Oh Canada

Today we are in Parry Sound, Ontario, in the heart of the “sixth” Great Lake, Georgian Bay, home of Canada’s 30,000 islands.  Even although it’s July, it’s a little crisp and I wish I would have brought along a light jacket.  I’m spending a month on PEARL MIST, a beautiful, little ship with only 200 passengers operated by Pearl Seas Cruises a sister company to American Cruise Line.  It’s fun working on a small ship since I get to know the passengers.   On a small ship, there are never any lines.  It is always open seating and you can eat with different folks every meal, and I do.  This is an all-inclusive cruise so they aren’t always nickel-and-diming you for everything.  Bottles of water are everywhere and no one is selling water for $2.50 a bottle plus 15% gratuity.  Wine flows freely at meals, and at cocktail hour you just enjoy whatever you like.

Palmira Estate Drone 3

The itinerary this cruise was a little reversed for celebrating the holidays.  We were in the US on July 1st, Canada’s 150-year celebration, and in Canada for July 4th.  Oh well.

It’s interesting the folks you meet on a small ship.  One of the Engineering Officers lives next door to Boquete in the even smaller town of Volcan.  The Chief Officer and Safety Officer are both from Panama City.  And I met a wonderful couple, Gonzalo and Yrma Palenzuela who live in Boquete and have a coffee farm, and their coffee just took top honors in two categories in the recent coffee competition in Panama!

We’re fortunate that a friend, Todd Crow, is looking after our house and farm and taking care of our two remaining pups*, Baru and Bobbi.  Todd has found time to fly his drone around and take some fantastic pictures of our house, which by the way is for sale as we face the need to downsize and “retire” once again from “retirement.”

Palmira Estate Drone 3

Books TogetherBefore leaving for this contract I was able to completely rewrite both of my books, updating ESCAPE TO PARADISE so it gives the most current story of why and how we chose to Panama and the things you must know if you ever consider making such a move.  PANAMA  CANAL DAY has been updated to include the information on the new, larger locks, since next January-March I will be back on CORAL PRINCESS doing the Canal.  Both books are available either in trade paper if you like fondling and caressing your book as you read, or Kindle if you prefer reading and communicating and/or texting electronically.   [no judgement, just an observation.]

[*Sadly, we recently lost both Monkey and Spot.  Spot had as stroke and then heart attack, who knew, but the stress of always trying to be “top dog” and “number one” eventually gets even dogs.  Monkey died of cancer.  Both great dogs.  Baru, the male of the pack, never got involved in the contest to be “top dog.”  He just chilled, walked away, and let the bitches fight.]

Ahead … With Caution

dsc_0354With much ado, Trump’s “reversal” of Obama’s policies permitting US citizens and US cruise companies to travel to Cuba, seems not much different than Obama’s policies, other than it gives Trump opportunity to check off another Obama initiative that he “reversed.”  Nothing much seems to have changed except Trump gave a nod to “Little Marco” and the Cuban exile block in Florida.

There are, however, some concerns … since most of the “educational tour” programs previously approved by both governments, are, in the case of Cuba, run by the state.  Dah!  While I suspect most US cruise passengers would prefer to be able to just go off on their own or book independently … that has not been US policy.  The Cuban government requires visitors to use a currency conveniently created only for tourists based on a 1 to 1 exchange with the US$, which is only worth about 4 cents in the local currency of the Cuban people.  Add to that the 10% surcharge that is added on when you change US currency to Cuban tourist CUCs or “Kooks.”  So there is a sense that if  you want to experience Cuba you’re being screwed from the starting gate, but is it worth it?  In my opinion yes!  It’s just a cost of travel, like being ripped off by cab drivers worldwide.

dsc_0349When you get two “eager to control” governments, the US Treasury Department, under which supervision of these people-to-people educational tours are authorized, and the Cuban government who apparently runs a lot of the government tourist companies through the military, somewhat a’la Egypt, it gets confused and some would say, anything but “people to people.”

So the cruise lines are going to have to lead a fine dance between and around what would appear to be competing bureaucratic hurdles.  But for the moment “Ahead … With Caution” seems to be the order of the day.

dsc_0373

Should you go?  Absolutely!  Should you go now?  Yes!  Cuba is changing and will continue to change, with or without the edicts of the US and Trump.   I predict much of the “charm” of present-day Cuba, and the not-so-charming poverty, will start to disappear as gigantic mega ships move in, a’la St Thomas, St Martin and Nassau, and funky old hotels, and government run new hotels give way to Trump Towers.  You got it.

Making America Great??? $6.6 Billion Loss & 12,000 Lost Jobs

dsc_0334According to the MIAMI HERALD …

If Trump reverses the U.S. Cuba policy, airlines and cruise lines could lose $3.5 billion

BY CHABELI HERRERA

Cruise lines and airlines stand to lose $3.5 billion and more than 10,000 jobs over the course of President Donald Trump’s four-year term if the administration fully rolls back all of the United States’ Cuba regulations, according to a report by nonprofit Engage Cuba.

Trump is expected to change some of the relaxed regulations that former President Barack Obama put in place in December 2014, but the full scope of his Cuba plan is yet to be seen.

The report commissioned by the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, which advocates for more open relations with the island nation, assumes a worst-case scenario in which Trump does away with legalized travel to Cuba, expanded remittances, general licenses for certain exports and research collaboration and even reinstates the “wet foot, dry foot” immigration policy — something that the White House has not directly indicated it plans to do.

Taking a gander at what a full reversal scenario may look like for the businesses that have moved full steam ahead into the Cuban market, Engage Cuba predicts that the travel sector will take a substantial hit and, by extension, Miami too.

If the Trump administration were to reverse all of Obama’s Cuba policies, $6.6. billion and nearly 12,300 jobs would be lost over four years, according to the Engage Cuba report. More than 50 percent of the revenue losses and more than 80 percent of the job cuts would be in the cruise and airline business. A large portion of that business originates at Port Miami and Miami International Airport.

“For instance, the industries closely linked to air travel … have invariably seen a greater demand for labor at airports with high Cuba traffic volume, such as Miami, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale,” the report says.

Seven U.S. airlines fly to the country and nine American cruise lines have scheduled service to Cuba since tourism rules were relaxed to include 12 categories of authorized travel, including the popular “people to people” option that most Americans use. Airlines initially overshot demand for travel to Cuba, but have since adjusted their flights as the popularity of visiting the country remains high.

The airline industry stands to lose $512 million annually based on average ticket sales, according to Engage Cuba, and 3,990 jobs. The cruise industry would lose $392.2 million annually assuming all cruises sold out, and cost cruise lines 6,164 jobs, most in Florida.

IF TRUMP REVERSES THE CURRENT CUBA POLICES, ENGAGE CUBA PREDICTS THAT MORE THAN 50 PERCENT OF THE REVENUE LOSSES AND MORE THAN 80 PERCENT OF THE JOB CUTS WOULD BE IN THE CRUISE AND AIRLINE BUSINESS.

But the report concedes many of its estimates are based on limited data. The number used for cruise revenue, for instance, is partially based on a survey on passenger expenditures conducted at Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades. Many of its estimates, the report said, were “calculated using demand projections from secondary sources, imperfect primary data collection, and price averages, all of which contribute to a degree of uncertainty.”

Still, “this study represents our best guess given available data,” the report says.

Beyond travel, Engage Cuba predicts changes to current rules could diminish U.S. exports by $227.6 million per year, costing 1,359 jobs. Remittances to Cuba could be cut by $320 million annually, ending 782 jobs at money transfer companies.

If the Trump administration were to reinstate the “wet foot, dry foot” policy, which allowed Cubans who set foot in the U.S. to stay in the country, taxpayers would be saddled with the $238 million annual burden that previously helped provide benefits to Cuban migrants, according to estimates by the Congressional Budget Office.

It is still unclear how many, if any, of the report’s findings will come to fruition, all of which are dependent on the scope and degree of the administration’s changes. Trump is expected to announce his Cuba policy in the coming weeks.