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TLCOhio
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I really take exception to this article. As other people have posted on the Crystal boards there is very little truth to be found anywhere in the article. Very poor. The crew were absolutely incredible to the last moment and just took everything in their stride despite not knowing anything about their own positions. We certainly wee very well looked after. When this has happened in the past other cruise lines have put the passengers off at the next stop. We were ferried over to Miami at no cost and buses were laid on to Miami, Miami Airport and FLL airport. I Found both of my cases in less than a minute. Yes it was harder for the older passengers but considering the whole thing was arranged at such short notice, I don’t think they could have done any better. The tv cameras were accosting us as we left the terminal and I told them with a beaming smile that I’d had the best holiday of my life. I certainly didn’t want to throw any scraps to the carrion feeders.

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26 minutes ago, Daveywavey70 said:

I really take exception to this article. As other people have posted on the Crystal boards there is very little truth to be found anywhere in the article. Very poor. The crew were absolutely incredible to the last moment and just took everything in their stride despite not knowing anything about their own positions. We certainly wee very well looked after. When this has happened in the past other cruise lines have put the passengers off at the next stop. We were ferried over to Miami at no cost and buses were laid on to Miami, Miami Airport and FLL airport. I Found both of my cases in less than a minute. Yes it was harder for the older passengers but considering the whole thing was arranged at such short notice, I don’t think they could have done any better. The tv cameras were accosting us as we left the terminal and I told them with a beaming smile that I’d had the best holiday of my life. I certainly didn’t want to throw any scraps to the carrion feeders.

 

 

Appreciate this updating and follow-up from Daveywavey70.   As we know, more and more, those in the media need "clicks and views" in order to fund their operations.  Reporting on "conflict" and "discord" makes for better headlines and attracts more "eyeballs".  Glad to have your perspective.  My Crystal Ball on Crystal still predicts that they do not rise from "dead" in this current, challenged cruising environment.  Keep us posted as to any other added details you can share.  As I might have mentioned earlier, we super loved our 2008 Dover to Stockholm sailing in the Baltics and for Russia on the Crystal Symphony.  

 

THANKS!  Enjoy!  Terry in Ohio   

 

 

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I wish people wouldn't always blame "the media." There were some passengers who were complaining on social media and to the TV cameras about how they had been "dumped" off the ship, sent on a non-luxury ferry, and were again "dumped" in Florida with no help. That's not the media's fault. Yes, of course, the NY Post often goes for the most provocative headline.

 

Blame the sandal-seeking Post if you wish. Blame overly-aggressive TV reporters if you wish. But please don't paint "the media" with a broad brush of contempt. Without "the media" we would be greatly uninformed as a society. Finding out how things work, or don't, and informing the public about what goes on beyond our own experiences and eyes is immensely valuable, and I fear for a future where everyone blames "the media" for everything they don't like or agree with. 

 

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35 minutes ago, cruiseej said:

I fear for a future where everyone blames "the media" for everything they don't like or agree with. 

 

Isn't the "future" of which you are concerned...now?  

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4 hours ago, TLCOhio said:

Good news for Royal Caribbean stockholders.  As shown below from the early afternoon Wall Street Journal, their stock is up, UP significantly today.  Why?  How long will it sustain this rise/recovery?  The other two major lines were also up, so far, today by around that 7% margin.

 

I wonder what the good news was? Not a financial report or something like that because all three went up. Not WHO declaring the pandemic is over. No publications that being infected is good for you (quite the opposite). No CDC policy changes. And no news articles explaining with 20-20 vision why they went up, either.

 

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14 hours ago, cruiseej said:

I wish people wouldn't always blame "the media." There were some passengers who were complaining on social media and to the TV cameras about how they had been "dumped" off the ship, sent on a non-luxury ferry, and were again "dumped" in Florida with no help. That's not the media's fault. Yes, of course, the NY Post often goes for the most provocative headline.

 

Blame the sandal-seeking Post if you wish. Blame overly-aggressive TV reporters if you wish. But please don't paint "the media" with a broad brush of contempt. Without "the media" we would be greatly uninformed as a society. Finding out how things work, or don't, and informing the public about what goes on beyond our own experiences and eyes is immensely valuable, and I fear for a future where everyone blames "the media" for everything they don't like or agree with. 

 

Theres a vast difference between uninformed and misinformed. They were actively seeking out anyone that had a gripe. They knew the angle they wanted and sought out those that would provide them with the quotes. They had no interest in providing any facts or indeed any balance. To me, I don’t find this type of “journalism” worthy of consumption, I’d rather use it at the other end. 

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There is no doubt journalistic standards have deteriorated considerably.

 

The "Fool" points to an analyst reiterating his rating and raising estimates a little for some of the stock rise yesterday.  RCL was up the most so that may have contributed to the outperformance but I doubt it was the entire catalyst.  Airlines were also up, maybe partially because of the Frontier/Spirit Merger.

 

The news on Covid has been considerably better over the last week.  The cases have rolled over, many schools (Democrat Governors) have eliminated mask mandates and there is pressure on President Biden to lift the test requirement for international travel.   It feels to me like we may be seeing some light at the end of the tunnel (thought that before).

 

https://www.fool.com/investing/2022/02/07/royal-caribbean-carnival-norwegian-cruise-bounce/

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1 hour ago, Daveywavey70 said:

Theres a vast difference between uninformed and misinformed. They were actively seeking out anyone that had a gripe. They knew the angle they wanted and sought out those that would provide them with the quotes. They had no interest in providing any facts or indeed any balance. To me, I don’t find this type of “journalism” worthy of consumption, I’d rather use it at the other end. 

 

Agree that there are many pro/con factors to discuss as to the ways and methods for "journalism" these days.  As a TV anchor put it to me one day, "we don't report the number of safe airline landings at the airport each day."  Reporting tends to focus on what was not supposed to happen and/or is "different" as for what is making "news".   Appreciate these added comments and various follow-ups.  

 

From the New York Post last evening, they had this headline: What really went down on seized luxury cruise ship Crystal Serenity with these highlights: It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime: four months on a luxury cruise ship, motoring from Miami through the Caribbean before stops in Barcelona, Athens, St. Tropez and beyond.  Barry Shulman, and his wife, Allyn Jaffrey Shulman, spent six figures for their top-tier cabin on the Crystal Serenity.  But the first wave of bad news came fast.  'On the third day, [the staff] announced that they’re going broke and dropping us off in Aruba,' said Barry, the 75-year-old owner of Card Player magazine in Las Vegas. 'The captain got on [the intercom] to say it was the end of the cruise. It was the end of everything.' 

 

On this longer Serenity cruise, this couple (and I am sure others) were unhappy as to how their expect adventure ended.  They posted the specifics and pictures for what happened (and not).  Not a pretty or proud story.  Sad for all involved.  Clearly, top executives at Crystal knew that they were running out of cash and taking money for future services that they might not be able to provide.  I am glad that things worked out reasonably well for Davey and he was able to get back home in fairly good order.   

 

In the coming months, it will be interesting to see how these legal and financial issues work out, who gets how much money back, etc.  

 

Full story at:

https://nypost.com/2022/02/07/what-really-went-down-on-seized-luxury-crystal-cruise-ship/

 

THANKS!  Enjoy!  Terry in Ohio

 

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From the NY Post, here was their headline and graphic in connection with this ill-fated Crystal Serenity long cruising.:

(Open your screen/viewer wider to see this visual larger/better!)

1496602827_ScreenShot2022-02-08at8_51_42AM.thumb.png.bc7b2a4a5d2a79b2243fd74e3be76f36.png

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On 2/8/2022 at 11:14 AM, RetiredandTravel said:

 

There is a sentence close to the end of the article that says:  "Considering this, we would remain somewhat cautious about RCL stock in the near term."  I am comfortable owning the shares that I own.  I would not be comfortable in buying more at this time.  

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48 minutes ago, rkacruiser said:

 

There is a sentence close to the end of the article that says:  "Considering this, we would remain somewhat cautious about RCL stock in the near term."  I am comfortable owning the shares that I own.  I would not be comfortable in buying more at this time.  

 

If I had the money I'd be buying more CCL but it could have been RCL. The only reason I bought CCL is that I sailed on their ships. I'm not a very professional investor 🙂

 

This is one of the wonders of investing for me: the majority of professionals MSN picked also say "hold", but if their confidence is 99% it should be "Sell" and if it was 101% it should be "Buy". 10 of out of 20 in "Analyst recommendation" say that the current price is exactly what they expect for the near future. (And everyone ever saying "hold" has been wrong).

 

In my very limited number of stocks I own, I never "hold". If I don't firmly believe it will go up, it's just a few clicks and it's money waiting for a better destination.  

 

The cautious part is this: 

" Separately, despite the optimism surrounding the decline in Covid cases, there may be a possibility of new virus variants following omicron and that could prove a lingering risk to the cruising industry. Considering this, we would remain somewhat cautious about RCL stock in the near term." 

 

From what I read, Omicron isn't really "mild", it's just as nasty as the original version and the Delta version, etc. The only real difference is that almost everyone is either vaccinated or had a previous infection and survived.  

 

There are new variants every minute of which most aren't even seen. Omicron has its own sub variants, of which BA.2 is winning now but there will be another that's even better at spreading itself. 

 

So, that will be boosters every 3 months for people who are at risk of hospitalization, a yearly vaccination for the rest of us, which might include children or not.  Something like that.

 

But that's it. A new variant may get 1% better at infecting people, and in the long run it "wins", but to put a serious dent in bookings there must be a new variant that doesn't only "win" but also is much more dangerous. Noro could have turned into an Ebola like disease, and that risk has also been a lingering risk to the cruise industry for ages. I don't think Covid will be become that much more dangerous. 

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10 minutes ago, AmazedByCruising said:

If I had the money I'd be buying more CCL but it could have been RCL. The only reason I bought CCL is that I sailed on their ships. I'm not a very professional investor

 

Many of the investments that I have made are with companies with which I have understood the importance of their products to our Nation and world and experienced or used their products.  If I am satisfied with the experiences that I have had with company Y, then, I am thinking others will be so as well.  That thought has been a successful one for me.  

Nor am I a very professional investor.  For a very long time, I have read and learned and I know what I think I know.  I have sought what has turned out to be good professional advice.  For me, these actions by me have thankfully worked.  

 

11 minutes ago, AmazedByCruising said:

This is one of the wonders of investing for me: the majority of professionals MSN picked also say "hold", but if their confidence is 99% it should be "Sell" and if it was 101% it should be "Buy". 10 of out of 20 in "Analyst recommendation" say that the current price is exactly what they expect for the near future. (And everyone ever saying "hold" has been wrong).

 

I don't often learn what the analysts recommendations are about "buy, sell, hold".  Interesting to learn, but even the analysts views of my holdings by my brokerage company are of little importance to me.

 

12 minutes ago, AmazedByCruising said:

In my very limited number of stocks I own, I never "hold". If I don't firmly believe it will go up, it's just a few clicks and it's money waiting for a better destination.  

 

I am a "buy and hold" investor.  I have been told in conversations with those investors who know more than I do that I am a "Warren Buffet" type investor:  buy quality and hold.  I can be a contrarian investor when I believe it could be to my benefit.  I bought some shares of JCP as the stock was declining.  Why?  I patronized their stores; I liked their products; their service was very good in comparison to their competition.  It's a good company!  In my opinion.  The stock fell--then, it fell some more--and then, it fell some more-etc.  I "got the message" and sold; took the loss which benefited me--a tiny bit--when I next filed my tax return.  

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On 2/9/2022 at 7:38 PM, AmazedByCruising said:

If I had the money I'd be buying more CCL but it could have been RCL. The only reason I bought CCL is that I sailed on their ships. I'm not a very professional investor 🙂

 

Appreciate these very good insights, comments and follow-ups regarding investments and trying to figure out what is smart and best.  Investing in the stock market is never an easy, simple and free-of-risk exercise.    

 

From the Associated Press/AP this morning, they had this headline on a paid news release: NCL Corporation Ltd. Announces Pricing of $2,035,000,000 of Senior Secured Notes, Senior Unsecured Notes and Exchangeable Notes with these highlights: “ NCL Corporation announced today that it has priced $1,000.0 million aggregate principal amount of its 5.875% senior secured notes due 2027, $600.0 million aggregate principal amount of its 7.750% senior unsecured notes due 2029 and $435.0 million aggregate principal amount of its 2.50% exchangeable senior notes due 2027, each of which were offered in private offerings that are exempt from the registration requirements of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended. ”

 

WOW!!  That's two billion dollars.  Lots of money.  Unlike with Crystal Cruise's parent, the three major lines have been able to float more paper and keep the cash-flow going forward.  

 

Full story at:

https://apnews.com/press-release/GlobeNewswire/coronavirus-pandemic-health-business-norwegian-cruise-line-holdings-ltd-76ee75443c7e79becc0bf9735ce70427

 

THANKS!  Enjoy!  Terry in Ohio

 

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From MSN News and financial news sources this morning, they had this headline: Crystal Cruises is shutting its US offices and has terminated employees days after 2 ships were seized in the Bahamas with these highlights:Crystal Cruises is closing down its offices in the US and has let its employees go, Bloomberg reported, citing a person with knowledge of the matter.  Workers were terminated on Wednesday, Bloomberg added, citing the person who requested anonymity as the information hasn't been announced to the public. The report did not specify how many employees were let go. The closure comes just days after two of its ships — Crystal  Symphony and Crystal Serenity — were seized by authorities in the Bahamas over unpaid fuel bills, Cruise Law News reported.  Crew members on board ships received the news of Crystal Cruises' closure via their captains, Cruise Hive reported.

 

Some Crystal cheerleaders had hoped that this cruise line would be coming back later this Spring.  Clearly that is not happening as many months ago, their stock fell to almost worthless and banks would not advance any more cash.  Sad!!

 

Full story at:

https://www.msn.com/en-in/news/world/crystal-cruises-is-shutting-its-us-offices-and-has-terminated-employees-days-after-2-ships-were-seized-in-the-bahamas-report/ar-AATIMOy?ocid=BingNewsSearch

 

THANKS!  Enjoy!  Terry in Ohio

 

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3 hours ago, TLCOhio said:

 

WOW!!  That's two billion dollars.  Lots of money.  Unlike with Crystal Cruise's parent, the three major lines have been able to float more paper and keep the cash-flow going forward.  

 

 

True, but as you know, at some point, when the outstanding debt exceeds the company's asset value and there is insufficient cash flow to fund operations and debt service (note how relatively high the interest rates are on the NCL debt), you can have more Crystals. If similar to what happened with Crystal, RCI could only keep SS afloat (sorry) by additional loans or capital contributions, and it either couldn't or wouldn't do so at some point, SS could end up in the same boat (sorry again) as Crystal (as could Celebrity). That currently appears quite doubtful, but of course nothing in the cruise industry is predictable.

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5 hours ago, TLCOhio said:

WOW!!  That's two billion dollars.  Lots of money.  Unlike with Crystal Cruise's parent, the three major lines have been able to float more paper and keep the cash-flow going forward.

 

Terry, you left out the sentence which followed in the AP story: "NCLC intends to use the net proceeds from the offerings of the Notes and the Exchangeable Notes to redeem all of the outstanding 12.25% Secured Notes and 10.250% Secured Notes (each as defined below) and to make principal payments on debt maturing in the short-term." In other words, this is all about re-arranging existing debt, including the money borrowed at very high rates after the pandemic first shut things down. We all know interest rates will be going up as we go through 2022 and 2023, and even if that weren't the case, trading some of their existing loans at 12.25% and 10.25% for loans at 7.75% and 5.875% seems like a pretty logical financial move. 

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1 hour ago, cruiseej said:

trading some of their existing loans at 12.25% and 10.25% for loans at 7.75% and 5.875% seems like a pretty logical financial move.

 

I am fairly sure that is what CCL has very recently done.  Smart financial moves in my opinion.  

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3 hours ago, taxatty said:

True, but as you know, at some point, when the outstanding debt exceeds the company's asset value and there is insufficient cash flow to fund operations and debt service (note how relatively high the interest rates are on the NCL debt), you can have more Crystals. If similar to what happened with Crystal, RCI could only keep SS afloat (sorry) by additional loans or capital contributions, and it either couldn't or wouldn't do so at some point, SS could end up in the same boat (sorry again) as Crystal (as could Celebrity). That currently appears quite doubtful, but of course nothing in the cruise industry is predictable.

 

YES, great comments and follow-up from our savvy friend in Miami.  Plus, our Philadelphia and Dayton/SW Ohio neighbors are 100% correct that most of this two billion dollar float by NCL is in order to lower their interest costs and save future cash.  These three CC board participants have sharp smarts and make excellent points.   

 

From the Wall Street Journal late this afternoon, you can see below the charts for the three major cruise lines.  The first four days of this past week were very, very good for these stock values.  BUT, today, things dropped significantly.  Part of the Friday negative views was being driven by an overall market drop regarding worries as to what would or might happen with war risks for Russia vs. the Ukraine.  

 

Other guesses, insights, speculation, etc., as to what caused these cruise lines stock value shifts/movements?

 

THANKS!  Enjoy!  Terry in Ohio

 

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https://boards.cruisecritic.com/topic/2682584-live-terryohio-silver-muse-alaska-canadarockies-pix’s/

 

Shown below are the Wall Street Journal charts for the past week tracking the three major cruise lines.:

(Open your screen/viewer wider to see these visuals larger/better!)

920376818_ScreenShot2022-02-11at4_17_10PM.thumb.png.d6a27601866984c827eb9e15d64174ec.png

 

1668799896_ScreenShot2022-02-11at4_17_38PM.thumb.png.9275a48aa395066692dfc9985d4a806e.png

 

1416719301_ScreenShot2022-02-11at4_18_00PM.thumb.png.e8c81c456fbf118d8b8151dae4d2b847.png

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52 minutes ago, TLCOhio said:

BUT, today, things dropped significantly.  Part of the Friday negative views was being driven by an overall market drop regarding worries as to what would or might happen with war risks for Russia vs. the Ukraine.  

 

Other guesses, insights, speculation, etc., as to what caused these cruise lines stock value shifts/movements?

 

I really wouldn't know. Why should Ukraine be a risk that affects the cruise industry more than any other? There's also no new Covid news from what I see. 

 

Anyway, 5 percent down and we're still higher than 5 days ago. It's more a casino than a steady pension fund 🙂

 

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Not only are Black Sea cruises affected, but more importantly Baltic & to a lesser extent,  the few Trans-Pacific cruises that stop in the Pacific Russian ports.  The Baltic route is a huge part of many cruise line's summer itineraries. Re-routing is expensive & not always easy to accomplish.  Just a thought.

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Potential conflict in the Ukraine creates many reasons for stocks in general, and especially cruise line stocks, to sink. Gas and oil price shave already been on the rise over fears of a reduction in supplies from Russia. (Russia is the second largest gas producing country in the world.) So fuel costs could continue to soar, creating inflationary pressure in other areas of the economy. More disruptions in global trade (both exports from and imports to Russia) can have widespread effects on many industries; the US alone exports over 6 billion dollars annually in goods to Russia. If trade to Russia brings slows down or grinds to a halt, that quickly ripples through part so the US economy as manufacturing production shuts down, people are laid off, etc.  Fuel costs alone will drag on cruise lines trying to get back to profitability. Add in cruises in the Baltic region being disrupted, and it's not a pretty picture for cruise lines looking for a rebound summer if bad things happen in the Ukraine.

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18 hours ago, nowornever said:

The Baltic route is a huge part of many cruise line's summer itineraries.

 

St Petersburg is the only Russian port, but Petersburg is obviously the main port with overnights of those cruises. I'm one of the lucky ones who can't remember war. I'm not even sure if war means that pax are in danger of becoming a prisoner of war when on vacation in Petersburg, 900 miles away from where soldiers shoot at each other. 

 

Also, if the Baltic cruises are not available, there are fjords, Brittain, the Med and the Canary Islands. I don't think that many people insist that much on one night in St Petersburg so much that they won't book a similar cruise and miss out on 45 minutes in a museum and 2 hours of Swan Lake.

 

8 hours ago, cruiseej said:

Potential conflict in the Ukraine creates many reasons for stocks in general, and especially cruise line stocks, to sink

 

I would understand a head line "Dow Jones 15% down due to Ukrain crisis". But why especially cruise lines? Fuel is about 20% of the cost of running a ship. Certainly not negligible, but if those costs would double (!), base fares would go up by 20%. People have been saving and that is already seen in more on board spending. If they aren't scared of Covid, they can handle higher fares. 

 

I just a quote for extending my house at bit. Maybe I'm too optimistic, but it would be perfect to say goodbye to my CCL stock at $40 around June 🙂

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22 hours ago, AmazedByCruising said:

Also, if the Baltic cruises are not available, there are fjords, Brittain, the Med and the Canary Islands

 

Baltic cruises could spend more time in some of the other ports.  Stockholm is worth more than the brief time that most cruise guests have to visit the city.  Along with Estonia, maybe one or both of the other countries next to Estonia could offer a new port for Baltic cruises.  

 

 

 

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22 hours ago, AmazedByCruising said:

I would understand a head line "Dow Jones 15% down due to Ukrain crisis". But why especially cruise lines? Fuel is about 20% of the cost of running a ship. Certainly not negligible, but if those costs would double (!), base fares would go up by 20%. People have been saving and that is already seen in more on board spending. If they aren't scared of Covid, they can handle higher fares. 

 

Very good questions, comments and follow-ups about what causes the stock market, overall, to go up and down.  It is not totally logically and/or to be explained based on solid, proven, established facts.  When the markets go up or down in major moves, there is always speculation and guessing as to why and how.  Sometimes that is good and backed up by science/facts.  Other times is is just "pulling it out of" their you know what/where as to exactly why.   

 

From this below financial news source a week or so ago, they had this headline with more details from the earlier Wall Street briefing: Royal Caribbean CEO says 'we are past COVID,' but cruise operator may not turn profitable this year as expected.

 

Here are some their reporting highlights that might be of interest:The company said it expects to be operating cash flow positive 'in late spring.'   In the company's third-quarter release in late-October, the company said it expected to be cash flow positive 'by spring.'  The change in outlook comes after the omicron variant created 'short-term operational challenges,' such as cruise cancellation and service disruptions.  Royal Caribbean may finally be confident enough to provide long-term financial guidance.  '[I] think we're going to wait until we're in a little bit more of a predictable state, and our quarters are predictable, before providing that guidance.'  He said, however, that he believed that, as the omicron variant has already begun fading, that the pandemic would likely no longer be a big weight on the business.  'We are certainly looking past COVID,' Liberty said. 'We believe we are past COVID...in terms of the overall impact on our business, and we're focused on our healthy return to service.'  For 2022, the company said load factors for sailings for the first half of the year are expected to remain below historical levels, given the lingering impact from omicron. But for the second half, load factors continue to be booked in line with historical levels, and at higher prices, both with and without future cruise credits (FCCs).

 

Full story at:

https://www.morningstar.com/news/marketwatch/202202053332/royal-caribbean-ceo-says-we-are-past-covid-but-cruise-operator-may-not-turn-profitable-this-year-as-expected

 

THANKS!  Enjoy!  Terry in Ohio

 

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20 hours ago, rkacruiser said:

Baltic cruises could spend more time in some of the other ports.  Stockholm is worth more than the brief time that most cruise guests have to visit the city.  Along with Estonia, maybe one or both of the other countries next to Estonia could offer a new port for Baltic cruises.  

 

Yes, agree that Stockholm and Tallinn are very good and have much to offer with their charm, history, architecture and character.  Plus, we have super loved Copenhagen, another must-see in this region.  

 

BUT, Russia is amazing!!  Not to be missed if you are going to be traveling in this region of the world.  In the summer of 2008, we had three days in St. Petersburg.  On one of the days, we did a flight/tour to and back from Moscow.  Plus two different days of private tours for St. Petersburg with just the four of us on a customized exploring of the top sights there.  Awesome is the quick summary.  Would not have missed it for the world.  Life-long memories.  

 

Need proof and evidence?  See below with just four visuals.  Seeing both of these historic Russian Capitals is a memorable experience that is seldom match by substituting other cities/locations.  Sorry to be so blunt, but in my view, if St. Petersburg cruises stop or get cut out, it will significantly lower the level of bookings for the Baltics.  

 

THANKS!  Enjoy!  Terry in Ohio 

 

Norway Coast/Fjords/Arctic Circle cruise from Copenhagen, July 2010, to the top of Europe. Scenic visuals with key tips. Live/blog at 243,502 views.

www.boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1227923

 

As we entered Catherine's Palace in St. Petersburg, here was the welcoming band.  This Rococo summer residence of the Russian Czars is located in the town of Pushkin, 15 miles SE of St. Petersburg.  The residence originated in 1717, when Catherine I engaged a German architect to construct a summer palace for her pleasure. In 1752, Empress Anna found her mother's residence outdated and had her court architect demolish the old structure and replace it with a much grander edifice in a flamboyant Rococo style. Construction lasted for four years and in 1756 the new 325-meter-long palace amazed courtiers, foreign ambassadors and other visitors. During Elizabeth's lifetime, the palace was famed for its lavish exterior, including more than 100 kilograms of gold used to gild the sophisticated stucco façade and numerous statues erected on the roof.:

(Open your screen/viewer wider to see these visuals larger/better!)

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Here is a unique angle for the spectacular fountains and water from the Peterhof outside of St. Petersburg.  The greatest technological achievement of Peterhof is that all of the fountains operate without the use of pumps. Water is supplied from natural springs and collects in reservoirs in the Upper Gardens. This elevation difference creates the pressure driving most of the fountains for the Lower Gardens, including the Grand Cascade.:

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Private, personal tours can be worth it, especially in St. Petersburg.  Here our group of four viewing and learning more about one of the two da Vinci masterpieces (Madonna Litta or Madonna and Child) at the Hermitage after an early admission.  There are only sixteen such paintings by this artist existing in the whole world. We did an early admission at the Hermitage, lessening the crowd battles and adding to the enjoyment in this spectacular place/set of five palaces AND museum.:

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Here is my wife and Cindy examining closely one of the highly-detailed tables in the vast Hermitage collection that includes much more than just paintings and sculptures.  The Russian skills and craftsmanship for such details is amazing and must be seen “up close and personal”.  You cannot just walk by quickly and appreciate fully the details for their expert workmanship!:

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