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Cruises

Royal Caribbean launches program to educate agents about CARES Act

Recognizing the complexity of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (Cares) Act passed by Congress last weekend, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCCL) launched a program to help travel agencies navigate and take advantage of the benefits for which they are eligible.

RCL Cares, available to travel professionals in the U.S., Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories, will offer services to help educate travel advisors on the Cares Act through one-on-one assistance and access to the latest information on the recovery benefits.

Accessible through CruisingPower.com, sales teams from Azamara, Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean International and Silversea will be on hand to help.

Educational material about the new law is up and running. But soon, a resource desk will be set up to provide additional services and tools. One thing the program cannot provide is legal advice.

“This is perhaps the most challenging time the travel industry has seen, and we want to do all we can to support those who have supported us throughout our history,” RCCL CEO Richard Fain said in a statement. “Our travel partner community is hurting, and help can’t come too soon.”

RCCL’s four brands have suspended operations through May 12. Fain said that now is the time to turn the company’s attention to caring for its travel advisors, who have seen their income plummet because the coronavirus crisis has kept people on lockdown.

“Any piece of legislation can be challenging to understand, and we want our travel advisors to receive all the financial assistance available to them,” Fain said. “While our ships are idle, we have resources that can be redirected to helping our travel partners so that they will be fully ready and able to charge ahead when we return to service.”

Fain has regularly reached out to the travel advisor community to offer encouragement throughout the current crisis and has urged them to stay in touch with clients so that they can be prepared when the cruise industry resumes its operations. In a video message last week, he told them that they will be needed more than ever once business picks back up. 

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Travel Advisors Come to the Rescue for Stranded Clients

If there was ever a time to turn to your travel advisor, that time would be now. Many travelers were stranded when international travel came to a halt as the coronavirus outbreak spread around the globe, grounding flights, closing hotels and stranding cruise ships.

It became apparent to many that they were not going to be able to change their reservations on their own and travelers turned to travel advisors and their networks of suppliers and foreign contacts to help get them home.

Avery Harris, director of Marketing at Viking Travel and a member of Ensemble Travel Group, rescued clients from Peru when the country closed its borders and canceled commercial flights.

Harris had clients traveling to Peru for a cruise from Lima to Buenos Aires departing on March 15. The clients canceled the cruise portion of the trip but opted to go ahead with their land-based journey to Machu Picchu and Ollantaytambo booked with Way to Go Tours, an Ensemble preferred partner.

The tour went on as planned until they returned to Lima on the day Peru initiated the closure of borders and a full stop of commercial flights, stranding Harris’ clients for at least two weeks in Lima.

His clients were frightened after trying unsuccessfully to get on one of the last flights out of Lima, but Harris was on the phone with them the whole time. He contacted Way To Go to inform them of the situation. The tour operator got in touch with its local operator in Lima who had someone meet his clients at the airport to provide some reassurance and assistance.

With flights suspended, Harris and his team worked to get their clients back to their hotel and to find a way for them to get home. There were more than 3,000 Americans stuck in Peru at the time.

Through his network of contacts in Peru, Harris was able to get his clients on a charter flight from Lima to Miami and, after taxi service was also suspended, he got them a private transfer from the hotel to the airport. Finally, after days of negotiating, Harris’ clients made it back to the U.S.

Lauren Doyle has a similar story to tell, rescuing her travelers from Thailand with the help of local suppliers.

Doyle, who is the executive vice president at The Travel Mechanic and a member of Ensemble, was closely monitoring the situation for her clients in Thailand when the State Department announced its Level 4 advisory.

Since her clients couldn’t get in touch with the airlines, Doyle worked directly with Ensemble’s local supplier, Trails to Indochina, to get her clients to the airport where they could change their tickets. She walked them through the whole process at the ticket counter to get them on a new flight. Trails to Indochina handled their transportation back to the airport and ensured Doyle’s clients made it onto their plane.

These are just two incidents that demonstrate the vast power a travel advisor and their subsequent network of contacts, partners and suppliers can provide during a crisis, along with showcasing the benefit of having an advocate on the ground to help when traveling.

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Viking Plans to Launch Mississippi River Cruising in 2022

Viking plans to launch an all-inclusive, 386-passenger river ship on the Mississippi River in August 2022. The first vessel, Viking Mississippi, will sail voyages on the Lower and Upper Mississippi, between New Orleans and St. Paul.

Currently under construction in Louisiana, the ship will have 193 all-outside staterooms, a clean Scandinavian design, an infinity pool and several restaurants.

Cruise fares will include one complimentary shore excursion in each port of call, all onboard meals, port charges and government taxes, beer and wine with lunch and dinner service, lectures, alternative dining at no extra charge, self-service launderettes, 24-hour room service and free Wi-Fi.

“At a time where many of us are at home, looking for inspiration to travel in the future, I am pleased to introduce a new, modern way to explore this great river,” Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen said. “We invented the concept of modern river cruising when we got our start 23 years ago — first on the rivers of Russia and then in Europe. Since then, many people have come to appreciate the unique exploration that comes with river cruising — but currently there are very few options to do so on American rivers.”

The company had planned to unveil the U.S. plans on April 7 in New Orleans, but then made the announcement on March 30 since the event was canceled.

Ports of call currently on Viking’s new Mississippi River itineraries comprise seven U.S. states: Louisiana (Baton Rouge, Darrow, New Orleans and St. Francisville); Mississippi (Natchez and Vicksburg); Tennessee (Memphis); Missouri (Hannibal, St. Louis); Iowa (Burlington, Dubuque and Davenport); Wisconsin (La Crosse); and Minnesota (Red Wing, St. Paul).

Viking’s past guests could book the inaugural Mississippi cruises 2022-23 season as of March 30; bookings will open to everyone on April 15, 2020.

The announcement comes on the heels of the mid-January reveal of the new Viking Expeditions, with a 378-guest expedition ship, Viking Octantis, launching in January 2022 on voyages to Antarctica and then North America’s Great Lakes. A second expedition vessel, Viking Polaris, will debut in August 2022, sailing to Antarctica and the Arctic.

In the last eight years alone, Viking has introduced more than 60 new river cruise ships and six ocean cruise ships to become the largest small-ship cruise line with a current fleet of 79 river and ocean vessels around the world.

The Viking Mississippi will have all outside staterooms, ranging in size from 268 to 1,024 square feet. All staterooms feature a private veranda or French balcony, king-size bed with luxury linens, large flat-screen interactive TV, mini-bar, large glass-enclosed shower, heated bathroom floor and 24-hour room service.

The Viking Mississippi will have true suites, with two rooms and a full-size veranda off the sitting room. Guests in Penthouse Jr. Suites (400 square feet) and Terrace Suites (425 square feet) receive early stateroom access; double-sink bathroom; mini-bar with alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, water and snacks replenished daily; welcome champagne; and laundry, pressing and shoe shine services. Guests in the Explorer Suites (657 to 1,024 square feet) also receive a wraparound veranda and complimentary Silver Spirits Beverage Package.

The Viking Mississippi will have an Explorers’ Lounge near the bow of the ship similar to those found on Viking’s ocean ships. The sun-filled, two-story Explorers’ Lounge has floor-to-ceiling windows that open to The Bow, a unique outdoor seating area at the front of the ship.

The ship also will have River Café, an indoor/outdoor dining venue on the top deck; Aquavit Terrace, a barbecue restaurant on the top deck; a Sun Terrace with an infinity plunge pool similar to Viking’s ocean ships; and a full 360-degree Promenade Deck on Deck 1.

The cruises will include performances of the region’s music and guest lecturers. On Mississippi River itineraries, guests may take a guided kayaking trip in the Louisiana bayou, visit a working farm in the Quad Cities or learn about the Cajun culture at the Rural Life Museum of Louisiana State University.

The 2022-23 inaugural voyages include an eight-day itinerary between St. Louis and St. Paul, an eight-day between New Orleans and Memphis, an eight-day New Orleans roundtrip and a 15-day voyage between New Orleans and St. Paul.

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Cruise Workers Share Behind the Scenes Look at Empty Ships on Social Media

As more and more cruise lines suspend sailings into May in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), cruise ship crew members are finding themselves with additional downtime and plenty of extra space.

Many have been busy encouraging disappointed travelers to remain patient as the cruise industry will undoubtedly return in the near future.

Others have been busy practicing responsible social distancing with their co-workers.

Your #CruiseCrew is practicing social distancing while enjoying some fresh air and exercise on deck. Thank you all for choosing to #stayhome and stay safe so that we can all sail again together soon! pic.twitter.com/8oumRgCJE7

The canceled voyages also mean our beloved crew members aren’t short on awesome views.

Plus, no passengers mean crew members have more room to roam and opportunities to experience some of their ship’s amenities for themselves.

Much like the travel and tourism industry as a whole, the cruise business has proven resilient throughout the years and is poised to thrive once again in a post-pandemic world.

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Iconic spots to explore on Google Maps now

Exploring the world is absolutely off limits right now due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But if being housebound is leaving you feeling restless and missing the wonders of the world, Google Maps can take you on an array of globetrotting virtual adventures from the comfort of your living room, The Sun reports.

TAJ MAHA L

Taj Mahal, India. Picture: Yawar Nazir/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

If you've ever wanted to take a closer look at the Taj Mahal, why not take this virtual tour.

The impressive building is arguably India's crown jewel of architecture.

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It was built 350 years ago in honour of a powerful ruler's beloved wife.

If you fancy taking a stroll around the building, Google Maps has a video tour, 360-degree panoramic images and a street-view option.

PYRAMIDS OF GIZA

Pyramids of Giza, Egypt. Picture: iStockSource:Supplied

Seeing the Pyramids of Giza is on many bucket lists.

You can travel back in time with Google Maps and take a self-guided tour through the Giza Necropolis.

View pyramid panoramas and take a look at the Sphinx as you learn facts about one of the ancient wonders of the world.

ANGKOR

Angkor Wat. Picture: iStockSource:istock

The ancient city of Angkor was the capital of the Khmer Empire.

It arose in the 9th century and was abandoned around 1431AD.

To explore the ruins of some of its numerous majestic temples just follow this Google Maps virtual tour.

PETRA

Petra, Jordan. Picture: iStockSource:istock

Check the awe-inspiring site of Petra off your list by using Google Maps to explore the archaeological city.

Located in southern Jordan, the iconic Petra facade was created more than 2000 years ago.

VENICE

Venice. Picture: iStockSource:istock

Venice got its name from the ancient Veneti people who moved into the Italian region around the 10th century BC.

You can explore its many canals and gondolas with a scroll of your finger.

This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission

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Suppliers Send Encouraging Video Messages to Travel Advisors

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has heavily impacted the travel and tourism industry, but it should come as no surprise that the sector remains as resilient as ever.

Suppliers, like many, know that travel will eventually return in full force.

In the meantime, companies like Apple Leisure Group are working hard to help make travel agents’ lives easier.

“While there certainly isn’t a playbook for shutting the world down, we’ve tried to lessen your workload by implementing automatic cancellations to destinations as they close,” said, Ray Snisky, Chief Commercial Officer at Apple Leisure Group, Vacations.

“We were quick to roll out agent incentives. This is our way of helping you and keeping our eyes focused on the future. From travel benefits like discounted exclusive nonstop vacation flights, an extra 1 percent commission on Travel Protection Plus and of course an opportunity to earn up to 3,000 WAVES points,” added Scott Wiseman, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Travel Agent Brands.

Chairman of Carnival Corporation, Micky Arison, also provided words of encouragement during this trying time.

“It’s a difficult time. This too will pass. In the end, we can start to rebuild the business the way it was before. It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to take time. It’s going to take effort. But working together I’m very confident that we’ll continue to deliver great vacations to millions of people,” he said.

In addition to tour operators and cruise lines, destinations, hotel and resort brands and others have shared timely messages to travel advisors, reminding them that they are standing by and ready to welcome travelers soon.

Catch Apple Leisure Group’s full video here.

Catch Visit Mexico’s full video here.

Catch Sandos Hotels & Resorts full video here.

Catch Crystal Cruises’ full video here.

Catch Carnival Corporation’s full video here.

Catch Grupo Xcaret’s full video here.

Catch Cruise Planners’ full video here.

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Tan appointed group chief executive with Millennium & Copthorne

The board at City Developments has announced the appointment of Clarence Tan as group chief executive officer for Millennium & Copthorne Hotels.

The 52-year-old hotelier will take up the role on April 2nd.

As the first chief executive for the privatised Millennium & Copthorne, Tan will spearhead a turnaround in the performance of the global hotel portfolio.

Millennium & Copthorne currently encompasses 150 hotels and 43,500 rooms worldwide, many in key gateway cities.

Reporting to City Developments and Millennium & Copthorne Executive Chairman, Kwek Leng Beng, Tan will work closely with the leadership team to deliver sustainable hotel performance by focusing on achieving synergies, cost efficiencies and driving profitability.

Tan has over 20 years of global hospitality experience, with a track record in hotel development and management, financial management, merger and acquisitions, integration, partnerships and joint ventures.

He has deep experience in international hotel chain management, having headed several regions as chief executive or chief operating officer.

He was most recently the managing director for south-east Asia and Korea with InterContinental Hotels Group, where he was responsible for the growth, financial and operational performance of about 100 hotels.

Under his stewardship, the business delivered US$1.2 billion in hotel revenue to the London-listed IHG at a healthy margin and added to their system size and pipeline.

Kwek Leng Beng said: “As a veteran hotelier with a wealth of international experience in hotel operations, management and finance, Tan’s leadership will be critical in navigating Millennium & Copthorne through near-term global and macroeconomic challenges, as well as driving portfolio performance enhancements through significant cost-efficiency initiatives and building brand equity.

“With his extensive and distinguished career in the hospitality industry, and strong business, financial management and business recovery capabilities, I am confident that Clarence will play a key role in this integration and transformational process, elevating Millennium & Copthorne into a formidable global hospitality group.”

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Cruise secrets: Cruise crew member reveals what staff really think when you leave the ship

Cruise ship holidaymakers enjoy being looked after by crew during their trip. Passengers can relax and indulge while on the ship while the staff are hard at work. But what’s it like for the staff themselves? What do they think of these tourists?

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A former cruise ship crew member has revealed what really goes through their minds on disembarkation day when passengers leave the ship.

Sam Catling shared the insight in his 2020 book Seems Like Smooth Sailing.

He explained that it’s only when passengers leave that crew can have some time to themselves so they’re eager for everyone to leave as quickly as possible.

“It’s an early start for debark as there is a lot of people traffic to manage and a lot of questions and complaints to assist with,” he wrote.

“Being that the job on-board is seven days a week, the window of opportunity to go shore and have some proper you time is situated between the old guests leaving and new guests arriving.

“So when the old guests are trudging down the corridor with their luggage saying goodbye to everyone, stopping and starting to make sure they have everything, in the back of your mind is a voice repeating the phrase, ‘Get off get off get off…’

“This internal mantra goes undetected for the most part and is what motivates the crew’s teamwork on these mornings.

“The quicker the crew pull together as a team and get the guests disembarked the more time we would have off that day.”

Catling also went into detail about how his relationship with passengers shifted over the years.

“In my early days of cruising a week went a lot slower as everything was still new to me, and during that time I forged a lot of connections with the passengers,” he explained.

“When it was the end of their holiday I actually felt quite sad to see some of them go.

“Every cruise ended with people crying as they said goodbye to those who they had bonded with.

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“Holiday romances were now coming to an end with the individuals promising to stay in touch which we all know never happens.

“All this emotion up in in the air was by no means a one-off, it was weekly.

“As the weeks went by from the start of my first contract, I gradually developed a thicker skin and I began to put up an emotional brick wall.

“No longer did I get choked up whiners guests had to leave, instead, I learnt to accept that there were no goodbyes really, as there would be another 1000+ guests coming to replace them later on that day.”

In his book, Catling also revealed there’s a common joke that you should think twice about making on a cruise.

Catling wrote: “On formal night one custom is that guests will queue up around the block to meet the captain and have a photo taken with him. It’s not an obligation by any means more a compulsion.

“They figure it’s something they may as well so just so they can say they met him or her, and also because most of them can’t wait to ask their really funny question: ‘Wait, if you’re here who’s driving the ship?’

“Which is funny the first time you hear it but once you hear it an average twenty time a cruise it wears a little thin… I made every effort to make it look as though it was one of those stories that naturally caught me off guard and incited genuine laughter but inside I would be fuming.”

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Siberia journey tops growing number of luxe rail products

When it comes to travel, there are few trips that actually
live up to the now overused, almost cliche term “iconic.” Those that do,
however, often involve luxury trains.

And what fits the definition of iconic better than the
Trans-Siberian Express, the longest rail line in the world?

Rocky Mountaineer CEO Steve Sammut talked about his company’s product and how it has evolved. Read More

As travelers increasingly seek the authentic, Golden Eagle
Luxury Trains recently unveiled its Trans-Siberian Winter Wonderland trip
between Moscow and Vladivostok on cars hauled entirely by steam.

The journey, which departs Feb. 25, follows the classic
trans-Siberian route that is used in the summer, winding for roughly 6,200
miles across eight time zones of frozen wilderness and pulled by no less than
20 steam locomotives.

While the company said the winter trip will be a first for
Golden Eagle, it’s just one example of the growing demand for luxury train
travel.

This year, for example, both Tauck and the Uniworld Boutique
River Cruise Collection have partnered with the company to offer packages in
Europe that include a few nights on the Golden Eagle Danube Express, which
travels through Italy, Vienna and Switzerland.

While most luxury train trips are in far-flung locales such
as South Africa, India and Peru, North America’s Rocky Mountaineer said it has
been seeing huge growth in demand in recent years for its train trips through
western Canada.

Founded 30 years ago by Peter Armstrong, Rocky Mountaineer
started with 1950s-era, single-level rail cars that carried 7,000 passengers a
year. Today, the company has 26 single-level and bilevel, glass-domed cars that
travel through Canada’s scenic Rocky Mountains and carry more than 100,000
guests a year, according to president and CEO Steve Sammut.

Unlike most other luxury rail lines, however, Rocky
Mountaineer’s trains don’t have sleeper cars. Guests disembark at night to stay
in different Canadian mountain towns. And the company offers a host of packages
in partnership with Alaska cruise lines, adventure operators and destinations
in Canada.

The new Golden Eagle trip through Russia is a 22-day passage
offering sleeper cabins with butlers, even an onboard doctor.

The winter trip will travel westbound from Vladivostok to
Moscow. The itinerary includes a visit to Sretensk, one of the most remote
towns in Siberia; a folk performance in the Old Believers Village at Ulan Ude;
and the opportunity to experience a traditional Russian banya (sauna) in
Irkutsk, which is known as the Paris of Siberia.

Other highlights include the neoclassical architecture of
Omsk; a visit to Yekaterinburg, known as the Great Divide between Europe and
Asia; a day in Kazan to discover the Kazan Kremlin, a Unesco World Heritage
Site; a stop at Ulyanovsk, the birthplace of Vladimir Lenin; and Lake Baikal,
the deepest lake in the world, which freezes over completely in winter and
provides a great spot for snowmobiling and dog sledding.

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Carnival ship transformation put on hold

Carnival Cruise Line is suspending work on the Carnival
Victory’s refurbishment in Spain. After a $200 million overhaul, the ship is to
be renamed Carnival Radiance.  

The ship is drydocked in the city of Cadiz. Carnival said
that travel restrictions have made it difficult to secure workers. 

The Carnival Radiance’s four European sailings and
transatlantic crossings have been canceled and guests are being notified. The Radiance
has been scheduled to make its debut on April 29 with a 10-day Mediterranean
sailing from Barcelona. 

The company did not give details on compensation for
canceled cruises.

The Destiny-class vessel is to get 115 additional cabins and
new bars, restaurant and kids clubs. The ship will accommodate 2,998 passengers
at double occupancy when the work is done.

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