Caribbean hotel closings continue to mount

With borders, airports, seaports and many large resortsclosed throughout the Caribbean region, more properties have announced closures through May and beyond.

The 420-room Sonesta Maho Beach Resort and the 130-suite Sonesta Ocean Point in St. Maarten are closed until June 2.

Guests holding current bookings can reschedule with no cancellation penalty or change fee as long as notification is given at least 48 hours before scheduled check-in date. Those who do not cancel but postpone their travel until a later date will earn a $50 per room, per night resort credit, which can be used on property toward a spa treatment, tour, selection of wines and more.

Elsewhere on the Dutch/French island of St. Maarten/St. Martin, travel restrictions at the border have been tightened and all nonessential travel from either side of the island is banned.

An islandwide curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. is in effect, and all airports, ferries and seaports are closed as well.
In Antigua, Curtain Bluff closed its doors in late March for the first time in its 58-year history and will reopen on Oct. 24, following its already planned annual summer closure for refurbishing.

“It is a very sad time indeed. However, we are strong and will survive this pandemic and the economic crisis that  comes with it. We are confident that we will ride out these current events,” the resort said in a statement.

In Jamaica, the Holiday Inn Resort Montego Bay is closed through May, “although we reserve the option to adjust our plans,” according to Kevin Henrickson, its managing director.

Resorts World Bimini is closed and will “update our website when there is clarity as to the appropriate time to welcome back our guests,” according to a statement from the resort.

Several hotels, resorts, villas and other accommodations  in the U.S. Virgin Islands are closed to leisure guests but have opted to keep their doors open to essential personnel, including government workers, relief workers, business travelers and airline associates. These include five properties on St. Thomas, one on St. John and 14 on St. Croix, according to a statement from the U.S.V.I. Hotel & Tourism Association and the St. Croix Hotel & Tourism Association.

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These stunning ruins have taken a trip back in time and been 'rebuilt'

Digital wizardry restores some of Europe’s most stunning castles to their former glory, from a mysterious fortified Irish mansion to the home of Vlad the Impaler in Romania

  • Seven of the most unique ruined castles of Europe have been ‘rebuilt’ by a team of designers and architects  
  • Poenari Castle in Romania was once the home of the infamous 15th-century ruler Vlad the Impaler
  • Dunnottar Castle in Scotland, south of Aberdeen, dates back to the 7th century – and was invaded by Vikings 

Seven of Europe’s most impressive ruined castles have been given an extreme makeover.

They have been ‘rebuilt’ by a team of designers and architects using the wonders of computer-generated imagery.

Scroll down to see these epic ruins – from a beautiful fortified Irish mansion to Vlad the Impaler’s former Romanian abode – and travel back in time…

Samobor Castle, Croatia – built between 1260 and 1264 

Samobor Castle in Croatia was built in the 12th century by the Czech king Otokar, before a procession of noble families took control through the centuries

From the initial Romantic-Gothic castle with a huge tower, late Gothic and Renaissance elements were added and at the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th century Samobor became a Baroque-style castle

Multiple owners, legal wranglings and war have marked this once-impressive castle’s long history.

Sitting above the market town of Samobor itself, the castle dates back to the 13th century, but the official website notes that ‘from the initial Romantic-Gothic castle with a huge tower, it acquired through time the late Gothic and Renaissance forms and at the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th century it became a Baroque style castle’.

Since 1902, the castle – after years of legal battles between noblemen and the townsfolk – is now owned by the  town itself.

Château Gaillard, Les Andelys, Normandy, France – built between 1196 and 1198

This impressive château was built in the 12th century on the banks of the River Seine by English king Richard the Lionheart to protect his possessions from French archrival Philip II

After Richard’s death his successor, King John, eventually lost the château to Philip

This stunning French château is perched impressively above the River Seine. 

The castle’s official website explains: ‘In the late 12th century, Richard the Lionheart, King of England – thanks to his Plantagenet roots – ordered the construction of a massive new castle here to guard his Norman possessions and the nearby Norman capital of Rouen from the powerful King of France, Philip II.’

But Philip would have the last laugh – after Richard’s death in 1199, his successor King John soon lost the castle to his French rival.

Dunnottar Castle, Stonehaven, Scotland – built in the 7th century

Dunnottar Castle is situated just south of Aberdeen, overlooking the North Sea. It was invaded by the Vikings in the ninth century, who left a bloody trail of chaos in their wake

Dunnottar was captured from the English by Scottish hero William Wallace in the 13th century

Ancient Dunnottar Castle has a rich – and bloody – history.

According to its official website, the dramatic cliff-top fortress was invaded by Vikings in the ninth century, who killed King Donald II while they were there for good measure.

The site says that William Wallace captured the castle from the English in 1297 and it went on to welcome several key royals, including, 300 years later, Mary Queen of Scots.

Menlo Castle, Ireland – built in the 16th century

On the banks of the River Corrib, near Galway city, sits 16th-century Menlo Castle, inhabited by the wealthy English Blake family from 1569 

Tragedy struck Menlo in 1910 when a fire gutted the property and killed Lord and Lady Blake’s daughter Eleanor – it has been a ruin ever since

On the banks of the River Corrib, near Galway city, sits 16th-century Menlo Castle, inhabited by the wealthy English Blake family from 1569 and an ivy-clad building with a rich, painful and occasionally mysterious history.  

The official website says that ‘a local midwife to the Blake family used to tell a story that while on a night journey to the castle she heard fairy music and saw the fairies dancing in a fairy ring in a nearby field’.

Modern times, meanwhile, brought tragedy – in 1910 a fire gutted the place killing Lord and Lady Blake’s daughter Eleanor, whose body was never found. The building has been a ruin ever since.

Olsztyn Castle, Poland – built in the 14th century

Olsztyn Castle in Poland was built in the 14th century and was originally the home of Warmian Bishops

One of the most famous Warmian administrators of the castle was polymath Nicolaus Copernicus, and artefacts from his time are now displayed in the castle’s museum

This brick, Gothic castle built in the 14th century is also known as the Warmian Bishops’ Castle, in reference to the medieval religious order that lived there.

One of its most famous caretakers was 15th-century sage and boffin Nicolaus Copernicus, whose work in planetary observation was considered groundbreaking.

An on-site museum now houses Warmian religious paintings, Gothic sculptures and a hand-drawn astronomical table by Copernicus himself. The 114ft tower, meanwhile, offers visitors stunning views.

Spiš Castle, Slovakia – built in the 12th century

Built 900 years ago in Slovakia, Spiš Castle takes up over four hectares of space and is one of the biggest castles in central Europe

The castle’s architecture has changed over the centuries, and in the 15th century it was transformed into a Gothic-style fortress

Built 900 years ago and covering more than four hectares, Spiš Castle is one of the largest castles in central Europe.

According to the castle’s official website, the ‘surrounding stone fortification protected the inner Romanesque palace from the Tartars during the invasion of the 13th century’. 

Hollywood came calling in 1992 and 2007, when the movies Dragon Heart and The Last Legion were filmed there.

Poenari Castle, Romania – built in the 13th century

To get to this 13th-century castle perched high up in the Carpathian Mountains, you have to climb over 1,400 stairs

Poenari was once the home of the infamous Vlad the Impaler – the Romanian leader and folk hero who, it’s said, was the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula

To get to this grand ruin in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains – which dates back to the 13th century – you have to climb over 1,400 concrete steps.

But that’s not the most culturally significant aspect of Poenari – from the 15th century onwards it was the home of the infamous Vlad the Impaler, said to be the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Ghost hunters flock to the ruin, claiming that the historic place is haunted.

  • Source for the reconstructions: Budget Direct

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Boeing Extends Suspension of Production at Seattle-Area Facility

Boeing officials announced Sunday the temporary shutdown of its Seattle-area airplane production would continue indefinitely due to the continued spread of the coronavirus.

According to KIRO7.com, Boeing sent an email to employees in Washington announcing the extension of a previously announced two-week shutdown. Instead of opening Wednesday, the facility would be closed to production until further notice.

The decision impacts around 30,000 of the company’s 70,000 employees in the state.

“The health and safety of our employees, their families and our communities is our shared priority,” Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Stan Deal said in a statement. “We will take this time to continue to listen to our incredible team, and assess applicable government direction, the spread of the coronavirus in the community, and the reliability of our suppliers to ensure we are ready for a safe and orderly return to operations.”

Boeing officials told The Seattle Times employees impacted by the shutdown received their regular salaries during the two-week shutdown, but would have to use vacation or sick leave for the remainder of the temporary closure.

A spokesperson for the airplane manufacturer said Friday there were 133 confirmed cases of coronavirus among employees, with 95 of them being workers in Washington. Boeing said the shutdown was based on the health and safety of its employees.

In March, Boeing announced CEO Dave Calhoun and Board Chairman Larry Kellner would forgo all pay until the end of 2020. The company also announced it would suspend its dividend and extend its pause of any share repurchasing until further notice.

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Airline Testing Airport Kiosks to Identify Travelers With Medical Conditions

Etihad Airways is partnering with Australia-based Elenium Automation to trial new self-service devices at airports used to identify travelers with medical conditions.

The airline said that the new technology—which can monitor the temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate of anyone using an airport touchpoint like a check-in kiosk, bag drop facility or a security gate—could potentially spot the early stages of coronavirus (COVID-19).

The Elenium system is designed to automatically suspend the self-service check-in or bag drop process if a passenger’s vital signs indicate potential symptoms of illness. At that point, the system will divert to a teleconference or alert qualified staff on-site for further assessment.

The initial trial is scheduled to take place at Abu Dhabi International Airport from late-April through May with a range of volunteers. The new technology will eventually be tested on outbound passengers when flights resume.

“This technology is not designed or intended to diagnose medical conditions. It is an early warning indicator which will help to identify people with general symptoms, so that they can be further assessed by medical experts, potentially preventing the spread of some conditions to others preparing to board flights to multiple destinations,” said Jorg Oppermann, Etihad Airways Vice President Hub and Midfield Operations, in a statement.

“It has long been the case that aircraft, with their highly sophisticated air-recycling systems and standards of hygiene, are not the transmission vehicle for illnesses. We are testing this technology because we believe it will not only help in the current COVID-19 outbreak but also into the future, with assessing a passenger’s suitability to travel and thus minimizing disruptions.”

“The system would screen every individual, including multiple people on the same booking. The technology can also be retrofitted into any airport kiosk or bag drop or installed as a desktop system at a passenger processing point such as an immigration desk,” added Aaron Hornlimann, CEO and Co-Founder of Elenium Automation. “We believe the introduction of touchless self-service and automated health screening will encourage passengers to return to travel sooner.”

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Polar Latitudes getting third ship

Antarctica specialist Polar Latitudes is adding a third ship
to its fleet for the 2021-22 season.

The 164-passenger Seaventure will feature a sauna, fitness
center and heated saltwater pool. All cabins will include flat-screen TVs,
temperature controls and complimentary minibars, while staterooms and suites on
the top two decks will have private balconies.

The ship, previously called the Bremen, formerly sailed for
Hapag-Lloyd Cruises.

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Top 10 much-loved films for coronavirus isolation to transport you far away from home

Holidays are not an option at the moment due to the coronavirus lockdown. Fortunately, there are a plethora of films to watch that can help frustrated Britons transport themselves to far off lands – even if only in the mind. Holidu, a search engine for holiday rentals, has decided to rank the best movies of all time that will allow you to escape as far away from home as possible.

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Holidu studied over one hundred films about travel (or that inspire the viewer to travel). These were then ranked according to several criteria: the number of awards obtained at the Academy Awards, the average rating obtained on imdb.com, and the number of times the film was mentioned in travel film lists.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – 2003

While The Lord of the Rings may seem somewhat unconventional for a travel movie list at first glance, they enable the viewer to discover the unique landscapes of New Zealand.

Plus, each of the three films allows you to travel not only to the other side of the world but further afield, to the fantastic world of J. R. R. Tolkien.

With eleven nominations and eleven Oscar awards, it is also the highest-rated film in the ranking, with 8.9/10 on IMDb.

Watch it online: available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime and YouTube from £2.49.

Titanic – 1997

Titanic may not make you want to go on an Atlantic cruise anytime soon, but it’s surely the best portrayal of the anticipation you feel when you’re about to embark on a great journey.

The film won a record number of fourteen Oscar nominations and eleven victories. As is often the case, the IMDb rating does not necessarily reflect the cinematic excellence rewarded at the Oscars, but Titanic nevertheless gets a good score with 7.8/10.

Watch it online: available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime, YouTube and Google Play from £3.49.

Out of Africa – 1985

Set off to discover Kenya and its fabulous landscapes in the footsteps of a strong and independent woman with Out of Africa. Expect amazing safari scenes with lions and giraffes. A story of love, desire for freedom and emancipation led by Meryl Streep in the form of a young girl from Denmark, forced to leave everything to follow her husband and conquer her journey to East Africa.

The film garnered eleven Oscar nominations, seven wins and averages 7.2/10 on IMDb.

Watch it online: available for rental or purchase on Amazon Prime, YouTube and Google Play from £2.49.

Slumdog Millionaire – 2008

Slumdog Millionaire allows you to discover India for a total change of scenery, following Jamal Malik in search of his childhood sweetheart. Experience the vibrant city of Bombay in full expansion, the rural landscapes of deep India and the Taj Mahal all from your sofa.

With eight Oscar awards and ten nominations, Slumdog Millionaire has managed to charm its audience with its unique Bollywood vibe. It also received an excellent 8/10 rating on IMDb.

Watch online: available for rental or purchase on Amazon Prime, YouTube and Google Play from £2.50 and on Netflix.

Forrest Gump – 1994

Forrest tells of his adventures around the world, chasing Jenny and taking us with him. Forrest Gump takes the viewer from Vietnam to the crossing of the United States.

Thirteen Oscar nominations for six wins, Forrest Gump also received the second-highest rating of any film on IMDb with 8.8/10.

Watch online: available for rental or purchase on Amazon Prime, YouTube and Google Play from £2.49.

Raiders of the Lost Ark – 1981

To escape to faraway lands, there is nothing better than to follow the infinite adventures Indiana Jones encounters during his mission. In just one film, he manages to find the love of his life in Peru, unearth a mystical object hidden in the lost city of Tanis, Egypt, have it stolen and imprisoned by the Nazis, escape, retrieve the object and save the world.

A true cinematic feat for the time, Raiders of the Lost Ark was nominated eight times and won four Oscar awards. The IMDb average score is 8/10.

Watch online: available on Amazon Prime or for rental and purchase on YouTube and Google Play from £2.49.

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Dances with the Wolves – 1990

Dances with the Wolves promises a total change of scenery and a complete immersion in a fast-moving America. John Darbard takes you on a journey through time and space for more than three hours of film. He then makes us discover the most incredible landscapes of the Far West and the Grand Teton National Park, where he became friends with the Sioux Indian tribe. Breathtaking panoramas of still immaculate territories, this is the history of America before the United States.

Twelve nominations and eight Oscar awards – not bad for a Western that nobody wanted to produce! On IMDb, it gets an average score of 8/10.

Watch online: available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime, YouTube and Google Play from £2.49.

Inception – 2010

The youngest film in this ranking is a fascinating mind-bending voyage. Escape to Paris, Los Angeles, Morocco and Japan.

The second film with Leonardo DiCaprio in this ranking, which also performed well at the Oscars with eight nominations and four victories. It gets the third-best score among the films in the ranking with 8.7/10.

Watch online: available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime, YouTube and Google Play from £3.49.

Doctor Zhivago – 1965

Doctor Zhivago takes you on a journey across Russia, starting from imperial Moscow, followed by the hard Ukrainian front during the First World War, to finish in the snowy Ural. Throughout the film, you discover icy and majestic landscapes of the Russian winters as you have never imagined them before.

It has been nominated ten times and awarded five times at the Oscars and gets a score of 8/10 on IMDb.

Watch online: available for rent or purchase on YouTube and Google Play from £3.49.

Before Sunrise – 1995

This is the story of two young people who do what you’ve always dreamed of doing but never really thought possible! Make a random encounter, turn all your plans upside down, and spend a day exploring a new destination. This is a romantic film which shows, as a bonus, beautiful pictures of the Austrian capital.

No Oscar for this film, which stands out from the rest of the list by being lighter and easier than the others. However, it gets the well-deserved 8/10 rating on IMDb and will transport you for a while to the beautiful city of Vienna.

Watch online: available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime, YouTube and Google Play from £3.49.

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Cabin crew secrets: Flight attendant reveals tips for packing luggage light for flights

Cabin crew spend much of their working life packing bags for their next flight. It’s hardly surprising they soon become pros at what to do and what not to do when it comes to assembling a suitcase. One ex flight attendant has revealed her top tips for holiday packing.

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Heather Poole shared her insight in her book Cruising Attitude.

She explained that travellers have to always be able to lift their own bags.

“You pack it, you lift it” is the “mantra” of cabin crew the world over.

So what is the best way to ensure you pack light and can easily lift your luggage up into the overhead locker?

“What you pack and whether you check your bag or carry on can drastically affect the outcome of your trip.

“Don’t make travel more stressful that it has to be. Play it safe and do what flight attendants do.

“When it comes to preparing for a trip we’re experts. We travel with just a roll-aboard and a tote bag, even when we’re packing for days at a time.”

Poole explained exactly what she does with her clothes and belongings when packing.

“The secret is rolling,” she wrote. “Rolling instead of folding leaves clothes wrinkle-free.

“Our other tricks? I always coordinate my outfits around footwear.

“A comfy kick-around pair for exploring the destination by day and something rest for dinner and a show at night.

“Undies, socks, bikinis, whatever can be wadded up, are inside shoes. No space goes unused.

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“To make things simple, pack black and be done with it.

“So what if you wear the same outfit over and over? That’s what easy-to-pack accessories are for!

“Scarves and jewellery can completely change boring black into something fab.

“And whatever gets left behind becomes the perfect excuse to go shopping for something new!”

Choosing the right bag can also help when your airline has strict rules on hand luggage allowance.

David Scotland, from Outdoor World Direct, advocates travelling with backpacks.

“Large camping rucksacks also offer convenient pockets which can be used for stowing passports, snacks and water so that you don’t have to open your hand luggage on the plane or dig around for your passport,” he told Express.co.uk

“Just be sure to check the dimensions of the rucksack complies with your airline’s regulations beforehand.”

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TSA Confirms First Employee Death Related to Coronavirus

The Transportation Security Administration announced Friday that a federal employee working at a New Jersey airport died from complications associated with coronavirus, marking the agency’s first COVID-19-related death.

According to the official TSA website, 39-year-old Francis “Frank” Boccabella III died on April 2 after 16 years with the organization. He was an Explosive Detection Canine Handler at Newark Liberty International Airport.

A TSA spokesperson sent heartfelt condolences to Boccabella’s wife, extended family, colleagues and friends. “His passing represents a personal loss to all of us who knew him and cherished both his friendship and professionalism,” the statement read.

Boccabella joined the TSA in 2004 at John F. Kennedy International Airport before becoming a Compliance Inspector at the Newark airport and finally settling into his role as an Explosive Detection Canine Handler.

Boccabella worked with a six-year-old German Short-haired Pointer named Bullet to screen hundreds of thousands of passengers, keeping them and the transportation network safe.

In recent weeks, the TSA received updated protocols regarding the spread of coronavirus, including the decision to allow employees to wear N95 masks and eye protection, as well as mandatory nitrile gloves.

The TSA also recently announced a new website to provide travelers with updated airport regulations and keep track of confirmed cases of coronavirus among employees.

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Covid 19 coronavirus: Lizzie Marvelly – Domestic travel and why New Zealand is a great place to be

COMMENT:

It’s hard to believe that just over a month ago, my love and I were in Sydney, basking in the colourful revelry of Mardi Gras. We drank bubbles on the plane, went shopping in the CBD, and joined the crowd of thousands to watch the parade. It was legal then to congregate. It was also legal to travel. It seems like a lifetime ago, in much sunnier times. Such a trip across the Tasman would be inconceivable now.

While we’re stuck staring at our four walls, I’m sure many of us have daydreamed about lounging about on a tropical beach, cocktail in hand. It’s an attractive fantasy that seems a long way off, as even when travel restrictions begin to ease, travellers will grapple with a vastly changed travel industry.

While I wholeheartedly encourage daydream-travel to faraway tropical islands, bustling metropoles, and the many wonders of our world, when we’re all let out of home detention, I’d humbly suggest that we stay local – at least for the first 12 months.

I was lucky enough to be born into a tourism family. My parents owned and operated hotels, cafes and other tourism businesses in the tourism capital of New Zealand – Rotorua. Tourism is an exciting industry packed full of fascinating characters. It employs all kinds of people, from cleaning staff to adventure tourism practitioners to pilots to marketing executives. It’s creative, innovative, and can be hugely fun to work in. It’s also tough, particularly on the hospitality side, and can involve long hours and exhausting work.

It’s much tougher, however, when there are no tourists.

I can’t put into words the magnitude of the impact that Covid-19 is having upon our tourism and hospitality industries. My heart breaks for the many New Zealanders who will lose their incomes not only for the period of the shutdown, but for many months, or even years afterwards as the tourism, travel and hospitality industries slowly kick back into gear. Many of us will do it tough over the next six-12 months, but I can think of few industries that will be as utterly decimated as tourism.

With that in mind, I’d like to propose a return to the good old Kiwi holiday. While our tourism industry grapples with the worst downturn it’s likely ever seen, let’s help out our fellow New Zealanders by travelling within New Zealand. When we’re finally allowed to travel domestically again, if we’re financially able to, let’s try to take holidays in our own backyard.

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AmaWaterways’ Rudi Schreiner Optimistic About River Cruising’s Rebound

AmaWaterways President and Co-Founder Rudi Schreiner is optimistic that the river cruise industry will rebound once the coronavirus outbreak dissipates.

“Once everything is over people often forget quickly,” he told TravelPulse. “There will be pent-up demand, but the question now is when does it start up again?”

AmaWaterways has suspended river cruise operations until May 31 but is protecting travel agent commissions on canceled departures and paying 10 percent again when the agents’ clients rebook using future cruise credits (valued at 115 percent of the initial payments). That commitment is valued, especially since this is one of the direst situations in memory for travel.

“This is for sure one of the most severe situations we’ve ever had,” Schreiner said. “It is worse than 9/11 and worse than some of the terrorist attacks.”

For river cruising, this situation is worse than 9/11 because that attack occurred in September when most of the river cruise season was over – not at the beginning of the season like it is now.

“So, 9/11 was huge but didn’t affect European river cruising as strongly,” he said. “The most intense time for us personally was the first two weeks of March this year. Ships were ready, crews were onboard, provisions were ready” and then the virus spread across parts of Europe. The season was suspended.

“Once that was done, you at least had a clear picture ahead of you,” Schreiner said.

That doesn’t mean work is over for the time being. Schreiner is working out of his home in Westlake Village, Calif., and “right now we are busy on daily conference calls with the management team, individual calls with departments and so on. It’s very busy, and it’s getting organized, sorting through the whole thing. If we don’t cruise this entire season, we’ll make it through.”

That’s because Schreiner said AmaWaterways’ 25 ships are all paid off and funding in place will carry the company through.

“My worst-case scenario over the last 6-7 years, when our fleet became bigger, was because of such extreme low water we cannot cruise for a season,” he said. “In 2018, we had low water through the whole season. If it would get to an extreme level and we couldn’t cruise for a season, that’s why I always wanted to be as debt-free as possible. For many, many years, every penny we made went back into the company and our last 12 ships were completely paid in cash. Now everything is paid off.”

The company also is focused on its staff members. “We’re trying to maintain pretty much all our staff in our offices in Calabasas (Calif.), Dallas, Basel (Switzerland), and London,” Schreiner said. But European nations often operate differently. In Switzerland, for example, the government wants people to continue working and will pay 80 percent of the workers’ salaries, he explained.

When river cruise does rebound, it likely won’t get the same kind of fear that ocean companies are likely to face – such as being quarantined or turned away from countries. River ships are always close to land and don’t sail in international waters, so can’t be turned away from a country.

“On the river, you’re always within a country, you’re not coming from international waters,” he said. “It’s a different environment. Small-ship cruising will continue, and expedition cruising will continue. Ocean cruising may take longer, but I think it will also come back.”

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