CURRENT NEWS 4/29/21

Headlines of Interest to International Travelers Updated Every Few Days

Curated articles from around the web covering recent news on travel restrictions, security, air travel, cruising along with travel industry headlines.

UPDATE APRIL 29

UPDATE APRIL 19

FROM APRIL 14

FROM APRIL 9th

Other Recent News

The CDC Resistance To Cruising Begins To Crack – Under pressure from lawsuits by two states, Florida and Alaska and cruise industry threats to move home ports out of the United States, the CDC has now announced by a letter sent to the cruise industry that cruising from U.S. ports could resume by mid-July..

Exactly when this will happen will depend on the cruise lines’ ability to get ships ready for service and their willingness to comply with the CDC’s Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO’s).

“We acknowledge that cruising will never be a zero-risk activity and that the goal of the CSO’s phased approach is to resume passenger operations in a way that mitigates the risk of COVID-19 transmission onboard cruise ships and across port communities,” wrote Aimee Treffiletti, head of the Maritime Unit for CDC’s COVID-19 response. “We remain committed to the resumption of passenger operations in the United States following the requirements in the CSO by mid-summer, which aligns with the goals announced by many major cruise lines.”

After the early April guidance release from the CDC led to a furious backlash from the cruise lines a series a talks to try to agree to a timeline for the resumption were scheduled. In its letter this week, the CDC reiterated mid-July was a possibility and released five clarifications for the CSO, specifically around the Phase 2 technical instructions issued April 2.

Now ships can skip the test voyages carrying volunteers and resume sailings with fare-paying passengers provided 98 percent of crew and 95 percent of passengers are fully vaccinated. This replaces previous guidance that required test cruising for all ships leaving from U.S. ports.

For cruise ships that aren’t committing to that vaccination requirement, test cruises will be required. But now the CDC has agreed to review and respond to applications from cruise lines for simulated voyages within five days rather than 60 days, as originally specified.

CDC will update its testing and quarantine requirements for passengers and crew on sailings with paying passengers to align with its own guidance for fully vaccinated people. For example, fully vaccinated people will now be able to take a rapid antigen COVID-19 test before embarkation, as opposed to a PCR test. The CDC has also clarified that cruise ships may enter into a “multiport agreement” rather than a single port agreement as long as all port and local authorities sign off on the agreement.

The CDC has further clarified guidance on quarantines for passengers who might have been exposed to or contracted COVID-19. In those cases local passengers may to drive home, while passengers who have traveled by air to other cruise may still be quarantine in a hotel.

The CDC and the cruise industry have been at odds about the resumption of sailing for a year, with the CDC coming under increasing pressure to allow for the safe resumption of cruising from states, citizens, cruise companies and travel professionals.

Some States and the Travel Industry Attempt To Pressure the Biden Administration. As of this Monday the administration continues to dig in its heels about lifting restrictions.

Is a Vaccine Passport a Real Plan?

Maybe… As airlines, travel industry trade groups and countries whose economies are completely dependent on travel look to lift the international travel ban, the talk of establishing standards for a “health passport” is heating up.

Digital health documents are being planned to certify to immigration officials that a traveler has either been vaccinated or can show proof of a negative COVID-19 test result. Iceland, Poland, Portugal and Cyprus have already announced plans for proof-of-vaccination certificates while the European Union announced a “digital health pass” soon. Unfortunately, the CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card is not considered a legal form of documentation for internationally proposed “health passports.”

U.S. airlines and dozens of other industry groups today urged the Biden administration to form a plan by May to lift international travel restrictions, including digital vaccine passport standards for Americans that will be acceptable to the international community.

Airlines for America, which represents major U.S. airlines delivered a letter to Jeffrey Zients, the White House Covid-19 Response Team coordinator, indicating that new guidelines should exempt vaccinated people from international testing rules.

Among other recommendations, the groups asked that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention update its guidance to say that vaccinated people can safely travel.

In another letter, which was signed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the largest flight attendant union and other travel industry groups stated; “To be clear, at this time, we do not support removal or easing of core public health protections, such as the universal mask mandate, inbound international testing requirement, physical distancing or other measures that have made travel safer and reduced transmission of the virus. However, the data and science demonstrate that the right public health measures are now in place to effectively mitigate risk and allow for the safe removal of many travel and entry restrictions.”

Non-U.S. citizens who have recently been in Europe, the U.K. and Brazil have been banned from entering the U.S. since last March, in an order President Donald Trump instituted to prevent Covid-19 from spreading faster. President Joe Biden extended the entry restrictions and added South Africa to the list and will probably include India and Brazil soon.

The groups have also called for the White House to set standards for digital health documents that can show immigration officials proof of vaccinations or test results. Without direct action from the Boden Administration airlines and local officials have been considering ways to use digital vaccine or health passports to help spur travel and eventually modify travel restrictions. The European Union last week announced a proposal for a digital health certificate with a QR code that contains vaccine and Covid-19 test results. Delta Air Lines’ CEO Ed Bastian believes that he expects digital vaccine passports will be required for international travel in the near future and is concerned about the Biden Administration’s reluctance to move forward with options.

The White House has had no comment other than to point to the current recommendation against travel that CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky gave Monday. “Now is not the time to travel,” she said at a news conference.

“We are worried not just for what happens when you are on the airplane itself, but what happens when people travel, that is they go out, they mix, they mix with people who are not vaccinated,” she said.

Continuing to destroy major segments of the American economy doesn’t seem to be problem that this administration takes seriously and one has to wonder why?

Florida Files Lawsuit Against CDC April 8 – Gov. Ron DeSantis announced today that Florida has filed a lawsuit against the federal government and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to end the halt on cruise industry operations.

Cruise ships were prevented from leaving ports with passengers by a no-sail order issued by the CDC more than a year ago. That order was replaced with the agency’s “conditional sail order” published in October that requires cruise lines to abide by CDC-instituted phases for a return to cruising but hasn’t allowed them to resume sailing yet.

Senators Introduce Legislation To Override the CDC -Republican Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio of Florida and Dan Sullivan of Alaska introduced legislation Tuesday aiming to override the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s restrictions on cruising in U.S. waters,and allow ships to sail byJuly after the industry has been shut down longer than a year.

“Unlike the airlines, rail and other modes of transportation – and all other sectors of the hospitality industry for that matter – the cruise lines have been denied clear direction from the CDC on how to resume operations,” Sullivan said in an announcement.

Carnival President Christine Duffy Addresses CDC and Sailings – In a lengthy interview with the hosts of a Florida-based morning show, Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy addressed a wide range of issues relating to the resumption of sailings out of U.S. ports.

Duffy appeared on the This Week in South Florida broadcast to reiterate the importance of cruising being allowed to resume from ports such as those in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Port Canaveral and Jacksonville. When asked if she believed the Centers for Disease Control was dragging its feet, the exec stopped just short of saying that was the case.

“Right now,” she said, “the conditional sail order does not reflect vaccines, and there’s also a great deal of information [on how we proceed] that has not yet been communicated to the cruise lines from what will be required for test cruises [to] what kind of testing may be required. So we really just don’t have the details or transparency or engagement with the CDC that we need to begin sailing by this summer, which is such an important season for the cruise industry and or vacationers.”

She also repeated what has become something of a battle cry among those fighting to have the ban on sailing lifted: “The cruise industry, as far as we know, is the only industry that has not been able to operate for more than a year”.

April 9th – We just received this in an email from Celebrity Cruise Lines which states the case clearly.

Yesterday we extended the global suspension for most of our ships around the world through June. Unfortunately, this includes our United States (U.S.) homeports: Fort Lauderdale, Seattle, Cape Liberty (New Jersey), and other vital ports across the country. Right now, we are unable to sail from the U.S. due to the CDC’s Conditional Sail Order. Cruising remains the only sector of the economy that is prohibited by the U.S. Government from operating at this time.

Together with the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), we are petitioning U.S. policymakers and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to remove the Conditional Sail Order and allow cruising to resume along with other travel and hospitality industries. Over the past eight months, a highly-controlled resumption of cruising has taken place in Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific—with nearly 400,000 passengers sailing. Additional markets are scheduled to return in the spring and summer. It’s clear that as public health conditions have improved, our industry’s enhanced public health measures are working.

The cruise industry is a vital part of the travel and tourism economy. To date, over 300,000 jobs have been lost in the U.S. due to the suspension of cruises. The majority of those impacted are independent business owners or individuals employed by small- to medium-sized businesses. With the cruise industry supporting nearly 450,000 American jobs and contributing to over $55.5 billion annually, restarting cruises as part of the broader travel industry will provide a much-needed boost to our country’s economy.

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Norwegian Cruise Line has sent a letter to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating that it is their intention to begin sailing from U.S. ports on July 4th under strict health and safety protocols that include mandatory vaccinations against COVID-19 for all crew and passengers. They will deploy the SailSAFE Health and Safety protocols developed by globally recognized experts from the Healthy Sail Panel assembled jointly by NCL and Royal Caribbean.

NCL declares in the letter that it will not be reliant on shoreside facilities to handle or mitigate any potential COVID-19 outbreaks onboard its ships stating; “We will not require federal, state or local governments to incur time and/or resources in providing medical assistance to our brands’ guests as we have invested tens of millions of dollars in enhanced onboard health and safety protocols, including, but not limited to, enhanced hospital grade air filtration systems, cutting-edge contact tracing technology and significantly upgraded ICU and quarantine medical facilities,” notes the letter. “Our vessels are well equipped to handle the one-off case of infection that could occur, and our procedures are well detailed and resourced to treat, address and otherwise handle any isolated case onboard.”

In an additional action Carnival Corporation indicated that if the CDC doesn’t soon take reasonable actin to allow cruising to restart from U.S. ports the company will be forced to move their sailings to ports outside the United States. If other cruise companies take similar actions it will cost America tens of thousands of jobs and several hundreds of millions of dollars in annual business.

April 2nd 2021

Italy Bans Cruise Ships From Venice’s City Center – An article from Reuters explained that the motion was passed on March 31, 2021, and called for the construction of a ship terminal outside the lagoon near the famed Saint Mark’s Square for all passenger ships over 40,000 tons.The Italian government has taken measures to protect Venice’s historic city center from potential damage cruise ships could cause.

US Working on COVID-19 Vaccination Credential System – United States President Joe Biden and his administration are working with private industries to develop a COVID-19 vaccination credential system. According to The Washington Post, the travel industry has been calling on the federal government to develop credentials—dubbed vaccine passports, health certificates or travel passes—that would streamline the process across the country, instead of allowing for regional variations.

United Airlines plans hiring hundreds of pilots next month – United Airlines on Thursday told staff it will soon begin hiring hundreds of pilots — a process the airline was forced to halt when the coronavirus pandemic devastated travel demand last year, according to an internal email reviewed by CNBC.

March 26th, 2021

Is your ID “Department of Homeland Security” compliant? – On October 1st 2021 in order to fly domestically in the United States it will be necessary to have a REAL compliant identification card. Since most people use a drivers license as their usual identification. Check you license to see if it contains a gold circle with a star inside it? If it doesn’t you will need to update your license before you can board a plane. Click HERE to access the government site that can connect you with your states DMV to find out what you need to do.

The U.S. CDC’s continued pressure on the cruise industry has most companies not sure when they will be allowed to sail from U.S. ports. Many are now exploring Caribbean ports as new alternative home ports for cruises this Summer. American travel organizations are becoming concerned that the actions of the CDC are intentionally trying to damage certain sectors of the travel industry.

Royal Caribbean and Celebrity announce they will begin Caribbean cruises in June. Celebrity Cruises will home port the Millennium out of Sint Maarten with the first week long cruise sailing June 5th. Royal Caribbean will start sailings on June 12th from Nassau Bahamas.

Disney Cruise Line extended its operations pause through May. The line canceled sailings on the Disney Dream until June 5, the Disney Wonder through July 8, the Disney Fantasy until June 3, and, citing the likelihood that international borders will remain closed “for an extended period of time,” canceled Europe sailings on the Disney Magic through Aug. 10. The line also canceled many scheduled sailings that are longer than seven days to comply with CDC rules.

Crystal To Base Luxury Cruise Ship In Bahamas – In a move to open up cruising in North America, Crystal Cruises announced it would home port its luxury oceangoing ship, Crystal Serenity in the Bahamas. It will offer new weeklong itineraries departing from, and visiting only ports in the Bahamas.

The US Virgin Islands Is Open – The U.S. Virgin Islands has reopened to travel with enhanced health and safety protocols in place amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to being one of the most sought-after destinations in the Caribbean, the USVI—consisting of the main islands of St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas—is among the most accessible to Americans, who won’t need a passport to visit or a negative COVID-19 test result to return home to the mainland U.S.

Singapore Airlines to trial IATA Travel Pass
Singapore Airlines will become the first airline in the world to pilot the Travel Pass mobile application from the International Air Transport Association next week.

Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas will be extending its cruise to nowhere schedule for an additional three months in Singapore between March 22 and June 21, and residents can now book two-, three- and four-night Ocean Getaways aboard the groundbreaking ship.

MSC is also making plans for Caribbean cruises to be departing from Cozumel Mexico in the next couple of months but there are complications.

Covid-19 wiped out 74% of international tourist arrivals in 2020 – UN World Travel Organization reports due to the global pandemic, that the World Tourism Barometer by UNWTO, 2020 had 1 billion fewer international arrivals than the previous year, wiping out 75% of international travel.

Israel tourism begins reopening as country emerges from lockdown – With around 4.3 million people having received at least one shot of a Covid-19 vaccine, Israel is currently preparing to reopen its economy.

Royal Caribbean sells Azamara in $201m private equity deal – The cruise line said the all cash deal with Sycamore Partners would allow it to focus on core operations after almost a year out of the water following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Royal Caribbean To Operate Homeport in Barbados for First Time – The Grandeur of the Seas will operate three seven- and 14-night Southern Caribbean itineraries from Bridgetown. The program includes three new ports of call for the line to Tobago, Trinidad and St. Vincent.

Disney World Eliminating Free Magical Express Airport Transport in 2022 and Other WDW News – New and existing bookings in 2021 will have the option to reserve transportation via Magical Express up until Dec. 31.

JetBlue Joins American, Alaska in Changing Rules for Emotional Support Animals – As of January 11, 2021, emotional support animals will no longer be recognized as service animals.

Florida Considering Bill to Reverse Key West Cruise Ship Ban – The Florida Senate is considering for a bill that would ban local communities from trying to regulate cruise ports, a move that would reverse recent restrictions on cruise ships advanced in Key West.

Top Mexican Tourism Destinations Working on Plan To Restart Sector – Updated COVID-19 Protocols to help bring tourists back.

Canada’s Travel Industry ‘In Tailspin’ After Government Announces New COVID Test Rules – Canada isn’t alone, dozens of countries enter third phase lockdowns.



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