In the World News
Marriott International, Inc.
Marriott is planning a large expansion of its all-inclusive portfolio through a long-term agreement with Sunwing Travel Group’s hotel division, Blue Diamond Resorts, which has resort properties throughout the Caribbean, Central America and Mexico. The majority of the properties are expected to be converted into Marriott’s Autograph Collection by mid 2021.
“We are excited to enter into this agreement with Marriott International, and introduce Blue Diamond Resorts’ portfolio of hotels, including Royalton and Planet Hollywood, to their Autograph Collection brand,” said Stephen Hunter, CEO of Sunwing Travel Group.
The resorts anticipated to convert to the Autograph Collection that are in Mexico include Royalton Riviera Cancun Resort & Spa, Hideaway at Royalton Riviera Cancun, Planet Hollywood Beach Resort Cancun, Planet Hollywood Adults Scene Cancun, and Royalton CHIC Suites Cancun Resort & Spa.
In the Dominican Republic, they will be converting the Royalton Bavaro Resort & Spa, Royalton CHIC Punta Cana Resort & Spa, Royalton Splash Punta Cana Resort & Spa, Royalton Punta Cana Resort & Casino, and the Hideaway at Royalton Punta Cana.
In Jamaica, they will be converting the Royalton White Sands Montego Bay, the Royalton Blue Waters Montego Bay, the Royalton Negril, and the Royalton Negril Resort & Spa.
In St. Lucia, the Royalton Saint Lucia Resort & Spa and the Hideaway at Royalton Saint Lucia will be converted.
In Antigua, the Royalton Antigua Resort & Spa and in Costa Rica the Planet Hollywood Beach Resort Costa Rica will both be converted.
Sunwing Travel Group will retain ownership of Blue Diamond Resorts, which will continue to oversee all day to day operations.
Bungalows at the Royalton Antigua Resort & Spa
Globus Family of Brands
The Globus family of brands, which includes Globus, Cosmos, Avalon Waterways and Monograms, made changes to its pre-trip Health and Safety Protocols requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccines, a negative test result or virus immunity for those wishing to join its tours, river cruises and independent vacation packages in North America and abroad.
Travelers are now required to present one of the following printed and/or digital verifications upon arrival, including proof of COVID-19 vaccination at least 14 days prior to travel, proof of a negative COVID-19 test (NAAT/PCR or antigen) result within 72-hours of travel or proof of recovery from a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis within three months of travel. Without one of these verifications, travelers will not be able to join a vacation with Globus, Cosmos, Avalon Waterways or Monograms.
Globus will cover any additional COVID-19 testing, if required, for guests to return to their home country, as well as tests on trip if guests show symptoms. The new protocols will take effect in April.
Club Med is offering free in-resort antigen testing to U.S. guests visiting the following resorts:
Punta Cana, D.R.
Michès Playa Esmeralda, D.R.
Turkoise, Turks & Caicos
Upon guest arrival, the Club Med team will book their testing appointment with on-site medical professionals. Each appointment will be scheduled & conducted prior to the guest’s departure, ensuring their travel plans are not impacted by the Center for Disease Control's testing requirement upon U.S. reentry.
Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa
Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa in Hawai’i will continue to require cast members and guests ages 2 and up to wear face coverings at all times except when actively eating or drinking while stationary and maintaining appropriate physical distancing. They will also continue existing health and safety measures like temperature checks, reduced capacity, physical distancing and increased frequency in cleaning.
Disney has clarified that face coverings with clear panels are acceptable if they meet certain requirements. Face coverings may have an integrated transparent plastic panel to aid in viewing the wearer’s mouth. These face coverings must:
Be a fabric face covering featuring a solid plastic panel containing no openings that is attached to the fabric on all sides using tight knit stitching
Meet all other face covering requirements
Virgin Hotels Las Vegas will open its doors on March 25, 2021. The resort is just off the Las Vegas Strip, and it has three hotel towers, featuring 1,500+ chambers and suites. Guests can enjoy a 60,000-square-feet Mohegan Sun Casino, operated by Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment, a Five-acre desert pool oasis with multi-functional event lawn, live music and entertainment theater built to hold 4,500 people, and 12 food and beverage venues. The resort is part of the Curio Collection by Hilton.
Karisma Hotels and Resorts
Karisma Hotels and Resorts will open Nickelodeon Hotels and Resorts Riviera Maya in June 2021. It will be Mexico’s first Nickelodeon Resort and will feature one of the largest water attractions in Mexico, and all ocean-front swim-up suites that accommodate families of five.
There will be plenty of fun, family spots including the Bikini Bottom Beach, a Slime Spot, PAW Patrol Adventure Bay, an interactive water playground, and Soak Summit with 10 single and double-rider slides, including a multi-lane racing slide.
In Nickelodeon Place, guests can find signature Nickelodeon characters such as SpongeBob SquarePants, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Blue from “Blue's Clues and You.” Club Nick is a free play zone for kids with special themed days, a craft laboratory, playground, stage, surprise visits by Nickelodeon characters and even Slime.
Guests can enjoy 24-hour in-room dining as well as food and beverages at six distinct restaurants. For adults, sommeliers and mixologists will be crafting drinks at three bars, including The Bikini Bottom Bar and two swim-up bars. Other amenities include a fitness center and a spa featuring kids’ treatments, couple’s suites, a luxurious bridal suite and outdoor treatment areas.
photo credit - Karisma Hotels & Resorts
Last week, I reported that Barbados is reacting to the new Covid-19 variant, but more details have come out for travel protocols to visit the island.
A mandatory negative COVID-19 PCR test result is required for all travelers prior to arrival in Barbados. Then visitors will have a test screening upon arrival, and there is a potential requirement to reconfirm the first negative COVID-19 PCR test with a rapid COVID-19 antigen test.
All travelers are required to quarantine in their rooms/suites until they have been given clearance through a second negative COVID-19 PCR test after 5 days. The island is making available preapproved accommodations where visitors can spend their time during quarantine.
Barbados has introduced the BIMSafe App and bracelet system to facilitate submission of entry documents and health tracking.
Visitors are required to comply with Barbados "House Rules," which include the mandatory wearing of a mask in public spaces and the mandatory 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew and stay-at-home order, which will remain in effect until Feb. 17.
Celebrity has sent out an announcement recently to guests with impacted sailings including a Canadian port, “The Government of Canada has recently announced continued port closures for all cruise ships through February 28, 2022. In order to comply with these closures Celebrity Cruises has placed all sailings with an embarkation or port of call in Canada, on hold. Currently, we are working to determine if it may be possible to operate these sailings without a call to a foreign port. However, until a decision has been rendered in this matter, these sailings will remain closed, but…reservations will continue to be valid.”
Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines has made a similar announcement, “…At this time, we have decided not to cancel any sailings scheduled to visit Canada. This includes cruises embarking/debarking from Canada ports, as well as those itineraries touching on Canadian ports of call. … While we explore options and determine our path forward, Final Payment due dates will be automatically extended to 45 days prior to departure for those sailings soon approaching this payment milestone.”
Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian has announced that considering the continued situation, they are extending their three policies to help guests feel comfortable with planning their future cruises.
Peace of Mind Extension
To provide guests with the ultimate flexibility in booking, extended their Peace of Mind policy. For new and existing bookings made by March 31, 2021, for any voyage with an embarkation date through and including October 31, 2021, guests are free to cancel anytime up to 15 days in advance of embarkation. This policy applies to individual and group bookings.
If guests choose to cancel via the Peace of Mind policy, they will receive a full refund in the form of a Future Cruise Credit. Final Payment Update They have also extended their 60-Day Final Payment Policy for all sailings with embarkation dates through October 31, 2021 (for new and existing reservations). This postpones final payment and cancellation penalties from the standard 120 days to 60 days prior to sailing.
Extension of Future Cruise Credits
Any current and active Future Cruise Credits, CruiseNext certificates and CruiseFirst certificates set to expire in 2021 are now being extended. The Book By date for these credits and certificates will be adjusted within the next two weeks to December 31, 2021. Note all certificates will retain their Sail By dates, which remains for sailings departing on or before December 31, 2022.
For example: FCCs issued in July 2020 had an expiration date of July 2021. The new expiration date will now be December 31, 2021.
Silversea Luxury Cruises
Silversea has announced their 2023 World Cruise. Guests can board the Silver Shadow for the 139 day cruise which covers 5 continents, 34 countries, and 66 destinations around the world. Depart from Sydney, Australia and go around New Zealand to Melanesia, then on to the Asian coast, through the Seychelles to around Africa’s coast, to Brazil, and ending in Ft Lauderdale.
Silver Shadow, photo credit silversea.com
Theme Park News
Walt Disney World
Beach Club and Yacht Club's Stormalong Bay waterslide will be closed for refurbishment starting in February 2021. During this time, Stormalong Bay and the other 3 pools at Disney’s Beach Club Resort and Disney’s Yacht Club Resort will remain open.
Through April 2022, the Samawati Springs Pool at Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village will be closed for refurbishment. During this time, Guests staying at Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village may enjoy the Uzima Springs Pool at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Four new hotels will be added to the Walt Disney World Gateway Hotel collection: Residence Inn by Marriott at Western Entrance, Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott at Western Entrance, Homewood Suites by Hilton at Western Entrance and Home2 Suites by Hilton at Western Entrance. As of Feb. 9, 2021, these properties are bookable as part of a Walt Disney Travel Company package. The convenient location of these hotels makes it easy to visit the parks. Guests can receive select benefits guaranteed to add a little more magic to their Walt Disney World Resort stay when booked as a Walt Disney World package.
A new limited-time ticketed experience is coming to Disney California Adventure Park. In a letter that commemorates the 20th anniversary of Disney California Adventure Park today, Disneyland Resort President Ken Potrock announced directly to cast members that a new offering is headed to the resort.
…I’m pleased to report that Avengers Campus is making incredible progress. From the
futuristic architecture, theatrical lighting, unique audio, creative food, beautiful costuming and innovative merchandise, the land will be an immersive experience that we know our Guests are going to love. And while we aren’t ready to reveal Avengers Campus to the world just yet, I am excited about another very special opportunity we have at Disney California Adventure Park that speaks to our top priorities: getting more Cast Members back to work and engaging with our Guests in different and relevant ways.
Currently planned to begin mid-March, we will debut an all-new, limited-time ticketed experience, focused on our world-famous food and beverage offerings from around the resort, the latest merchandise and unique, carefully crafted entertainment experiences…all to be offered multiple days a week. With limited capacity and enhanced health and safety measures in place, Guests once again will get to step into a magical Disney environment — an environment that will provide memorable and fun experiences our Guests are craving.
What I'm most thrilled about is that this initiative — along with the recent reopening of our outdoor dining on Buena Vista Street — enables us to bring about 1,000 Cast Members back to work….
SeaWorld Orlando is featuring a Mardi Gras Pop-Up Parade February 15-16 and February 19-21. The Wild Arctic Plaza will come to life as entertainers, bead captains, stilt walkers, and musicians bring the Mardi Gras spirit to SeaWorld during this special pop-up parade. There are select times from 12:30 - 6 p.m. Park reservations are required.
Other special features include:
Live Music - Immerse yourself in the music of New Orleans as a live band brings Cajun and jazz classics to Orlando. Select times from 12:30 - 6 p.m.
Street Party – The sights and sounds of Bourbon Street will take over Wild Arctic Plaza with a DJ, street performers, and physically distant dance party. Select times from 12:30 - 6 p.m.
Gulf Coast Flavors – Enjoy classic Gulf Coast flavors as part of our Seven Seas Food Festival including beignets, po’ boys, and southern libations, from 11:30 a.m. to park close.