Become an Autism Certified Travel Professional Today

The Autism Speaks website states that approximately 1 in every 54 children are diagnosed with autism each year. With autism comes additional challenges when traveling, from choosing the right destination to finding the best accommodations to figuring out the least overwhelming time to see the sites.

April is World Autism Month and the perfect time for agents to become educated on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and discover how to tap into this underserved market.

The International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) offers a certification program that provides agents with the knowledge needed to better serve individuals on the spectrum, and also those traveling with them.

Families want to know they’re being served by the best—someone who will understand the struggles they may encounter while on vacation and someone willing to go the extra mile to ensure their needs are met. Whether it’s finding a hotel room with specific features or booking them on an airline that can provide special air travel services, a trained advisor can be the key to minimizing stress.

In becoming a Certified Autism Travel Professional (CATP), agents will be able to confidently plan autism-friendly vacations for families and bring their business an entirely new revenue stream and a completely new customer base.

Once the online program has been completed, agents will receive additional CATP benefits, including an official Certification Number; a listing on the International Registry; an official certificate to display; a digital badge to use on email signatures, travel websites, resumes and social media; and access to the IBCCES Online Member Community.

The program is done online and takes approximately four hours to complete. Registration fee is $150, which includes access to the Certified Autism Travel Professional Exam. The annual renewal fee is $99.

The IBCCES Certified Autism Travel Professional program covers ten areas of competency, including:

—What Is Autism?

—Selling Into the Autism Market

—Breakdown of Target Market

—Sensory Awareness

—Individual’s Perspective

—Parent Perspective


—Air Travel


—Road Trip

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Consumer travel publications change strategies during virus crisis

The Covid-19 crisis presents a quandary for editors of
consumer travel magazines: With borders closed and people being told to stay
home, what is the right way to approach travel inspiration?

Each one is finding its own way to respond, but what seems
to cut across most is a focus on “armchair travel.”

Conde Nast Traveler recently launched the “Ultimate Guide to
Armchair Travel” and is “leaning into offering inspiration for those dreaming
about their next trip,” while promoting the idea that travel is a “state of

Travel+Leisure editor in chief Jacqui Gifford published a
letter ahead of its upcoming May issue in which she wrote, “For now, travel is
about armchair escapism. It is and always will be about emotion and heart.”

Of course, encouraging armchair travel does not necessarily come
naturally for publications that write about the real thing, but Afar has made adjustments

“Now we have a lot of coverage about things you can do from
home to continue to inspire your wanderlust,” said Afar travel news editor Michelle
Baran. For example: taking a trip around the world in foreign films, doing
virtual tours and trying out recipes from different cultures.

Armchair travel is not the only approach to the current

Conde Nast Traveler launched several new franchises in
response to the current reality. Its “Here, Now” column spotlights coronavirus-related
stories such as a piece on the Spanish fitness instructor leading workout
classes on his roof in Madrid and Chinese nurses who continue traveling to care
for others. Conde Nast said it is writing about how people around the world are
“coping, creating joy, and getting through this together.” 

Another initiative is “What It’s Like to Be a Travel
Industry Worker Right Now.” Conde Nast has spotlighted a flight attendant, a
tour guide, a cruise ship captain and a hotel housekeeper, revealing their
anxieties, concerns and on-the-ground experiences. 

In its May issue, Conde Nast will feature an essay by travel
writer Pico Iyer on the importance of traveling to places that have had
setbacks, like Australia after the bushfires and Egypt after a terrorist

Jesse Ashlock, Conde Nast Traveler’s U.S. editor, said, “Now,
of course, the conversation is about traveling again to a whole world that is
experiencing crisis. And that is a theme we will return to a lot in upcoming
issues and on our other platforms.”

Conde Nast’s July issue will be “radically different” than
what was imagined, Ashlock said.  

“What it will do is celebrate the universality of travel in
a non-time-oriented way,” he said. “It’s not about travel in the summer of
2020. We will gather a lot of bold-faced names to talk about why they are still
a traveler, which is also a social [media] campaign we [recently] launched. It
is something we’re exploring in a lot of different ways and one of several
initiatives that we’ve embarked upon as we figure out how to shift course.”  

Under Ashlock, Conde Nast had already shifted to focus more
on travel “as a force for good,” something he realized matters more now than
ever. The April issue, which was put together before the U.S.’s travel
lockdown, is the magazine’s first with the “force for good” theme, with content
focusing on leadership, sustainability and community.

Baran said that Afar has also been making strategy changes
on the fly throughout the crisis. “As things have unfolded, our approach just
kept having to change. We’ve had to tear up the script several times,” she

Afar is helping readers cope by adding some online
humor pieces such as “How to re-create your canceled Europe trip at home,”
which includes setting the alarm to 4 a.m., when it’s morning in Europe. 

“We feel like people need a dose of fun and laughter right
now,” she said. 

Conde Nast, which last week unveiled its annual list of Top
Travel Specialists in the April issue,
plans to leverage its network of travel advisors in more ways, Ashlock said. 

During the current crisis, he believes they are a valuable
source of information for readers. The brand is already using advisors’ intel
and tips on navigating the crisis, such as via an Instagram Live conversation
with Italy travel specialist Andrea Grisdale to discuss the coronavirus
pandemic in Italy. 

“As time goes by, I hope to see them as a more prominent
part of what we’re doing in print and in all aspects and expressions of the
brand,” Ashlock said. “We couldn’t do a lot of our stories without them and
readers should be aware of that and look to book travel with specialists as a
result of the good intel that they’re getting from our magazine. … We see them
as an extension of our editorial family.”

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Royal Caribbean Group Launches New Program to Assist Travel Advisors

The Royal Caribbean Group announced Tuesday it has launched a dedicated program created to assist thousands of travel agents and advisors in the United States deal with the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

The program, dubbed RCL Cares, will offer a variety of services to help educate travel partners as they navigate government benefits available to agents and advisors in America, Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories.

Royal Caribbean’s services include one-on-one assistance and access to critical resources about recovery benefits available under the CARES act. While the RCL Cares program will not provide legal advice, it will offer a resource desk to provide educational material and answer questions.

“This is perhaps the most challenging time the travel industry has seen, and we want to do all we can to support those who have supported us throughout our history,” Royal Caribbean Group CEO Richard Fain said in a statement. “Our travel partner community is hurting, and help can’t come too soon.”

“Any piece of legislation can be challenging to understand, and we want our travel advisors to receive all the financial assistance available to them,” Fain continued. “While our ships are idle, we have resources that can be redirected to helping our travel partners so that they will be fully ready and able to charge ahead when we return to service.”

To access the RCL Cares program, advisors and agents must visit, where they can access highlights of the CARES Act, FAQs, Small Business Association resources and tips.

As the coronavirus outbreak continues to impact cruise lines, several of the top companies in the industry have extended the suspension of all voyages, including Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Carnival, Disney, Seabourn and more.

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Viking River Cruises unveils look of first US ship

on Monday confirmed its long-anticipated entry into U.S. river cruising,
unveiling the Viking Mississippi, which will be the largest ship plying its
storied American namesake.

The ship will debut in August of 2022 with 193 all-outside
staterooms that can hold a total of 386 guests. That’s about double the
capacity of the modern riverboat series of ships introduced in 2018 by
American Cruise Lines. 

The Viking Mississippi will feature some of the largest
staterooms in the industry, with seven cabin categories ranging from 268 to
1,024 square feet, all with private balconies.

The look of Viking’s first U.S. ship

The Viking Mississippi will have 193 all-outside staterooms.
The Viking Mississippi will have 193 all-outside staterooms.
The Aquavit Terrace.
The Bow will be an outdoor seating area at the front of the ship.
Deluxe Veranda accommodations.
The Explorers' Lounge will have floor-to-ceiling windows.
The bedroom in the Explorer Suite.
The Explorer Suite's living room.
The Viking Mississippi's pool deck.
Sitting area and balcony in a Terrace Suite.
A Penthouse Junior Suite on the Viking Mississippi.
The Viking Mississippi will sail between New Orleans and St. Paul, Minn.
Entry to the main restaurant on the Viking Mississippi.

While much larger than its European river ships, which are
limited by bridge heights and narrow locks, Viking said the Viking Mississippi
features the same “clean Scandinavian design as well as public spaces that are
familiar to guests but have been reimagined for Mississippi River voyages.”

Because of its large size, the ship will have some features
of Viking’s ocean ships, including an Explorers’ Lounge with floor-to-ceiling
windows that open to The Bow, an outdoor seating area at the front of the ship.

Other amenities include an infinity plunge pool, indoor and
outdoor dining options on the sun deck, 
a “living room” and main dining area on the first deck as well as a
360-degree promenade deck on the lower level that will let guest walk the entire
perimeter of the ship, Viking said.

Viking has been quietly working to enter the U.S. market for
years. It had been scheduled to unveil the new product to a VIP audience on April
7 in New Orleans. Like most large gatherings, that event was cancelled due to
the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak. The company instead released a video
announcement from chairman Torstein Hagen on March 30.

“At a time where many of us are at home, looking for
inspiration to travel in the future, I am pleased to introduce a new, modern
way to explore this great river,” Hagen said. 

“Our guests are curious travelers, and they continue to tell
us that the Mississippi is the river they most want to sail with us. The
Mississippi River is closer to home for many of our guests, and no other
waterway has played such an important role in America’s history, commerce and

Viking said the new ship will sail both the upper and lower
Mississippi between New Orleans and St. Paul, Minnesota. Bookings opened Monday
for past Viking guests and will be available to the general public on April 15,
the company said. 

Currently, just two other companies, American Cruise Lines
and American Queen Steamboat Company, sail U.S. river cruises. In addition to the Mississippi,
both companies also sail the Snake and Columbia rivers in the Pacific

While U.S. river cruises have traditionally featured paddlewheel-style
ships, ACL in 2018 introduced its modern riverboats. It currently sails two on
the Mississippi and one in the Pacific Northwest. Two more are due to join the
fleet next year.

AQSC operates only paddlewheelers. The American Countess, its
fourth paddlewheeler, was supposed to be christened April 4 in New Orleans, but
the ship’s debut was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

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Celebrity Cruises takes virtual delivery of new ship

Celebrity Cruises on Friday took what it said may be the
first virtual delivery of a cruise ship, with officials from the Chantiers de l’Atlantique
shipyard giving the line official command of the Celebrity Apex via video

The Apex, the second ship in the line’s Edge class, was
originally scheduled to be in England this weekend for its inaugural ceremonies
in the Port of Southampton. Celebrity CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo now anticipates that
the ship’s first sailing will depart Barcelona on May 20. 

Celebrity parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. said
last week that it had extended its operations suspension until May 12 because
of the Covid-19 pandemic.  

Lutoff-Perlo said the virtual delivery was “unique just as
every ship is unique.” 

“While the circumstances are quite unique right now, it’s
fitting that such an innovative ship as Celebrity Apex would have a digital-age
delivery,” she said. 

In keeping with tradition, Celebrity said that Capt.
Dimitris Kafetzis ordered the exchange of French and American flags, while each
country’s national anthem played in the background.

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Cruise Lines to Miss Out on Relief From US Stimulus Bill

The cruise industry is among the hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak, but the $2 trillion stimulus bill working its way through the government will not provide bailout funds for cruise companies.

According to The Washington Post, United States Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the bill would allot $500 billion in loans or guarantees to distressed businesses, but he revealed the companies must be based in or work primarily from the U.S.

Several of the top cruise lines in the world are not incorporated in the U.S. as a way to avoid paying higher taxes and the country’s more stringent minimum wage requirements, including Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International.

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) applauded the stimulus package Thursday thanks to its inclusion of relief for more than 30,000 CLIA travel agent members. The industry trade group thanked lawmakers for “reaching a historic agreement to address the unprecedented crisis.”

The CLIA said it would continue working with the government to protect the cruise industry as companies continue to secure loans to improve liquidity, which experts believe should become an industry-wide trend.

“As it relates to the rescue package, cruise lines are not lobbying for a bailout. CLIA and our members agree that the most important stimulus the government can provide on behalf of the wider cruise community in the United States is help for small- and medium-sized businesses, including a vast network of travel agencies, tour operators and suppliers, with a presence in all 50 states,” CLIA spokeswoman Bari Golin-Blaugrund wrote in an email.

The possible exclusion of cruise companies in the bill came as a shock to some considering U.S. President Donald Trump expressed his desire in previous interviews to help the pillars of the hard-hit travel industry, including cruise lines, airlines and hotels.

In addition, executives from the cruise industry recently met with Vice President Mike Pence.

During a press conference Thursday, President Trump said he would support cruise lines being forced to register in the U.S. to receive aid from the government, saying, “We’re going to work very hard on the cruise line business and we’re going to figure something out.”

The stimulus bill also provides $10 billion in direct assistance to airports across the country, but they would be required to retain at least 90 percent of their workforce through the end of 2020 in exchange for the funds.

For travel agents and advisors, the legislation includes assistance for those affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

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Upgrade the Experience at Riu Palace Hotels

Riu Palace Hotels are designed to make guests feel like royalty.

Each property exudes excellence and sophistication so that visitors experience a relaxing stay that the whole family can enjoy.

Located in some of the most exclusive destinations in Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America, guests will find modern amenities, great entertainment and unlimited activities for everyone, including aquatic parks, theme parties and live performances.

Guests staying at a Riu Palace will enjoy unlimited international alcohol brands in minibars and in cocktail lounges, 24-hour room service, morning champagne breakfasts, fusion gourmet cuisine at Krystal Restaurant and exchange privileges between RIU Palace and Classic properties.

Each Riu Palace hotel is designed with relaxation in mind, catering to a guest’s every whim.

Rooms are meticulously designed to make visitors feel comfortable and at home, and ongoing activities and entertainment options are available to make the most of leisure time.

The staff is available around the clock to bring a glass of champagne, serve canapés, draw a bubble bath and more.

Resorts are located around the Caribbean in Aruba, Jamaica, the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic. In Mexico, visitors can choose to stay in some of the country’s most sought-after destinations, including the Riviera Maya, Puerto Vallarta, Cancun and Cabo San Lucas and, in Costa Rica, guests can choose the RIU Palace Costa Rica.

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Four Dead on Zaandam as Passenger Transfer Gets Underway

Holland America Line’s Zaandam, which has been turned away from several ports, is now reporting four passenger deaths onboard and two confirmed COVID-19 cases.

The ship met up with a fleetmate, Rotterdam, as 138 people reported influenza-like illness symptoms. Zaandam received medical staff and supplies, including COVID-19 test kits, when the two ships met off the coast of Panama.

The plan now is to transfer healthy Zaandam passengers to the Rotterdam with strict protocols for this process developed in conjunction with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the cruise line said in a statement.

Only those who have not been ill will be moved, and health screenings will be conducted before transferring. Priority for the first guests to transfer will be given to those with inside staterooms and who are over 70. Once aboard Rotterdam, all guests will continue to remain in their staterooms until disembarkation. Any guests who are currently ill or in isolation as a close contact, along with all crew, will remain on Zaandam.

While the onward plan for both ships is still being finalized, Holland America Line said it continues to work with the Panamanian authorities for approval to transit the Panama Canal for sailing to Fort

On March 27, Holland America said 53 guests (4 percent) and 85 crew (14 percent) have reported to the Zaandam’s medical center with influenza-like symptoms. There are 1,243 guests and 586 crew on board. On Zaandam, there are four doctors and four nurses. On Rotterdam, there are two doctors and four nurses.

The passengers were ordered to self-isolate in their staterooms on March 22. The ship implemented other precautions developed with the CDC. All guests and crew received face masks and were provided with instructions on when and how to wear them.

The company statement described the deceased passengers as “older.” “Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and we are doing everything we can to support them during this difficult time,” the company said. Complimentary telephone counseling services are available to passengers and crew.

Zaandam was sailing a South America cruise that departed Buenos Aires, Argentina, on March 7 and was originally scheduled to end at San Antonio, Chile, on March 21. Due to global health concerns, Holland America Line made the decision to suspend its global cruise operations for 30 days and end its current cruises in progress as quickly as possible so guests could return home. No one has been off the ship since March 14 in Punta Arenas, Chile.

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Thames Clippers services to be suspended until further notice

Thames Clippers services will be halted from tomorrow as the capital is locked down to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Sean Collins, chief executive Thames Clippers, confirmed all services will be temporarily suspending until further notice.

He explained: “Further to a significant drop in passenger demand in recent days, following UK government’s direction to travel only when absolutely necessary, from Saturday March 28th, we will temporarily be suspending all Thames Clippers services until further notice.   

“This decision has not been taken lightly.

“However, at this time, as a privately owned business, it is no longer viable for us to continue to run our services.

“Over the past week, services have been increasingly reduced to keep in line with the latest travel guidance, whilst being mindful of doing all that was possible to continue to support those Thames Clippers customers for whom commuting to work is critical.”

Thames Clippers offers a frequent service on the River Thames.

Services run at 20-minute intervals between key London piers including North Greenwich for the O2, Greenwich, Canary Wharf, Tower, London Bridge City, Westminster and London Eye for Waterloo, as well as several residential piers.

“We continue to closely monitor the situation, and will reinstate our service to keep London moving as soon as it is safe to do so,” added Collins.

Season ticket holders are advised to visit the Thames Clippers website for further details.


For all the latest from Breaking Travel News on the coronavirus pandemic, take a look here.

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RCCL Chairman Fain Offers Assurances in New Video

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chairman and CEO Richard Fain released his third video to assure travel advisors and the industry that this situation will pass.

Fain said he shot the 5-minute video with his iPhone on a tripod while working from home. He acknowledged that the situation was “truly serious” and that travel agents are worried about their businesses.

“It’s just unimaginably difficult today, and we know it,” he said. “We also came to work in January ready for a truly gangbuster year. And look where we are today. But even against a very serious backdrop, the work goes on here at Royal Caribbean. This is our second week working from home since we closed our offices.”

The first order of business is keeping employees and guests safe and healthy, he said.

“But you should also know that we’re putting just as much effort and just as much focus into making sure that from the day we begin sailing again—and it won’t be that long before we do—we’re able to offer our guests safe, healthy and enjoyable cruises from Day One.”

Better days are ahead, Fain said.

“Weeks of social distancing are creating the need for togetherness. Making memories and great vacations will be in huge demand when the current situation passes,” he said. “We have teams planning our return to market as we speak, and we also have teams studying to make sure that our health and sanitation procedures are best in class.”

When pent-up demand surges, people will need the facts and expertise travel agents provide, he said, urging advisors to prepare. “Better days may seem far away right now but they’re coming sooner than you think, and we look forward to getting back alongside you as we build our business back together,” he concluded. “Thanks everyone and wash your hands.”

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