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Norwegian Cruise Line pushes CDC for an answer to their proposal to restart cruising

In:
15Apr2021
By: Matt Hochberg

More than a week after Norwegian Cruise Line submitted its plan to safely restart cruises from the United States to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there has been no answer.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. (NCLH) called out the CDC on Thursday for not responding yet to their proposal.

On April 5, NCLH submitted a proposal that included 100% vaccination of guests and crew onboard, as well as strict health and safety protocols for all sailing through October 31, 2021.

Today, the company sent a "reminder letter" to the CDC requesting a response.

NCLH President and CEO Frank Del Rio wrote to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky that he is concerned about the lack of progress, calling the experience "frustrating".

"As you know, our industry had a meeting with your office on Monday, and while we appreciate the dialogue, our proposal was not addressed."

"Going forward, we understand the industry may be having regular meetings with your office but remain concerned that such meetings produce the nonexistent results they have had since last year."

NCLH believes by requiring vaccines of every single person onboard its ships initially, in addition to comprehensive protocols including universal COVID-19 testing, their plan exceeds the intent of the CDC’s Conditional Sailing Order (CSO).

Read moreEverything we know about if Royal Caribbean will require a vaccine

Under NCLH's proposal, sailings would be able to commence from U.S. ports beginning July 4.

“Over the past year we have worked tirelessly and invested heavily to create a path to resume cruise operations including enlisting the guidance of the nation’s top scientific and public health experts. We are confident that with our science-backed SailSAFE program, we will offer a uniquely safe and healthy vacation experience which protects our guests, crew and communities we visit,” said Frank Del Rio, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd.

“We strongly believe our proposal submitted to the CDC 10 days ago, which includes mandatory vaccinations for all guests and crew, offers a safe and immediate solution to resume cruising and eliminates the need for the obsolete CSO, which in its current form is impossible to operationalize and more importantly ignores the advancement of vaccines. Our proposal goes well above and beyond the intent of the CSO and would greatly accelerate the path to resume cruising while freeing up the CDC’s valuable time and resources, allowing it to focus on its many other competing public health priorities. I continue to await further discussion with the CDC and I am respectfully requesting a prompt response to my written proposal to recommence cruising in July allowing us to join America’s national reopening.” 

Norwegian's Plan

To get things going, NCLH has proposed the most stringent policies yet by any North American cruise line.

The plan has five major components:

  1. NCLH will require that all guests embarking from a U.S. port and/or disembarking to a U.S. port provide proof of having been fully vaccinated with an FDA-, EMA-, or WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccine no less than two weeks prior to their departure date;

  2. All crew on NCLH vessels will be fully vaccinated with an FDA-, EMA- or WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccine at least two weeks prior to commencement of their duties onboard their assigned vessel;

  3. NCLH will also incorporate and operationalize the protocols developed by the Healthy Sail Panel (“HSP”), led by former Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt and former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration Dr. Scott Gottlieb. These protocols, include universal testing of guests and crew, combined with required vaccines for all guests and crew, thereby creating a safe, “bubble-like” environment; and

  4. On or about July 4, 2021, NCLH vessels will begin cruise operations at an initial reduced capacity of 60%, gradually ramping up our fleet departing from U.S. ports and increasing capacity by 20% every 30 days.

  5. These stringent requirements will remain in place until public health conditions allow for the implementation of more lenient protocols.

Without a doubt, NCLH's plan is centered around the Covid-19 vaccine, "vaccinations are the primary vehicle for Americans to get back to their everyday lives while containing the spread of the virus. As such, our robust science-backed plan combines mandatory vaccinations for all guests and crew with multiple additional layers of preventative protocols, including universal COVID-19 testing."

Cruise industry met with CDC this week about cruises restarting this summer

In:
15Apr2021
By: Matt Hochberg

Talking is the first step in making progress.

Cruise industry executives met with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other Government agencies this week in a virtual meeting to discuss restart plans.

A meeting was held between the Cruise Line Industry Association (CLIA) and the CDC, in which the industry voiced their concerns with the Framework for Conditional Sailing (CSO.)

Pressure has been mounting across different platforms to give cruise lines a chance to resume sailing.  Lawsuits, new legislation, and a vigorous write-in campaign have been some of the new initiatives thrown at the CDC after months of inaction by the agency.

According to CLIA, CLIA and member line representatives from companies operating in the U.S. shared their concerns about the CDC's so-called plan for phased restart, as well as a call for more changes sooner.

The meeting took place earlier in the week, and CLIA issued this summary of what happened.

"We appreciated the opportunity to meet with members of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and White House staff on Monday, April 12, 2021."

"We know from the successful restart of cruising in many countries outside the United States that collaborative communication between industry, government, and health authorities is critical. Therefore, we welcomed the invitation to discuss the current Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO.)"

"We pointed to the hundreds of thousands of passenger sailings following enhanced health and safety measures that have successfully mitigated the risk of introducing and transmitting COVID-19 on cruise ships at levels much lower than found on land. "

"Furthermore, cruise line CEOs shared their views on why the CSO – which was issued nearly six months ago - lags behind international efforts, does not reflect an understanding of how the industry operates, is predicated on scenarios that are increasingly unlikely and has not kept pace with positive medical advancements."

The problem with the CSO

In recent weeks, the cruise industry has criticized the CSO as being overly complicated, outdated, and unnecessary.

Instead, cruise lines have proposed dropping the CSO completely and allowing cruise ships to sail under the submitted extensive new health protocols.

CLIA appears to be encouraged by what they heard, but is still keeping up the pressure on the Administration and the CDC to lift the CSO.

Read more: How to easily tell your Congressperson you want the CDC to let cruise ships sail

Mounting pressure

This week's meeting follows blow back on the CDC after they released updated technical guidance for its Framework for Conditional Sailing on April 1.

The new guidance was largely seen as lacking and impractical. CLIA called it, "unduly burdensome, largely unworkable".

Moreover, it seems the CDC is still adhering to a zero-risk objective rather than the mitigation approach to Covid that so many others facets of life have adopted.

Since then, a new bill was introduced in the Senate by U.S. Senators Rick Scott (R-FL), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) that aims to revoke the CSO and take control away from the CDC.

Florida's Governor has sued the federal government, and Alaska's governor is considering doing the same.

Royal Caribbean sees facial recognition technology, not wearables, as the future of personalization

In:
15Apr2021
By: Matt Hochberg

Many cruise lines now offer guests something they can wear on their wrist or on a lanyard to personalize their vacation experience, but Royal Caribbean thinks the future is going be something different.

Speaking at the Seatrade Cruise Virtual conference, Royal Caribbean Group SVP Digital Experience Jay Schneider, talked about the how believes facial recognition will be the the best long-term solution for guests being able to customize their trip.

Why facial recognition over wearables, such as a wristband, token, or watch?  The rate of adoption among guests would be universal with facial recognition, whereas wearable technology requires passengers to want to adopt and wear something all day long for it to truly be useful.

"There are use cases where a wearable on your arm or a lanyard, et cetera, might be relevant, but your face is a better wearable for you long term than having to distribute something to you."

Schneider pointed at Disney Parks recent move from their wearable technology, MagicBands, has something to do with the limitation of adoption by customers.

Scheider, who spent a decade working at Disney, noted MagicBand adoption never really got high enough to where the company wanted, "They never really got to full parity of all of their guests with the MagicBand."

"It was a tool used by the vast majority of the resort guests, but their day visitors didn't really get the full access out of that."

Read moreHow Royal Caribbean will make check-in, Adventure Ocean and its app easier & faster

Royal Caribbean was the first cruise line to implement facial recognition technology as part of the boarding process in select cruise terminals.

In fact, Royal Caribbean announced it would invest in facial recognition back in 2017 when they introduced a slew of new innovations coming to cruises over the next few years.

Mr. Schneider conceded that facial recognition is not ready for prime time yet, but Royal Caribbean has already made strides in getting there.

"We're not there yet at the same level of ubiquity we need to be with what you can pull off with something on your arm, or a SeaPass card or something like that."

Contact tracing wearables

In the meantime, Royal Caribbean is deploying a contact tracing wearable on Quantum of the Seas, and it has provided phenomenal results.

"We've gotten to one hundred percent accuracy of false positives and false negatives on every voyage since since we basically started."

"We have what we call, "high accuracy contact tracing" that is that's nearly instantaneous on board that ship and will continue to expand it as we restart ships around the globe."

Read moreCDC asks Royal Caribbean to share covid safety technology from its cruise ships

Certainly there are privacy concerns with a device that tracks the movements of every single guests onboard, but Mr. Schneider was insistent the data is destroyed and not even shared off the ship for those reasons.

"We also want to make sure that we can retain the data on board so we can destroy it, because we're very the privacy of this data as well. It's meant for our public health team on board and our security team on board to be able to rapidly prevent cases from spreading."

Schneider is not certain if the future for contact tracing will remain with wearables, or become appcentric.

What if I want to keep my phone off while I'm on the ship?

During the session, Mr. Schneider was asked about what about people who prefer not to keep a digital device with them.

He noted that a "vast majority" of guests have their smartphone with them in many cases, but Royal Caribbean wants to ensure everyone is covered.

"We need to make technology for those to improve the experience for those who don't want to engage digitally."

"But the vast majority of our guests are engaging digitally."

Report: Royal Caribbean targeting January 2023 opening of Royal Beach Club in Nassau, Bahamas

In:
14Apr2021
By: Matt Hochberg

It looks like Royal Caribbean's private beach club for cruise guests in Nassau, Bahamas isn't a dead project.

In March 2020, Royal Caribbean announced it would build a new beach complex at the western end of Paradise Island in The Bahamas.

Built for Royal Caribbean International guests, The Royal Beach Club is the cruise line's take on a private shore excursion. 

Shortly thereafter, the cruise industry shutdown due to the global health crisis, and the cruise line has not talked about the project publicly.

Tribune Business is reporting that Royal Caribbean will begin construction in July 2021 so that it can open by January 2023.

The Bahamas' Department of Physical Planning revealed the plans as part of an upcoming virtual public consultation to be held on April 28 on its bid for site plan approval for the Royal Beach Club project.

Documents filed with the Department of Physical Planning confirmed the $50 million project has a maximum capacity of 3,500, with the 13-acre Royal Beach Club’s amenities including two 35,000 square foot dining pavilions capable of accommodating 1,500 passengers each.

Other features listed in the plans include a 26,000 square foot pool; 4,000 square foot “splash pad” for children; 14 beach bars; restrooms and cabanas; and support infrastructure that includes a reverse osmosis plant, waste water plant, waste management facility, storage building and fuel storage all contained on two acres.

Royal Caribbean has not publicly commented on any kind of timeline for the Royal Beach Club, nor have they given any update on it since acknowledging they purchased land for the project in early 2020.

Royal Caribbean has steadily amassed around 13.5 acres on Paradise Island’s western end by buying out private landowners in the area, but it is also seeking to lease some ten acres of crown land in the Colonial Beach area to complete its development.

Royal Caribbean cruise planner sale is back: Discounts on drink packages, wifi and more

In:
14Apr2021
By: Matt Hochberg

The next sale on pre-cruise purchases begins today.

Royal Caribbean has a new sale on pre-cruise purchases, including drink packages, shore excursions, wifi and more.

The "Dive Into Savings" sale runs between April 14, 2021 - April 20, 2021 and is valid on all ships (except Spectrum & Quantum of the Seas) sailing June 1, 2021 - March 31, 2022.

The sale is valid on Quantum of the Seas sailings between April 26, 2021 - March 31, 2022.

The sale is not valid on Spectrum of the Seas or Charter sailings.

Here is what is included during the sale:

BEVERAGE: Up to 45% off

  • Classic Soda Beverage Package: 30% off onboard prices.
  • Classic Soda Beverage Package + VOOM Surf & Stream 1 Device: Over 35% off onboard prices.
  • Dasani Water Cans: 45% off onboard prices.
  • Deluxe Beverage Package: 30% off onboard prices
  • Deluxe Beverage Package + VOOM Surf & Stream 1 Device: Over 30% off onboard prices
  • Refreshment Package: 30% off onboard prices

SHORE EXCURSIONS: Up to 40% off

  • Shore Excursions: Discount varies by ship

INTERNET: Up to 50% off

  • The Key: Discount varies by ship.
  • VOOM Surf + Stream Voyage Package 1, 2, 3, 4 Device(s): Discount varies by ship.
  • VOOM Surf Voyage Package 1, 2, 3, 4 Device(s): Discount varies by ship.

DINING: Up to 60% off

  • Unlimited Dining Package on 3N – 9N sailings: Discount varies by ship. 

ACTIVITIES: Up to 20% off

  • All Access Ship Tour (Excludes Grandeur of the Seas)

Gifts & Gear: Up to 20% Off

  • Anniversary Decorations with Champagne
  • Happy Birthday Decorations with Chocolate Cake & Strawberries
  • Happy Birthday Decorations with Vanilla Cake & Strawberries
  • Inky Beach Set
  • Inky Beach Towel (TicTacToe)
  • Inky Travel Set
  • Red Wine and Cheese
  • Royal Caribbean Beach Towel
  • Strawberries with Champagne
  • White Wine and Cheese

PHOTO PACKAGES: Up to 70% off

  • Photo Packages: From 5 - 100 Print and/or Digital Options: Discount varies by ship.
  • Photo Package: Private Photo Session: Discount varies by ship.
  • Photo Package: Picture This Private Studio: Discount varies by ship.

Will this sale save me money?

In general, cruise planner sales have the potential to save money, but exact savings differ from sailing to sailing.

Royal Caribbean does not apply a flat discount across its sailings, but many items are cheaper to buy online before the cruise than once onboard.

To check if your sailing has this new offer available, log into the Cruise Planner on Royal Caribbean's web site look for any available offers. Keep in mind that not all sailings may see the sale applicable, nor are all offers significantly cheaper than previously posted.

If you spot a better discount on something you already pre-purchased, you should be able to cancel the purchase and then re-purchase the same item under this promotion.

More helpful information

CDC keeps highest warning level possible against going on a cruise ship

In:
14Apr2021
By: Matt Hochberg

The CDC may be dragging their feet on providing cruise lines a path forward, but their warning to the public to avoid cruise ship travel has been updated.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) updated their "COVID-19 and Cruise Ship Travel" webpage with recommendations for anyone going on a cruise this summer.

In November 2020, the CDC warned the public to avoid going on any cruise ship because of "very high level of COVID-19". That warning has not changed, and the agency provided advice for anyone that does so anyway.

"At this time, CDC still recommends avoiding any travel on cruise ships, including river cruises, worldwide, because the risk of COVID-19 on cruise ships is very high."

"It is especially important that people with an increased risk of severe illness avoid travel on cruise ships, including river cruises. Cruise passengers are at increased risk of person-to-person spread of infectious diseases, including COVID-19, and outbreaks of COVID-19 have been reported on cruise ships because of their congregate settings where COVID-19 spreads easily."

The CDC maintains its Level 4 warning for cruise travel, while not recommending unvaccinated people avoid domestic air travel at all. It's advice for international air travel for unvaccinated people is to get vaccinated without any high level warning at all.

The CDC's "congregate settings" description of cruise ship travel is the same definition it uses for prisons, nursing homes, workplace settings and more.

Read more5 ways the CDC proves it doesn't understand cruise ships

CDC's advice for anyone going on a cruise this summer

If you choose not to heed the CDC's advice, the agency did update its recommendations for cruise travel.

Before you travel:

  • Get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 if a vaccine is available to you.
    • People are considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after a single dose in a one-dose series or last dose in a two-dose series.
  • Get tested with a COVID-19 viral test 1–3 days before your departure, even if you are fully vaccinated.
    • If you test positive, isolate and do NOT travel.

While you are traveling:

  • Stay at least 6 feet/2 meters (about 2 arm lengths) from anyone who is not traveling with you. It’s important to do this everywhere—both indoors and outdoors.
  • Wear a mask to keep your nose and mouth covered when you are in shared spaces. Masks are required on planes, cruise ships, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports, seaports, and train and subway stations.
  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol).
  • Avoid contact with anyone who is sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • If you have symptoms of COVID-19, stay in your cabin, and notify the onboard medical center immediately.

If you are returning to an international port or disembarking an international river cruise:

  • Your return travel plans may be impacted. Foreign health officials may implement formal quarantine procedures if they identify a case of COVID-19 aboard your cruise ship.
  • If you travel on a cruise ship or river cruise and disembark in a foreign port, you might not be able to receive appropriate medical care or be medically evacuated if you get sick.
  • Some countries might refuse to dock your ship or allow passengers to disembark.

If you return to the United States by air:

  • All air passengers coming to the United States, including U.S. citizens and fully vaccinated people, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result no more than 3 days before travel or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 3 months before they board a flight to the United States.

After you travel:

If you are fully vaccinated: 

  • Get tested 3–5 days after your trip.
  • If your test is positive, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected.
  • Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms for 14 days after travel; isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms.
  • You do NOT need to stay home and self-quarantine aftr cruise travel.

If you are not fully vaccinated:

  • Get tested 3–5 days after your trip.
  • If your test is positive, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected.
  • Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms for 14 days after travel; isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms.
  • Stay home and self-quarantine for 7 days after cruise travel, even if you test negative.
  • If you do not get tested, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after cruise travel.
  • Avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness for 14 days, whether you get tested or not.

Cruise lines new health protocols

Reading through the warning, the CDC makes no mention of any new health protocols and essentially talks about going on a cruise in the same manner they existed before the pandemic began.

Other than recommending getting fully vaccinated before the cruise (which is something many cruise lines are requiring this summer), there is no mention of enhanced cruise ship protocols aimed at preventing the spread onboard.

Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings teamed up to form a panel of scientists and public health experts to craft a strategy for cruises to sail as safe as possible during the global health crisis.

The Healthy Sail Panel that created these new rules is chaired by Governor Mike Leavitt, former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Recommendations include testing, the use of face coverings, and enhanced sanitation procedures on ships and in terminals. 

The Healthy Sail Panel identified five areas of focus every cruise operator should address to improve health and safety for guests and crew, and reduce the risk of infection and spread of COVID-19 on cruise ships:

  • Testing, Screening and Exposure Reduction
  • Sanitation and Ventilation
  • Response, Contingency Planning and Execution
  • Destination and Excursion Planning
  • Mitigating Risks for Crew Members

Moreover, Norwegian Cruise Line petitioned the CDC recently to only allow fully vaccinated people onboard its ships this summer, to which they have not received an answer yet.

Royal Caribbean is requiring all adults on its ships be fully vaccinated to sail this summer (except Quantum of the Seas from Singapore).

New Navigator of the Seas west coast cruises now available to book

In:
14Apr2021
By: Matt Hochberg

Sailings are officially open for booking for Royal Caribbean's first west coast cruises in over a decade.

Navigator of the Seas sailings from Los Angeles starting in November 2021 are now available to book via Royal Caribbean's website.

The new sailings include mostly 3-, 4- and 5-night itineraries to Catalina Island, California and Ensenada and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico – plus, select winter holiday 7-night sailings.

The new bookings are available to book immediately, beginning with the November 19 sailing. Sailings between November 2021 and January 2022 are open for booking.

You can view the full list of sailings here.

Royal Caribbean had to delay the opening of the new bookings by a couple weeks after the cruise line revealed it would start sailing from Los Angeles earlier than planned.

Instead of beginning in summer 2022, Royal Caribbean will now begin offering sailings in November 2021.

A return to the west coast

The new sailings are the first for the cruise line in over a decade.

The last ship to sail from Los Angeles regularly was Mariner of the Seas in 20211.

Royal Caribbean pulled out of West Coast cruises due to a combination of violence in Western Mexico, and did not return primarily due to concerns over profitability of routes there.

Royal Caribbean's absence on the West Coast did not go unnoticed by cruise fans, who perennially asked when sailings might restart.

In a statement, Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley shared how proud he was for a return, "California was calling us home once again, and what better way to reintroduce Royal Caribbean than to bring our next-level cruise vacations to the City of Angels and make it a year-round adventure starting just in time for summer."

Senators introduce new bill for cruise ships to sail without CDC approval

In:
13Apr2021
By: Matt Hochberg

A new piece of legislation has been introduced by Senators from Florida and Alaska that would allow cruise ships to start sailing without the CDC's interference.

The ‘‘Careful Resumption Under Improved Safety Enhancements Act’’ or the ‘‘CRUISE Act’’ was introduced on Tuesday as a new bill by Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Congresswoman María Elvira Salazar is leading this legislation in the House of Representatives.

The purpose of the bill is to end the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC)'s Framework for Conditional Sail Order (CSO) by July 4, 2021 so that cruise lines can restart sailings from the United States.

The CSO is what is preventing cruise ships from sailing again, and to date, has been incomplete in terms of providing all the necessary steps for cruise lines to accomplish in order to receive approval to sail.

If the Cruise Act were passed, it would override the CSO.

"Not later than July 4, 2021, the Secretary shall revoke the order entitled ‘‘Framework for Conditional Sailing and Initial Phase COVID–19 Testing Requirements for Protection of Crew’’, issued by the Director on November 4, 2020 (85 Fed. Reg. 70153), under the authority of sections 361 and 365 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 264; 268), and any other order or regulation that prohibits the operation of all cruise ships in United States waters, requires such ships to obtain approval from the Director prior to operating, or otherwise acts as a de facto prohibition for cruise ship operations in the United States."

The bill also proposed the creation of an interagency working group, which would issue recommendations for how to mitigate the risks of COVID–19 introduction, transmission, and spread among passengers and crew on board cruise ships and ashore to communities.

In a statement, Senator Scott talked about why this bill was introduced, " While many sectors of the economy have been safely operating for months under CDC guidelines, Floridians, and those across the nation that rely on the cruise industry for work, continue to wait for updated guidance from the CDC."

"The CDC's refusal to properly address this shutdown is wrong and it’s time to get the cruise lines open safely. Our bill, the CRUISE Act, says we’re not waiting on the CDC any longer. Cruises can and should resume, and we’re going to do everything we can to bring back our cruise industry safely."

Congresswoman María Elvira Salazar pointed out the good this bill will do, "This legislation will fix the CDC’s arbitrary guidelines and give clarity and fairness to the industry that creates hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout Miami’s entire tourism economy."

What the Conditional Sail Order requires

The Framework for Conditional Sailing order is a phased approach to cruises restarting that is administered by the CDC.

Before cruises can fully resume, the CDC has outlined a series of steps that need to occur before cruise ships can begin taking passengers onboard.

The framework for conditional sailing is meant to potentially allow cruise ships to sail again while not putting the public health at risk.

First, ships must implement testing and other protocols for the safe return of crew. Non-revenue test sailings will follow, with vessels then required to request and receive approval to resume sailing with passengers onboard.

On its website, the CDC says the instructions are meant to ensure health and safety protections for the crew prior to resuming passenger operations in a way that mitigates the risk of spreading COVID-19.

Past attempts to get ships sailing

This is the third bill introduced to Congress in an effort to get cruises going again.

On September 16, 2020, Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio introduced the "Set Sail Safely Act", which died after not receiving a vote.

On March 6, 2021, Two U.S. Senators, Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Dan Sullivan introduced a bill to Congress to allow foreign flagged cruise ships to sail to Alaska without having to stop in Canada.

This bill is still waiting to be considered by committee before it is possibly sent on to the House or Senate as a whole.

10 unique foods you will find on Royal Caribbean

In:
13Apr2021
By: Matt Hochberg

Going on a Royal Caribbean cruise means a lot of things, including eating some incredible foods along the way.

Royal Caribbean has steadily increased the quality and variety of its food choices over the years to bring some interesting and assorted options to try.  Not to worry, the staples of any cruise vacation are still on the menu, but if you are looking for something a little bit different, you will find some tasty alternatives.

Here is my list of the top 10 unique Royal Caribbean foods worth trying out.

Escargot

Escargot is hardly limited to Royal Caribbean, but these days it is one of the few places I ever see it regularly offered on the menu and it has become a signature dish of the main dining room.

If you are not aware, escargot is an appetizer of cooked edible land snails. I know it sounds gross, but it is really tasty (primarily because it is saturated in garlic and butter).

A French delicacy, you can order it every day in the main dining room and combined with a roll, tastes great.

Seafood tower

Chops Grille is Royal Caribbean's signature specialty restaurant, and from time to time they modify the menu to try to tweak its offerings.  One of their newest creations has been a real hit with clam, mussels and crab claw fans.

An optional add-on, the seafood tower is a multi-story serving of shrimp, clams, lobster, crab and more.

For shellfish lovers, this is a popular option and it is easy to share among the people at your table.

It comes in two sizes: Grande and Imperial and served with traditional garnishes and sauces.

Lobster roll

Royal Caribbean's latest specialty restaurant, Hooked, has a good mix of options, but their lobster roll is definitely the signature dish.

Lobster rolls are one of the great American foods, and Hooked serves up Maine Lobster rolls is everything a lobster roll should be: heavy on the lobster, light on the mayo, and served on a grilled bun with a side of homemade chips

Beef tenderloin for two

If you asked me where you can find the best steak on Royal Caribbean, I would point to the beef tenderloin for two at 150 Central Park.

A holdover from the "old menu", this dish is recommended for two people, but easily enjoyed alone as well.

The tender cut of beef is terrific, and I like that the waiter will prepare and carve it at your table.

Almost anything served at Chef's Table

There is no culinary experience on Royal Caribbean quite like the Chef's Table.

You don't have to be a super foodie to enjoy Chef's Table, as it is more of a guided eating experience than a serving of the most exotic foods one can find. That being said, you wont find pizza or chicken nuggets on the menu either.

The fixed menu serves each dish with an accompanying glass of wine that the host as picked out to be the perfect pair. 

I was leery of the experience at first, but it turned out to be a very interesting and satisfying meal. Keep your calendar open, because a meal at the Chef's Table can easily last 4 hours.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean Chef's Table dinner review

Antipasti planks

From the first day Jamie's Italian opened on a Royal Caribbean ship, the antipasti planks were the breakout hit.

A terrific appetizer, you will find cured meats, pickles and tempting cheeses, pumpkin panzerotti, Prawn linguine that everyone at the table can pick from.

Giovanni's Table also has its own Cheese and Cured Meat Plank to consider as well.

Hot rock

Not a sushi fan? You can still enjoy a great meal at Izumi with the hot rock dinner choice.

Hot rock (Ishiyaki) plates are rocks that are heated to 575 degrees °F, where guests take raw meat and vegetables and cook them on the rock, right at your table.

You have the choice of mixed seafood, chicken breast, chicken and beef skewer rock or beef tenderloin.

Izumi Ryu Futomaki roll

If you love sushi, and want to try the ultimate roll on the menu, my suggestion is the Izumi Ryu Futomaki roll.

This is a really big roll that could easily be your meal. Located on the Chef's Signature Rolls part of the menu, it is comprised of assorted sashimi, scallions, scallions, spicy aioli, cream cheese, wakame salad, house ginger teppan dressing and a spicy chili thread.

Not only is this a giant sushi roll, it is also a deeply satisfying roll and the kind of thing to order when you really want a filling meal. 

Ice cream in a football helmet

You can never really go wrong with ice cream, and Royal Caribbean's ice cream sundae in a football helmet is as good as it looks.

Served in a souvenir helmet, the "Touchdown Sundae" has five scoops of ice cream with just about every syrup you'd want on top, complete with whipped cream and other toppings.

Another good sharing dish, it is something unequaled elsewhere onboard.

Sabor guacamole

There is almost an art to guacamole, and Sabor's offering is consistently one of the best out there.

Prepared fresh after you order it, the guacamole is worth the price of dining at Sabor alone.  In fact, Sabor's recipe has become our family's preferred guac recipe at home because it seems to balance the ingredients just right (although we like to go heavy on the lime juice).

Definitely not out of a jar, the guacamole should be a must-order item to share, and do not be afraid to ask for more when your group wipes the bowl clean.

Alaska Governor threatens to sue US over cruise ship ban

In:
12Apr2021
By: Matt Hochberg

Another state may sue the federal government in order to get cruise ships sailing again.

Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy (R-AK) said a lawsuit is a "real possibility" when asked if he would look to legal action to get ships sailing again.

In a television interview with Fox News, Gov. Dunleavy explained the plight of Alaskans who are facing a second year in a row without any cruise ship tourism, and the associated spending they bring in.

When asked if Alaska would join Florida in suing the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Gov. Dunleavy did not rule out such an action as well if things do not change, "If we don't get, I think, a positive dialogue here this week, that's a real possibility because the again, the decision will be crushing to Alaska."

Florida Governor Ron Desantis (R-FL) announced last week his state has filed a lawsuit against the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and CDC, demanding cruise ships be reopened immediately.

Florida's lawsuit is an attempt to get the CDC to drop the Framework for Conditional Sail Order (CSO), which is not allowing cruise ships to sail despite airlines, theme parks, casinos, and rail to operate without any hindrance.

Gov. Dunleav says over the course of the lost 2020 and 2021 cruise seasons, Alaska will have a $3.3 billion loss in Alaska, "that's in a state with about a fifty six billion dollar GDP, so it's going to be significant."

"We're going to lose millions of dollars in local revenue for our communities, especially along the coast. Unemployment rates will remain stubbornly high when we can actually lower them through this process."

Gov. Dunleavy points to the fact his state is among the best in the nation in terms of vaccination rates and low case counts, and wants the federal government to let the states work with the cruise lines.

"If you look at Alaska's numbers, if you look at our data, we're doing this better than anybody. We know what we're doing. All we want is the opportunity to work with the industry."

Alaska's legislators have been vocal in their support for cruises to resume operations.

A Congressional delegation from Alaska sent a letter with colleagues to the White House COVID Response Coordinator, urging the Biden administration to be more transparent and timely in their efforts to develop guidance for the resumption of operations for the cruise ship industry.

In February, Alaska's representatives asked Canada to re-evaluate their ban on cruise ships. Then in March, they introduced a new bill to allow cruise ships to sail without having to stop in Canada.

Royal Caribbean has not officially cancelled its Alaska cruises for 2021 beyond June, but the entire season is in limbo while the cruise industry tries to find a solution to salvage at least part of it.

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