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When Will We Cruise Again?

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Cruising is in the news again with the recent no-sail order extension by the Centers for Disease Control. Travel and tourism has been hit hard during this global pandemic, but no form of travel has been devastated quite like cruising. I’m not going to discuss whether I think the no-sail order is good or bad. What choice did anyone responsible for public health have at the time the initial decision to pause passenger sailing was made? Experts call this a “novel coronavirus” for a reason, it’s new. We still don’t have a complete understanding of what it is and how it works, but one thing is for certain, it spreads easily. Close quarters with lots of people seem to help it move around. If you’ve been on a cruise before, you can see the challenge here.

Is it Possible to Sail Safely at This Time?

The short answer is, maybe. Personally, I do not see a return to “normal” mass market cruising in the absence of a vaccine. But there are finally some examples that point to the possibility that a limited and well planned re-start of some cruises can be accomplished safely. MSC Cruises appears to have found a path forward. The fundamentals of MSC’s plans are:

Universal health screening of guests prior to embarkation that comprises three comprehensive steps: a temperature check, a health questionnaire and a COVID-19 swab test. Depending on the screening results and according to the guest’s medical or travel history, a secondary health screening or testing will take place. Any guest who tests positive, displays symptoms or a temperature will be denied boarding. Following guidelines from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, guests traveling from countries categorized as high risk will be required to take a molecular RT-PCR test, to be done within 72 hours prior to joining the ship. All crew members will be tested for COVID-19 prior to embarkation as well as regularly during their contract.

Elevated sanitation and cleaning measures supported by the introduction of new cleaning methods and the use of hospital-grade disinfectant products.

Social distancing will be enabled through the reduction of the overall capacity of guests on board, allowing for more space for guests, approx. 10 m² (about 108 sq. ft.) per person based on 70% overall capacity. Venue capacity will be reduced, activities will be modified to allow for smaller groups and guests should pre-book services and activities to manage guest numbers. When social distancing is not possible, guests will be asked to wear a face mask, for instance in the elevators. The face masks will be provided daily to guests in their staterooms and will be available around the ship.

Enhanced medical facilities and services with highly qualified staff trained, the necessary equipment to test, evaluate and treat suspected COVID-19 patients and the availability of free treatment at the onboard Medical Center for any guest with symptoms. Dedicated isolation staterooms will be available to enable isolation of any suspected cases and close contacts.

Ongoing health monitoring will be conducted throughout the cruise. Guests and crew will have their temperature checked daily either when they return from ashore or at dedicated stations around the ship to monitor the health status of every guest and crew member. During this initial phase of operations, as a further enhanced measure of protection and to avoid risks to the health of guests and their fellow cruisers, guests will only go ashore as part of an organized MSC Cruises’ excursion. This means that MSC Cruises can protect their health while ashore with excursions that will be delivered with the same high standards of health and safety on board. MSC Cruises will ensure that transfers are properly sanitized and that there is adequate space. Tour guides and drivers will also undergo health screening and will wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).

A contingency response plan will be activated if a suspected case is identified, in close cooperation with the national health authorities. The suspected case and close contacts will follow isolation measures and may be disembarked according to local and national regulations. 

Obviously, if you can successfully board a ship with no infections, and keep guests from being exposed during their trip, you can cruise without spreading Covid. Whoa! Why didn’t anyone else think of that?!

© 2019 – Marshall Jackson

My Thoughts on Going Forward with Cruising in the USA

Testing is key. A vaccine and herd immunity are key to resumption of most cruises. However, I think there is a way forward on a limited basis in the meantime. Frequent, rapid result testing will be the key to resumption of some cruises, and frankly, a restoration of all travel (more on that in a future post). Want people to feel comfortable traveling? Give them reasonable assurance that they aren’t being exposed to the virus. How do you do that? Testing, and not the kind that you have to wait a week for results.

Focus on the private islands as you re-start. Limiting guest and staff contact with potential exposure is paramount. The absolute best way to do this? Focusing on “private island” destinations. The majority of staff at these islands travel with the ship that’s visiting. There are some “local” staff, but the numbers are small enough that cruise lines can easily manage their testing protocols. Furthermore, guests enjoy these experiences.

Have a backup plan. No matter how much testing you perform, and how great you are at managing things, somehow, some way, somebody is going to test positive for the virus after you’ve left port. Hands down, I think the biggest driver of “fear” of getting on a cruise for most people will be the idea of being left out at sea with no way home. It is imperative that cruise lines have iron clad processes in place to isolate and care for positive cases on board, evacuate sick guests, and safely disembark healthy guests upon returning to port.

We Will Cruise Again

My last cruise was in February. I celebrated my 50th birthday with friends, and my wife and I remained on the ship for two additional cruises following the “birthday cruise.” I’m so glad we did. That trip also coincided with my last commercial airline flight (February 17th). As you know, things started “hitting the fan” shortly thereafter. While I have my doubts that I sail again in 2020, I’m watching things closely. I think it’s most likely to be 2021 before cruises set sail again, but if cruise lines and the governing authorities can work out a plan like MSC in Europe, I think it’s possible that at least a few cruises could set sail late this year.

By: MJ on Travel
Title: When Will We Cruise Again?
Sourced From: travelupdate.com/when-will-we-cruise-again/
Published Date: Sat, 03 Oct 2020 13:30:33 +0000

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Cruise Ship Rescues 24 People From Sinking Boat Off Florida Coast

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The Carnival Sensation was sailing in international waters off the Florida coast on Saturday when crew members spotted a crowded 36-foot boat that appeared to be in distress.

The ship maneuvered alongside the boat and crew members handed over blankets, life jackets, food and water to the 24 people onboard the smaller vessel, including two children, according to the Carnival Cruise Line.

As it floated 37 miles off the coast of Palm Beach, the boat began to take on water. The passengers were quickly ushered aboard the cruise ship through a side hatch that is typically used in port to load supplies via a gangway. The boat sank after the rescue, a Coast Guard spokeswoman said.

The rescued passengers were the first guests to board the cruise ship in months, Carnival said. They were evaluated by the cruise ship’s medical staff and quarantined away from crew members, the cruise line said. They were picked up by the Coast Guard after about six hours, the spokeswoman said.

The rescued boat was coming from Freeport, Bahamas, said Nicole J. Groll, the Coast Guard spokeswoman. It was not clear where the boat was headed, she said, nor was it clear what had happened to the boat that caused it to sink.

“The disabled vessel sank and actions are currently being taken to coordinate the transfer of the individuals ashore,” Ms. Groll said in a statement Monday.

The $45 billion global cruise industry serves 20 million passengers in a typical year. But since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, ships have been roaming the seas for months without guests, staffed by skeleton crews. Operations have been suspended until Oct. 31, and some lines have canceled cruises into next year.

Carnival operates 23 ships. While they are idle, they maintain a “minimum nonoperational manning status,” according to a spokesman. That means they are staffed by 75 to 100 crew members, including marine engineers, technicians and officers, as well as housekeeping, culinary and other staff members.

Occasionally, they perform rescues, the spokesman said. In July, the Carnival Legend responded to a call for help from a boat that had run out of fuel off the coast of the Bahamas. The Legend gave the boaters 25 gallons of gas to help them make their way back to Jacksonville, Fla.

Ships are obligated under maritime law to respond to vessels in distress, said Jim Walker, a Miami-based maritime lawyer.

The duty to rescue a derelict vessel falls to a ship’s captain, who “has both a moral and a legal obligation to help,” he said.

There are typically three or four such rescues every year, some of which involve migrants, Mr. Walker said.

“Often there is no true ‘rescue’ of foreign immigrants at sea because the cruise ship will call the U.S.C.G. who will pick them up and then return them to their home countries,” Mr. Walker said in an email, referring to the Coast Guard. “It is not so much a ‘rescue’ but an ‘interception’ at sea.”

In some cases, he said, a ship’s captain or the captain’s employer could face criminal charges for ignoring a cry for help.

In 2012, Princess Cruises was sued after one of its cruise ships, the Star Princess, failed to help a disabled fishing boat that had been adrift for days when it was spotted by crew members and passengers. Two of the people on the fishing boat died.

The cruise industry has come under fire during the coronavirus pandemic, particularly early in the outbreak as passengers and crew members were trapped aboard ships where the virus spread rapidly.

In February, more than 700 passengers were infected on the Diamond Princess as the ship idled off the coast of Japan. Nine of the infected passengers died.

In August, the cruise industry voluntarily suspended operations until Oct. 31, following the extension of a no-sail order for cruise ships through Sept. 30 issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency noted that from March to July there had been nearly 3,000 suspected and confirmed coronavirus cases and 34 deaths on cruise ships in U.S. waters.

The Carnival Corporation, which operates Carnival, Princess and other brands and serves roughly 50 percent of the global cruise market, has dealt with outbreaks on several of its ships, including Holland America’s Zaandam, which tried to unload sick passengers in Florida in April. Last week, Carnival Cruise Line canceled several cruises that were scheduled for November and January.

By: Marie Fazio
Title: Cruise Ship Rescues 24 People From Sinking Boat Off Florida Coast
Sourced From: www.nytimes.com/2020/10/19/us/carnival-cruise-rescue.html
Published Date: Mon, 19 Oct 2020 22:51:45 +0000

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2,000-Year-Old Cat Etching Found at Nazca Lines Site in Peru

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The image, stretching for 40 yards on a hillside in Peru, shows a creature with pointy ears, orb-like eyes and a long striped tail. It appears to be a cat lounging, as cats often do.

Archaeologists stumbled across the faded etching while remodeling a section of a UNESCO heritage site known as the Nazca Lines, Peru’s Ministry of Culture announced last week.

The catlike geoglyph — which experts say dates to 200 B.C. to 100 B.C. — is the latest discovery among the carvings of larger-than-life animals and plants previously found between the towns of Nazca and Palpa, in a desert plain about 250 miles southeast of the capital, Lima.

“The discovery shows, once again, the rich and varied cultural legacy of this site,” the ministry said in a statement.

The Nazca Lines were first discovered by a Peruvian aerial surveyor in 1927. Images of a hummingbird, a monkey and an orca were unearthed at the site. UNESCO has designated the Lines and Geoglyphs of Nasca and Palpa a World Heritage Site since 1994.

The cat etching is believed to be older than any of the prehistoric geoglyphs previously unearthed at Nazca.

“It’s quite striking that we’re still finding new figures, but we also know that there are more to be found,” Johny Isla, Peru’s chief archaeologist for the Nazca lines, told Efe, a Spanish news agency.

The designs were believed to have been created when ancient Peruvians scraped off a dark and rocky layer of earth, which contrasts with lighter-colored sand underneath. Researchers believe that the figures once served as travel markers.

Drone photography has led to several discoveries in recent years, Mr. Isla said. In 2019, researchers from Japan, aided by satellite photography and three-dimensional imaging, unearthed more than 140 new geoglyphs at the site.

Research and conservation work had continued at the site even during the coronavirus pandemic, when most tourist sites have been closed. Archaeologists and employees were working on the Mirador Natural, a lookout point in the protected site, when they began unearthing something intriguing. When they cleaned the mound, clear lines showing the sinuous body of a cat emerged.

“The figure was barely visible and was about to disappear because it is situated on quite a steep slope that’s prone to the effects of natural erosion,” the culture ministry said in a statement.

The authorities said that even a stray footprint could mar the fragile grounds, and have imposed strict rules against trespassing at the site. Before the pandemic shut down tours, visitors were permitted to view the lines and figures only from planes and lookout points.

But disturbances at the Nazca lines have occurred, drawing widespread condemnation.

In 2014, Greenpeace activists left shoe marks near a large hummingbird design when they placed a sign that promoted renewable energy, Peruvian officials said.

“You walk there and the footprint is going to last hundreds or thousands of years,” Luis Jaime Castillo, a Peruvian official and archaeologist, told The Guardian at the time. “And the line that they have destroyed is the most visible and most recognized of all.”

In 2018, a truck driver was arrested after intentionally driving his tractor-trailer across three lines of geoglyphs.

Even as Peru works to preserve its ancient sites, officials reopened Machu Picchu this month for one lucky tourist after he became stranded during the pandemic and waited seven months to see the 16th-century Inca citadel.

By: Tiffany May
Title: 2,000-Year-Old Cat Etching Found at Nazca Lines Site in Peru
Sourced From: www.nytimes.com/2020/10/19/world/americas/peru-cat-nazca-lines-nasca.html
Published Date: Mon, 19 Oct 2020 08:48:43 +0000

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A 30-Mile Canoe Trip Through Alaska’s Tongass National Forest

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With my eyes closed, the scent of the forest is sharpened by the lack of visual distraction. I breathe in the musk of a stand of giant red cedar trees, which dominate the landscape, as the seemingly unending forest stretches to the mountain-lined horizon.

I grew up exploring the fringes of the Tongass National Forest, which sits just outside my backdoor in Juneau and stretches for hundreds of miles along the coast of the Gulf of Alaska and the North Pacific Ocean. Encompassing 16.7 million acres of land, the Tongass is both the largest national forest in America and the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest. My earliest memories are instilled with its sights, sounds and smells.

Here on Prince of Wales Island, some 200 miles south of Juneau, I’m immersed in the same temperate rainforest that I came to know as a child. It feels both alien and familiar. I let the fragrant cedar smell wash over me for a few more moments before opening my eyes and shouldering my pack farther into the forest.

It’s late April 2019, and my traveling companion, Bjorn Dihle, and I are on a four-day, 30-mile excursion through the heart of Prince of Wales Island along the Honker Divide Canoe Route, the island’s longest trail. We have forgone the canoes and opted for packrafts due to their size and weight; they’re easier to schlep over logs and across the many short portages.

Because of the sluggish snow melt, our progress is slow. We weave through many shallow rocky sections, inevitably dragging, bouncing and scooching over rocks. Eventually we trudge through ice-cold water that covers our ankles and calves. The travel is unhurried; it allows us to appreciate our surroundings and take in the small lakes, streams and rivers.

Southeast Alaska is inseparable from the Tongass National Forest; they are one and the same, with the mountainous western edge of the North American continent giving way to the hundreds of islands that make up the Alexander Archipelago. The landscape is blanketed with Western hemlock, red and yellow cedars, and Sitka spruce.

On the second evening, we opt not to cram into a small tent. Instead, we spoil ourselves with the roof and bunks of a forest service cabin on Honker Lake. The fireplace is small, but it’s more than adequate to ward off the evening frost, and it infuses the air with the pungent and luxurious smell of cedar kindling and burning logs.

Sitting just outside the cabin at dusk, we hear the namesake of the lake and cabin — the Honker, or Canada goose — on the wing, cackling by the hundred on their migration north.

Canada geese use the lakes and streams along the Honker Divide as stopovers to their summer nesting and breeding grounds. Every day from dawn to dusk we see and hear them overhead as we paddle and hike, a harbinger of the long days of summer.

It’s awe-inspiring to watch the birds, but the crick in my neck from gazing skyward draws me back to earth and to the forest itself.

Prince of Wales Island is slightly larger than the state of Delaware. It’s home to many of the animal species found throughout the Tongass — moose, black and brown bears, Sitka black-tailed deer, beaver and porcupine. We’re also on the lookout for a subspecies of northern flying squirrel and Alexander Archipelago wolf.

Sixty years ago, the forest that surrounds us was alive not with the sounds of cackling geese but with the whir of chainsaws and all the machinations of modern industrial logging. Visually, the most defining characteristics of the island are the inescapable clearcuts that checkerboard the lowlands and mountainsides.

Logging still exists on the island, on a smaller and more sustainable scale. But earlier this year, the Trump Administration, with the encouragement of successive Alaska governors and congressional delegations, finalized plans to open about nine million acres of the Tongass National Forest to logging and road construction — by exempting the area from protections provided by a Clinton-era policy known as the roadless rule, which banned logging and road construction in much of the national forest system.

Supporters of the plan point to its economic potential. But the removal of the rule — which drew overwhelmingly negative reactions when it was opened for public comment — could irreparably change the Honker Divide watershed and endanger the oldest living things in the forest.

As Bjorn and I push through thickets of devil’s club and trundle over chest-high nurse logs, the trees seem to grow before our eyes. The forest stands as a witness to the passage of time, and a nearby stream as a lifeline to the past. The saplings at the confluence of the stream mark the present, while the giant spruce and hemlock at its source likely predate the European colonization of the Americas — so that the only humans who could have witnessed the birth of this stand of trees are the area’s Tlingit and Haida peoples.

These trees are among the most ancient in the vast expanse of the Tongass. It may also be among the most imperiled by the abrogation of the 2001 roadless rule. We ponder their immeasurable value, and try to reckon with the thought of them as a simple commodity, as a resource to be extracted.

After meandering through the stand of old growth, we are forced to confront the timeline of our trip — and the arrival, the next day, of our floatplane. We retreat into the shadows of the forest, heading back toward the present with every step. Our boats are waiting for us, and we set off to reach the end of the canoe route at the sleepy former logging town of Thorne Bay.

By: Christopher Miller
Title: A 30-Mile Canoe Trip Through Alaska’s Tongass National Forest
Sourced From: www.nytimes.com/2020/10/19/travel/tongass-national-forest-alaska.html
Published Date: Mon, 19 Oct 2020 09:00:30 +0000

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