Covid 19 coronavirus: Balcony bingo keeps residents entertained in Ireland, Spain

First, it was the Italians singing across their balconies. Now, residents in Spain and Ireland have found a new way to pass the time during lockdown – by playing bingo out their windows.

Videos are doing the rounds on social media of residents in apartment blocks hanging out their windows for a community game of bingo.

In one part of Madrid, balcony bingo is a regular fixture each evening Monday to Friday, starting with music at 6pm to signal residents to get ready for the game.

A woman who organises the bingo games in her building, Cristina Pruenza, told CN Traveler it helps keep them entertained at night.

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This simple hand luggage mistake could cost travellers – even if their bag is light

In recent years, airlines across the world have begun to implement luggage fees for customers. From checked bags to hand luggage, many airlines charge customers hoping to bring with them bags beyond those within their criteria.


  • EasyJet flights: When will Easyjet fly again?

Though most seasoned travellers are now aware of these additional costs, things are made confusing by the fact no two airlines have the same policy, particularly when it comes to hand luggage.

From luggage weight to cabin bag size, rules and regulations vary across the board, and while a bag might be accepted for one airline, it could incur an unexpected fee from another.

This is why travel expert Nicky Kelvin says holidaymakers should always double-check the exact cabin bag size of their chosen airline before they head to the airport.

Speaking to, Nicky, who is the Director of Content for The Points Guy UK, advised: “Have the right size bag for the cabin. EasyJet and BA allow a wider bag for example than most airlines.

“Don’t get caught out by this if you make a connection.”

In fact, luggage sizes can vary noticeably from one airline to another.

easyJets cabin bag policy allows for a bag measuring 56 x 45 x 25 cm including the wheels and any handles.

Meanwhile, British Airways accept bags with dimensions up to 56cm x 45cm x 25cm.

Ryanair on the other hand only allows bags measuring 55 x 40 x 20cm, and impose a charge of £40 if bags need to be checked into the hold at the last minute.

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Luckily, the Irish-carrier does offer a bag sizer app uses your mobile’s camera to scan your hand luggage and show you whether your bag fits either of these size specs.

Of course, the best way to ensure your bag fits into the specifications is to do your research beforehand.

Nicky also emphasises the importance of limiting how much stuff you decide to take in your hand luggage.

This is usually the key to ensuring no extra costs rear their ugly heads.


  • WATCH: Heartwarming moment Virgin staff dance for final flight

“Travel as light as possible,” he says.

“Wear heavy coats or jumpers, only take mini toiletries that are suitable for your length of trip, and remember, most places you go in the world you won’t be caught out if you forgot to stuff your kitchen sink in your bag.”

He adds: “Downsize on items to really maximise weight and space.

“Swapping big over-ear headphones for small earbuds, and large coats for warm down jackets that can be stuffed into tiny spaces can make a big difference when space is at a premium.”

The travel experts also have another sneaky tip for making the most out of your luggage allowance.

“Most airlines allow you to take a carry-on and a small personal item,” divulge the experts.

“While this could be a tiny purse, typically briefcases, regular-size backpacks and even tote bags or small duffels are usually acceptable, and most airlines won’t bother to weigh or measure it (though it’s still best to stay within the size/weight requirements whenever possible).”

Be sure to check your airline’s cabin baggage allowance to ensure they include a personal item too.

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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, 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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Brrr-illiant! The wacky winners of the 2020 hair-freezing contest

Brrr-illiant! The wacky winners of the 2020 hair-freezing contest have been revealed – so which one is YOUR favourite

  • The contest takes place at Takhini Hot Springs, located just north of Whitehorse, in northwest Canada
  • This year there have been 288 entries, and here we present the five overall winners 
  • The winners each scooped $2,000 in prize money, plus free soaks in the Takhini Hot Springs

These are the competitors whose hairstyles coldly went where none had been before.

They are the winners of the Takhini Hot Springs Hair Freezing Contest, where entrants have to dip their heads in the Takhini hot spring, then style their hair and/or beards into an eye-catching shape as the frigid air freezes the strands.

This year there have been 288 entries, and here we present the five winners – Best Male, Best Female, Best Group, Most Creative and People’s Choice – along with a selection of wacky entries.

Best male: This chap went for a semi-yeti look, which hugely impressed the judges

Best female: This competitor wowed by incorporating a prop into her look – a brush frozen amid her locks

This couple’s wacky effort claimed the No1 spot in the People’s Choice category, with 2,163 votes

The organiser said: ‘We had a solid 50 entries this year that we considered for winners. Normally, we had 50 entries or less and had to pick from a few good ones’. Pictured is the winner of the Best Group category

The winners have each scooped $2,000 in prize money, plus free soaks in the steaming lagoon.

The spring is located 20 minutes north of Whitehorse, Yukon, in northwest Canada, and is run by Andrew Umbrich.

He told MailOnline Travel: ‘We found there is a strong correlation between prize money offered and people’s effort.

‘Last year we had four categories each worth $750, this year we had five categories each worth $2,000. Everything changed this year when we got Tim Hortons and Nongshim – an instant noodle company from Korea – to sponsor us.

Entrants keep their ears warm during the process by periodically dipping them into the hot water. Pictured is the winner of the Most Creative category

Ice one, sir: This fellow’s frozen follicles scooped a whopping 562 votes in the People’s Choice category

In second place in the People’s Choice category was this entrant with 1,798 votes. Her efforts to appear completely frozen all over have clearly impressed

In total 331 votes were cast for this chap’s unfeasibly ornate frozen mustache

‘We developed a website just for the contest, offered better prize money, and then the people came out and really tried hard to compete and win.

‘We had a solid 50 entries this year that we considered for winners. Normally, we had 50 entries or less and had to pick from a few good ones.’

The best temperature for hair-freezing is -20C or below, according to a ‘how to’ section on the spring’s website.

It recommends keeping the ears warm during the process by periodically dipping them into the hot water.

Entrants ring a bell near the pool entrance when their style is ready and a member of staff takes their photo. 

MailOnline Travel was impressed with this trio, picked from the gallery of entries available online

The best temperature for hair-freezing is -20C or below, according to a ‘how to’ section on the spring’s website

The spring is located 20 minutes north of Whitehorse, Yukon, in northwest Canada

Entrants ring a bell near the pool entrance when their style is ready and a member of staff takes their photo

Andrew Umbrich, who runs the spring, said: ‘We found there is a strong correlation between prize money offered and people’s effort’

There are five categories altogether – Best Male, Best Female, Best Group, Most Creative and People’s Choice

Branching right out: Another incredible entry to the 2020 hair-freezing competition

Is this your favourite? This entrant amassed 715 votes in the People’s Choice category with a far-out sculpture

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VIDEO: Portugal Tourism Board unveils optimistic new campaign

In an attempt to turn the tide of negative news, the Portuguese tourism board has transformed the communication of the destination from #CantSkipPortugal into #CantSkipHope.

The organisation said the move was a message of hope for all, adjusted to the moment of uncertainty that we are living right now.

With this initiative, the Portuguese tourism board wants to make everyone (tourists, tourism professionals and the Portuguese people) understand that this is the time to pause and refocus so that the industry can eventually move forward.

The video was conceived and produced by teams working from home, therefore making good use of recent archive footage from the Portugal Tourism Board and a voiceover using a smartphone.

Luís Araújo, president of the Portugal Tourism Board, highlights the message of the film: “Above all, we would like for this film to serve as an inspiration for a broader reflection and that it would also be an example of a country’s effort to raise awareness and unite everyone to overcome this difficult moment in human history.”

More Information

The Portugal Tourism Board was recognised as the World’s Leading Tourist Board by voters at the World Travel Awards last year.

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10 of the best travel podcasts

The Bike Show

Frustrated about being stuck indoors rather than out on two wheels? Perhaps affable cycling champion Jack Thurston can help. The author of the popular Lost Lanes cycling guidebooks packs his pannier and pedals alongside fellow bike enthusiasts – poets, inventors, adventurers, activists and even the odd politician – to hear their stories of life in the saddle. Sleeping out in strange places is a Bike Show speciality, so you can spend the night with Jack in a snow-bound Welsh bothy, a church porch, or a French field listening to the joyful noises of wild boar rutting. And you can also hear just how close he and artist Jeremy Deller came to an unscripted dunk in the Regent’s Canal.

The Bitter Southerner

A podcast for anyone who really fancies getting under the skin of the American deep south. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, its host Chuck Reece presents a no-holds-barred cultural guide to the southern states. It’s a spin-off from an eponymous magazine whose mission is to counter the stereotypes and false impressions non-southerners have of the region. Every week, Chuck brings his audience enlightening stories about the culture, history, cuisine, language and innovations of the south. Come for a revealing look at Booker T and the MGs and stay for Squidbillies.

Armchair Explorer

Not content with merely interviewing some of the world’s most interesting adventurers, travel writer Aaron Millar makes every episode of the fortnightly Armchair Explorer an immersive experience. The documentary-style podcast uses production values inspired by cinema to tell its stories. It’s the place to go for trekking into gorilla country with a leading conservationist; marching fearlessly into the Antarctic void on the trail of Shackleton; sinking into the depths of the ocean in a great white shark cage; or escaping into the Alaskan wilderness with Olympic gold medal skiers. And if staying on Earth seems a bit restrictive, you can rocket up to the International Space Station for a space walk with John Herrington, the first Native American astronaut.

The Food Chain

The BBC uses its worldwide reach to good effect in this enigmatic, provender-based podcast. You can listen to internationally renowned chefs describing their lives in five dishes; hear about the uncertain future of south-east Asian street food; or find out what wine waiters are really thinking when they pour out that 2012 Blanc de Plonk you chose on a whim. The presenters plough fearlessly into esoteric topics too, providing the answers to questions you forgot to ask, such as what happens when you pump up balloons of gluten, and what on earth space smells like.

Afropop Worldwide

If your knowledge of African music stops at Youssou N’Dour and Fela Kuti, Afropop Worldwide will soon broaden your horizons. As its name suggests, the podcast takes listeners on a trip round the world, going everywhere African music has gone, sampling everything from hot salsa rhythms in Puerto Rico to the spiritual vibes of west African Vaudou in Utrecht (yes, Utrecht). Let the infectious music, fascinating cultural insights and the lovely, rich voice of Cameroon-born host Georges Collinet transport you to places you may never have thought African music had reached – it’s sure to leave you feeling more upbeat.

Wander Woman

Known for her love of adventurous travel and willingness to rough it in a tiny tent, award-winning writer, broadcaster and Wanderlust editor Phoebe Smith invites listeners into her world. On the look-out for wild spaces where you might not expect them, the podcast avoids well-trodden paths, gets down and dirty with wildlife, and meets conservation heroes. Phoebe reports from the first guided walk owned and operated by Indigenous Australians; a cargo boat on Quebec’s remote Lower North Shore; and attempts a 300-mile kayak around Britain’s waterways. The podcast also features the Wander Woman of the Month – shining a light on unsung female travellers.

Watling Street

A fascinating four-part series from the world of psychogeography. Authors John Higgs and David Bramwell head out on a pilgrimage along one of Britain’s most famous pre-Roman ways – the 450-mile route from the White Cliffs of Dover to north Wales (including the section beyond Wroxeter, where the way diverged). On the way, they meet up with Iain Sinclair, Alan Moore, Salena Godden and others whose work has been inspired or moulded in some way by the prehistoric path. Imaginatively produced, the podcast weaves music, poetry, chat and little-known snippets of Britain’s history and culture into a soundscape that transports listeners to a different place and time.

Field Recordings

A podcast with a very simple but effective brief: asking audio-makers to turn on their microphones and “stand silently in fields (or things that could be broadly interpreted as fields)”. The results are extraordinarily evocative recordings that offer a strangely compelling listening experience. Recent episodes have taken listeners to a beach on the coast of Greenland, the streets of Jenin in Palestine, the Beskid Mountains in Poland, and the Sinharaja tropical rainforest in Sri Lanka to hear dawn break. All you have to do is close your eyes and let your imagination fill in the blanks.

National Trust

The bad news is that the National Trust’s sumptuous array of stately homes, parks and gardens is now closed until the current crisis is over. The good news is that you can still pay them virtual visits via this fortnightly podcast. Indeed, while many episodes begin at a trust property, they end up taking listeners much further afield. Audio gems include historian Bettany Hughes’s time-travelling investigation into British landmarks’ European connections; broadcaster John Sergeant’s four-part exploration of historic landscapes; and Clare Balding’s visits to trust sites to uncover little-known LGBTQ stories.

The Big Travel Podcast

Each episode sees writer and filmmaker Lisa Francesca Nand get together with a well-travelled interviewee to explore their life through the lens of their wanderlust. Happy to go off piste, Nand delights in teasing out weird and wonderful anecdotes from her guests. In the most recent programme she heads for Málaga to chat with genial comedian, musician, birder (and linguist – who knew?) Bill Bailey. Their conversation takes in topics ranging from migrating flycatchers, the carnivorous pitcher plant named in Bill’s honour, and the perils of asking an Estonian audience to name their favourite pop song.

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Despite Bailout Provisions, Airline Workers Getting Hours and Pay Cut

When President Trump signed the CARES Act into law on March 27, provisions were written into the stimulus package that specifically prohibited airlines – recipients of $58 billion in grants and loans – from reducing their respective workforces for six months until Sept. 30, 2020.

Apparently, that might not include reducing hours and pay.

In an in-depth story by David Slotnick of Business Insider, airline employees at major US carriers including Delta, United, American and Southwest are slowly learning that they might not receive their usual full salaries.

With demand for air travel drastically reduced in the wake of the coronavirus global pandemic – the Transportation Security Administration reported that only 185,000 passengers flew on U.S. airlines on Saturday, March 28 compared to 2.1 million a year ago – carriers are trimming hours, and therefore pay, for some employees.

Business Insider obtained two leaked memos from Delta CEO Ed Bastian written to employees outlining the plan.

Days before the signing of the stimulus package, Bastian wrote that “Given the large proportion of the fleet and schedule that we’ve been forced to pull down, there is substantially less work at present for our people to do. With that in mind, it is our responsibility to protect Delta, and we are taking additional temporary steps to preserve cash to help us through this crisis.”

After the President signed the bill into law on March 27, Bastian sent another memo on the same day saying that cuts would still be coming – even though $29 billion of the bailout came in the form of grants that were supposed to protect job security.

The bill, he wrote, was just “one of several steps that we have outlined over the past two weeks designed to protect jobs and our airline. Those include the cash raised in the financial markets; salary reductions for officers and directors; voluntary leaves; reduction in work hours as we substantially downsize our operation; and expense reductions that come from consolidating airport facilities, closing many Delta Sky Clubs, deferring nonessential maintenance and pausing all nonessential capital projects.”

“I know that a temporary reduction in work hours as we shrink the operation is difficult,” Bastian added. “But at Delta we’ve always shared our success, and we stand together to face our challenges as well. This shared sacrifice protects everyone’s jobs and helps ensure that we’ll keep climbing, together, when the crisis passes and we begin our recovery.”

One Delta employee told Business Insider that the reduction in hours was mandatory. Unlike at other airlines, most of Delta’s employees are not represented by collective bargaining agreements, and consequently do not have minimum work-hour entitlements.

At United Airlines, Business Insider noted that with the reduction in flights, pilots and flight attendants who are normally only paid for their time in the air will see a 25-to-30 percent reduction in hours and pay. A United executive told the media outlet that flight attendants will be paid for the minimum number of monthly work hours they’re entitled to receive under their union contract.

According to an official from the Association of Flight Attendants union, that means 71-78 hours depending on how each flight attendant’s schedule is normally structured when they normally work 85-110 flight hours.

TravelPulse reached out to a couple of pilots for their experience. One works for Delta, the other for United.

Both wished to remain anonymous for fear of repercussion, but each confirmed their hours and pay are being cut in April.

“I’m just sitting at home waiting to see how it shakes out right now, but it doesn’t look good,” the Delta pilot said.

The United pilot called it a “bad situation.” But he did confirm he accepted a pay cut knowing it meant his fellow colleagues wouldn’t completely lose their jobs.

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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!

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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