US State Department Issues Cruise Warning – Other Cruise News: Viking To Announce Mississippi Plans In April – Victory To Promote Two Ships In Alaska

by Kevin Griffin

Last night, the US State Department issued a warning to its citizens, especially older ones or those with underlying health conditions, not to travel by cruise ship. How much this is exaggeration is not known, but more residents appear to have died in a single nursing home in Kirkland, Washington, than in the entire world cruise fleet. Meanwhile, domestically, after as many as seven years under study, Viking River Cruises is about to make a move into US-flag Mississippi River cruising. And Victory Cruise Lines is planning to offer a two-ship Alaska cruising operation in 2021.


US State Department Issues Cruise Warning

Despite a meeting between the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and Vice-President Mike Pence, US coronavirus co-ordinator, the US State Department has issued a negative warning for US citizens contemplating taking a cruise. The State Department warning, issued yesterday, reads as follows:

“US citizens, particularly travellers with underlying health conditions, should not travel by cruise ship,” the State Department said in a statement posted to its website on Sunday, March 8.Cruise Lines International Association - CLIA (logo)

CDC notes increased risk of infection of COVID-19 in a cruise ship environment. In order to curb the spread of COVID-19, many countries have implemented strict screening procedures that have denied port entry rights to ships and prevented passengers from disembarking. In some cases, local authorities have permitted disembarkation but subjected passengers to local quarantine procedures. While the US government has evacuated some cruise ship passengers in recent weeks, repatriation flights should not be relied upon as an option for US citizens under the potential risk of quarantine by local authorities.

This is a fluid situation. CDC notes that older adults and travellers with underlying health issues should avoid situations that put them at increased risk for more severe disease. This entails avoiding crowded places, avoiding non-essential travel such as long plane trips, and especially avoiding embarking on cruise ships.

The Grand Princess

The Grand Princess

Until CLIA’s globalisation just over seven years ago, CLIA was the mouth of the US cruising industry and now speaks for the world. According to today’s “New York Times,” four member of the coronavirus task force urged going public with the warning, which will do nothing positive for the US cruise industry.

Meanwhile, the 2,600-berth Grand Princess, which reported 21 cases on board off San Francisco, berthed today in nearby Oakland. Authorities expect it to take a few days to empty the ship. The Grand Princess is a fleet mate of the 2,700-berth Diamond Princess, on board of which 700 tests were infected during her time in quarantine at Yokohama.


Viking To Announce Mississippi Plans In April

Viking has recently sent invitations for an April 7 trade event in New Orleans, where it says chairman Torstein Hagen will officially reveal “the introduction of modern river cruising in the US.”

American's series of modern riverboats are all equipped with an advanced retractable gangway and opening bow, 5-story glass Atrium, Grand Suites, and all-balcony standard cabins

American’s series of modern riverboats are all equipped with an advanced retractable gangway and opening bow, 5-story glass Atrium, Grand Suites, and all-balcony standard cabins

This follows by two or three years an announcement by American Cruise Lines, the largest U.S. cruise company, that it too was launching a series of modern river ships. The American Song was the first of three modern riverboats introduced by American Cruise Lines, in 2018.

ACL currently is sailing three such vessels, two on the Mississippi and one on the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest. Two more are set to join the fleet in 2021 under an earlier delivery scenario. Viking plans to introduce its first US-flag vessel in 2022.

The ACL trio have joined four more traditional paddle-wheelers plying US waters. The company also operates small-ship coastal cruises.

American Countess (Rendering Gulf Island Fabrication, Inc)

American Countess (Rendering Gulf Island Fabrication, Inc)

American Queen Steamboat Company chairman and ceo John Waggoner said he believes Viking will bring additional exposure to the inland waterways of the US, which should benefit all current operators.

ACL and American Queen have both reported booming demand in recent years for their river cruises. ACL said this week that sales during the first-quarter surpassed expectations and broke records in almost all categories.

American Queen is adding a fourth vessel, a restored paddle-wheeler called the American Countess, next month. But Waggoner has said he is not in a rush to add more riverboats, focusing instead on small-ship cruising after the company purchased Victory Cruise Lines.

Victory To Promote Two Ships In Alaska

Victory Cruise Lines has announced the addition of its fourth vessel, Ocean Discoverer, on charter from Sun Stone Ships. Currently under construction, the Ocean Discoverer will be delivered in September 2022 and will join the Ocean Victory in Alaska in 2023.

Ocean Victory (Artist impression)

Ocean Victory (Artist impression)

The Ocean Discoverer will make its debut with the Discover Beyond Alaska Expedition Adventure Cruise itineraries, which are currently available for booking onboard the Ocean Victory.

“We are pleased to welcome our second Alaska-bound expedition ship and expand our Victory Cruise Line experiences,” said John Waggoner, founder and ceo of American Queen Steamboat Company. “Following the success of our inaugural season on the Great Lakes, Canadian Maritimes and coastal New England, we are excited to continue that momentum with the new Ocean Discoverer and look forward to showcasing the very best of expedition cruising in Alaska.”

The 8,500-ton, 344-foot, 200-berth Ocean Discoverer will be identical to the Ocean Victory and feature ninety-three suites, of which sixty-eight will feature balconies, nine French balconies and sixteen panoramic windows. The vessel will carry a crew of 100 and boast a 2-to-1 guest to crew ratio.

Onboard venues include two restaurants, in addition to an open-deck dining area, observation and lectures lounges, piano bar, library, gym, spa, swimming pool with a pool bar and jacuzzi.

(Kevin Griffin is managing director of The Cruise People Ltd and a director of specialist cruise operator Culture Cruises Ltd, both of London, England. For further information concerning cruises mentioned in this article readers can visit his blog)

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