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Travel What’s Happening to All Those Empty Cruise Ships?

20:21  30 march  2020
20:21  30 march  2020 Source:   cntraveler.com

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So where are all those empty cruise ships now? Several cruise lines are opting to pause new ship launches that were previously scheduled for early 2020. This includes the postponement of two significant new cruise lines that were meant to debut their flagships in the coming months: Richard

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a large ship in a body of water © Courtesy MSC Cruises

Nearly the entire cruise industry has halted operations in recent weeks in response to the growing COVID-19 pandemic. Most lines have suspended global operations until April, May, or beyond, leaving their ships without their typical itineraries to sail. So where are all those empty cruise ships now? We asked a few cruise lines to find out.

Floating hospitals and temporary housing

Carnival Corporation—parent company to lines like Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line, and Princess Cruises—has offered up to 15 vessels in its 105-ship fleet as temporary hospitals, with each one able to accommodate as many as 1,000 makeshift hospital rooms. Governments and health authorities around the globe are considering the proposal; while the ships would not be used to care for COVID-19 patients directly, they would free up beds and alleviate pressure at land-based hospitals by taking on less-critical patients. Under this arrangement, medical services would be provided by the government or hospital entity (who would also have to cover the ship’s operation costs while in port), while the ship’s crew would maintain maritime, food and beverage, and cleaning services.

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Cruise lines have suspended operations – so where are all the ships going? The huge Carnival Cruise Line fleet is docked at ports all around the US but among those still at sea are Carnival Sensation, off Miami, and Carnival Panorama and Carnival Imagination, both off Long Beach, California.

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“Although we are early in our process, we've had more than a dozen initial responses so far with conversations underway,” says Roger Frizzell, senior vice president and chief communications officer at Carnival Corporation. “We don't have any firm agreements in place yet, but we're making good progress.”

a large ship in a body of water: Carnival Cruise Line is one of several offering their empty cruise ships as temporary hospitals. © Getty Carnival Cruise Line is one of several offering their empty cruise ships as temporary hospitals.

According to reports, U.K.-based cruise line Saga Cruises has made a similar offer to the U.K. government for two of its ships, while European company MSC Group—parent company to MSC Cruises—has already converted its ferry ship Splendid into a floating hospital to service the Liguria region of Italy with up to 400 additional hospital beds. Florida-based Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line also offered its two ships to the U.S. government for medical services or temporary housing needs.

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U.S.-based sister lines American Queen Steamboat Company and Victory Cruise Lines are in talks with the U.S. government to potentially use their six vessels as provisional housing for U.S. military personnel that are under quarantine (whether they have recently arrived from or will be deployed to a foreign country), in cities like Seattle, San Diego, St. Louis, New Orleans, Norfolk, and Miami.

Staying at home

Many companies have returned their ships to their home ports wherever possible, though some vessels have been displaced due to a shortage of berths, especially in heavily trafficked ports like Miami and Fort Lauderdale. In such instances, ships have been looking to neighboring ports like Gulfport, Mississippi, or Jacksonville, Florida.

Other lines are tapping their own private cruise ports and islands. According to cruise tracking site CruiseMapper, five of Royal Caribbean’s mega-ships are just offshore of the line’s private Bahamian island at CocoCay. Other lines like Holland America, Celebrity, and Princess are anchoring off the coast of the Bahamas, close to their parent company’s private Bahamian islands and resorts, as well as to cities like Freeport, which have good options for provisions and fuel.

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In American waters, cruise ships have been mired in regulations imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US health protection He says: "I really just want to emphasize to all of the governments around the world to stop saying that the last cruise ship has come home, and the

“Such locations allow the crew to freely disembark the vessel and use the island's recreation facilities,” said a rep for CruiseMapper. “Plus, there are no port fees there, so these are economically the most advantageous locations to lay up liners during the no-cruising period.”

Messages of hope

a large body of water with a city in the night sky: Princess Cruises' Sky Princess illuminated at night. © Courtesy Princess Cruises Princess Cruises' Sky Princess illuminated at night.

Several cruise ships have been using their exteriors as pop-up billboards, illuminating them with inspiring messages that are “spelled out” via crew-coordinated efforts to turn on the lights in select stateroom windows after dark.

Carnival is lighting all of its ships that are visible from North American and Australian ports nightly with the message, “We will be back.” On Princess Cruises, Sky Princess wrote out "#WeWillBeBack”; P&O Cruises illuminated its Azura to say "We'll meet again”; and MSC Cruises covered MSC Grandiosa with the Italian phrase “Andra' tutto bene,” meaning “Everything will be fine.”

New ship launches held for now

Several cruise lines are opting to pause new ship launches that were previously scheduled for early 2020. This includes the postponement of two significant new cruise lines that were meant to debut their flagships in the coming months: Richard Branson’s Virgin Voyages—which has now postponed its scheduled launch from April to August—and The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, a spinoff of the upscale Ritz-Carlton hotel group, which is pushing back its debut date from June 2020 to April 2021.

Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Apex, which was due out in early April, is now likewise being delayed, though the new launch date has yet to be released. While no official announcements have been made to date, other high-profile and imminently scheduled cruise ship launches that will likely be postponed include Princess Cruises’ Enchanted Princess and P&O Cruises’ Iona—the biggest ship ever built for the U.K. market.

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