By Eric Hanson
A federal judge on Friday sided with the state of Florida’s lawsuit against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), saying that the government agency likely exceeded its authority by issuing a Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) preventing cruise lines from sailing from Florida ports.
Judge Steven Merryday issued the state a preliminary injunction against the restrictions and guidelines of the CSO, which include such mandates as taking test cruises and implementing vaccine requirements for passengers.
"This order finds that Florida is highly likely to prevail on the merits of the claim that CDC’s conditional sailing order and the implementing orders exceed the authority delegated to CDC," Merryday wrote in concluding the 124-page ruling.
Cruise lines could begin operating in and out of ports in Florida – the most lucrative in the world – as early as next month under the ruling.
Industry observers cautioned that the ruling is just a temporary injunction.
The judge wrote that the CDC has until July 2 to propose new guidelines "both permitting cruise ships to sail timely (while) remaining within CDC's authority."
The state had filed suit against the CDC in April.
"Today, we are securing this victory for Florida families, for the cruise industry, and for every state that wants to preserve its rights in the face of unprecedented federal overreach," Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a statement.
Merryday wrote that the state of Florida established a strong likelihood that many, or almost all, cruise ships will remain unable to sail for the entire summer season.
“And each day the cruise industry faces uncertainty about when cruises can resume, Florida not only suffers a concrete economic injury resulting from reduced revenue and increased unemployment spending, but Florida faces an increasingly threatening and imminent prospect that the cruise industry will depart the state," the ruling said.
By Michael Higgins
East Coast Bureau
To meet increased demand for flights to popular tourism destinations in Mexico, American Airlines and JetBlue are adding additional routes and boosting existing service.
According to the Riviera Maya News, American announced it would add four-times-weekly direct flights between Cancun and Austin, Texas, starting in October. The airline revealed it would increase flights into Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta.
As of November 2, American will also add three flights between Puerto Vallarta and Austin.
“Earlier this year, we added more flights from Austin and customers have spoken: they want more,” American Vice President Brian Znotins said. “We’re eager to offer our customers even more opportunities to reconnect with family, friends and colleagues. Together with our partners, we’re making it easier than ever to connect Austin with the world.”
In addition, JetBlue announced it has officially launched service at San Jose del Cabo’s Los Cabos International Airport.
The first roundtrip flights between the popular Mexican destination and Los Angeles International Airport landed Thursday night, with the carrier’s Los Cabos service from the East and West Coasts operating daily.
“With demand for travel the strongest it’s been in more than a year, our new nonstop flights between the East and West Coasts and Los Cabos are perfectly timed for customers looking for a much-needed escape this summer,” JetBlue vice president Andrea Lusso said.
“At the same time, our newest international destination grows our presence in Latin America and helps further our network strategies in the Northeast and Southern California,” Lusso continued.
By Carmen Gomez de Salazar
The state of California’s Departments of Public Health and Technology today unveiled a way for residents to keep digital copies of their COVID-19 vaccination records.
The Digital COVID-19 Vaccine Record portal relies on the state’s existing immunization registry and provides the same information as the paper cards that are issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The new portal, "provides Californians a way to view and save their own vaccine record," the state’s Chief Information Officer, Amy Tong, explained on a press call. "Instead of having a card, if they want to have a digital version of the same CDC card, this is your opportunity to do so."
To access their vaccine information online, Californians will complete an online form with their name, date of birth and cell phone or email they provided upon receiving the vaccine, then create a personal four-digit pin. The system will then spit out a QR code that’s linked directly to their COVID-19 vaccination record.
Users can take a screenshot of their digital record as displayed on the site, rather than carrying around and keeping track of a CDC card. Because, let’s face it, little slips of paper stuffed into your wallet or tossed into a drawer aren’t an ideal form of documentation these days.
“The odds are someone is going to misplace their paper CDC card and a digital COVID-19 vaccine record provides a convenient backup,” the state’s epidemiologist, Dr. Erica Pan, told reporters. Plus, paper records can be more easily falsified, as Lucy Dunn, the Orange County Business Council’s President and Chief Executive, pointed out to the Associated Press.
Amid ongoing concerns over potential discrimination based on individual vaccination statuses, California Governor Gavin Newsom has said that the tool does not—repeat NOT—constitute a “vaccine passport”, NBC News reported.
Thus far, New York is the only state to have created an official app that’s linked to its vaccination database, called the “Excelsior Pass”, which vaccinated residents can use when there’s a need to verify their immunization status, such as when attending very large events.
There’s no actual app to correspond with California’s new web portal, but it essentially serves the same purpose.
"This is very similar in concept to what New York launched with Excelsior Pass, which is an opportunity for a resident, in our case the state of California, to have a digital copy of their vaccination record," California's Chief Technology Innovation Officer, Rick Klau, said.
Although the Golden State has mostly reopened its communities and economy, some pandemic protections remain, including a stipulation that all entrants at mass indoor gatherings (e.g., concerts, sporting events) provide proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test.
Despite some Americans’ resistance to the notion of vaccine passports, proof of vaccination is already emerging as a travel requirement for U.S. visitors entering other countries.
“It’s voluntary, personal, protected and as easy as adding it to your smart phone’s digital wallet like an airline boarding pass,” Dunn said of California’s new COVID-19 vaccination records portal.
For more information, visit myvaccinerecord.cdph.ca.gov.
By Paul Marcotte
West Coast Bureau
Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic travelers will be able to use a new tool that helps take the guesswork out of meeting health requirements for travel.
Delta FlyReady will be available to customers to help manage testing requirements and, later this summer, it will integrate vaccination credentials.
The airline began testing the tool in April on flights between Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and London’s Heathrow Airport. Through FlyReady, passengers were able to schedule Covid-19 tests, verify test results ad confirm that they meet the necessary requirements for entry to a destination.
“Early in the pandemic, we realized that our customers would need a way to navigate the complex requirements of post-COVID international travel, so we began working with our partners at Virgin Atlantic to develop this solution,” said Allison Ausband, executive vice president and chief customer experience officer. “We are committed to making travel an enjoyable experience that we all cherish, and Delta FlyReady is an easy-to-use, reliable and effective capability that removes the guesswork for customers and our employees.”
Those flying with Virgin Atlantic will also use the technology, branded as Virgin Atlantic FlyReady.
“Virgin Atlantic FlyReady and Delta FlyReady will help to strengthen customers’ confidence as they return to the skies, by making their trans-Atlantic journeys as smooth and seamless as possible, while navigating new Covid-19 travel requirements in a convenient digital format,” said Corneel Koster, chief customer and operating officer, Virgin Atlantic. “Our commitment is to ensure every single customer flies safe and well and we’re delighted to be working closely with our partners Delta Air Lines and TrustAssureTM to launch this innovative integrated solution, which will be further developed to include vaccination status.”
FlyReady is integrated into Delta's booking system. After booking a flight, travelers check their email and access FlyReady through a link.
Following the link, travelers can schedule their Covid-19 tests through a Delta partnership with TrustAssure or upload their test results from another trusted partner.
Currently, the tool is designed for flights between the U.S. ad the U.K., however, Delta plans to expand FlyReady as additional international destinations reopen.
Come August and September, the two ships will begin sailing three-, four-, and seven-night Caribbean itineraries out of Miami and Port Canaveral. And, guests aboard all U.S. departures will get to visit Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, the company’s private island destination in The Bahamas, which opened at the end of 2019, just prior to the onset of the pandemic.
“It’s time to cruise again, and we are incredibly excited to open our U.S. summer 2021 cruises for booking and take a step closer toward bringing our guests back on board our ships in the U.S. this summer,” said Rubén Rodriguez, president of MSC Cruises USA. “Looking ahead, our guests have so much to look forward to, with a choice of quick getaways or week-long vacations from Miami, or our brand-new homeport in Port Canaveral, all visiting our new private island, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve. And, later this year, guests will love our newest ship to hit U.S. waters, MSC Seashore, when she makes her Miami debut this November.”
MSC Cruises’ U.S. Restart Itineraries
MSC Meraviglia, the first smart ship of its class, will resume sailing on August 2, offering three- and four-night cruises to The Bahamas. Then, starting September 18, the ship will alternate between seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries.
— August 2, 2021: This four-night Eastern Caribbean cruise out of Miami will visit Nassau, Bahamas and Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve.
— September 18, 2021: MSC Meraviglia’s first week-long cruise since resuming operations will embark in Miami, calling at Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve; Nassau, Bahamas; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; and Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve a second time on the return trip.
— September 25, 2021: This seven-night Western Caribbean cruise out of Miami will visit Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve; Costa Maya, Mexico; Cozumel, Mexico; and Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve for a second time.
MSC Divina will be the line’s second ship to resume cruising from the U.S., sailing three-, four- and seven-night itineraries to The Bahamas and Caribbean out of MSC Cruises’ newest homeport in Orlando (Port Canaveral).
— September 16, 2021: This three-night cruise from Port Canaveral will visit Nassau, Bahamas and Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve
— October 3, 2021: This seven-night cruise from Port Canaveral will call at Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve; Cozumel, Mexico; and Costa Maya, Mexico.
Given Florida's new regulations, MSC Meraviglia and MSC Divina will welcome both COVID-vaccinated and unvaccinated guests, with multilayered protections in place to safeguard public health. MSC Cruises does, however, highly encourage guests to get fully vaccinated prior to boarding their departures.
Guests who aren’t fully vaccinated will need to fulfill several additional requirements and will be subject to more stringent protocols while on board. Firstly, they’ll need to purchase MSC Cruises’ Travel Insurance & COVID-19 Protection Services prior to their voyage, whereas fully vaccinated guests receive MSC Cruises’ COVID-19 Reassurance protection at no charge.
Unvaccinated passengers will be required to purchase MSC-sponsored shore excursions in order to go ashore during their cruise, and will need to test upon embarkation in Florida and while onboard.
Details on additional health and safety measures, guest and crew requirements, and new sanitation and operating protocols can be found here.
For more information, visit msccruisesusa.com.
By Mary Johnson
A new study by CHEQ and the University of Baltimore, called “The Economic Cost of Bad Actors on the Internet: Fake Online Reviews 2021” found that fake online travel reviews will directly impact $4.1 billion in consumer spending this year alone.
The report was created with CHEQ, the leader in customer acquisition security (CAS) and Professor Roberto Cavazos, Executive in Residence in the University of Baltimore’s Merrick School of Business.
Around 89 percent of consumers rely on consumer reviews, influencing almost $4 trillion in online spending. How many of these reviews that we rely on to book hotels, choose destinations and restaurants, and purchase products are fake, either written by liars or bots? At least 4 percent, influencing around $21.2 billion in purchases across all categories of e-commerce.
Major review sites differ in their specific percentage of fake reviews. Around 8 percent of Yelp’s reviews are fake; the largest percentage across the top four review sites. It’s followed by Trust Pilot at 5.7 percent, Trip Advisor at 0.6 percent and Amazon at less than 1 percent.
While fake reviews are typically written by humans, bot-filled reviews are more prevalent on travel sites, which is why some sites have you as the user prove you’re not a bot.
“Given the size of the market, the ease of entry and the immediate economic benefits, bad actors remain highly incentivized to engage in fake reviews in sectors such as travel,” said Professor Roberto Cavazos. “This complex market is adversely influencing our purchases, causing significant economic detriment, creating real revenue losses for businesses, and severely diminishing trust in online purchasing."
The fake online reviews and the tendency of consumers towards distrusting online reviews is another great reason why travelers should book with a travel advisor.
Besides watching out for scams and providing travelers with the latest health and safety information, travel advisors have the best resources at their disposal and should be able to save travelers from making the wrong decisions based on online reviews.
If an advisor hasn’t been to the destination or the accommodations a traveler is considering, they know where to find the best information available, and it’s usually a travel advisor portal or an official website. While the Internet is a great resource, human contact is still the best method of finding information when it comes to traveling, especially with a travel expert.
To read the full report, please click here.
By Michael Barta
West Coast Bureau
The Transportation Department's Office of Consumer Aviation Protection is seeking a fine of $25.6 million against Air Canada for failing to provide refunds to customers in a timely matter for flights it canceled as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"The civil penalty amount is based on a variety of factors, such as the consumer harm caused by the violations. The penalty is also intended to deter Air Canada and other carriers from committing similar violations in the future," the DOT said.
The case will be heard by a federal administrative law judge.
Air Canada said Tuesday that it believes the DOT's case has no merit and that it "will vigorously challenge the proceedings."
Until reversing its policy as part of an April bailout agreement with the Canadian government, Air Canada had defined all Covid-19-related flight cancellations as outside its control and therefore not subject to refunds for those who didn't hold a refundable ticket. The policy was in conflict with DOT requirements that airlines provide refunds for cancellations of flights scheduled to fly to or from the U.S.
The carrier argued that a guidance document about airlines' refund obligations that the DOT posted online last May does not have force of law.
"As mere guidance, they cannot overrule or supersede the department's well-established regulatory framework, as instituting a new regulation requires public notice and comment," Air Canada said.
The enforcement proceeding, however, relies on specific federal statutes, rather than that guidance document, for its case.
Since March 2020, the DOT has received more than 6,000 complaints against Air Canada from consumers who said they were denied refunds, the department said. The airline, the DOT alleges, has committed a minimum of 5,110 violations, with passengers waiting between five and 13 months to receive refunds.
Air Canada's long-lasting refusal to pay refunds for Covid-related cancellations drew the ire of the travel agency community, including a public call from ASTA last July for Air Canada to reverse course. The carrier only did so in April as part of a deal in which it received a $4.7 billion liquidity package from the Canadian federal government. Under the deal, Air Canada also agreed to not retract travel agency commissions on those refunded fares.
"Air Canada's new refund policy does not change the fact that Air Canada committed thousands of violations of U.S. law prior to that time," the DOT stated in the Notice of Enforcement it issued against the airline on Tuesday. "Moreover, in the absence of an order directing Air Canada to cease and desist from future similar violations, there remains the possibility that Air Canada could revive its no-refund policy in the future."
This report was updated on Tuesday afternoon with reaction from Air Canada.
By Alice Richards
East Coast Bureau
The FAA says requiring a secondary cockpit door on new aircraft and a minimum flight attendant rest period of 10 hours between flights are regulatory priorities for the coming year.
The agency and its parent cabinet department, the DOT, are already long out of compliance on congressional mandates to address both matters. The 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act directed the FAA to issue an order requiring secondary cockpit barriers by October 2019. The same bill required the DOT to write the 10-hour rest requirement into federal code within 30 days.
The DOT identified both mandates as priorities in its recently released Spring Regulatory Agenda.
The addition of a second cockpit door on new commercial aircraft has been a priority of the Air Line Pilots Association Union (ALPA) since 9/11. The second door would enable a pilot to close the door to the cockpit before opening a door to the airplane cabin. As such, they could prevent a hijacker from rushing the cockpit when a pilot steps out to use the lavatory.
The DOT will go through a public rule-making process before implementing a second door requirement.
Similarly, flight attendants' unions have pushed for the 10-hour rest rule.
Currently, airlines are required to schedule eight hours of rest for flight attendants between flights. Increasing the requirement would put flight attendants on a par with pilots
By Jane Pearson
East Coast Bureau
Hilton Hotels will nearly double its presence in Las Vegas by the end of this year, just in time for the return to travel after the pandemic.
The lodging giant is slated to have more than 30 hotels and 11,000 rooms across 12 brands in the market by year’s end. That includes the opening this month of Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, Curio Collection, and July’s debut of Conrad Hotels & Resorts, LXR Hotels & Resorts and Hilton Hotels & Resorts at the integrated Resorts World Las Vegas complex.
It’s not new, of course. Hilton is one of the pioneers of the city, with the Las Vegas Hilton playing host to numerous shows by Elvis Presley – residencies back in the day when they weren’t yet known as a residency.
“Hilton helped create the Las Vegas we know today – the entertainment capital of the world grew as we invested in unparalleled hotels, dining, entertainment and design,” Hilton President and CEO Chris Nassetta said in a statement.
“Now we are raising the bar again, offering brands for any style of travel with a renewed focus on premium and luxury hotels. Las Vegas has been an especially bright spot in our global growth strategy, and we are excited to open thousands of rooms there just as people begin traveling again.”
Hilton has committed to continue its expansion in the market with a pipeline of seven hotels and nearly 4,000 rooms across five brands, which will increase its footprint by more than 50 percent by 2023.
What to expect? Well, Hilton has “reimagined and reconceptualized” Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, Curio Collection by Hilton, featuring an exclusive spa, a five-acre pool complex including VIP-style cabanas and daybeds along with a beach club, entertainment venues, a state-of-the-art casino and 110,000 square feet of meeting and event space.
Through a historic partnership between Hilton and Genting Group, Resorts World Las Vegas is set to open June 24 and marks the largest multi-brand deal in Hilton’s history. The $4.3 billion development integrates the largest Conrad Hotels & Resorts property in the world, one of the first LXR Hotels & Resorts locations in the U.S., and a marquee Hilton Hotels & Resorts hotel, each offering its own dedicated entrance, lobby and distinct collection of accommodations.
In addition, Resorts World Las Vegas is poised to be Hilton’s largest property globally, with 3,500 guest rooms and suites. With its opening, Conrad and LXR will join Waldorf Astoria in the market to make Las Vegas the only U.S. destination housing all three of Hilton’s luxury brands.
Guests staying at any of the three hotels can enjoy premium amenities across the Resorts World Las Vegas campus including more than 40 food and beverage outlets, seven unique pool experiences, an expansive next-generation casino floor, over 250,000 square feet of flexible meeting space and a 5,000-capacity theatre that will be home to upcoming residencies by Celine Dion, Carrie Underwood, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan.
By Carmen Gomez de Salazar
Guests were once again welcomed back to Universal’s Aventura Hotel today, June 16. This reopening is significant for the theme park resort as it now means all eight of its hotels have reopened.
Universal Orlando prides itself on having a hotel for every type of budget, and Universal Aventura is filled with modern amenities and technology at your fingertips – there’s even a robot in the lobby.
Topping things off – literally – is the hotel’s rooftop bar: Bar 17 Bistro. Specializing in shareable eats, guests are also treated to 360-degree views of the parks and downtown Orlando area. My personal favorite dishes are the Chef’s Cheese Board and fried rice.
For those wanting a quick bite to eat, Urban Pantry is a food hall-style restaurant where you can grab a pizza, burgers, or even custom-made wok dishes. For those wanting to relax by the pool, Bar Sol is onsite to provide all your frozen drink needs.
Universal’s Aventura Hotel is within easy walking distance of Volcano Bay – the resort’s water theme park and free transportation is provided for visitors to Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida. Like with all Universal hotels, guests get to enjoy early admission into the parks, which is ideal for enjoying Universal’s Islands of Adventure's newest rollercoaster – Jurassic World’s VelociCoaster.
Currently, the hotel has standard room packages from $132.00 a night for a four-night stay and Kids Suite rooms starting at $232.00 per night for a four-night stay.
By Suze Miller
East Coast Bureau
Princess Cruises will resume sailing from U.S. ports in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Fort Lauderdale, starting in September.
Guests must have had their final dose of an approved Covid-19 vaccine at least two weeks before their cruise departs and provide proof of vaccination. Crews will be vaccinated in accordance with CDC guidelines, Princess said.
The cruise line has also implemented new protocols and enhanced sanitization onboard.
Princess will deploy eight ships between Sept. 25 and Nov. 28. The line's first sailing will be a five-day Cabo San Lucas cruise on the Grand Princess departing Los Angeles on Sept. 25.
The Majestic Princess and Grand Princess will sail from Los Angeles to the California coast, Mexico and Hawaii. The Ruby Princess will sail out of San Francisco to destinations in California, Mexico and Hawaii.
The Enchanted Princess will sail from Fort Lauderdale to the southern and eastern Caribbean. The Sky Princess, Regal Princess and Caribbean Princess will sail from Fort Lauderdale to the eastern and western Caribbean.
The Crown Princess will sail to the Panama Canal from Fort Lauderdale.
As a result of the announcement of U.S. sailings, Princess said some cruises will be canceled, as will the Island Princess' remaining Europe and transatlantic season.
Princess will price-protect a replacement voyage, or guests can opt to receive a future cruise credit of 100% of the cruise fare paid plus an additional bonus credit of 10%. Guests can also opt for a full refund.
Guests will automatically receive the option of a future cruise credit unless they request otherwise by July 17. FCCs are good for sailings through Dec. 31, 2022.
"As we continue our return to service, it is a thrill for us to be able to bring more cruise vacation options to our travel-starved guests," Princess president Jan Swartz said in a statement. "We appreciate the support of government and port officials who we worked closely with to make these travel opportunities available, in a thoughtful and safe way, for our guests."
Details on dining, entertainment and shore excursions are expected in the coming weeks.
All of Princess' ships offer the OceanMedallion, a wearable device that offers touchless embarkation and disembarkation, keyless stateroom entry and contactless commerce.
By Stan Majors
West Coast Bureau
Over the course of four days this month, the four largest cruise lines laid out plans for the summer in which they demonstrated that, after a year of walking in lockstep as an industry, they are taking very different paths toward a restart.
Much can be inferred about why each of the brands -- Royal Caribbean International, Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line and MSC Cruises -- chose different paths, but industry analyst Patrick Scholes of Truist Securities broke it down in simple terms: "Each cruise line is doing what they think allows for the greatest likelihood of getting their ships to sail."
Each restart is in line with one of the two options that the CDC has detailed for cruise resumption. One path allows ships that attest to having 95% of crew and passengers vaccinated to skip test sailings and free guests and crew from wearing masks and social distancing in most situations.
The other requires ships not reaching the 95% threshold to conduct trial cruises and make all passengers, vaccinated or not, wear masks indoors and practice social distancing in public venues, among other restrictions.
Looming over all decisions is Florida's ban on businesses requiring proof of vaccination. Florida is home to the three largest cruise ports in the country.
Norwegian Cruise Line has not wavered from its policy of requiring all passengers on every ship resuming service through October to be vaccinated. MSC Cruises went the other way, with no vaccine mandate at all.
The surprises were Royal Caribbean International dropping what had been a vaccine mandate for anyone age 12 and older on its cruises this summer out of Florida and Texas and Carnival Cruise Line saying that 95% of passengers must have the shots, eliminating almost all children under 12 from sailing.
Royal's position was a reversal: The line had recently said it would not reach the 95% threshold but that anyone eligible for the vaccine would have to get it.
Carnival's move was unexpected because president Christine Duffy had talked on several occasions about the difficulty of vaccine mandates, given that Carnival carries more families and children than any other line.
Richard Fain, CEO of Royal parent company Royal Caribbean Group, said that while the line has to follow the "law of the land" in Florida, he also made clear that unvaccinated travelers would face hassles compared with their vaccinated counterparts.
Unvaccinated passengers "will need to undergo additional testing and other restrictions," he said in a video message to travel advisors. "That necessarily adds to their cost and adds limitations on the cruise for those people who choose to be unvaccinated."
Duffy, meanwhile, said in an interview that the CDC requirements for ships with an unvaccinated passenger base, such as mandating vaccinated people to wear masks indoors, would not enable the line to deliver the Carnival experience.
"I think that creates a pretty big disincentive for people who are vaccinated to have to spend their cruise [wearing a mask] when they're indoors," Duffy said.
Also difficult would be the physical distancing requirements.
"Do you have to separate sections of a casino, which is tight quarters, or dining rooms or in the theater or in the comedy club? I just think it really puts a lot of burden on our team to be able to deliver the experience for everyone in a way that everyone can fully feel the experience," she said.
Another concern for Duffy is the different requirements that destinations may have and whether some passengers would be unable to disembark, or if even vaccinated people would have to get tested to get off at a port of call.
"Our guests need certainty," she said. "We're sailing in July."
Despite Fain's comment about following Florida law, Royal's sister brand, Celebrity Cruises, was keeping its adult vaccine mandate on cruises from Fort Lauderdale launching in June and July.
"We continue to work with the CDC and state and local health authorities on our final return to service plan in Florida," Celebrity said when asked about the discrepancy.
The line perhaps hopes that the many legal experts who have been saying that federal law trumps state law in this case, and will exempt the cruise lines from the Florida law, are right.
"As per the supremacy clause in the Constitution, federal law takes precedence over state law in general," said maritime law attorney John Hickey. "The CDC, which is a branch of the U.S. government, does have authority over certain aspects of the cruise industry. That should take precedence, certainly, over state law."
Such was Carnival's response when the Texas governor signed legislation similar to Florida's. The line said it believed "the law provides exceptions" for businesses acting in accordance with federal law.
As to why Royal would capitulate rather than claim federal precedence, Hickey said some Florida businesses may not want to engage in a showdown with Gov. Ron DeSantis.
"I get it," he said. "Why go picking fights when you don't need to? But the problem for the cruise lines is that if they sail without requiring vaccinations, they run the risk of a lot of infections."
Given how quickly positions and policies have changed recently, there's no telling which will last, which is why "nothing surprises" Scholes, the industry analyst.
"Given how things are moving very quickly, in another day or two I wouldn't be surprised if any of these companies reversed their positions," he said.
The fluidity does create some uncertainty for would-be cruisers, however.
"Though demand and pricing are strong, it has created some hesitation amongst travelers," Scholes said, adding that given the limited number of sailings and limited occupancy, "demand still outweighs supply."
By Eric Hanson
Despite talks between U.S. President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on June 13, no deal was reached between the North American leaders about reopening their shared land border, which has remained closed to non-essential travelers since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Canada’s Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Bill Blair, announced on Friday via Twitter that U.S.-Canadian border restrictions would remain in effect for at least another month, saying: “in coordination with the U.S., we are extending restrictions on non-essential international travel and with the United States until July 21st, 2021,” and asserting that the government’s number one priority continues to be keeping Canadians safe.
Though Canada has remained accessible by air to U.S. travelers throughout the pandemic, a bilateral ban on non-essential land crossings was first implemented in March 2020 and has been extended on a monthly basis ever since.
During a press conference on Friday, Trudeau acknowledged that the prolonged border closure “is frustrating”, Global News reported.
The Prime Minister said that he wanted at least 75 percent of the Canadian population inoculated with their first dose and 20 percent fully vaccinated before considering reopening the land border.
According to The Hill, 65.4 percent of Canadians have had at least one dose, and 16.5 percent have been fully immunized thus far.
Though Trudeau said he realizes that fully vaccinated Canadians who badly want to travel this summer may be protected, “it does not protect the community around you from catching COVID-19 from you.”
“You are still returning to a country where we haven’t yet reached a high enough threshold of second dose vaccination,” he continued. “We are getting there, but that’s why we are looking at a phased approach to easing border restrictions.”
Trudeau previously said that, when the U.S. and Canada do begin lifting border restrictions, proof of vaccination may be a requirement to cross.
Returning Canadian residents currently face a stringent set of reentry requirements, including a 14-day isolation period, regardless of their vaccination status. Although, Trudeau let slip last week that the government is working to loosen restrictions for fully vaccinated citizens.
“As we have said, the government is planning measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, Permanent Residents, and others who are currently permitted to enter Canada and will provide further details on Monday, June 21,” Blair confirmed on Twitter.
By Carmen Gomez de Salazar
The European Council has officially recommended today European Union (E.U.) member countries lift restrictions on non-essential travel from the U.S. That’s welcome news for the many Americans that have been holding out hope of taking a post-pandemic European vacation this summer.
Several others were also added today to the E.U.’s so-called “white list” of nations, territories and special administrative regions from which leisure travel is allowed: Albania, Hong Kong, Lebanon, Macau, North Macedonia, Serbia and Taiwan.
In a statement released Friday, the Council wrote that countries were selected for list inclusion based upon, “the epidemiological situation and overall response to COVID-19, as well as the reliability of the available information and data sources.” It also noted that the element of reciprocity is being taken into account on a case-by-case basis.
Today’s announcement essentially means that all 27 members of the E.U. bloc should shortly begin granting entry to U.S. tourists, among other foreigners. Bloomberg reported that member states will begin allowing in fully vaccinated Americans, and they may individually decide whether to also offer quarantine-free entry to unvaccinated travelers coming from white-listed countries.
The Council’s statement also advised Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican, as well as Schengen-area associated countries (Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, Switzerland) to adopt its updated travel policies.
This latest move by the E.U.’s governing body should go a long way toward restoring Transatlantic travel in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, something which airlines have been pressing U.S. and E.U. officials to actively support as vaccination rates improve on both sides of the Atlantic.
Still, it’s important to note that the Council’s recommendations aren’t legally binding and that each member state is responsible for implementing these guidelines. Bloc members can also choose to impose added regulations as they see fit, including quarantine, testing or vaccination requirements.
"It’s up to every country to decide how and when to open the borders," French Embassy spokesperson Pascal Confavreux said, according to USA Today. "The European Union is the one giving the framework, but the decision comes from the states."
Americans hoping to travel to Europe any time soon should therefore check the E.U.’s reopening website for current restrictions in their intended destination.
For more information, visit reopen.europa.eu/en.
By Sally Rogers
West Coast Bureau
Travelers returning to the skies this summer will find that a wide array of domestic lounges have reopened. However, many that cater primarily to international flyers remain shuttered.
Among the Big Three U.S. carriers, Delta has 47 of its 52 Sky Clubs open, most recently having reopened a second lounge in Boston on June 8.
American is operating 27 of its 42 domestic network Admirals Club lounges across 21 cities and has also reopened lounges in Mexico City and Sao Paulo.
However, American has yet to reopen any of its five Flagship lounges, which cater almost exclusively to business and first-class international travelers.
United is reopening its domestic lounges at a slower pace than its chief rivals. Currently, the carrier has 11 United Club lounges open, including at least one in each of its eight hubs of Chicago O'Hare, Newark, Washington Dulles, Houston Bush, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver and Guam, plus the Honolulu United Club. The carrier says it will have 21 lounges open by midsummer, with new additions coming in Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and Las Vegas.
United has yet to reopen any of its five Polaris lounges, which serve business-class, international flyers. Closures will continue until international traffic reaches sustainable levels, the carrier said.
Alaska, the fourth U.S. airline with a lounge network, has reopened its three Alaska Lounges in Seattle as well as lounges in Anchorage and Los Angeles. The carrier has permanently closed its New York JFK lounge. A new San Francisco lounge is scheduled to open later this summer.
Similar scenarios are unfolding at U.S. lounge networks that aren't airline-owned. American Express has reopened 11 of the 12 U.S.-based Centurion Lounges it operated prior to the pandemic. The lone exception is LaGuardia, which is under construction; once complete, it will reopen in a larger space in the airport's new Terminal B. The only foreign Centurion Lounge, in Hong Kong, remains shuttered. In January, American Express also opened a new Centurion Lounge in Denver.
Escape Lounges, which operates a network of 13 common-use lounges in the U.S. that charge a daily fee for access, has reopened five of those locations, including two in Ontario, Calif., and lounges in Phoenix; West Palm Beach, Fla.; and Reno, Nev. Reopenings in Oakland, Calif., and Hartford, Conn., are slated for later this month, interim COO Sid Higgins said. None of Escape's five U.K. lounges have reopened.
Continuing travel restrictions are the primary reason many lounges serving international travelers remain closed. Virgin Atlantic, for example, has yet to reopen any of its Clubhouse lounges, including its renowned JFK Clubhouse. In London Heathrow, the situation is complicated because the lounge is located in Terminal 3, but Virgin is temporarily operating out of Terminal 2 due to pandemic-related terminal consolidation.
Still, some international lounges have reopened. Lufthansa, for example, reopened its First Class Lounge at Frankfurt Airport on June 1. The Swiss Business Lounge at New York JFK, which is run by the Lufthansa Group, is also open, though only for four hours per day. More lounges will reopen in the coming weeks, Lufthansa said.
Priority Pass, whose members have access to a network of more than 1,300 lounges worldwide, said that more than 50% of those lounges across the globe are currently open.
Some lounges, like the Swiss Lounge in New York, have shorter hours. And Lufthansa is requiring proof either of vaccination, recovery from Covid-19 or a negative Covid-19 test for entry.
Lounges throughout the U.S. are still required to enforce the federal mask mandate for airports except when customers are eating and drinking.
Service protocols have also been altered at many lounges, though not necessarily for the worse. Escape Lounges used to serve its freshly prepared food buffet-style. Now, customers receive table service after accessing the menu via QR code. Food options remain as varied as ever, Higgins said, including rotating seasonal offerings.
Escape has also replaced physical newspapers and magazines with a digital library of thousands of publications. And it used the Covid-19 pause to renovate lounges in Reno, Minneapolis, Oakland and Hartford. "We took the opportunity of the restrictions to actually improve the service for our guests," Higgins said.
By Steve Sheffield
Most existing Covid restrictions in the UK are staying in place for the moment, because of concerns over the Delta variant.
The government had hoped to "remove all legal limits on social contact" in England from 21 June. That's been put back until 19 July. Meanwhile Wales is pausing its programme of lockdown-easing for four weeks.
The delay to rule-relaxation is because of concerns over the Delta variant of Covid, with cases are growing by about 64% per week.
The government says more time is needed to vaccinate the adult population before remaining rules can be lifted, the PM said.
A few restrictions are being lifted on 21 June:
A number of restrictions which were expected to be lifted, will remain in place for the moment:
There are now 14 areas of England where you are advised to:
These are Bedford, Birmingham, Blackburn with Darwen, Blackpool, Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Chester, Greater Manchester, Kirklees, Lancashire (county council area), Leicester, Liverpool City Region (Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, St Helens, Wirral), London Borough of Hounslow, North Tyneside and Warrington.
The lifting of coronavirus restrictions is being paused for four weeks and will be reviewed again on 15 July.
However from 21 June there will be some "small technical amendments" made to current rules - including:
Exact rules may vary between nations and - in Scotland - between areas:
Rules vary for each UK nation:
Rules are more complicated in Scotland.
Fourteen areas are at Covid protection level two - Glasgow, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Dundee, East Dunbartonshire, Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, North Ayrshire, South Ayrshire, East Ayrshire, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, Clackmannanshire and Stirling.
In these areas:
Some districts have moved to Covid protection level one (down from level two) - Highland, Argyll and Bute, Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Moray, Angus, Perth and Kinross, Falkirk, Fife, Inverclyde, East Lothian, West Lothian, West Dunbartonshire, Dumfries and Galloway and the Borders.
The rules for meeting are:
Shetland, Orkney, the Western Isles and a number of remote islands are now at level zero (down from level one).
The rules for these areas include:
In all levels, children under the age of 12 are not included in the total number of people - but they are counted in the limit on the number of different households.
By Steve Jennings
West Coast Bureau
Lufthansa will now accept a digital proof of vaccination from passengers, eliminating the needs for travelers to show printed vaccine certificates and reducing the chance a certificate is fraudulent.
In Germany, vaccinated individuals now receive a QR code as proof of vaccination.
Lufthansa will allow travelers to show that QR code, either on their phone or on a printout, when checking in at the airport. When the code is scanned, the system compares the data in the certificate to the booking and passenger data and then issues a boarding pass.
The airline says it will soon be possible to scan QR vaccination certificates with the Lufthansa app or to load them digitally into the app. Once the app recognizes the code, the boarding pass is issued.
For travelers who don’t want to wait until they get to the airport to confirm they have the correct credentials, Lufthansa says they can have their proof of tests and vaccinations v
By Cedric Johnson
West Coast Bureau
Officials from Carnival Corporation & plc announced on Thursday that a data breach in March might have exposed personal information about customers and employees.
According to The Associated Press, the company revealed that hackers might have gained access to Social Security numbers, passport numbers, dates of birth, addresses and health information from crew members and passengers with Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line and Princess Cruises.
The data breach was detected on March 19, with Carnival officials shutting down access and hiring a cybersecurity company to investigate immediately. The company has been working to improve the security of its information systems since it was hit twice last year by ransomware attacks.
While Carnival declined to say how many people were impacted by the breach, company spokesman Roger Frizzell said all of the passengers and employees affected were notified and a call center was set up to answer questions.
Last month, Carnival Corporation announced it received the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s (CDC) approval of its Phase 2A Port Agreements for PortMiami, Port of Galveston and Port Canaveral.
Last week, Princess Cruises will introduce a new MedallionClass feature that allows guests to call a crew member wherever they are on the ship, called CrewCall.