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Stalled cruise industry targets repeat guests with Cha Cha lessons and Chopin



(Reuters) – Retired New Yorkers Mahlon and Kim Russell have taken 15 cruises over the past 15 years, visiting destinations from Tahiti to St. Petersburg, primarily with Norwegian Cruise Line.

After canceling a fall trip to Europe, in July the Russells booked a 10-day cruise around Australia and New Zealand – for January 2022.

“We love cruising,” said Mahlon Russell. “But we don’t love it enough to be the first ones out of the gate.”

The cruise industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with shares of the three major global operators down an average of 51% since the start of March, as their revenue stream has dried up.

But the three – Carnival Corp (CCL.N), Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH.N), and Royal Caribbean Cruises (RCL.N) – are expecting solid 2021 bookings, leaning heavily on repeat cruisers like the Russells.

Operators are reporting a mix of new cash bookings and people redeeming credits they received for canceled cruises this year. In 2019, over 80% of people who went on cruises said that they would book another cruise as their next vacation, industry trade group Cruise Lines International Association found in a survey.

“We absolutely believe when we come out of this we will lean into our repeat cruisers,” said Carnival Cruise Line president Christine Duffy in an interview. “They really are the ambassadors for the cruise industry.”

Regular cruisers are less likely to be scared off because the vacation concept is familiar and they have seen other blows to the industry – like the 2003 SARS outbreak or 2012 Costa Concordia disaster – as isolated events, said Credit Suisse analyst Benjamin Chaiken.

Keeping those regulars engaged has been a part of the industry’s comeback strategy. During the pause in operations – which will continue through at least the end September for ocean-going ships departing the United States – cruise operators are using low-cost digital marketing to remind repeat guests what they are missing.

In one video posted on social media and emailed to past customers, Regent Seven Seas Cruise Director David Nevin hosts a virtual ‘tea time’ and sings “Hallelujah” in the ship’s vacant Constellation Theater. Small luxury cruise provider Seabourn has hosted at-home Cha Cha dance lessons from a ship choreographer named Pasha, and a concert performed by pianist Panos Karan, decked out in a tuxedo.

There are no signs of buffets, spa treatments or other pandemic turn-offs. Instead, Carnival-owned Holland America Line features a performance from cruise musician Mohamed Shams, who plays Schubert’s “Impromptu in G flat minor” from his grandmother’s house in Queens, New York – her teddy bear collection perched atop the piano.

Executives hope their marketing efforts will stoke demand for a restart that initially will involve limited capacity and fewer trips.

“Very loyal cruisers know exactly what suite they wish to have. What deck they wish to be on,” said Chris Austin, Seabourn’s Senior Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing. “Loyal cruisers definitely say ‘Yes, I want to be in the Mediterranean for 14 days sailing around the Greek Isles in 2021’ and they know that they want the Wintergarden Suite.”

Staying afloat

To resume cruising from the United States, operators must submit for approval their health and safety plans to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which issued and then extended the ‘No Sail Order’ that grounded ships. The operators must also comply with rules governments around the world set to obtain access to ports.

Most companies have yet to announce details for the health and safety protocols they expect to come with a restart, but there is pressure to get it right. Some of the earliest COVID-19 outbreaks occurred aboard Carnival-owned cruise ships; all three operators have been the target of class action lawsuits related to the pandemic.

Cruising operators are currently burning up to $650 million per month to cover their costs while they wait, as they service idled ships. Some have increased their cash flow through a combination of debt and equity offerings, allowing for longer runways with no revenue.

Carnival CEO Arnold Donald said on the company’s July 10 earnings call that it has enough liquidity to withstand another full year without revenue. Norwegian CEO Frank Del Rio said in an earnings statement in May that the firm could weather over 18 months of suspended voyages.

Royal Caribbean has enough liquidity to last until mid-2021 with no operations, according to a June 4 report from Moody’s Investor Service. Royal Caribbean declined to comment.

To entice customers wary of the fast-moving rule changes that have come with the pandemic, many cruise lines are offering more flexible policies, such as the ability to cancel within 48 hours of departure and receive credit for a future cruise.

But for even the most hardcore cruisers who are considering booking trips, sanitization is likely to matter more than Schubert.

“I don’t know how they will handle the massive changes they need to make the experience safe,” said Mahlon Russell, the frequent cruiser. “But I’m not going on a cruise ship until I know that it works.”

Reporting and photo: Reuters


Last call to cruise Maldives aboard Four Seasons Explorer



Last call! The stunning Four Seasons Explorer will be cruising through the sun-drenched turquoise atolls until May 1, 2023 – leaving intrepid explorers just a few months to embark on a once-in-a-lifetime Maldivian odyssey between the two Four Seasons resorts of Kuda Huraa and Landaa Giraavaru before the boat relocates to thrilling new waters.

This is an incredible final opportunity to escape on an all-inclusive 3-, 4-, or 7-night Winter of Wonders cruise on board the luxurious three-deck, 11-cabin catamaran, experiencing multiple bucket-list encounters each day.

Guests can dive and snorkel isolated reefs, encounter rare marine animals up close, dine under the stars in the middle of nowhere and indulge in spa treatments on remote, uninhabited islands. Retiring to 10 spacious cabins or the unrivalled Explorer Suite to reenergise and rejuvenate, each cruise fluidly adapts to the needs of onboard guests and the best of the surrounding waters on any given day.

Secure one of the last remaining places on Four Seasons Explorer – Four Seasons only “floating resort” – before she bids farewell to the Maldives for the last time.

To be one of the last guests to experience a Maldivian atoll cruise aboard Four Seasons Explorer, contact the Central Reservations Department team at tel: (960) 66 00 888 or email

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Dive into luxury at sea with Four Seasons Explorer seasonal cruise routes



After many months cooped up at home, and many missed travel experiences, Four Seasons Explorer – the brand’s only floating resort – offers marine adventurers a ticket to fresh sea air, blissful seclusion, bucket-list experiences, and a different view every morning with two extraordinary seasonal cruise itineraries: Winter of Wonders, and Summer of Mantas.

Available to a maximum of 22 guests at a time, the gleaming 39-metre (128 foot), three-deck vessel takes divers, snorkellers and avid adventurers on all-inclusive three-, four- or seven-night odysseys into some of the Indian Ocean’s most abundant waters, complete with gourmet dining, spa therapies, water sports, island visits and Four Seasons inimitable service standards.

From now until May 29, 2022 (and again from October 31 to December 18, 2022), experience a different extraordinary every day with Winter of Wonders cruises: endless bucket-list encounters across five atolls, from coral-ceilinged caves to camera-happy sharks, swim-through tunnels to a fish-filled wreck. Winter of Wonders cruises sail between Four Seasons two sister Maldivian Resorts on a 3-, 4- and 7-night itinerary, departing from Kuda Huraa on Mondays and Landaa Giraavaru on Thursdays.

From June 27 to October 31, 2022, itineraries change to Summer of Mantas, in line with the huge seasonal aggregations of manta rays and whale sharks that come to the region to feed. Get up close and personal with the world’s largest known population of manta rays alongside The Manta Trust team dedicated to studying them during an epic gentle giants odyssey through the Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and into Rasdhoo, North and South Ari Atolls.  Summer of Mantas cruises depart from and arrive back to Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru on a 3-,4- and 7-night itinerary.

Each of the 10 air-conditioned staterooms offer blue-hued views through large windows, along with spacious ensuite bathrooms, refrigerated private bars, and flat-screen LCD TVs. For the ultimate luxury, the expansive Explorer Suite boasts an abundance of interior space, a wall of windows, and its own sunbathing deck.

A floating 5-Star PADI Dive Centre, Four Seasons Explorer features the latest Scubapro dive gear, Cressi snorkelling gear and Olympus cameras, while a team of multi-lingual instructors share the full spectrum of PADI courses at a bespoke pace with highly individualised attention.

Sandbank spa treatments, gourmet dining, and water sports take the Four Seasons experience to sea within sleek, chic interiors that include a new sun deck, a lounge, a library, a restaurant and two bars.

The boat is also available for private dive, surf or leisure charters for groups of up to 22.

With the health and safety of its guests and staff a top priority, Four Seasons Explorer provides the ultimate care, confidence, trust and comfort through its Lead With Care programme – heightened health and safety protocols led by global experts that include enhanced cleanliness, physical distancing measures in shared spaces, and empowering staff training grounded in emotional intelligence. In addition, Four Seasons App and Chat provide the reassurance of contactless real-time interactions in 100+ different languages.

For the oceanic adventure of a lifetime, contact Central Reservations at tel: (960) 66 00 888, email: or book online.

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Superyacht Nord in Maldives



Currently exploring the countless islands of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean is the 142-metre superyacht Nord, owned by Russian billionaire Alexei Mordashov.

Since late December, Nord has been spotted in Baa Atoll, home to several world-leading luxury resorts, as well as the southern island-atoll of Fuvahmulah, which is world-renowned for diving with tiger sharks.

Delivered in 2021 as one of the largest superyachts in the fleet at 10,154 GT, she was built at the German shipyard Lürssen in Bremen with Moran Yacht & Ship overseeing her build. Formerly known as Project Opus, she was designed inside and out by the Italian studio Nuvolari Lenard.

Made from steel and aluminium to PYC standards, the warship style vessel encompasses six decks and can accommodate up-to 36 guests across 20 cabins.

On bridge deck level, a large helicopter landing deck aft with fold-down side platforms provide shelter for Nord’s helicopter that can be stowed away in a retractable hangar that slides neatly into the superstructure when not in use.

A large sports and diving centre on the lower deck, oversized swimming pool on the main deck and a fleet of custom tenders are just some of the other features on board this impressive vessel.

Photos: Ammadu/Ajaaibu

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