Eager cruisers will finally be able to cruise around the Bahamas this summer aboard Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Serenity ship.
In total, Crystal Cruises will be offering 32 seven-night trips from July to October starting from Bahamas’ Nassau or Bimini. The cruises will then shuttle passengers to five other destinations around the country: San Salvador, Long Island, Great Exuma, Harbour Island, and Bimini or Nassau, the latter depending on the sailing’s starting point.
“Crystal Cruises will go on record as the only cruise line offering Bahamas-only voyages … and the support that these cruises will bring to multiple communities within the country will be tremendous,” Dionisio D’Aguilar, Bahamas’ minister of tourism and aviation, said in a statement. The Crystal Serenity will also be the “first ocean ship to sail from the Americas” since the ongoing cruising pause first began in 2020, according to a blog post from the Bahamas.
Bookings for the tropical cruises will open on March 18 starting at $2,000 per person. The sailings will also follow Crystal Cruises’ “Crystal Clean+” measures, which include arrangements like contactless dining, mask-wearing on certain parts of the ship, and social distancing protocols.
Despite this order, and the impending debut of several cruise ships over the next few years, the return of cruising still remains in limbo. Presently, no major US cruises will be setting sail until May at the earliest, but many cruise lines are now continuing to push back their sail dates as the coronavirus pandemic continues to surge around the US.
The Princess Cruises has also paused all sailings through November 1 that were set to be longer than seven days going to and from US ports, and any trips sailing to and from Japan through June 25, according to the November notice.
“We continue to prepare our ships for our return to service and we are eager to see our guests back on board to create summertime memories,” Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises’ president, said in a statement.
“We are sorry to disappoint our guests, as we can see from our booking activity that there is clearly a pent-up demand for cruising on Carnival,” Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line, said in a statement on the news release.
According to a press release posted on December 9, 2020, Carnival has set up dry docks for the Carnival Magic, Carnival Paradise, and Carnival Valor, therefore halting any of the ships’ embarkments through September 24, May 31, and September 11, respectively. However, on January 25, Carnival announced its plans to suspend these three ships even further until November.
The January 25 release also included announcements related to several other ships and trips. One notable sailing freeze in the update includes trips out of San Diego. Seasonal service trips and planned sailings through April 2023 out of San Diego have now been suspended, and seven of these sailings to Hawaii have been moved to Long Beach, California instead.
Royal Caribbean’s Celebrity Cruises line has also halted any trips originally planned through April 30, according to an update on January 12. Several other Celebrity Cruises sailings have been paused even further through October.
However, on January 12, Celebrity updated this no-sail date by pushing it through April 30.
Holland America Line
Holland America will be pausing all cruise trips through April 30, according to an update on January 6. Alaska cruises originally set to depart through mid-May have also been canceled, although some will be halted even further into June.
Disney Cruises halted all trips through February 28, according to a travel updated posted on December 11, 2020. Cruises longer than seven nights have been suspended even further. One month later on January 12, Disney Cruises extended its no-sail date through March.
On January 27, Disney Cruises extended this order through April. Certain Disney cruises once set for May have also been suspended.
A recent string of high-profile drug plane interceptions suggests the once tranquil Mexican state of Quintana Roo is being increasingly relied upon as a drug trafficking hub.
On February 5, local media reports claimed a Cessna-type jet suspected of being used by drug traffickers had been found partially incinerated after it landed in the community of Nuevo Tabasco, close to Quintana Roo’s border with Campeche.
Military officials were present at the site, as it was suspected drugs transported by the plane might have been hidden in mountains surrounding the illegal landing spot, according to local media outlet, Quadratín Quintana Roo.
The report added that the aircraft had been detected by Mexico’s air force earlier that morning, before it was found partially destroyed hours later.
Last year, the state saw a number of irregular landings linked to drug trafficking.
In October, Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador confirmed in a morning press conference that a plane carrying 1.5 tons of cocaine had landed at Chetumal Airport in southern Quintana Roo just hours earlier.
López Obrador reported that three suspicious jets had been detected entering Mexican airspace before they were swiftly pursued by members of the nation’s military and Secretary of National Defense. While one plane landed in Chetumal, with authorities subsequently detaining a member of its crew, the remaining two aircraft managed to evade authorities.
Military sources suggested the planes could have arrived in the state from Colombia or Venezuela, according to Sol Quintana Roo.
Last July, the state’s then-police chief, Alberto Capella, tweeted that a plane suspected of being involved in illicit activities had strikingly landed on a public highway in the municipality of Chunhuhub.
After consulting military sources, Milenio reported the Hawker 700 jet had initiated its journey in Venezuela, before landing on the Mexican road in broad daylight, where a truck was awaiting its descent. The media outlet added that authorities later found both vehicles abandoned, discovering just under half a ton of cocaine worth over $5.2 million left in the deserted truck.
Authorities intercepted an aircraft piloted by two Bolivian nationals traveling from Argentina to Mexico’s largely touristic Cozumel island in January 2020, seizing around a ton of cocaine in the process.
Most crews have evaded capture, despite being traced and pursued by authorities.
Just beyond Quintana Roo’s southern border, Belize has also seen such flights land illegally, as drugs are increasingly trafficked northward. On January 29 of this year, a clandestine aircraft carrying over 90 kilograms of suspected cocaine disembarked in the nation, with nine people detained following its descent, media outlet Amandala reported.
InSight Crime analysis
Illicit flights disembarking in the state have largely carried sizeable shipments of cocaine, ultimately fueled by record production of the drug in a host of South American countries including Colombia, Bolivia and Peru.
While 2021 has only seen one such flight disembark in Quintana Roo so far, last year eight aircraft linked to drug trafficking were reported to have made irregular landings in the state, preceded by 2019’s staggering total of 14, according to the Quadratín Quintana Roo.
However, the media outlet added that Mexico’s air surveillance system – controlled by the nation’s air force – reports an average of three irregular flights made within the state’s boundaries per week.
Although cocaine has passed through Quintana Roo for decades, security analyst Alejandro Hope told InSight Crime that an increased number of drug flights landing in the state in recent years may be a product of the tightening land border between Mexico and Central American countries, as well as former US President Donald Trump’s pressure on the Mexican government to act in this respect.
Most of the drugs that are successfully transported on from Quintana Roo ultimately reach the US, while some are shipped to Europe or remain in Mexico for domestic production, according to Hope.
The analyst added that those who receive the cocaine in Quintana Roo may be linked to the Jalisco Cartel New Generation (CJNG). The drugs may also be collected by residual members of the Gulf Cartel and Zetas, who have been known to operate in the state, Hope suggested.
InSight Crime reported on how Quintana Roo has seen an increase in violence related to organized crime of late, with independent cartels battling for control over lucrative drug distribution points. Such battles have been spilling over into events attended by tourists, allegedly including a music festival in Tulum last October.
“We have launched the private island for discerning travelers during this time when we know that safety and security are a top priority amongst the evolving needs of travellers,” Etienne Dalancon, general manager at Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi, told Insider in an email interview. “The Ithaafushi private island offers a high level of exclusivity and natural social distancing. “
“The main focus of Ithaafushi private island was to offer an escape where guests can have their own private haven that connects with nature, offering more outdoor spaces so they can enjoy holistic activities in distanced spaces,” Dalancon told Insider.
Waldorf Astoria has done just that with this new island.
The Ithaafushi private island is the hotel chain’s “crown jewel of their luxury portfolio in Asia Pacific,” Nils-Arne Schroeder, vice president of luxury and lifestyle at Hilton’s Asia Pacific segment, said in a statement.
The A-frame Cabin kit targets three segments that have experienced a shake-up during COVID-19 times: DIY-ers, remote and tiny living, and tourism.
The interior can fit up to two people and the structure is only semi-permanent, which means it can be taken apart and moved as needed.
The kit and Den Outdoors have received so much interest, the company is now contemplating raising a seed round “because the business continues to grow despite our lack of resources,” Den founder Mike Romanowicz told Business Insider in an email interview.
According to Den, the kit is a good option for companies in the glamping and hospitality business, and for people looking to list properties on Airbnb.
Unlike most cabin and tiny home makers that sell fully built units, New York-based Den Outdoors takes the approach of selling both construction plans and do-it-yourself kits with all of the necessary parts. In line with these two product types, the A-frame cabin’s plans can be purchased for $99, and the full DIY kit starts at $21,000.
According to Den founder Mike Romanowicz in an email interview with Business Insider, the company and its cabin kit has seen a “huge swell of traffic and interested customers.”
“What’s propelling the product’s popularity is that we’ve launched something that has exactly the right characteristics that people want,” Romanowicz wrote in the email interview with Business Insider. “It’s beautiful, fast to build, and accessibly priced relative to other options in the market.”
Keep scrolling to see inside the wildly hyped A-frame cabin:
To target this segment, Den decided to make the kit easy to successfully assemble.
These new living trends, coupled with the rise in DIY-ers, created the perfect storm for Den Outdoors and its cabin kit.
The company was officially launched this past July. Since then, Den has already seen explosive growth “partially aided by the tailwinds that COVID-19 is providing,” Romanowicz wrote.
The company now has about 24,400 followers on Instagram, over 10,000 customers in its email database, and has seen sales increasing monthly from organic growth alone.
“To date, we’ve been self-funded, but we’re now heavily considering raising a seed round because the business continues to grow despite our lack of resources,” Romanowicz wrote. “The path to scalable growth and profitability lies clearly ahead.”
The do-it-yourself kit also touches upon another segment impacted by COVID-19: tourism.
Den’s cabin kit targets more than the private customer who wants a backyard cabin.
The kit can also be used by glamping property owners or those interested in renting the space out for Airbnb use.
In fact, the kit was in part designed for the hospitality industry as the cabin can be listed with high nightly rates …
… but can be set up quickly and inexpensively, making it a good investment, according to its maker.
Because the cabin is four seasons-approved, it can withstand the wintertime when revenue for glamping and camping-related businesses is generally lower due to non-insulated tents.
Like a tent, the cabin can be easily assembled and disassembled and is portable.
However, the A-frame is more durable than a canvas tent, which is a glamping structure that many companies have started using, according to Den.
“Because of all that, a lot of our interest has come from larger platforms in the camping and glamping industry, as well as from a number of different hotel and hospitality operators and developers who are looking to fix their seasonality problem while offering beautiful accommodations to their guests,” Romanowicz wrote.
The full A-frame is also small enough to be placed without a permit.
The cabin is similar to a shed in that a permanent concrete foundation is not necessary …
… although Den recommends placing the cabin on concrete pavers or deck blocks.
The cabin can also be used as more than just a glamping outpost or a backyard escape.
The A-frame can also serve as a place to work out, or as a separate office room.
According to the company, several people have already purchased the kit to use as a backyard office.
The kits are now being designed and produced in New York with the goal of providing “revenue, jobs, and stability” during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Den’s press question-and-answer sheet.
“We were fortunate enough to partner with an incredibly talented local team with the right skills and tooling to enable us to build this with thoughtful craftsmanship, precision componentry, and in a cost-effective way to enable us to get to a competitive price,” the company explained.
Den is considering unveiling more kits in the future, but as of now, it’s focused on A-frame order fulfillments.
Den Outdoors will begin shipping out the A-frame kits next year.
Officials in North Korea are planning a reopening of Mount Kumgang tourist area, state media said on Sunday, despite the ongoing pandemic.
State media on Sunday published photos of high-ranking officials wearing masks and touring the site, which was previously run as a joint venture with South Korea.
Premier Kim Tok Hun reportedly said plans for redevelopment need to be made and carried out, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), a state-run media outlet, as reported by The Associated Press.
A post on KCNA’s English-language website read: “He called for pushing ahead with the development project of turning Mt Kumgang area into modern and all-inclusive international tourist and cultural area under yearly and phased plans.”
It added that the project would be maintaining the principle of conveniences and architectural beauty in the construction, so that people can fully enjoy natural beauty.
While coronavirus data has flowed freely from most countries, notoriously shut-off North Korea has mostly remained silent. In late November, the country executed at least one person who had apparently broken coronavirus rules, as lawmakers in South Korea were told in intelligence briefings, according to NPR. The country has locked down Pyongyang, its capital, and banned activities including deep-sea fishing, according to The Associated Press.
Mount Kumgang, which is just north of the DMZ, had been run as a joint venture with South Korea, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, according to Al Jazeera. Tourists visiting the site would stay in colorful huts lined up under the backdrop of Mount Kumgang.
About 2 million South Koreans visited before the resort was closed in 2008, per the AP. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had reportedly ordered some of the property destroyed, but never followed through.
On Sunday, officials said the area needed to be rebuilt in its own “national character and modernity,” seemingly stepping away from the past partnership with South Korea.
As they toured the area, officials said they wanted to build a “world-level” hotel, golf course, and skiing area.