Impact Of Sequester Cuts On Travel: Festivals Not So Festive

sequester cuts

Recent sequester cuts have had a big impact on travel in a number of ways. Cutbacks have resulted in everything from grounding the Navy’s Blue Angels at dozens of air shows around the country to turning Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental into a third world-like airport. Cuts to the budgets of national parks have popular attractions opening on a delayed schedule, closing visitor centers and operating without campgrounds.

But those who (still) work and operate facilities, festivals and events that would normally draw travelers from around the world are pressing on, promising to make the best of a bad situation.

A highlight, if not the main attraction, to Fleet Week at a number of major U.S. cities is a showcase of active duty military ships, recently deployed in overseas operations and brought to town for the event.sequester cutsA tradition of the United States Navy, United States Marine Corps and United States Coast Guard since 1935, Fleet Week began in San Diego with 114 warships and 400 military planes. Since then, annual Fleet Week events began in San Francisco, New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Seattle, Washington, includes fleet week during the annual Seafair. In Portland, Oregon, fleet week is part of the annual Portland Rose Festival.

The shows brought ships full of military personnel to town, as well as travelers who looked forward to tours of ships, military demonstrations and air shows, adding to local tourism revenue. But on the heels of the secretary of defense announcing that ships will not be visiting, show organizers are turning to a different focus.

“We’re all about bringing a little more recognition to our local units,” said Jean-Sebastien Gros of Broward Navy Days Inc., the non-profit organization that spearheads Florida’s Fleet Week Port Everglades, in this NBC Miami report.

The Fort Lauderdale Fleet Week event, still scheduled for April 29 through May 6, normally has hotels booked full and Florida highways clogged for a week. Organizers hope to keep the lion’s share of that activity by hosting a variety of other events.

Golf tournaments, a 5K race, major league baseball games, culinary competitions and deep-sea fishing will attempt to replace active-duty warships and the Blue Angels. Canceled ship tours will give way to honoring the active duty military of the United States Southern Command and Coast Guard District 7, both based in South Florida.

It’s a sign of the times to be sure and event organizers are to be commended for pressing on. Still, this travel-affecting result of sequester budget cuts can’t help but make one wonder if there was not some other way to address this problem with the nation’s economy.

“No one can deny that we have passed through troubled years. No one can fail to feel the inspiration of your high purpose. I wish you great success,” said President Franklin Roosevelt in 1935 at the beginning of the first fleet week.

[Photo credit – Flickr user St0rmz]

When Cruise Ships Get In Trouble

cruise ships

When cruise ships get in trouble anywhere close to the United States, government forces from a variety of agencies spring into action. To make sure those efforts are seamlessly coordinated, they practice, drill and practice again as they did in a complex exercise held this week. At stake could be the lives of thousands traveling via cruise ship.

We’ve seen the media accounts of ships without power for one reason or another, drifting for days at sea. It’s a rare occurrence but when it happens, agencies from the U.S. Coast Guard to the Salvation Army all have a role to play. In Operation Black Swan this week, emergency response teams from the cruise industry along with key Bahamas government agencies joined to test the system in place to handle emergencies.

The three-day exercise was designed to better understand the role each agency plays during a maritime mass rescue event. Testing emergency procedures looked deep into the entire process of a would-be catastrophe at sea starting with the actual abandon ship process and the way ships account for passengers and crew. Stretching search and rescue capabilities as if in an actual emergency along with landing site management and medical surge procedures, the results were good.

Coordinated by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the U.S. Coast Guard runs the show, but other agencies play a critical role in handling an emergency.
“The efforts of the local Red Cross and the Salvation Army at the landing site are to be commended. They were able to provide the passengers and support team refreshments at the site. The efforts of the medical teams from the Rand Memorial and the U.S. FAST Team who came to provide assistance to the injured persons are to also be commendable. I am also pleased with the support of the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Coast Guard air assets, which medically evacuated persons for care and attention,” said Director of NEMA Captain Stephen Russell in a statement.

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Just how complicated is the business of rescuing a cruise ship?

The Black Swan exercise included involvement from Royal Caribbean‘s Monarch of the Seas and Norwegian cruise line’s Norwegian Sky, both utilized for an evacuation drill of passengers and tendering to port. Carnival Cruise Line was there providing family guest care facilities and Norwegian provided landing site forward teams.

Coast Guard Cutters Joshua Appleby, Tarpon and Diamondback were fully staffed and on the scene along with crewmembers from the Bahamas Air Sea Rescue Association (BASRA) and Royal Bahamas Defense Force (RBDF) who also participated in the exercise.

While a full blown catastrophe at sea is rare, medical evacuations by the U.S. Coast Guard are not all that uncommon, as we see in this video:



[Photo credit – U.S. Coast Guard]

Stricken Cruise Ship Passengers Make Most Of Bad Situation

cruise shipLife on board stricken cruise ship Carnival Triumph is far from the travel brochure promise of sandy beaches and warm Caribbean nights. As the ship is being towed to shore after an engine room fire knocked out the ship’s propulsion, passengers have had quite a different experience than what they bargained for. Still, experienced travelers know that not everything goes as planned and making the best of a bad situation often depends on how we choose to react when bad things happen along the way.

“I do want to commend our guests on board the Carnival Triumph … for doing a great job dealing with a difficult situation. I happen to believe that is the nature of the Carnival guests who happen to be very optimistic people (who) enjoy life,” said Carnival President and CEO Gerry Cahill at a press conference held Tuesday night at Carnival’s Miami headquarters.

Operating with limited services (although the bars are open and drinks are free), 102,000-ton Carnival Triumph is expected to arrive in Mobile, Alabama, on Thursday. Once there, the ship’s passengers will be disembarked quickly, given hot food and a night in one of 1,500 hotel rooms being held by the cruise line. That will no doubt be a welcome change to cold sandwiches and showers along with hot, unventilated cabins.

While reports from passengers on board via Twitter and Facebook vary from describing the situation as a “cruise from hell” to a more positive “we’ll sure remember this one,” odds are everyone will be happy when the sailing is over.”Generally speaking, the mood on board is good under the circumstances and most guests are making the most of it,” Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen told Travel Pulse.

On Friday, 20 charter flights will take passengers back to Houston where arrangements have been made to get them back home. Those on the ship right now will receive a full refund of what they paid for the cruise along with any non-refundable travel services and a complimentary cruise in the future.

The U.S. Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board have launched an investigation into the incident.

Here is that press conference from Carnival’s Miami headquarters last night.



[Photo Credit- U.S. Coast Guard]

Carnival Triumph Being Towed To Shore After Engine Room Fire

Carnival TriumphCarnival Triumph was nearing the end of a four-night cruise when an engine room fire stopped the ship, about 150 miles off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. Without propulsion and running on only backup generator power, Carnival Triumph will be towed to closest port where passengers will disembark and be flown back home.

Carnival Cruise Lines, owner of the ship, posted a statement Sunday night on its website. Along with details on how passengers would get home, compensation they would receive and other pertinent information, the cruise line explained what happened and the current status of the ship.

The ship’s automatic fire extinguishing systems activated and the fire was contained to the aft engine room. At this time, the fire is fully extinguished. There were no casualties or injuries to guests or crew. All appropriate authorities including U.S. Coast Guard have been notified.”

Meeting Carnival Triumph at the scene, another Carnival ship, Carnival Elation, transferred additional beverages and supplies to distressed ship as it drifted in open sea, waiting for a tugboat.

Expected to arrive in Progresso, Mexico, by Wednesday afternoon, passengers on board will make the best of what is now a free cruise with another free cruise coming in the future.

“All guests on the current Carnival Triumph voyage will receive a full refund of the cruise, along with transportation expenses,” reads the statement on the Carnival website. “In addition, they will receive a future cruise credit equal to the amount paid for this voyage, as well as reimbursement of all shipboard purchases during the voyage, with the exception of gift shop and casino charges.“Meanwhile, booked passengers preparing to depart on the next regularly scheduled sailing of Carnival Triumph are being contacted by the cruise line with the bad news. The next two sailings of Carnival Triumph have been canceled. Those passengers will receive a full refund of their cruise fare and any non-refundable travel expenses plus a discount on a future cruise.

If this sounds a bit familiar, it is. Gadling reported a fire aboard Carnival Splendor in November 2010. At the time, it was believed that the ship would be out of service for several sailings. But once repairs were underway, additional issues were discovered and some needed parts where not available, causing Carnival Splendor to stay out of service until February 2011.

We will provide updates as this story develops. Visit the Carnival website for the most current information.


[Photo credit – Flickr user Daniel Slaughter]

Captain Of Wrecked Cruise Ship Cries Foul, Says He’s Innocent

captain

When we last visited Captain Francesco Schettino, he was being accused of several crimes as a result of the Costa Concordia grounding. He still is. But now, the Italian master of the ill-fated cruise ship says he’s innocent and that the truth will be told – in his new book.

“Soon I will reveal the shocking truth,” Schettino told Italian newspaper Il Giornale as reported by the Telegraph. “And then all those people who denigrated me will have to apologize, not to me but to the families of the victims and to the public, which was conned with false information.”

By all accounts, Costa Concordia was sailing too close to shore on January 13, 2012, when the ship grounded off the coast of Italy. However it happened, the event took the lives of 32 passengers and crew in the process.Now, Schettino, who has been accused of abandoning his ship, manslaughter and causing the shipwreck, says he is innocent and did all he could do to help. Sticking to his story that he tripped and fell into a lifeboat, the fallen 52-year-old captain is resolute in his contention.

“I will no longer accept being massacred with slanderous lies,” Schettino told Il Giornale. “I’m writing a book and I will reveal what people don’t want to come to light.”

No details are available on the book or when it will be out.

Meanwhile, salvage operations continue at the site of the grounding of Costa Concordia, now aided by the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board.




[Photo Credit: Flickr user Il Fatto Quotidiano]