Carnival Corporation will part with a total of 18 cruise ships in the next few months — 12% of its fleet — as it continues to cut costs while cruising in most of the world remains banned.
The company announced an adjusted third-quarter loss of $1.7 billion in a financial filing Tuesday, six months after it first announced it was shutting down operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The company had previously announced in July it would part with 15 ships. The move to speed up efforts to slim capacity comes as cruises in the U.S., the company’s most lucrative market, remain banned by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention until Oct. 1. Most lines serving the U.S. have voluntary ceased cruising until at least Oct. 31.
Carnival Fantasy, Carnival Fascination, Carnival Imagination, Carnival Inspiration and Costa Victoria have already been scrapped. In July, Holland America Line and P&O Cruises announced that Amsterdam, Maasdam, Rotterdam, Veendam and Oceanea would be leaving the fleets and transferring to undisclosed buyers.
The company is also slowing down the delivery schedule of its new ships, now expecting only five of the nine ships originally scheduled to be delivered by the end of 2021.
Carnival Corp., the largest cruise company in the world with nine cruise lines, restarted operations in Italy on Sept. 6 of its Costa Cruises line. The cruises are only available to Italian passengers, who are required to undergo rapid COVID-19 antigen tests before boarding.
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CEO Arnold Donald participated in a public meeting with Miami-Dade commissioners last week to urge the CDC to allow for cruises to restart in the U.S. He said the company was working to develop science-based protocols to keep passengers and crew safe and to prevent burdening government resources.
“We want no one to experience a greater risk on a cruise ship,” he said.
Commissioners did not ask Donald or the CEOs for Royal Caribbean Group, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and MSC Cruises about how they would prevent outbreaks at sea and avoid complications that left passengers and crew stranded in March and April and overwhelmed the Coast Guard overwhelmed with medical evacuation requests.
A spokesperson for the CDC said the agency does not have enough information to say when it will be safe for cruise ships to resume passenger operations.
At least 24 Carnival Corp. ships have been affected by COVID-19 and at least 80 of the company’s passengers and crew have died from the virus, according to a Miami Herald investigation. Carnival Corp., along with its competitors, have struggled to contain outbreaks among crew on its ships after all passengers were repatriated. In June, Carnival Corp. decided to pull all of its cruise ships out of U.S. waters partly because it disagreed with a requirement from the CDC that crew remain in individual cabins as much as possible. It has not reported COVID-19 or COVID-like illnesses to the agency since then.
On Tuesday the company said it is seeing bookings for the second half of 2021 toward the higher end of historical ranges. More than half of bookings during the third quarter were new bookings as opposed to future cruise credits from canceled cruises, the company said.
Since it stopped operating in March, Carnival Corp. said it has raised $12 billion. As of the end of the third quarter on Aug. 31, the company said it had $8.2 billion of cash and cash equivalents.
John Carmack says he’s ‘kind of embarrassed’ over Facebook’s social VR during pandemic
Facebook Reality Labs consulting CTO John Carmack says he’s “kind of embarrassed” about Facebook’s social VR offerings on Oculus headsets over the course of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In his talk at Facebook Connect on Wednesday, Carmack touched on the problems Facebook had experienced keeping the Oculus Quest headset in stock this year, even before the pandemic began. But going a step further, he also expressed disappointment at the company’s lack of social apps that could have helped friends and family meet in VR while they couldn’t see each other in real life.
“But worse, all of our social experiences were basically killed or deprecated,” Carmack began. “We had Rooms, Spaces, co-watching, and all those are gone. Venues has been in maintenance mode for this entire time. So we made this huge bet on Horizon, and we’ve had all these people working on it, and you’re seeing some of the fruits of that finally with the Venues 2.0 now.
“But basically, we weren’t ready.”
As Carmack alluded to, Facebook’s previous social VR efforts like Oculus Rooms, which let users meet up to watch TV and play board games; or Spaces, an app that saw Facebook friends meet up to hang out, are gone. Facebook Horizon was revealed at last year’s Oculus Connect with a promise of a spring 2020 beta, but it is only now just rolling out to a limited number of users.
“We had all this effort going into it,” Carmack continued. “We had let the previous products more or less rot or go away, and I made a pitch that, ‘Well, can’t we just resurrect Rooms for this time?’ Rooms for the pandemic, here.”
But according to Carmack, Facebook wasn’t interested in the idea while it was working on new social VR offerings.
“We could have run it, but nobody wanted to basically stop the scheduled things and everything that was already planned for this time to go work on something like that, so frankly, I’m kind of embarrassed about our social story here,” he said. “But thankfully, the slack’s been picked up by a lot of third parties, and I frankly envy the learnings that they’re getting out of all this where we see the numbers and we see lots of time spent in these.”
He concluded, adding that he expects Facebook to start making those learnings on its own now that people were coming into Horizons. All-in-all it’s a typically frank comment from the former full-time Oculus CTO, who last year went part-time to work on AI too.
With today’s announcement of the Oculus Quest 2, we’ll no doubt see Facebook pushing its social VR apps like Horizon and the rebooted Venues much more heavily.
This story originally appeared on Uploadvr.com. Copyright 2020
CDC — again — changes COVID-19 guidelines. Now asymptomatic people need a test
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has, again, changed its guidance on coronavirus testing, stating that people without symptoms should get tested “due to the significance of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission.”
The change replaces a controversial update from Aug. 24 that said individuals who don’t appear to be sick don’t need to get tested, going directly against the agency’s initial guidance that pushed more testing, not less in an effort to prevent invisible viral spread.
Now, those who have been within 6 feet of a person with the coronavirus for at least 15 minutes, and those without symptoms, “need a test” as opposed to the August wording of “don’t necessarily need a test,” McClatchy News previously reported.
According to exclusive interviews with anonymous CDC officials, agency scientists did not write or agree with the guidance that excluded asymptomatic individuals from testing, The New York Times reported.
Instead, officials from the Department of Health and Human Services and the White House Coronavirus Task Force rewrote the recommendations suggested by the CDC and “dropped” it into the agency’s website, forgoing the agency’s “strict scientific review process,” the Times learned.
“That policy does not reflect what many people at the C.D.C. feel should be the policy,” an anonymous federal official told the outlet.
The latest confusing public health messaging comes after President Donald Trump told reporters Wednesday that one of his top health officials was “confused” when he publicly announced a COVID-19 vaccine timeline that Trump does not agree with, McClatchy News reported.
“I think he made a mistake when he said that. It’s just incorrect information. I called him and he didn’t tell me that, and I think he got the message maybe confused, maybe it was stated incorrectly,” Trump said of CDC Director Robert Redfield’s comments earlier that day.
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