage short at the Caribbean island of St Maarten. Park told CNN Travel that when letters were sent to cabins to inform of the cancellation, passengers were “confused” and “a little frazzled.”

While Park and his husband were disappointed to miss the scheduled Caribbean ports, they decided to make the most of the circumstances, assured by the fact that everyone on board would have been vaccinated.

“I trust science and technology,” Park told CNN Travel.

The letter also stated that travelers would be entitled to full refunds.

Passengers were still able to freely roam around the ship and enjoy activities, said Park. Essentially, the voyage became a “cruise to nowhere” — something some many have opted into voluntarily in recent months in countries including the UK, Singapore and Hong Kong.
Daniel Jay Park and his husband made the most of their time on Norwegian Gem.

Daniel Jay Park and his husband made the most of their time on Norwegian Gem.

Daniel Jay Park

Park said the experience didn’t put him off cruising, he also has nothing but praise for the way Norwegian Cruise Line handled the unexpected situation.

“We were just having so much fun and they were so good to us,” he said. “And now that the cruise was free, I’m like, ‘Oh my god, we have all the money back on our credit cards, let’s go again.”

Park said that the cruise line didn’t give an exact reason for Norwegian Gems’ cancellation.

A spokesperson for Norwegian Cruise Line told CNN Travel that Norwegian Gem was impacted by the “current fluid public health environment” which means the cruise line must “make tough decisions and often times with very short notice.”

The spokesperson confirmed passengers were refunded with their original form of payment, and also provided with $100 onboard credit per stateroom and given a “Future Cruise Certificate” valued at 50% of the voyage fare paid.

“The rapid spread of the Omicron Variant around the world may shape how some destination authorities with limited medical resources view even a small number of cases, even when they are being managed with our vigorous protocols,” said CLIA’s Golin-Blaugrund.

She added that CLIA is not aware of any situations in which passengers have been prevented from disembarking at their final destinations.

Crew perspective

Crew members on board the Norwegian Pearl, which returned to Miami after only one day at sea in early January 2022.

Crew members on board the Norwegian Pearl, which returned to Miami after only one day at sea in early January 2022.

Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images

Crew members working on cruise ships right now face an uncertain day-to-day. CLIA’s Bari Goin-Blaugrund confirmed reports that sometimes Covid-hit crew are transferred to specific quarantine vessels.

“CLIA ocean-going member lines have been utilizing out-of-service ships for crew members who have tested positive for Covid-19,” she said. “Crew members are then monitored by the ships’ medical team during the course of their 10-day quarantine before returning to their assigned ships.”

A crew member working on a ship operated by Regent Seven Seas in the Caribbean told CNN Travel that while they felt relatively well-protected from Covid-19, there are other stresses involved in working on board during the pandemic — including dealing with schedule changes.

“A lot of our guests actually, they’re just enjoying the process,” said the crew member, who spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media. “But some, they start to complain, and of course it affects the crew because if, during your work, during the service on a daily basis, you have to calm them down, it’s not very pleasant.”

The crew member, who spent four months sequestered at sea during the spring 2020 Covid outbreak, said they were prompted to sign up again in October 2021 partly due to a lack of hospitality jobs on land.

They said they started their present contract before Omicron hit, and subsequently agreed to an extension to help cover staffing shortages.

While there was no written guarantee, the crew member hoped the cruise line might allow staff to disembark for shore leave. So far that’s not been permitted.

“It’s illogical, because the safe bubble is already destroyed when some people go ashore,” the crew member said, adding that not being allowed off board impacts crew mental health.

Regent Seven Seas and its owner, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Looking to the future

Golin-Blaugrund is hopeful for a brighter cruising future — CLIA’s goal is all ocean-going cruise ships back in operation by summer 2022.

Cruise ships in US waters were previously subject to Covid-19 rules enforced by the US Centers for Disease and Protection (CDC). This has now become optional, but Golin-Blaugrund said most cruise lines will likely continue to work with the CDC.

Meanwhile infectious disease expert William Schaffner is cautiously optimistic about how Covid-19 might develop in 2022 — at least in countries with readily available vaccines — as boosters and rising natural immunity could render the virus endemic rather than pandemic.

“If that occurs, then the risk for all kinds of congregate activities, including cruising would go way down,” Schaffner said

Still, added Schaffner, cruise ships by their nature travel across the world, stopping in different ports — and each destination may be in a different stage of its Covid-19 journey. The cruise ship population — both passengers and crew — are also international.

Cruise ships could continue to be navigating tricky waters for some time yet.

Top photo: Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas docked in front of lower Manhattan in December 2021. Courtesy Gary Hershorn/Getty Images.



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Imagine Cruising’s new Rhodes and Greek Isles cruise holiday | Travel News | Travel


Picture yourself basking in the Grecian sunshine at a five-star resort, lounging by the pool before heading out to explore those waterfront tavernas for a sunset cocktail. 

Well, that’s exactly what’s on offer courtesy of a new holiday from Imagine Cruising that oozes luxury. 

The new 12-night Rhodes Retreat & Greek Isles cruise has everything you could want for a much-deserved break; an all-inclusive, five-star Rhodes holiday, and a cruise to breathtaking locations from Santorini to Naples. 

For the first five nights of the holiday you’ll be staying at the five-star, all-inclusive Mitsis Grand Hotel Beach Hotel which offers a state-of-the-art spa, THREE pools, six restaurants, two bars and other perks such as access to concierge and transfer services.

It’s also located within walking distance of Rhodes’ picturesque Old Town where there are plenty of shops and bars as well as landmarks such as the Palace of the Grand Master and the Knights.

From Rhodes, it’s on to a glamorous seven-night sailing on board Princess Cruises’ Regal Princess

The cruise ship, which boasts the Duchess of Cambridge as its godmother, has heaps of brilliant amenities for passengers to enjoy including adults-only retreat Sanctuary, restaurants ranging from grills to pizzerias, and plenty of Princess classics such as a giant poolside film screen, or the glass-bottomed SeaWalk® walkway to be found on the top deck.

As for the ports of call? Adventurers won’t be disappointed. 

The cruise first sails to Santorini, where the whitewashed buildings and blue domed churches make for picture-perfect backdrops, while the waterfront tavernas are a must-visit for a drink with a view.

You’ll then head on to the Bay of Kotor, an old port in Montenegro with attractions such as the artificial island Our Lady of the Rocks that’s built on sunken ships, as well as its buildings’ beautiful architecture.

Messina – hailed as the gateway to Sicily – is next on the itinerary with its beautiful cathedral and delicious food, as well as spectacular views of Mount Etna.

While there’ll be plenty of gourmet dining on offer throughout the cruise thanks to the speciality restaurants, foodies are sure to enjoy the next port of call, Naples. Get ready to sample some of the world’s best pizza, although you may want to leave room on the itinerary for the hike to see Mount Vesuvius first! 

The holiday ends in Barcelona, where you’ll disembark and head to the airport for your flights back to the UK. 

Want to be on board? Prices start from £1,299pp based on April-October 2022 departures. Find out more and book at imaginecruising.co.uk.





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Andrea Zelinski joins Travel Weekly as senior cruise editor: Travel Weekly


Andrea Zelinski has joined Travel Weekly’s editorial staff as senior editor covering the cruise beat.

T0124ANDREAZELINSKI_C [Credit: Andrea Zelinski]

Andrea Zelinski

An award-winning journalist, Zelinski brings 15 years of experience providing both breaking news and longer, explanatory pieces for the Houston Chronicle, Associated Press and Texas Monthly, among other media outlets. She holds a masters degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois.

“We’re delighted that such a seasoned reporter is covering cruise for us,” said Travel Weekly editor in chief Arnie Weissmann. “It’s a critically important beat for our readers, and Andrea’s background and experience are a great match for this assignment.”

With Zelinski’s hire, Johanna Jainchill will return full-time to her role as Travel Weekly news editor. Jainchill filled in as acting cruise editor during much of the pandemic.



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Maple Grove Travel Agent Discusses Impact of CDC’s Cruise Ship Warning


10:00 AM | Sunday, January 16, 2022

When the temperature sometimes struggles to reach zero, it’s a perfect time for Minnesotans to think about escaping to warmer climates. But the CDC just put out a recommendation saying that Americans should not travel on cruise lines due to a rise in COVID-19 cases caused by the contagious Omicron variant. The news has had quite the impact on local travel agents. 

“I think we’re just kind of hoping to ride this out,” said Ted Blank, a travel adviser from Travel Leaders in Maple Grove.

Blank says that cruising remains a popular way for Minnesotans to escape to other parts of the globe, but the recent CDC warning has travelers raising concerns.

“We definitely have had people cancel cruises,” Blank said. “We have definitely had people postpone cruises until a later date. Right now, that still represents a smaller percentage of our bookings. I think that the cruise lines are really taking the time to review the protocols that they have and doing everything they can to be safe.”

cdc travel warning

Ted Blank is a travel adviser from Travel Leaders in Maple Grove.

Blank says cruises require all passengers and crew members to be vaccinated, so travel agents say people aren’t worried so much about whether they’ll get sick while cruising, but whether they’ll be forced to quarantine if they test positive.

Blank says that since cruises resumed in June of 2021, 1 percent of passengers have had to quarantine after testing positive.

“Now the good news is that cruise lines have very advanced medical treatment on board the ships,” he said. “So if you were to be ill, there would be someone there to take care of you. Some of the cruise lines, if you test positive, they’ll actually pop you on a private jet and fly you right home. So a lot of options for you.”

Meanwhile, travel agents encourage people to purchase travel insurance. That gives travelers a safety net to cover expenses in case something happens on their trip or if they have to cancel their plans altogether.

Maple Grove



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The best time to cruise Alaska






The best time to cruise Alaska




















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Many of the credit card offers that appear on the website are from credit card companies from which ThePointsGuy.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). This site does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers. Please view our advertising policy page for more information.

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.



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Can a Gay Cruise Keep 5,500 People Safe Amid Covid?


Out of the 2,700 rooms sold, Mr. Campbell said only 35 have been canceled since Jan. 1.

For guests who cannot travel because of government restrictions or lockdowns, Atlantis is showing more flexibility and issuing credits for future cruises, Mr. Campbell said. Because of the fast-changing circumstances of the pandemic, he said, the company is approaching cancellation requests on a case-by-case basis and trying to accommodate as many people as possible.

“We are here to take care of people and we are doing our best,” he said. “But if someone comes to us and just says they want their money back, because they don’t feel comfortable going on the cruise, then we recommend that they take out ‘cancel for any reason’ travel insurance.”

Since restarting operations in the United States in June, many cruise lines and tour operators have adopted flexible cancellation policies, offering credit or refunds to customers who want to make itinerary changes because of the coronavirus.

Before the pandemic, Atlantic Events hosted more than 25,000 guests each year, organizing specialty gay and lesbian events on cruise ships and resorts around the world. Last year it was forced to cancel or postpone several events, including its 30th anniversary cruise.

“We had almost two years with no income, and we are a tiny self-financed company. It was a huge challenge to survive,” Mr. Campbell said.

While the company does not offer refunds, it says that the health and safety of its guests is a top priority and it will be enforcing Royal Caribbean’s health and safety protocols, which includes a mask mandate indoors except while eating and drinking and in crowded spaces outdoors. Royal Caribbean officials say that while the Omicron variant has driven up cases on board its ships in recent weeks, most infections have been mild and have not resulted in severe illness. Still, with a growing number of crew members and passengers contracting the virus, the cruise line, like other cruise companies, has canceled several voyages this month in what it said was “an abundance of caution” as a result of “ongoing Covid-related circumstances.”

Passengers booked on the Atlantis cruise are closely watching the Celebrity Millennium cruise ship, which was chartered by another L.G.B.T travel company this week for a seven-night Caribbean cruise. The capacity for that ship is much smaller, at 2,218 passengers, but coronavirus cases have been reported to the C.D.C. and reached their threshold for an investigation.



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Why my private island cruise villa was sort of worth it






5 hours for $1,800: Why my private island cruise villa was sort of worth it
























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Many of the credit card offers that appear on the website are from credit card companies from which ThePointsGuy.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). This site does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers. Please view our advertising policy page for more information.

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.



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