Costa Cruises ship cleared after coronavirus scare

 Image result for costa smeralda

The fear of a potential outbreak of coronavirus on one of the world’s largest cruise ships has turned out to be a false alarm.

Costa Cruises confirmed that Italian health officials diagnosed a passenger onboard the 6,000-passenger Costa Smeralda with the “common flu”.

Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that two members from the same family in England have the first cases of coronavirus in the UK.

Passengers on the Costa ship had been placed in quarantine as a precaution over a suspected case of the deadly virus in Civitavecchia, the port for Rome.

At least 66 British passengers were reported to be on board the vessel at the time.

A 54-year-old woman from Macau held in isolation on the ship with her husband had reportedly flown from Hong Kong to join the Mediterranean cruise.

A Costa Cruises spokesperson said: “Thanks to the protocols that are applied on board the fleet, Wednesday night our medical team promptly identified a suspected fever case in a 54-year-old woman, just a few hours before the ship’s arrival in Civitavecchia.

“As soon as the case was discovered, the required precautionary procedures were immediately taken. The relevant authorities were informed and, upon arrival of the ship in the port of Civitavecchia, they carried out all the required checks.

“While we appreciate the inconvenience caused, the procedures in force and our co-operation with the health authorities were effective in managing the situation and intended to ensure maximum safety for our guests, crew and the community as a whole.”

The ship will remain docked at Civitavecchia until today and miss the port of La Spezia before returning to its homeport of Savona.



MSC Magnifica in Queensferry, Scotland, photo credit Dave Jones

The scare came as rival line MSC Cruises announced a new series of strict “precautionary measures” across its fleet due to the coronavirus outbreak in China which has caused 213 deaths in the country and triggered a World Heath Organisation global health emergency.

Guests from all nationalities are required to fill out a pre-embarkation questionnaire to ensure no-one boards their ship who has travelled from mainland China or visited mainland China in the past 30 days. Anyone who has travelled from mainland China or visited mainland China in the past 30 days will be denied access to the ship;

Mandatory non-touch thermal scans conducted for all guests and crew prior to embarkation for every cruise operated by the company anywhere in the world, and persons with signs or symptoms of illness such as fever or feverishness, chills, cough or difficulty breathing will be denied embarkation;

Elevated deep-sanitation on every ship in the line’s entire fleet;

Guests who may have fever symptoms will be isolated in their cabin and the same measure applies for their close contacts, including guests staying in the same cabin and family members, as well as any crew member who may have served these guests.

A spokesman said: “While there are no cases of coronavirus on board any of MSC Cruises’ ships these measures are additional steps to secure the health and well-being of all guests and crew.”

“These measures follow previous actions that were taken last week,” the spokesman added.

“Guests and crew who travelled last week from mainland China were already screened for symptoms upon embarkation and were requested to report any symptoms of illness to the onboard medical centre.

“Since the outbreak of the coronavirus in China, MSC Cruises has been closely monitoring the public health and safety situation in each of the regions its ships sail.

“The company has been consulting with international and local health authorities to follow their advice and recommendations.”

The move came after the line cancelled the next three MSC Splendida sailings from Shanghai.

The ship’s four and five-night sailings from Shanghai to Japan on February 1, 5 and 9 will not operate.

MSC Splendida, deployed in Asia for the winter, will reposition to Singapore to start a 27-night repositioning voyage to the Middle East and Europe on February 14.

The line’s chief executive Gianni Onorato said: “The decision to reposition the ship from Shanghai to Singapore has been taken in the best interests of the safety and wellbeing for our passengers and crew, as was the decision to cancel our next three scheduled sailings from China.

“Many major airlines have either cancelled or reduced their flight frequency to China and the grand voyage, a maritime tradition whereby a ship moves from one part of the world to another for a new sailing season, was entirely booked with guests flying from abroad to enjoy the experience of a unique itinerary.

“In light of Singapore becoming a new embarkation port we have had to cancel calls to Naha, Japan and Hong Kong but it has also created an opportunity to update and enrich the grand voyage’s itinerary with four additional new ports; Langkawi, Penang and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, plus Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam to create a new, one-of-a-kind memorable cruise.”

The tech that will make travel easier, more interactive and personal

Samsung Futurescape: The tech that will make travel easier, more interactive and personal

By Travolution
By Travolution

This week Samsung ran its second Futurescape technology showcase in London promoting how the travel and transportation industry will increasingly use modern devices and software.

Some of what was on show was aimed at the retail side of travel, others the more functional side. Lee Hayhurst picks out some highlights.


This virtual showroom technology has been built by Gateshead-based ZeroLight. It is already in use in car showrooms by the likes of Jaguar and Audi.

The latter has got rid of all vehicles in its store opposite the Ritz in central London. The virtual product is built electronically from the manufacturer’s design specifications and the result is something that looks and appears to be just like the real thing.

It means the product is bespokable within the limits of what the manufacturer offers so, in terms of vehicles, different colours, wheels and set ups can be instantly added.

ZeroLights says this has seen a marked increase in uptake of premium features such as sports wheels on vehicles, because the customer sees how they actually look compared to entry level options.

The firm has worked with British Airways on the design of new premium-class cabins because it allows the user to take a virtual tour before anything is decided in reality.

It says it has also had interest from cruise companies because it allows people to take a tour of a ship before committing to a holiday.

Offering virtual tours of hotels is another obvious potential use of this in travel, although it does require a certain consistency of decor and design to keep complexity to a manageable level.

More excitingly the technology has been developed to work with Oculus Rift 3D virtual reality gaming headgear.

Oculus Rift was recently bought by Facebook, and the technology opens up the prospect of a customer being able to almost touch and feel the product in-store as they make their decision about what to buy.


Big Touch Screen Retailing

This interactive touchscreen sales wall, using Worldline technology, is in use in Adidas sports stores, and offers customers the chance to interact and research different product options before they buy.

Graphics, video, celebrity endorsements – you name it – all are available at the touch of a screen, enabling a store to offer limitless options without having to physcially hold all the stock.

For travel the opportunties for using such responsive large screen touch responisive technology is not new – Microsoft surface has been trialled in a number of travel agencies.

But the technology is becoming increasingly sophisticated and modern retail outlets are looking to offer customers use of such gadgets to drive footfall and improve the retail experience.


Interactive Digital Promotional Screen

In the foreground in this picture is a simpler version of the above designed by Worldline to be used to drive people into your store.

Product offers and QR codes are displayed on the screen giving shoppers attracted by what it is displaying a special offer if they visit a store.

They could be placed in airports to capture travellers’ attention as they arrive or check-in to promote retail outlets in the departure lounge.

They could also be used in shopping centres, or even in large stores to direct attention to particular outlets or concessions.


Reviews At Your Fingertips

Here is the Duty Free shop of the future – or it could be any type of store.

Shoppers are using technology on mounted Samsung tablets developed by Uberated, a company which is only two months old.

It allows in-store shoppers to quickly and easily access all professional product reviews for the item they are interested in, all in one place.

This way, the consumer gets the same ‘at home’ research capability they expect when researching a product but without having to go back and forth via Google to find the relevant reviews.

Being in store, they can then order the product there and then, having had their decision endorsed by the product review they’ve read in store.

To date Uberated has been developing their technology for the selling of electrical goods like cameras and has not exploited its application in travel retail.

However, a similar use could be envisaged for travel, with retailers using the tablets to offer more information than they currently do in brochures, including independent reviews and travel articles.


Touchscreen Tour Guide

Zafire is a software firm developing solutions for the aviation industry and this touchscreen interface has been developed with airports in mind.

Travellers can access general information about their destination at the touch of a button using the graphical display.

When not being actively used by a customer, the screen can be used to promote a particular retailer or attraction.

Zafire sees these sorts of screens proliferating in places like airports with the cost of having the hardware mitigated by various ‘advertising as a service’ commercial deals.

The firm has also developed the departure board of the future, which unlike conventional departure boards do not need lots of hardware attached to them to operate.

Cloud-based, they are basically plug-in-and-go digital devices working via Wi-Fi networks, so maintenance costs for airport operators are reduced.

Because there’s never a departure board where you need one, customers can use a mobile QR code app which downloads the relevant information onto their device and updates them on their phone.

These departure boards are currently in use at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.


Biometric secure access

More of a functional application of technology this one, but Samsung technology is being used to develop the customs gates of the future.

This gate uses biometric data to recognise the passenger and allow them through based on a scan of their face.

The technology will cut down on fraud associated with paper access or any other type of physical passes.

It could be used to control access to any office or building or at any point on the journey through an airport where security checks are required.


Real-time travel advice

Turning to the world of trains now, and Worldline again, which has developed technology to allow information from the control centre to be accessed throughout the network.

The concept is that the same source of data that the central control station uses is made available to all staff so they can pass this on to customers.

As many regular train users today know, getting reliable information from on-train and station staff about delays can be incredibly difficult.

Often customers or other members of the public on the scene are able to find out what’s going on and communicate this to travellers before staff.

The Worldline software allows this information to be accessed by the relevant people on handheld touchscreen devices.

In time these will also replace the old clunky portable ticket machines guards carry by being able to scan tickets for validity and retail upgrades or replacements there and then.

Technically there’s no reason why this sort of data can’t be made available to third parties so travel agents and tour operators can give customers up-to-date advice about delays getting to and from airports.


Guest Post: January’s good, bad and ugly on social media

By Travolution

By Travolution

By Dean Harvey, Digital Development Director at Designate.

We’re well into the New Year now and a fresh release of TV advertising from the travel industry is all over our screens, enticing us to think about sunnier days ahead and forget the gloomy weather outside.

The dynamics between established media and social media are largely unknown as it is relatively new and not yet mature (when compared to traditional media such as press, TV or radio).

Double screening* techniques are being explored by brands – such as using Twitter hashtags as part of their TV advertising.

The theory being that while watching TV you also are multi-tasking and using your smartphone or tablet. In doing so you can start or continue a conversation directly with your audience – while being prompted by your TV adverts.

A quick look at those social media ‘conversations’ can be insightful about the impact of and reaction to a campaign.

Starting with the Ugly, it’s too tempting not to include the latest opus from Thomson in this section.

It is called ‘Simon The Ogre’ after all, who by his nature is ugly. The campaign is the brainchild of Gavin McGrath, creative director at the Thomson’s agency BMB and directed by Fredrik Bond.

Described as more of a mini movie than a TV advert it depicts an ogre, representing a de-humanised Dad of a family, who gradually becomes more human again as a result of being on a Thomson holiday.

Simon is ugly, but so too is some feedback online where it seems to have divided and polarised opinion.

Here’s just some of the conversation if you are following the Thomson hashtag #MeAgain.


And at the other end of the spectrum there is lots of positive sentiment too, making this release seem as if it’s achieved a ‘Marmite’ effect where people “love it or hate it”.


So for this edition of Good, Bad and Ugly it also gets my vote for being ‘Good’ too. There’s no such thing as bad publicity, right?

Also, experimenting with new dynamics but sitting in the ‘Bad’ pile is British Airways.

Using double screening, their new TV ad is featured on their YouTube channel with additional functionality – at the right time in the advert the user is invited to click into the video taking them instantly through to the right part of the website, such as the ‘holiday finder’ or the inspired ‘picture your holiday’.

Nice. Using Jake Bugg as a soundtrack can’t have been cheap – but that seems to have been the only thing that has inspired its viewers.


There’s a missed opportunity here to use a Twitter hashtag on the TV advert to guide viewers towards the additional functionality of their website.

To redeem themselves, however, BA chose instead to use an outdoor advertising campaign that directed people to Twitter.

The #lookup campaign is a storming success, using interactive poster sites with children pointing every time one of their planes flies overhead.

Take a look for yourselves and join the million-plus people that have done so.

This is a great example of exploiting the dynamics between old and new media, coming together to work hard for the brand. Very clever, very good.

*Double Screening – The art of watching TV while simultaneously surfing on a laptop, smartphone or tablet.

– See more at: