Results for “Cruise ship”
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Cruise ship markets in everything

As the ongoing coronavirus epidemic disrupts cruise operations throughout Asia, Lindblad Expeditions, the cruise operator for National Geographic Expeditions, announced Thursday that it has become “the first self-disenfecting fleet in the cruise industry.”

The company has implemented a disinfectant coating solution developed by Danish company ACT.Global, which uses the photocatalytic properties of titanium dioxide to generate free radicals from airborne water molecules. When exposed to light, the coating converts airborne H20 into OH- ions, which break down bacteria, viruses, mold, airborne allergens and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The coating can be applied to all surfaces to give them self-disinfecting qualities, including food-contact surfaces.

According to Lindblad, ACT.Global’s coating creates a cleaner, healthier ship while reducing impact on the environment. The antibacterial spray is transparent and odorless, and it purifies and deodorizes the air for up to one year.

Here is the full story, via Anecdotal.

What are your rights on private cruise ships?

Have you wondered?  Here is one take:

The unpleasant reality is that the cruise vessel's responsibilities and your rights as an injured passenger are governed not by modern, consumer oriented common and statutory law, but by 19th century legal principals, the purpose of which is to insulate the maritime industry from the legitimate claims of passengers. The policy enunciated by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals 35 years ago in Schwartz v. S.S. Nassau67, a case involving a passenger's physical injuries, applies equally today, " The purpose of [ 46 U.S.C. 183c ]…' was to encourage shipbuilding and ( its provisions )…should be liberally construed in the shipowner's favor `". Although recent years have seen the expansion of travel consumers' rights and remedies in actions against airlines68, domestic hotels69, international hotels70, tour operators71, travel agents72, informal travel promoters73 and depository banks74, there has been little, if any, change in the passengers' rights and remedies in actions against cruise lines."75 Cruise passengers are at a distinct disadvantage in prosecuting their claims.

Being a good Coasean, I do not object to these arrangements (though I prefer to avoid them), but they are worth keeping in mind as the debate over the TSA proceeds.  Note that private contracting, between passengers and the cruise ships, has not done so much to extend these rights.  Here are further readings.  Or try this book.

Are cruise ships saving the theatre industry?

Cruise entertainment doesn't have the best of reputations, but I took my maiden voyage earlier this year and it was a real eye-opener. I was there to review shows on board the Celebrity Eclipse, and both the productions and facilities were extremely impressive. The theatre itself was actually of a far higher standard than many of the West End's crumbling playhouses – more comfy seats, better sightlines, excellent acoustics and high-end equipment.

Celebrity spends up to $1m per show for three 60-minute productions on every ship in its line. Each vessel has a 1,150-seat theatre, employs a cast of 18, plus nearly 40 musicians, a stage crew of six and various other technical crew across the music lounges on the ship.

And cruising is a huge growth area in the entertainment business. Looking across some of the other lines – P&O has its own on-board theatre company with more than 100 entertainers, Royal Caribbean is staging cruise versions of Hairspray and Chicago, and elsewhere there are licensed versions of Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals or other popular shows such as Saturday Night Fever.

But no Chekhov.  The full story is here.

Do not buy art on cruise ships

In case you did not know.  Here is one example of a fool:

It was only after Mr. Maldonado landed back in California that he did
some research on his purchases. Including the buyer’s premium, he had
paid $24,265 for a 1964 “Clown” print by Picasso. He found that
Sotheby’s had sold the exact same print (also numbered 132 of 200) in
London for about $6,150 in 2004.

Of course the corruption and foolishness runs deeper than the article lets on.  If you shop for contemporary prints in entirely "reputable" Georgetown galleries, they will charge about twice the going auction rate for the prints.  They might tell you that the prints are "hard to find" when in fact usually they are not.  A good New York dealer, used to dealing with well-informed customers, might charge only 10-15 percent above auction (full price including buyer’s premium).  The bottom line is that you should never spend more than $1500 on art unless you know at least roughly what it is worth at auction.  One of life’s good rules of thumb.

Are cruise ships a libertarian paradise?

The cruise ship Voyager holds more than a half-million gallons of fuel, five tons of meat, forty thousand eggs, and more than two tons of flour.  Its eight thousand passengers form a floating mini-city.  The cruise ship operator provides a large number of public goods.  Its laws are private, and imposed by contract.  Do not expect democratic procedures.  To the extent they treat you well, it is due to reputational concerns.  Many of the doctors and nurses do not have proper governmental credentials.  The laborers come from around the world, and the manual labor typically comes from very poor countries, such as Honduras or the Philippines.  Customers choose across a large number of cruises, and typically seek out similar demographics.  The sector is close to tax-exempt and encounters only minimal regulation.

Those facts are from Kristoffer Garin’s Devils on the Deep Blue Sea: The Dreams, Schemes and Showdowns that Built America’s Cruise-Ship Empires, an interesting new book.  By the way, this book claims that fraud and food poisoning are rampant on cruise ships.

Here is an article about seasteads as a means of realizing libertarian ideals.  Randall Parker proposes cruise ships instead of nursing homes

Outside of a brief Galapagos jaunt, I’ve never been on a cruise — I would not be able to stand the socializing, bland food, and forced confinement — so I am in no position to judge.  But if I were a libertarian anarchist, this is what I would be studying. 

Cargo cruise markets in everything

In recent years, big cruise operators such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Star Cruises have spent heavily on soaring atriums, sushi bars, cabaret shows, and on-deck water slides to woo vacationers. Don’t tell that to John McGuffick, who’s spent months at a time at sea on cargo vessels—happily ensconced in quarters more suited to a Trappist monk than a Caribbean cruiser.

“The food can be pretty ordinary, and you have to be prepared to go with the flow,” says the 72-year-old retired farmer from Australia whose 10 trips via ocean freighter have taken him to dozens of ports across Asia, Europe, and North America. His personal maritime endurance record: 110 days nonstop from Dunkirk, in northern France, to Singapore. Explains McGuffick: “I like the solitude.”

Shipping companies like the dollars passengers such as McGuffick can bring aboard. In a slowing global economy, freight prices have fallen so far that hauling a person from Shanghai to Rotterdam brings in at least 10 times more revenue than a 20-foot container full of flat-packed furniture.

It’s not luxurious and not exactly cheap: About $115 a day secures travelers a bed and three meals on some of the largest vessels ever built. The handful of paying passengers—ships typically take no more than a dozen at a time—dine with the crew, have the run of most of the ship, and can chat up the captain on the bridge or engineers below deck.

The story is here, and I thank Stu Harty for the pointer.  But beware: you have to wash your own clothes, and your window view might be blocked by shipping containers.

Review of Nightmare Scenario by Abutaleb and Paletta

Nightmare Scenario opens with Anthony Fauci stripped to his skivvies and wondering whether the white powder he has just been exposed to in his NIH office is anthrax, ricin, or a hoax. The first and last he can survive, ricin is a death sentence. A security team douses him with chemicals and moves him to another office where a portable shower has been deployed. Fauci showers, calls his wife, and waits for the test results.

Nightmare Scenario is the best of the recent books on the pandemic (I earlier reviewed Lewis’s The Premonition and Slavitt’s Preventable). Based on hundreds of interviews it’s a true inside account. It doesn’t contain much in the way of analysis but that’s a strength in a journalistic history. Rather than a strict review, I will note a couple of things that jumped out to me.

An astounding amount of time was spent at the highest level of government on what do do about the Americans stuck on the Diamond Princess and other cruise ships. I was almost screaming at the book at this point “there’s just 437 Americans on the cruise ship! Pay attention to the 328 million Americans at home!” It’s ridiculous that 437 Americans should occupy the President’s time but that’s what happens when people think the President is their father (or mother) who needs to show them that he cares.

Governance by the 24 hour news cycle is by no means solely a Trump failing. Biden doesn’t need to know anything about the Miami tower collapse, for example. It’s a tragedy but a state and local matter. But the 24-hour news cycle means that politicians don’t think more than a step ahead, often to a bizarre extent. When the Dow dropped, Larry Kudlow rushed to get on the news to say the “virus is contained”. What was he thinking? If true, this would reveal itself in time and the Dow would rise. If false, he gains at best a couple of days of bump and then lose credibility. Similarly, what was Pence thinking when he wrote in a June of 2020 WSJ op-ed “There Isn’t a Coronavirus Second Wave.” You can’t confidence game a virus.

The CDC botched the initial test and when Joe Grogan at the Domestic Policy Council questioned Azar, Redfield and Fauci he was told “Everything is taken care of. The CDC is remedying the situation.” After repeated delays, the FDA sent an expert to investigate what was going on with the CDC test:

When Stenzel gained access to three key labs developing the test, he couldn’t believe what he saw. In two of the three labs, the agency wasn’t following standard operating procedure. And he discovered the CDC had put together the test in the same lab where it was running the test on live virus samples. That was a violation of the most basic manufacturing practices… “If you were a commercial entity, I would shut you down.” p.81

The CDC failing to use standard operating procedures wasn’t Trump’s fault. The rot is deep.

I was hoping to get more information from Abutaleb and Paletta about Pfizer’s peculiar change in study design. Pfizer released their trial design in mid-September. Articles in the Washington Post and the New York Times were clear that Pfizer planned to look at their data once 32 trial participants had been infected. President Trump, following Pfizer CEO Bourla, thus predicted that there would be vaccine news in October, before the election. Instead Pfizer announced their terrific results on Monday November 9, after the election. When the announcement came people were surprised that between mid-September and November the trial design had been changed. STAT News, for example, noted:

In their announcement of the results, Pfizer and BioNTech revealed a surprise. The companies said they had decided not to conduct the 32-case analysis “after a discussion with the FDA.” Instead, they planned to conduct the analysis after 62 cases.

Abutaleb and Paletta report that the Trump team was furious when they discovered that the good news had been delayed and then they say the following:

FDA officials, of course, had no control over when Pfizer reported its results, because the company could report them only after a certain number of people in the trial had contracted coronavirus.

This is blatantly false. FDA officials have only to signal what they want from a company and the company will comply. Moreover, it was precisely by changing the number of people who needed to have contracted coronavirus that control was exerted. What exactly was said in this “discussion with the FDA” that caused Pfizer to wait? Probably not coincidentally it was also in October that Nancy Pelosi began to worry that British immune systems were different than American immune systems.

Abutaleb and Paletta have nothing good to say about Jared Kushner (unlike Birx who was obviously a source) but if you read between the lines Kushner comes off surprisingly well. At the very least, he moves quickly and sometimes gets things done. Abutaleb and Paletta offer this critique:

Kushner was correct that the normal processes for procuring supplies were cumbersome and slow. But circumventing those processes risked wasting taxpayer money, buying faulty supplies, or running afoul of government contracting laws. There were protections in place to try to prevent the government from overpaying for products or supplies and to try to ensure that companies did not receive unfair advantages…” p. 258.

Oooh, overpaying for products. As if that never happens when the processes are followed. All of this makes it clear that there would have been big errors under other administrations but they would have been different errors like moving even slower so as not to run “afoul of government contracting laws.”

One thing which comes through in The Premonition, Preventable and Nightmare Scenario is that quite a few people understood the crisis early. On January 18, Scott Gottlieb texted Joe Grogan to warn him about the virus in Wuhan. Grogan takes it seriously (it may have been Grogan who was responsible for inviting Kremer and I to speak to the DPC on accelerating vaccines.) On January 28, deputy national security advisor Matthew Pottinger warned Trump that he could be facing the deadliest pandemic since the 1918 flu. But Gottlieb had already left the administration, Grogan would resign early, and when Pottinger started wearing a mask to work he was considered an alarmist and was frozen out of decision making. Many others had or would soon leave:

Who was left? A mix of family members, twentysomethings, hangers-on, fourth-stringers, former lobbyists, sycophants…That created tremendous pressure on the government officials who remained in their positions in 2020. Many of them were totally unprepared for what was coming. Many of them were so focused on their own survival that it never occurred to them to focus on anyone else’s. p.31.

Overall, Nightmare Scenario is an excellent read.

The separating equilibrium (a ban by any other name?)

Governor Ron DeSantis would not let cruise ships sailing from Florida mandate vaccination?  Well, this is what you end up with:

Now we know the true cost of not getting vaccinated for COVID-19: You won’t be able to order sushi when cruising on Royal Caribbean‘s Freedom of the Seas.

Here is a list of all the other restrictions for the unvaccinated cruise passengers.  Via Stephen Jones.

Saturday assorted links

1. What the auction listing for a campus looks like.

2. As fewer kids played football, hospitals saw a big drop in ER visits.

3. Polite explanations of why so many professional athletes test positive for coronavirus (NYT).  Why can’t they just come out and write the likely truth about multiple sex partners?

4. Response to Peter Beinart.

5. Carrying cost of cruise ship > liquidity premium, at least for now (Bloomberg).

6. The shooting cops problem is much worse out in the west, and other regularities.

7. I do a 45-minute podcast with Dwarkesh Patel (he is interviewing me, mainly).  My only podcast where I use “the f word”?  (Not for any good reason, I just felt like it.)

Database of 1,100 superspreading events

It is about time someone put this together, here are some summary conclusions:

  • Nearly all SSEs in the database — more than 97% — took place indoors
  • The great majority of SSEs happened during flu season in that location
  • The vast majority took place in settings where people were essentially confined together, indoors, for a prolonged period (for example, nursing homes, prisons, cruise ships, worker housing)
  • Processing plants where temperatures are kept very low (especially meat processing plants) seem particularly vulnerable to SSEs

Here is the full material by Koen Swinkels, via Balaji.

13.3% unemployment rate

That one surprised me, as indeed it did most other economists.  What should I learn from this episode?  After all, labor market adjustment was relatively slow coming out of the 2008 crisis.

My tentative hypothesis is that “matching” is more important than I had thought (and I already thought it was quite important, relative to other macro commentators).  One feature of the current layoffs and rehirings is that the ties between workers and firms apparently were not so severed in the first place.  For most sectors (cruise ships aside, etc.), no “rematches” were required, and so rehirings were accomplished very quickly.  As demand (partially) returned, employers wanted at least some of the old workers back, and workers wanted their old employers back, and then it happened.  “Figuring out where I belong” did not slow down the process very much.

That is good news for the remainder of the recovery, provided the recovery happens soon, and it is at least one factor (not necessarily decisive, of course) militating in favor of a speedier reopening.  “Reopen before the worker-employer ties are lost!”

It also implies that during regular, non-pandemic downturns a lot of the slowness of labor market recovery has to do with matching rather than demand per se, noting that the two interact.  And that is a sign of a more general pessimism for the future, since demand problems are easier to fix through policy than matching problems are.

Another possible implication of the new numbers is that employers realized that “F*** it, I want to get back out there” is the prevalent consumer and also worker attitude, whereas Twitter-bound intellectuals were slower to see the same.

Thursday assorted links

1. Noah interviews Krugman (Bloomberg, substantive, not politics).

2. How to run the NBA playoffs is in fact a social choice problem.

3. “We’re not as wealthy as we thought we were.”  (Who said that again?)

4. Murder rates are rising again.

5. Allison Schrager interviews Kopczuk on wealth taxes.

6. New and still puzzling cruise ship data, with lots of asymptomatics.

7. Who in NYC is still getting sick? (NYT)

8. Indian casinos are asserting sovereign rights and reopening (NYT).

The Japan model

So what is the Japan model? First, it is a cluster-based approach, derived from a hypothesis obtained from an epidemiological study based on Chinese data and conducted on the Diamond Princess cruise ship that entered the port of Yokohama on February 3, 2020. This hypothesis accounts for the many passengers who were not infected with the coronavirus despite having had close contact with infected persons. It posits that the explosive increase in infected persons is a result of the high transmissibility of certain infected individuals, which forms a cluster. Infected individuals with even higher transmissibility appear from these clusters to form more clusters and infect many others. Based on this hypothesis, under the cluster-based approach, each cluster is tracked to the original infection source and persons with high transmissibility are isolated to prevent the spread of infection. For this reason, pinpoint testing is carried out and broad testing of the population is not required, in contrast to the approaches taken in other counties.

This cluster-based approach is conditioned on an environment in which there are only a few infected persons and clusters are detectable at an early stage. In February 2020, when the spread of infection was observed in Hokkaido, a cluster-based approach was adopted. As a result, Hokkaido was successfully able to contain its outbreak.

For the cluster-based approach to be effective, protective measures at airports and ports are important. Hokkaido has the advantage of being an island, making it comparatively easy to control the inflow of infected people. Behavioral changes are also required. On February 28, 2020, acting without legal basis, Hokkaido Governor Naomichi Suzuki declared a state of emergency and called on residents to refrain from going outside. Residents took the call seriously, and are responsible for the success of the cluster-based approach. Following its success in Hokkaido, the cluster-based approach was adopted nationally. On February 25, 2020, a Cluster Response Team was established in the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.

Here is more from Kazuto Suzuki, with other points of note.

Covid-19 liability reform for the eventual reopening

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one excerpt:

If an infected but asymptomatic worker shows up at work and sickens coworkers, for example, should the employer be liable? The answer is far from obvious. Liability exists not to shift unmanageable risk, but rather to induce management to take possible and prudent measures of precaution.

Another problem with liability law in this context is that the potential damages are high relative to the capitalization of most businesses. Covid-19 cases often pop up in chains; there have been many cases from a single conference, or in a single church choir, or on a single cruise ship. If a business or school is host to such a chain, it could be wiped out financially by lawsuits. In these cases the liability penalties do not have their intended deterrent effect because the money to lose simply isn’t there…

Another problem with liability in this setting has to do with jury expertise. Are random members of the public really the best people to determine acceptable levels of Covid-19 risk and appropriate employer precautions? Juries are better suited for more conventional applications of liability law, such as when the handyman fixing your roof falls off your rickety ladder. Given the unprecedented nature of the current situation, many Covid-19 risk questions require experts.

Finally, there is the issue of testing. Businesses could be of immeasurable help by testing their employees for Covid-19, as additional testing can help limit the spread of the virus (if only by indicating which workers should stay home or get treatment). Yet the available tests are highly imperfect, especially with false negatives. If businesses are liable for incorrect test results, and their possible practical implications, then business will likely not perform any tests at all, to the detriment of virtually everybody.

I recommend modest liability for some sectors, and zero liability, bundled with a New Zealand-like accident compensation system, for other sectors.  And of course some very dangerous sectors should not be allowed to reopen at all, though I am more sympathetic to regional experimentation than are some people on Twitter.

Most Grand Princess passengers not tested

They solved for the equilibrium:

Despite assurances from Vice President Mike Pence that all Grand Princess cruise ship passengers quarantined at Travis Air Force Base would be tested for COVID-19, The Chronicle has learned that two-thirds of them have declined, often at the encouragement of federal health officials.

As of Wednesday, 568 of the 858 passengers screened while confined turned down the test, a federal official familiar with the Travis quarantine and testing told The Chronicle. The low testing numbers align with what passengers were told by officials during a Tuesday afternoon teleconference, citing a 30% acceptance rate for the novel coronavirus test, several passengers told The Chronicle.

“These folks know they are in a 14-day quarantine, if they test positive they are further delayed until they test negative,” said the official, who The Chronicle agreed not to name because they were not authorized to speak to the media, in accordance with the paper’s ethics policy. “They don’t want to stay. They want to be released.”

Interpret the resulting data accordingly, of course.  Here is the full story, via Anecdotal.