Royal Caribbean sends ship to house hundreds of Florida condo collapse rescue workers

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Fox Business 02 July, 2021 - 06:03pm 36 views

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Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain on first post-COVID cruise ship to set sail from Florida. 

As rescue crews from around the nation and even other countries arrive to assist in the aftermath of the tragic condo collapse in Surfside, Fla., finding a place for them to stay has been a difficult task – particularly over the Fourth of July weekend.

But the Royal Caribbean Group has stepped in to help with that, sending its Explorer of the Seas cruise ship to provide a comfortable place to stay and meals for some 600 responders over the coming weeks. Search dogs are welcome aboard, too.

"This tragedy in our own backyard is heart-wrenching," Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain said in a statement. "Our thoughts are with the families and our whole community, and our thanks go out to the hardworking search and rescue teams. Providing them shelter is a small way to show our support."

The cruise company received a nod of gratitude from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) for the gesture. The governor tweeted Friday, "More than 440 USAR members from New Jersey, Ohio, Virginia, and Indiana are on the ground in Surfside to help supplement the search and rescue efforts. Florida is grateful for the outpouring of support. Thanks to @RoyalCaribbean for providing accommodations!"

Royal Caribbean scrambled over the past 24 hours to make the Explorer of the Seas' stay in PortMiami happen, gaining clearance from DeSantis' office, Miami-Dade County, the CDC and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

"This incredible act of kindness and generosity from our friends at Royal Caribbean is deeply appreciated by our entire community," Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said according to WTVJ-TV. "Over the past nine days, our first responders have been working under dangerous, stressful conditions to move our search and rescue mission forward through so many unprecedented challenges."

She added, "These accommodations will provide them with a much-needed respite and opportunity to rest and recharge for their next shift and are yet another example of how our local and global community has come together in the aftermath of tragedy."

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Royal Caribbean to house first responders working at Surfside site on cruise ship

WSVN 7News | Miami News, Weather, Sports | Fort Lauderdale 02 July, 2021 - 10:56pm

The Explorer of the Seas arrived at PortMiami, Thursday.

Officials said the upcoming holiday weekend has made it difficult for first responders to secure hotel rooms.

About 600 workers will each be given their own room on the ship and FEMA search dogs are also invited.

Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas cruise ship first to set sail from Port Miami since onset of pandemic

WSVN 7News | Miami News, Weather, Sports | Fort Lauderdale 02 July, 2021 - 10:56pm

Royal Caribbean is preparing to head out of the port Friday night with their Freedom of the Seas cruise ship.

Freedom is the first ship to depart from Miami since the start of the pandemic.

Crews behind the scenes are making sure passenger safety is a priority amid the ongoing pandemic.

“We have face mask protocols in place. We have health and safety protocols in place,” said Royal Caribbean’s chief product innovation officer Jay Schneider. “We’ve gone really far to make sure people have both an enjoyable vacation and a health and safety return to cruising.”

The ship is set to sail to the Bahamas for four days at 7 p.m. Friday night.

Royal Caribbean to house first responders working at Surfside site on cruise ship

WSVN 7News | Miami News, Weather, Sports | Fort Lauderdale 02 July, 2021 - 10:56pm

The Explorer of the Seas arrived at PortMiami, Thursday.

Officials said the upcoming holiday weekend has made it difficult for first responders to secure hotel rooms.

About 600 workers will each be given their own room on the ship and FEMA search dogs are also invited.

Live on Royal Caribbean's first cruise ship to restart from the United States

Royal Caribbean Blog 02 July, 2021 - 10:56pm

After 15 months, the first Royal Caribbean cruise ship is sailing from the United States.

Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas is departing Miami today to begin a short 3-night weekend cruise, but the significance of her sailing is far more important than where she goes.

The cruise industry has been mostly shutdown since 2020, and while a couple of other ships have restarted around the world, all eyes have been focused on cruising's restart in the United States.

On Freedom of the Seas from Miami, Royal Caribbean will allow vaccinated and unvaccinated guests, although there are different rules about where you can go if you are unvaccinated. 

Before the cruise, Royal Caribbean gave passengers the choice of volunteering that they are vaccinated.  If you do not wish or skip showing proof of vaccination at check-in, your SeaPass card will be punched with a hole.

The health protocols in this post are for Freedom of the Seas sailings from Miami in July, and the cruise line has emphasized that protocols will vary depending on the ship and departure port. Moreover, protocols could change for Freedom of the Seas as various health organizations and the federal government changes requirements and recommendations.

The line has made some bars, lounges, restaurants, and events for vaccinated guests only, with no masks required. This includes:

Each scheduled event is designated if it is available to vaccinated guests only or not.

Unvaccinated guests will also need to pay for additional Covid testing.

Upon check-in, if you volunteered the information that you were vaccinated, you will be asked to show your vaccination card, at which point you will get a wristband to wear during the cruise to indicate to guests and crew you are vaccinated.

Unvaccinated guests will not have a wristband, and will get a hole punched in their SeaPass card.

In addition, masks are required to be worn in the cruise terminal and inside the ship for vaccinated or unvaccinated guests.  No masks are required outdoors.  

One major difference between Freedom of the Seas sailings from Miami and Adventure of the Seas sailings from The Bahamas is vaccinated guests need to wear masks while indoors onboard Freedom, whereas vaccinated guests do not have wear masks indoors on Adventure.

Around the ship, the designated areas for vaccinated guests have signs to remind guests of which areas are off limits.

Children's programming in Adventure Ocean and the teens club are operational, with limited capacity in the clubs to ensure the area does not get too crowded.

The vaccinated spaces have signs, and are even roped off in some cases, to mark areas available to vaccinated guests.

Perhaps the best new change is the refactoring of the cruise ship safety drill.

Instead of lining up at your muster station at a designated time, guests can now do the drill on their smart phone, tablet, or stateroom television.

Guests watch a short safety information video, listen to what the emergency alarm sounds like, and then go downstairs to their muster station to verify they know where it is.

The new muster drill is significantly faster, less burdensome, and does not require the entire ship to shutdown while everyone does the drill.  This is a very welcome change for guests, and an incredibly simple process to follow.

The dining options onboard are similar to what they were before the cruise industry shutdown.

There is still a buffet available for breakfast and lunch (they are closed for dinner), with a few different rules.

The buffet is full service instead of self-service, so the crew members will serve you the food.

In addition, there is limited capacity in the Windjammer.  Guests can make a reservation for a time, or simply walk up and see if there is space.  On our Adventure of the Seas sailings last week, there was never an issue with getting into the Windjammer.

In the Main Dining Room, there will be designated areas for vaccinated and unvaccinated reservations to dine separately.

My Time Dining will not be available to unvaccinated guests. 

The overwhelming question everyone wants to know is what is it like to be on a cruise ship with the new rules in place.

As someone that is fully vaccinated, there are more areas available to enjoy and no restrictions.

The most noticable difference is the mask mandate while indoors (no masks required outside), which is far from ideal considering mask requirements for vaccinated people at home are eroding quickly in most restaurants, theme parks, hotels, and supermarkets.

Having been onboard for less than a day, my early thought is I will spend more time thinking in advance where I will go next, rather than leisurely walking around to explore.  That way, I can reduce the time needed where I am required to wear a mask.

Moreover, the limited capacity onboard (around 1,000 passengers on this sailing) means no lines or waiting for popular activities and attractions. 

But at the end of the day, being back on a cruise ship feels great. As a Floridian, being able to drive to a ship instead of flying is a welcome return.

Many cruisers I spoke to onboard are equaly eager to be back onboard and relish the opportunity, masks or not.

Others may find the rules too much at this time, and wait things out a bit longer until protocols change.  Royal Caribbean has said it expects government requirements to change regarding health protocol requirements, including possibly masks.

Based on sales, there is strong demand for cruises this summer as many flock to get back to travelling.

I will have regular updates throughout this sailing to provide a look at what the first cruise ship to sail from the United States looks and feels like.

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Royal Caribbean to house rescue teams working at collapsed Miami condo on Explorer of the Seas ship

USA TODAY 02 July, 2021 - 05:42pm

Royal Caribbean cruise lines is housing first responders working at the collapsed Miami, Florida condo building on its Explorer of the Seas ship.

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MIAMI — With housing options dwindling, a cruise ship will host hundreds of rescuers pouring into South Florida from across the country as the search for victims continues at a fallen 12-story condominium building near Miami.

Royal Caribbean cruise lines said it will host about 600 first responders on board its Explorer of the Seas ship.

The ship, which can accommodate more than 3,000 passengers, began housing rescue teams Thursday and likely will continue for the next month.

"This tragedy in our own backyard is heart-wrenching," said Richard Fain, Royal Caribbean Group's chairman and CEO. "Our thoughts are with the families and our whole community, and our thanks go out to the hardworking search and rescue teams. Providing them shelter is a small way to show our support."

The company said it will provide individual staterooms, hot meals, laundry service and Wi-Fi to its guests.

Juan Kuryla, the port director, told the Miami Herald on Friday that the ship now docked at PortMiami was brought in specifically to provide lodging for rescuers as hotels and other accommodations in the area fill up because of the July 4 holiday weekend.

Kuryla worried that Hurricane Elsa could complicate things should it veer closer to South Florida and said the ship may have to leave port if the threat becomes more serious.

During a Friday morning briefing, Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah warned relatives of the missing that the search could be suspended again if the hurricane – now in the eastern Caribbean – brings strong winds that would make the work too dangerous.

He also sought to forestall any misunderstanding that some rescuers who are now staying in tents would abandon the site to go "partying." He said that because hotels in the area are heavily booked, some of the rescuers might be housed in cruise ships that can stay safe during a storm.

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Royal Caribbean cruise ship to house first responders of Florida building collapse

New York Post 02 July, 2021 - 03:10pm

By Jorge Fitz-Gibbon

July 2, 2021 | 4:10pm | Updated July 2, 2021 | 4:10pm

Royal Caribbean has freed up one of its luxury cruise ships to house first responders working at the site of the Florida condo building collapse.

The Explorer of the Seas, part of the cruise line’s vast fleet, already has at least 80 crew members from the site of Champlain Towers South on board — and can accommodate up to 600, including search dogs, the company said.

“This tragedy in our backyard is heart-wrenching,” Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain told WTVJ-TV. “Our thoughts are with the families and our whole community, and our thanks go out to the hardworking search and rescue teams.”

“Providing them shelter is a small way to show our support,” Fain said.

The Voyager-class ocean liner arrived in Miami on Thursday and will remain docked there for a few weeks, the station said.

The ship showed up at an opportune time — rescue workers are arriving from around the country on the eve of July 4th weekend, when area hotels are largely booked.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday that the ship is already paying dividends, and will accommodate hundreds of newly arrived urban search and rescue workers.

“More than 440 USAR members from New Jersey, Ohio, Virginia, and Indiana are on the ground in Surfside to help supplement the search and rescue efforts,” DeSantis said on Twitter. “Florida is grateful for the outpouring of support.”

“Thanks to @RoyalCaribbean for providing accomodations!”

Royal Caribbean worked with the US Coast Guard, US Customs and Border Protection, Miami-Dade County Port Authority and Port Miami to make the ship available, according to the company’s blog.

YESSS!! From my CEO #MichaelBayley: Today @RoyalCaribbean #ExploreroftheSeas arrived @PortMiami to offer accommodations for 1st Responders from all around the world to help at #Surfside. 80 arrived today and up to 600 responders will stay on Explorer for a couple of weeks. pic.twitter.com/7iQFoCX2e9

Hundreds of workers, including teams from as far off as Israel, have been sifting through the rubble in Surfside since the building collapsed early on June 24.

“This incredible act of kindness from our friends at Royal Caribbean is deeply appreciated by our entire community,” Miami-Dade Mayor Danielle Levine Cava said.

“Over the past nine days, our first responders have been working under dangerous, stressful conditions to move our search and rescue mission forward through so many unprecedented challenges,” she said.

“These accommodations will provide them with a much-needed respite and opportunity to rest and recharge for their next shift, and yet another example of how our local and global community has come together in the aftermath of tragedy,” Cava said.

Think cruisers are unhappy with new restrictions on ships? Guess again - The Points Guy

The Points Guy 02 July, 2021 - 01:30pm

You might think that cruisers would be unhappy right now with some of the new rules on cruise ships.

In an effort to minimize the spread of COVID-19, some lines are requiring that passengers wear masks while in some public settings on vessels — something that’s no longer required at many travel destinations on land. In some cases, they’re also restricting passenger access to some onboard venues and limiting the type of touring that passengers can do on land.

Many lines also have implemented new health screening requirements for passengers including COVID-19 testing before and during sailings — screenings that cut into the time passengers have for relaxing on board cruise vessels.

But if cruisers are perturbed by such rules, it’s not showing in the comment cards they’re filling out at the end of sailings.

Indeed, cruise line executives say they’ve been amazed by what they describe as sky-high passenger satisfaction scores for their initial comeback cruises in North America and elsewhere.

“It’s dramatic. Just say it’s dramatic,” Royal Caribbean Group chairman and CEO Richard Fain said this week of soaring satisfaction scores in recent weeks as the company has restarted cruising operations in Europe and North America.

Speaking one-on-one with TPG in an exclusive interview aboard a vessel that just restarted departures, Celebrity Edge, Fain wouldn’t say exactly how much passenger satisfaction scores were up as compared to the period before cruises around the world shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But he suggested it was unlike anything the company had ever seen.

Royal Caribbean Group is the parent company of Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Silversea, all of which have restarted operations in recent weeks in either Europe or North America or both regions with a handful of vessels.

Royal Caribbean on June 12 launched its first Caribbean departures in 15 months out of Nassau in the Bahamas, and Celebrity has restarted sailings in recent weeks out of St. Maarten; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; and Piraeus, Greece. Silversea last week resumed sailings in the Mediterranean and also the Galápagos.

Fain told TPG he sees several reasons for the spike in satisfaction scores.

For starters, cruisers are just over the moon to be able to get back to cruising — with or without restrictions. They’ve been cut off from what for many is a favorite pastime for more than a year, and they’re finally able to get out there again.

“People are so tired of being stuck up at home,” said Fain, who said he and other executives had been paying close attention to the comment cards coming in from passengers as the first ships restart. “The terms I hear are, ‘it’s liberating, it’s freeing.” So I think there’s that halo effect.”

Fain says many cruisers may have taken what he calls “the wonder of cruising” for granted before the COVID-19-related shutdown of the industry in early 2020.

“Now they realize, wait a minute, this isn’t something automatic here. This is pretty cool,” he said.

Fain said he believed another key factor in the high passenger satisfaction scores was the mood among the crew on the ships that are starting back up. Like so many workers in other industries, many have been out of work for more than a year, and they are as thrilled as passengers to be back at sea.

“The crew [members] are on cloud nine,” Fain said.

The happiness of crew on any given ship has long been known to be a factor in passenger satisfaction scores, he suggested.

“I’m very proud of the vessels [in the Royal Caribbean Group fleet], but the vessels are a tool,” Fain said. “The people who make the tool run are the crew. [They] always have been our strength for 60 years, and when they are as enthusiastic as they are [now,] that’s infectious.”

The upshot is this is an unusual time of ebullience on ships — both among passengers and crew.

As Fain suggested, it’s a kind of moment that we haven’t seen before and we may never see again.

“I don’t expect [the passenger satisfaction scores] to remain at this level,” he noted. “Some of this is unique to the pressure relief” of cruising starting back up after a long period of being shut down.

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Royal Caribbean Provides Cruise Ship for Surfside First Responders

NBC 6 South Florida 02 July, 2021 - 11:19am

With housing options dwindling because of the July 4th weekend, Royal Caribbean is offering a cruise ship to first responders who are on the scene of the Surfside condo collapse.

Up to 600 first responders will be able to stay on The Explorer of the Seas, which arrived in PortMiami Thursday.

The ship, which can accommodate more than 3,000 passengers, began housing rescue teams Thursday and likely will continue for the next month, according to Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International.

"Early today Explorer of the Seas arrived into PortMiami to offer accommodation and assistance to First Responders arriving into South Florida from all over America and around the world to help at Surfside," Bayley said. "80 arrived today and up to 600 responders will stay on Explorer for a couple of weeks."

Search dogs assisting at Surfside are also welcome to join, Bayley added.

The company said it will provide individual staterooms, hot meals, laundry service and Wi-Fi to its guests.

"This tragedy in our own backyard is heart-wrenching," Royal Caribbean Group chairman and CEO Richard Fain said. "Our thoughts are with the families and our whole community, and our thanks go out to the hardworking search and rescue teams. Providing them shelter is a small way to show our support."

Governor Ron DeSantis tweeted photos with search and rescue crews from several states and thanked Royal Caribbean for the accommodations.

More than 440 USAR members from New Jersey, Ohio, Virginia, and Indiana are on the ground in Surfside to help supplement the search and rescue efforts. Florida is grateful for the outpouring of support. Thanks to @RoyalCaribbean for providing accommodations! pic.twitter.com/jE4fuWoaoB

In order to accomplish this effort so quickly, the Royal Caribbean Group and the ship's leadership worked with the governor's office, Miami-Dade County, Florida Division of Emergency Management, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection to receive the necessary approvals within 24 hours.

"This incredible act of kindness and generosity from our friends at Royal Caribbean is deeply appreciated by our entire community," Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said. "Over the past nine days, our first responders have been working under dangerous, stressful conditions to move our search and rescue mission forward through so many unprecedented challenges."

"These accommodations will provide them with a much-needed respite and opportunity to rest and recharge for their next shift and are yet another example of how our local and global community has come together in the aftermath of tragedy."

During a Friday morning briefing, Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah warned relatives of the missing that the search could be suspended again if Hurricane Elsa brings strong winds that would make the work too dangerous.

Over the Weekend, Two Carnival Cruise Ships Are Resuming Operations

Cruise Hive 02 July, 2021 - 10:18am

Kyndall Magyar will find it fitting that the first cruise ship sails from Galveston, Texas, and we can be sure that she and the crew members on board will be giving the guests an incredibly warm welcome.

But Carnival Vista is not the only ship sailing this weekend. Carnival Horizon will set sail from Miami, Florida, unfortunately without cruise line ambassador John Heald, but that will surely not dampen the fun onboard!

Carnival Vista will be the first Carnival cruise ship back in operation this year. The cruise ship will sail on an itinerary that will see her sail from Galveston, Texas, on a 7-days Western Caribbean cruise calling at Mahogany Bay, Honduras, Cozumel, and Belize, while also giving guests a few days to relax and have fun at sea.

However, Carnival has been busy trying to keep the onboard experience the same as much as possible, a reason why the cruise line has chosen only to accept fully vaccinated guests onboard. The ship is sailing with 2,940 guests, and 888 of those are newbie cruisers. 737 guests onboard will be on at least their second cruise with Carnival and a Red members. There are 840 Gold members 394 Platiunum members and 81 Diamond members.

While Carnival Vista will be the first ship to sail, Carnival Horizon will be the ship that many cruise industry and other stakeholders will have their eyes on. Carnival Horizon will sail from PortMiami, the world’s cruise capital, on July 4, with a ship full of fully vaccinated guests.

Sailing on a 6-day Eastern Caribbean cruise calling at Amber Cove & Half Moon Cay, the guests will be welcomed on board by the hugely experienced Ozzie Cruise Director Chris Salazar, who has been with Carnival Cruise Line as cruise director since 2008.

Unfortunately, the vessel will not be joined by Carnival Cruise Line brand ambassador John Heald, as he was not permitted to fly from the UK to the US this week.

With the ship departing from the home of cruising, there will be plenty of festivities and a press event held in the Miami cruise terminal by Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy.

There will be a lot of changes on board, especially on the initial sailings through July and August. A major part of that will be the Carnival HUB app. The app will be prominently featured for updates, booking dinner times, menus for all shipboard dining, and beverage offerings will be available, including several delivery options (Pizza & Beer and more!). The app will also have key functionalities for safety onboard and the e-muster drill.

Other Carnival Cruise ships will be restarting operations soon:

By the end of July, we will have five Carnival Cruise Ships sailing from US Ports, with the company ramping up ship-ops slow and steady. This allows the company to ensure they have enough crew to man the ships and ensure guests and crew onboard are as safe as possible.

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