The Disastrous Voyage of Satoshi The World’s First Cryptocurrency Cruise Ship

Last year, three cryptocurrency enthusiasts bought a cruise ship. They named it the Satoshi, and dreamed of starting a floating libertarian utopia. It didn’t work out.

In the evening of 7 December 2010, in a hushed San Francisco auditorium, former Google engineer Patri Friedman sketched out the future of humanity. The event was hosted by the Thiel Foundation, established four years earlier by the arch-libertarian PayPal founder Peter Thiel to “defend and promote freedom in all its dimensions”. From behind a large lectern, Friedman – grandson of Milton Friedman, one of the most influential free-market economists of the last century – laid out his plan.

He wanted to transform how and where we live, to abandon life on land and all our decrepit assumptions about the nature of society. He wanted, quite simply, to start a new city in the middle of the ocean.

Friedman called it seasteading: “Homesteading the high seas,” a phrase borrowed from Wayne Gramlich, a software engineer with whom he’d founded the Seasteading Institute in 2008, helped by a $500,000 donation from Thiel. In a four-minute vision-dump, Friedman explained his rationale.

Why, he asked, in one of the most advanced countries in the world, were they still using systems of government from 1787? (“If you drove a car from 1787, it would be a horse,” he pointed out.) Government, he believed, needed an upgrade, like a software update for a phone. “Let’s think of government as an industry, where countries are firms and citizens are customers!” he declared.

The difficulty in starting a new form of government, said Friedman, was simply a lack of space. All the land on Earth was taken. What they needed was a new frontier, and that frontier was the ocean. “Let a thousand nations bloom on the high seas,” he proclaimed, with Maoish zeal.

He wanted seasteading experiments to start as soon as possible. Within three to six years, he imagined ships being repurposed as floating medical clinics. Within 10 years, he predicted, small communities would be permanently based on platforms out at sea. In a few decades, he hoped there would be floating cities “with millions of people pioneering different ways of living together”.

Politics would be rewritten. The beauty of seasteading was that it offered its inhabitants total freedom and choice. In 2017, Friedman and the “seavangelist” Joe Quirk wrote a book, Seasteading, in which they described how a seasteading community could constantly rearrange itself according to the choices of those who owned the individual floating units.

(Quirk now runs the Seasteading Institute; Friedman remains chair of the board.) “Democracy,” the two men wrote, “would be upgraded to a system whereby the smallest minorities, including the individual, could vote with their houses.”

In the decade following Friedman’s talk, a variety of attempts to realize his seasteading vision were all thwarted. “Seavilization,” to use his phrase, remained a fantasy. Then, in October 2020, it seemed his dream might finally come true, when three seasteading enthusiasts bought a 245-metre-long cruise ship called the Pacific Dawn. Grant Romundt, Rüdiger Koch and Chad Elwartowski planned to sail the ship to Panama, where they were based, and park it permanently off the coastline as the centrepiece of a new society trading only in cryptocurrencies.

In homage to Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonym of bitcoin’s mysterious inventor (or inventors), they renamed the ship the MS Satoshi. They hoped it would become home to people just like them: digital nomads, startup founders and early bitcoin adopters.

Their vision was utopian, if your idea of utopia is a floating crypto-community in the Caribbean Sea. No longer was seasteading a futuristic ideal; it was, said Romundt, “an actual ship”. The Satoshi also offered a chance to marry two movements, of crypto-devotees and seasteaders, united by their desire for freedom – from convention, regulation, tax.

Freedom from the state in all its forms. But converting a cruise ship into a new society proved more challenging than envisaged. The high seas, while appearing borderless and free, are, in fact, some of the most tightly regulated places on Earth. The cruise ship industry in particular is bound by intricate rules. As Romundt put it: “We were like, ‘This is just so hard.’”

As with many stories about techno-libertarian fantasies, the tale of the Satoshi begins in an all-male, quasi-frat house in San Francisco in the late 90s. Romundt – a softly spoken Canadian with the optimistic, healthy glow of someone who combines entrepreneurial success with water sports – was living with a bunch of software engineers, all of whom shared an intense dedication to personal improvement.

“I was a huge Tony Robbins fan,” Romundt told me in one of several Zoom calls from his office in Panama. (Robbins’ themes of individual freedom, self-mastery and the accrual of significant wealth are evident from the titles of his books from that time: Unlimited Power; Lessons in Mastery; Unleash the Power Within; The Power to Shape Your Destiny, and, next level, Awaken the Giant Within.)

After his San Francisco stint, Romundt, the son of a hairdresser, created ScissorBoy in 2009, a popular online TV series on hairdressing, and then ScheduleBox, a website which offered a digital receptionist service for hairstylists to book in their clients. (Always digitally inclined, he had, according to his website, the world’s “most advanced mobile paperless office in 1995”.) “I used to work 17 hours a day, so I didn’t have a lot of freedom,” he told me. He did, however, make enough money to semi-retire in 2016 and then spent “no more than five hours a month” running his business.

The giant fully awakened, he moved back to Canada, where he lived on a houseboat on Lake Ontario and went kayaking in the mornings as the sun came up. Enraptured by his lifestyle, Romundt wondered why everyone wasn’t living this way. On a flight one day, he saw a man wearing a T-shirt with “Stop arguing. Start seasteading” printed on it. Romundt was curious, they got talking, and the man turned out to be Joe Quirk, who was by this time running the Seasteading Institute.

So far, the Seasteading Institute had experienced variable, or zero, success with its projects. Early ideas for a “Baystead” and “Coaststead” off the coast of San Francisco and a “Clubstead”, a resort off the coast of California, never made the leap to reality. An attempt to create a floating island prototype in French Polynesia in 2017 met with fairly fierce resistance from the people of French Polynesia and collapsed a year later when the government pulled out of the scheme.

After meeting Quirk, Romundt decided he wanted to try again. Quirk introduced him to two other aspiring seasteaders, the passionately libertarian American Elwartowski and the bitcoin-wealthy German engineer Koch. Together, the trio founded a company, Ocean Builders. Using their own money, they funded the first attempt at a single residential seastead, in the form of a floating white octagonal box 12 nautical miles off the coast of Thailand.

Elwartowski and his girlfriend, Nadia Summergirl, lived there for two months in early 2018, until the Thai government discovered the seastead’s existence and declared it a threat to the country’s independence, possibly punishable by life imprisonment or death. Elwartowski and Summergirl had to flee the country before the Thai navy dispatched three ships to dismantle the floating box.

The seasteading movement did not die there. In 2019, Romundt, Koch and Elwartowski moved their company to Panama, where they had found a government willing to back their next project: the SeaPod. These would be individual floating homes held 3 metres above the water by a single column and a tripod-shaped base beneath the ocean.

The man responsible for their design, Koen Olthuis, is a Dutch “aquatect”, an architect specialising in water-based schemes. In rendered drawings, the SeaPods look fantastical, like a giant’s white helmet emerging monstrously from the waves. Inside, every surface is curved, as if you were living within the smooth, colourless confines of a peppermint.

Romundt compared the SeaPods to the architecture in The Jetsons, the 60s cartoon where the characters lived in glassy orbs in the sky. “It’s like that,” he told me, “but on water.” The team built a factory from scratch in Linton Bay, a marina on the north coast of Panama, hired a team of about 30 engineers and mechanics, and, in early 2020, began building the first SeaPod prototype.

Progress was slow. Even once they had a successful prototype, Romundt predicted the factory would only make two SeaPods a month. They’d had the idea before of buying a cruise ship – a quick way of scaling up the community – but the cost had always been prohibitive.

By autumn 2020, though, the situation had changed. Like many parts of the travel industry, the cruise ship business was collapsing because of the pandemic: multiple cruise lines were going into administration, empty ships filling up ports like abandoned cars in a scrubby field, or being sent to the scrapyard. Cruise ships, the Ocean Builders trio realised, would be going cheap.

Sure enough, they found a bargain. In October 2020, Romundt, Koch and Elwartowski bought the ex-P&O cruise ship Pacific Dawn for a reported $9.5m. (Built in 1991 for $280m, the ship could have sold pre-pandemic for more than $100m, one industry insider told me.) They instructed Olthuis to draw up the plans, placing the ship at the heart of a floating community surrounded by SeaPods.

“We had a kind of funny idea,” Olthuis told me. In his scheme, the Satoshi would connect, via two looping tunnels on the water, to human-made floating platforms designated for agriculture, manufacturing and parkland. From the air, the whole community would form the shape of the bitcoin B.

The scheme had the support of the Panama government. In fact, the Ministry of Tourism hoped that a new ocean community would be a draw for visitors. In a page-long statement, the ministry told me how a floating development fitted in with its Sustainable Tourism Masterplan 2020-2025, by highlighting the country’s biodiversity and “the blue heritage of Panama”. It didn’t seem to mind the idea of a load of crypto-investors floating off their coastline, not paying any tax.

“Out of adversity comes opportunity, so they say,” wrote Elwartowski, on 10 October 2020, introducing Viva Vivas, the new company that he had created to run the Satoshi. Its name was adapted from the Latin phrase, “vive ut vivas”, meaning “live so that you may live”.

Ten days later, he announced the venture on Reddit: “So, I am buying a cruise ship and naming it MS Satoshi … AMA.” The responses were quick (“Need an apprentice aviation mechanic?” “I know how to use a yo-yo! Any room for me??”) and included the inevitable sceptics. (“Anyone remember the good old days of the Fyre festival?”) But plenty took the proposition seriously and wanted to go over the small print. (“Where is power coming from? Gas? Internet? Food? Water? Toiletries? What taxes will she be subject to?”)

Elwartowski answered every question with grave attention to detail. There would be generators at first, followed quickly by solar power. This would be an eco-friendly crypto-ship. High-speed wireless internet would come from land; utilities would be included in the fees at first, but would be metered when the systems were upgraded: “You don’t want to have pay for someone else’s mining rig in their cabin,” he wrote, referring to the resource-intensive computational process that introduces new crypto “coins” into the system.

As for tax, you would not pay any on earnings made from ventures based in territory beyond Panama. You would be free to make, or mine, as much money as you liked. It would be a remote worker’s regulatory paradise.

But as the Reddit Q&A continued, Elwartowski’s meticulous responses revealed some of the more knotty practicalities of life on board. It turned out that the only cooking facilities would be in the restaurant. For safety reasons, no one was allowed to have a microwave in their rooms – though some cabins had mini-fridges, noted Elwartowski, determinedly sidestepping the point.

He offered residents a 20% discount at the restaurant and mentioned that some interested cruisers had already talked about renting part of the restaurant kitchen so they could make their own food. “We want entrepreneurs to come up with solutions and try them out,” he wrote, in a valiant attempt to convert a fairly fundamental stumbling block into wild startup energy. “This is your place to try new things.” Not all the Redditors were convinced. “No microwave but mining rig. Incoherent scam.”

Marketing of the Satoshi soon began in earnest. Her 777 cabins were to be auctioned off between 5 and 28 November, while the ship was crossing the Atlantic towards Panama. Viva Vivas listed the options, including cabins with no windows ($570 a month), an ocean view ($629), or a balcony ($719). Ocean Builders held a series of live video calls for potential customers which attracted 200 people at a time, Olthuis told me, with Romundt, an expert steward of the multilateral video call, at the helm.

On the Viva Vivas website, a Frequently Asked Questions page covered the basics of the cabin auction process, fees and logistics. Specially trained staff would be hired to keep the ship Covid-free and through a partnership with a platform called coinpayments.net, multiple cryptocurrencies would be supported for payment, including bitcoin, ethereum, digibyte, bitcoin cash, litecoin, dai, dash, ethereum classic, trueUSD, USD coin, tether, bitcoin SV, electroneum, cloak, doge, eureka coin, xem and monero.

The final entry on the FAQ page, regarding the possibility of having pets on board, gave a bracing insight into the tension between the idea of freedom and the reality of hundreds of people closely cohabiting on a cruise ship. The answer linked to a separate document, containing a 14-point list of conditions including one that declared no animal should exceed 20lbs in weight, and any barking or loud noises could not last for longer than 10 minutes.

If a pet repeatedly disturbed the peace – more than three times a month or five times in a year – it would no longer be allowed to live on board. “Any pet related conflict,” instructed point 13, “shall be resolved in accordance with Section V (F) of the Satoshi Purchase Agreement or Section IV (F) of the Satoshi Master Lease, where applicable.” Dogs would only be permitted in balcony cabins, and it was advised that owners buy a specific brand of “porch potty”, a basket of fake grass where your pet could relieve itself. (Pet waste thrown overboard would result in a $200 fine.)

One Reddit respondent – maxcoiner on Reddit, Luke Parker in real life – was as close to the target market of the Satoshi as it was possible to imagine. A longtime follower of the seasteading movement, he was also such an early and successful bitcoin adopter that he and his wife were able to retire early thanks to their investments. The Satoshi was the most plausible idea for a seastead he’d ever heard. “I did not buy a room during the Satoshi’s sale window,” he told me over email, “but it was hard to keep my hand off that button.”

A variety of considerations held him back. “The wife,” as he put it, had her doubts. He wasn’t sure about the “ginormous leap down in luxury” from living in deep residential comfort on land in the US midwest to living in a very small cabin on board a 30-year-old cruise ship. He was worried, too, by the limited facilities – “No kitchen of my own? Tiny bathrooms? Tiny everything?” Also, the constant rocking of the ship on the water: “I just can’t stomach that life around the clock.” He preferred the idea of the SeaPods. If Parker was going to live on a boat, he concluded, he’d prefer to buy his own luxury catamaran.

On 29 November, Elwartowski published another post on the Viva Vivas website, announcing the official opening of the Satoshi in January 2021. “This will be a new experience for all of us so we must manage your expectations,” he warned. The novelty was too much for Parker. “It takes a rare kind of person indeed to move your life on to a deserted cruise ship in Central America with so little information up front,” he told me. If Parker, part of that highly select, freedom-seeking, system-abandoning, overlapping community of seasteaders and bitcoiners, wasn’t going to buy, it was hard to imagine who would. As he put it: “This may have been the smallest sales demographic in history.”

Over 30 years of service, the Satoshi herself had seen enough of the world to know every permutation of life at sea – apart, perhaps from what it might be like to be a permanent home to 2,000 crypto-investors. Built in 1991 in the Fincantieri shipyard in Trieste, Italy, she is one of only two cruise ships designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano. (The other, the Crown Princess, was sent to the scrapyard last year, a Covid casualty.) Her first incarnation was as the Regal Princess (owned by Princess Cruises), after which she became the Pacific Dawn (P&O Australia).

Throughout her life, she has been admired for her distinctive features: a domed roof rising above the navigation bridge, water slides that curl round her funnel and a stern whose elegantly rounded form is in marked contrast to the blunt, sawn-off rears of some giant cruise liners. Those who prefer an understated cruising experience also appreciate her discreet size: compared to the largest cruise ship in the world, The Symphony of the Seas (18 decks, 23 swimming pools) she is a modest vessel (11 decks, two swimming pools).

For many years, the Pacific Dawn cruised the south Pacific, enjoying a serene phase of life, interrupted only by an onboard swine flu outbreak in 2009 and the time she lost power and came within 70 metres of crashing into the Gateway Bridge on the Brisbane River. In 2011, a devoted Facebook group was established by fans. “Dawnie was the party ship,” remembered one. “I fell in love with my wife all over again,” added another, crediting the ship for his romantic renewal. Then, in 2020, it briefly looked as though Dawnie was set to join her sister on the scrapyard, after her sale to British cruise company, Cruise and Maritime Voyages, collapsed in the pandemic. Her fans were grief-stricken, weeping emojis piling up on the Facebook group. (“Well 2020 just became even shittier,” said Kathie.) When it was revealed that the ship had been rescued by Ocean Builders, there was a wave of relief, if a little mystification at her new name. “She’ll always be Dawn to me.”

On 29 October 2020, Dawn began her journey to Panama, sailing from Limassol, Cyprus to Piraeus, Greece. A week later, she was handed over to her new owners Ocean Builders and officially became the Satoshi. Koch flew over from Panama to cross the Atlantic aboard their new purchase. The team hired a management company, Columbia Cruise Services, to run the ship and provide a minimum crew of about 40 people, mostly Ukrainian, including a cook, engineers and cleaning staff. A seasoned British cruise captain, Peter Harris, arrived to take charge. “We didn’t know anything about running a cruise,” Romundt told me, “so it was like, we didn’t want to have to figure all this stuff out.”

As soon as Capt Harris joined the ship and met Koch on board, he realised there would be challenges ahead. “I was thinking a week into the job, I can see I’m going to be resigning,” Harris told me, immaculate in a striped shirt on a video call from his home in Kent. Koch, he said, was admirable in his ambition, and a likable, law-abiding man, but he was naive about how shipping worked and had an abhorrence of rules. “He didn’t understand the industry,” said Harris, who has the frank, upbeat air of a born leader for whom hierarchy is a kind of creed. “He just thought he could treat it like his own yacht.”

To sail anywhere, Harris explained, a ship requires certificates of seaworthiness. These expired on the day the deal with P&O was completed. Usually, a new buyer would ensure they lasted a couple of months to cover any onward journey, but no one on the Ocean Builders side had checked. By the time Columbia Cruise Services came on board and informed the team of the situation, the contracts had all been signed. Before the Satoshi could cross the Atlantic, the team were obliged to sail the ship to Gibraltar and have her removed from the water, a process known as dry-docking, to perform essential repairs and renew the certificates.

The Atlantic crossing began on 3 December. Harris – who didn’t resign, grateful for the four-month contract mid-pandemic – found it oddly lovely. With only 40 or so people on board, rather than the usual 2,000-odd, the atmosphere was relaxed, if a little surreal. Among other things, P&O had left about 5,000 bottles of wine and 2,000 bottles of spirits on board. Harris asked Koch if he wanted to charge the crew for drinks, but Koch, generous by nature, said no. “Obviously, we restricted them to three drinks a day,” said Harris. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t have had a crew.”

As the crossing continued, questions about how the project would actually work once the Satoshi arrived in Panama grew more pressing. According to Harris, Elwartowski thought he could convince the Panamanian authorities to let the ship anchor permanently in its waters and de-register as a ship, becoming a floating residence instead, so as to avoid some of the more exacting requirements of maritime law. But while Panama was happy to have the ship moored off its coast, it specified that the ship had to remain officially designated as a ship. Which led to another difficulty: the discharge of sewage. Though the ship had an advanced wastewater management system, which could turn sewage into drinking-quality water, they were not permitted to discharge this wastewater into Panamanian waters, and so would have had to sail 12 miles out every 20 days or so to empty tanks into international waters.

Such obstacles made the ship an off-putting proposition for insurers. No one would agree to cover them. “They wouldn’t even tell us why we weren’t insurable, they just kept saying no,” Romundt said. “It’s kind of hard to remedy something if you don’t know what the problem is.” Of the several insurance experts I asked about this, none were willing to comment on the case, citing a lack of expertise, presumably because no one had ever tried to insure a cruise ship turned floating crypto-community before. Harris, however, had his theories: that a risk-averse insurance industry was wary of both a bitcoin business and a ship that would presumably be mostly populated by quick-to-litigate Americans.

After trying multiple insurers and brokers, Romundt began to realise that the cruise ship industry was, as he put it, “plagued by over-regulation”. (Along with airlines and nuclear power, according to Harris, it’s in “the top three”.) The Ocean Builders’ great freedom project, whose intrinsic purpose was to offer an escape from oppressive rules and bureaucracy, was being hobbled by oppressive rules and bureaucracy. As Elwartowski would reflect a few months later on Reddit: “A cruise ship is not very good for people who want to be free.”

To Romundt, the whole cruise ship business began to seem like an impenetrable old boys’ network. He estimated that, given six months, they could have hired a crack marine legal team and navigated a way through the loopholes. But by mid-December, the Satoshi was already halfway across the Atlantic, burning through gallons of diesel, with a 40-person crew they’d have to keep on board even when she was stationary in Panama because a cruise ship requires constant maintenance. A ship can cost, even when docked, up to $1m a month to run. “Because, you know,” said Romundt, “it’s huge.”

Fuel alone was costing the Ocean Builders trio about $12,000 a day. According to Harris, Koch wanted to try to make the ship more fuel-efficient by installing a smaller engine, which he thought he could do while the ship was at anchor. “We were like, how are you going to cut a hole in the ship’s side big enough to get the engine out, which is below water level, and not sink the ship?” Harris shook his head, his memories of Koch clearly fond, if perplexed. “I was forever saying, ‘No, Rudi you can’t do this; no, Rudi you can’t do that.’”

Before the Satoshi hove into view of the white sands of a Panama beach, Romundt, Koch and Elwartowski had to make a call. They couldn’t afford to keep the ship moored and empty for months on end while they tried to solve the insurance problem, a problem they weren’t even sure they’d be able to solve. They were insured to sail her, and they could go on sailing her, but they didn’t want to run a travel company. They wanted to run a floating society of like-minded freedom-lovers arranged in the shape of the bitcoin B. It wasn’t even clear that there were enough people who wanted to do that. Koch admitted to Harris that the cabins weren’t selling.

“It was almost like a fantasy, James Bond-ish,” said one cruise industry insider. “But to their credit they believed in it.”The dream was over, they realised, before it had even begun. The project was dead, except it wasn’t quite, as they still owned the ship, which was still steaming across the Atlantic with Koch, Harris and the crew on board. The Satoshi, already thousands of miles into a 5,500-nautical-mile voyage, had travelled too far to be turned around mid-ocean, so on she sailed. They’d have to sell her, the Ocean Builders realised, but who was going to be crazy enough to buy a cruise ship in the middle of a pandemic? Only a company who wanted to tear her apart. On 18 December, while she was still at sea, the team announced the sale of the Satoshi to a scrapyard in Alang, India. The Satoshi was once again destined for dismemberment.

On 19 December, Elwartowski announced on the Viva Vivas website that the Satoshi’s journey was coming to an end. “We have lost this round. The New Normal, Great Reset gains another victim,” he wrote, looping in the collapse of the Satoshi with a popular Covid conspiracy theory that the pandemic and its response had been stage-managed by a global elite. (Over subsequent months, Elwartowski’s activity on Reddit would include other Covid themes, including suspicion of government vaccination programmes.) Romundt emailed their list of potential customers to let them know the ship’s fate. Deposits for cabins would be refunded.

The Satoshi arrived in Balboa, Panama on 22 December. On Christmas Eve, she anchored off the coast of Colon. There, Romundt joined Koch and the crew on the ship. Elwartowski, meanwhile, stayed in Panama City. “He didn’t want to get on board,” said Romundt. Koch spoke to Joe Quirk one evening on the phone while he was sitting in the ship’s cafe drinking a bottle of wine, feeling regretful that the onboard hospital he’d planned to open to medical entrepreneurs would never come to life. Even so, Koch was “utterly unbowed”, reported Quirk in a Seasteading Institute blog post entitled How the Grinch Stole the Cruise Ship.

Romundt, a man more driven by the practical issues at hand than the romantic symbolism of his endeavours, realised that, though the entire plan had fallen apart, he was still the part-owner of a massive cruise ship. He decided to spend Christmas on board, along with the crew. Master key in hand, he wandered around the Satoshi, making sure to enter every room that said Do Not Enter. He toured the engine room, and sat on the sun deck.

He worked, because he can’t help working, even at Christmas, but he also went on all the water slides, alone. (Harris told me he’d turned them on specially for Christmas Day.) Though Romundt doesn’t usually drink, he had a glass of wine and called all his friends saying, “I’m on my own cruise ship for Christmas!” He had the kind of good time it is perhaps only possible to have when you have just made an unbelievably expensive mistake born of a desire to invent an entirely new way of living and involving the purchase of a huge floating vessel. “I was king of the ship!” he said, still delighted.

Even scrapping the Satoshi proved to be a debacle. After a deal had been done with the Indian scrapyard, the Ocean Builders team realised that according to the Basel Convention, which covers the disposal of hazardous waste, they weren’t allowed to send the ship from a signatory country (Panama) to a non-signatory country (India). The contract with the scrapyard had to be cancelled.

All was not completely lost, at least for the Satoshi herself. The cruise ship industry is a compact ecosystem. The grapevine did its thing. A ship broker heard about the plight of the Satoshi, realised it was precisely the kind of ship a new client of his was looking for, and did a quick deal.

The client was Ambassador Cruise Line, the first British cruise company to launch for 10 years. According to Ambassador’s ebullient, red-sweatered chair, Gordon Wilson, the company’s name is intended to reflect the highly optimistic idea that ambassadors, like cruise ships, take the best of their own culture with them wherever they go. The Satoshi would be the first ship in the company’s new fleet, which would offer cruises to the over-50s. Many of the new team at Ambassador had come over from Cruise and Maritime Voyages, who had nearly bought the Satoshi before it went bust in 2020.

As such, they knew the ship well, which sped up the sale. Wilson wouldn’t confirm the amount – “they thought it was a good price” – but the trade press reported that Ocean Builders sold her for $12m, more than they paid for her, though possibly not quite enough to cover the elaborate costs of running an empty cruise ship for three months.

On 23 February 2021, the Satoshi set sail from Panama, heading all the way back across the ocean she’d just crossed. She arrived in Bar, Montenegro on 27 March. Wilson went over to visit her, and, like Romundt, relished the experience of climbing aboard his new asset. Exploring the engine rooms of an empty cruise ship seemed to give these men a particular sensation: perhaps just the buzz of owning something so vast and powerful; a mechanical, proprietary thrill.

The Ocean Builders team, meanwhile, returned to their own private missions. Elwartowski was on sabbatical, Romundt told me. He did not want to talk to me for this story. Koch, who also declined to be interviewed, was building his own boat in Panama, and working with Romundt on the SeaPods. Over Zoom, Romundt gave me a tour of the SeaPod factory, and showed off the hulking sheets of fibreglass that would form the structure’s mould. “It feels like touching a UFO,” he said, stroking his invention.

Seeing the pod’s nascent form, I felt a boringly pragmatic urge to ask Romundt what happened if, once afloat, you needed to buy a pint of milk. My question seemed to miss the point, too wedded to old-fashioned notions of locality and human connection. The Pods had been designed to have a hatch in the roof, Romundt said. He was talking to some drone creators and imagined people flying to their pods independently, landing on the roof and entering through the hatch. Perhaps that’s how you’d get your milk.

At her new home in Montenegro, meanwhile, the Satoshi needed some sprucing up. For the fourth time in her three decades on the water, she had been renamed. “We thought Ambience a lovely name for a ship,” said Wilson, pronouncing it in the French style, Ambi-ence. “This is a very elegant ship,” he added, proudly. “She looks like a cruise liner; she does not look like a floating block of flats.”

When Ambience finally sets sail on her maiden voyage, from the industrial dock of Tilbury across the North Sea to Hamburg in April 2022, she will offer a more traditional experience to her passengers. “Back to what cruising is all about,” said Wilson. The atmosphere will be refined. There will be promenading on deck and plentiful opportunities for photography as the horizon swallows the evening sun. There will be cocktails at the bar, a five-course dinner and a glittery show. It is unlikely bitcoin will be accepted as currency. The water slides will be removed.

By

Source: The disastrous voyage of Satoshi, the world’s first cryptocurrency cruise ship | Cryptocurrencies | The Guardian

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As COVID-19 Lockdowns Lift, Fraudsters Shift Focus

What’s the impact on digital fraud as countries ease COVID-19 lockdown restrictions? We recently analyzed billions of transactions in our flagship identity proofing, risk-based authentication and fraud analytics solution suite — TransUnion TruValidate™ — and found the rate of suspected digital fraud attempts across industries rose 16.5% globally when comparing Q2 2020 and Q2 2021.1 In the US, the percentage of digital fraud attempts increased at a similar rate of 17.1% during the same time period.

As fraud attempts on businesses and consumers continue to rise, fraudsters are pivoting to target industries with growing markets. “It’s quite common for fraudsters to shift focus every few months from one industry to another,” said Shai Cohen, Senior Vice President of Global Fraud Solutions at TransUnion.

For example, when looking at financial services, online fraud attempt rates had risen 149% when comparing the last four months of 2020 to the first four months of 2021. Yet, when comparing Q2 2021 to Q2 2020, the rate of suspected online financial services fraud attempts has risen at a much lower rate of 38.3% in the US (18.8% globally).

Where are fraudsters turning their efforts globally? We found gaming, and travel and leisure rose 393.0% and 155.9%, respectively when comparing the percent of suspected digital fraud in Q2 this year and last. In the US, during the same time periods, these rates rose 261.9% for gaming and 136.6% for travel and leisure.

Global Industry Year-over-Year Suspected Digital Fraud Attempt Rate Increases and Declines in Q2 2021

Industry Suspected fraud percentage change Top type of fraud
Largest percentage increases
Gaming 393.0% Gold farming
Travel & Leisure 155.9% Credit card fraud
Gambling 36.2% Policy/License agreement violations
Largest percentage declines
Logistics -32.74% Shipping fraud
Telecommunications -16.35% True identity theft
Insurance -8.33% Suspected ghost broker

Fraudsters capitalize on new opportunities as travel begins to reopen

While volumes remain lower than pre-pandemic levels, travel has seen a significant increase. The daily US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screenings for many days in April 2020 were below 100,000. However, the busiest day in April 2021 had 1,572,383 screenings, reflecting the growing number of travelers.

Cybercriminals are taking note and acting accordingly. “Fraudsters tend to seek out industries that may be seeing an immense growth in transactions. This quarter, as countries began to open more from their COVID-19 lockdowns, and travel and other leisure activities became more mainstream, fraudsters clearly made this industry a top target,” noted Cohen.

In addition to leveraging credit card fraud (the top type of digital fraud reported to TransUnion by its travel and leisure customers), fraudsters are also quickly adapting to target desperate travelers. Recently, the US State Department temporarily shut down their online booking system for all urgent passport appointments in response to a group of scammers using bots to book all available appointments and sell them for as high as $3,000 to applicants with urgent travel needs.

More than one-third of consumers say they’ve been targeted by COVID-19-related digital fraud

While travel and leisure, and gaming saw the largest increases in suspected digital fraud, 36% of consumers participating in TransUnion’s Consumer Pulse study said they’d been targeted  by a digital fraud scheme related to COVID-19 — across all industries — during Q2 2021.

Phishing was the leading type of COVID-19-related digital fraud impacting consumers in Q2 2021. Stolen credit card or fraudulent charges was the second most cited type of COVID-19-related online fraud, affecting 24% of global consumers.

Suspected Digital Fraud Attempt Rate Increasing Worldwide

For more digital fraud findings, see our entire infographic here.

“One in three people globally have been targeted by or fallen victim to digital fraud during the pandemic, placing even more pressure on businesses to ensure their customers are confident in transacting with them,” said Melissa Gaddis, Senior Director of Customer Success, Global Fraud Solutions at TransUnion. “As fraudsters continue to target consumers, it’s incumbent on businesses to do all that they can to ensure their customers have an appropriate level of security to trust their transaction is safe all while having a friction-right experience to avoid shopping cart abandonment.”

How our TruValidate suite helps businesses detect and prevent fraud

TransUnion Global Fraud Solutions unite consumer and device identities to detect threats across markets while ensuring friction-right user experiences. The solutions, all part of the TransUnion TruValidate™ suite, fuse traditional data science with machine learning to provide businesses unique insights about consumer transactions, safeguarding tens of millions of transactions each day.

Source: As COVID-19 Lockdowns Lift, Fraudsters Shift Focus | TransUnion

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Here’s Why A Standoff Between Oil Producers Is Fueling Surging Gas Prices

Oil Prices Hit Historic High On Weak Dollar

As oil prices spike to a nearly three-year high, a bitter disagreement between international oil producers has shattered hopes for a deal to increase oil production this year—thereby threatening to further hike up rising oil and gas prices as a broad economic reopening looks to ramp up travel demand.

Key Facts

Following two days of fraught discussions last week, the group of oil producers known as OPEC+ called off an afternoon meeting Monday and set no date to meet again, effectively suspending a planned agreement to raise output by 2 million barrels per day from August to December

Two unnamed sources told Reuters the failed negotiations mean the expected production hikes this year will no longer occur.

The price of U.S. oil benchmark West Texas Intermediate—at about $75.31 a barrel—jumped 1.3% Monday after the news and has climbed 5% over the past week’s disagreement, while the price of the United Kingdom’s Brent Crude ticked up 1.1% and 4%, respectively.

The United Arab Emirates, which has invested heavily in its oil production capacity, refused to move forward with the deal because it would also extend oil production cuts through late 2022.

Though the UAE wants to raise its output unconditionally, Saudi Arabian oil producers, who supported the agreement, argued the extended output cuts are necessary to prevent excess oil supply that could tank prices.

The production increase was meant to help curb rising oil prices and buy producers time while they assess the risk of rapidly spreading variants in countries like India once again hurting demand and shuttering economies.

Big Number

60%. That’s how much the price of WTI oil has surged this year alone, while the price of Brent Crude has climbed about 50%.

Tangent

Oil prices crashed last year but recouped all their pandemic losses by March, and they’ve surged roughly 20% higher since. After cutting production by about 10 million barrels per day last year, oil producers are still supplying about 5.8 million fewer barrels per day than before the pandemic. Most recently, OPEC+ in early June agreed to increase oil output by 450,000 barrels per day starting this month.

Key Background

Despite the easing of lockdowns and an accelerating vaccine rollout, producers have been careful to ramp up supply after excess inventories drove prices down to negative territory for the first time in history last spring. That happened after an all-out price war erupted between oil-producing giants Russia and Saudi Arabia in March 2020—just as travel demand began to plummet during the coronavirus outbreak.

Costly-to-maintain storage tanks soon filled up with no buyers, and the price of one American oil futures contract plunged below zero in April 2020. OPEC and its allies agreed to cut production in order to stabilize prices amid the turmoil, but according to the International Energy Agency, those inventories are still being worked off to this day.

Further Reading

OPEC+ resumes oil policy talks amid Saudi-UAE standoff (Reuters)

Oil Producers Agree To Boost Production By 450,000 Barrels Per Day As Travel Picks Up (Forbes)

OPEC Plus Agrees To Ramp Up Production By 500,000 Barrels Per Day Starting January, Ending Bitter Standoff In Bid To Save Oil Prices (Forbes)

Follow me on Twitter. Send me a secure tip.

I’m a reporter at Forbes focusing on markets and finance. I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I double-majored in business journalism and economics while working for UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School as a marketing and communications assistant. Before Forbes, I spent a summer reporting on the L.A. private sector for Los Angeles Business Journal and wrote about publicly traded North Carolina companies for NC Business News Wire. Reach out at jponciano@forbes.com. And follow me on Twitter @Jon_Ponciano

Source: Here’s Why A Standoff Between Oil Producers Is Fueling Surging Gas Prices

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References

The Future of Travel in the Covid-19 Era

1

After being shut down for nearly a year and a half, international travel has started to pick up again, with countries in the Caribbean, Africa, and Europe paving the way. The reopening of borders has been far from straightforward as the world negotiates inequities in Covid-19 containment, vaccine access, and economic recovery. And everything can change in an instant.

For airlines, airports, cruise lines, and hotels, the new normal is increasingly looking like the old normal; While advanced cleaning protocols are (happily) here to stay, social distancing and even mask requirements have started to peel away. A lack of cohesive guidelines from governing authorities mean that protocols are being patched together by individual properties and companies, leaving consumers to wade through fine print and determine what fits their risk thresholds.

If the wealthiest initially set the tone for the future of nonessential travel, the masses are now unleashing a storm of pent-up demand that has caused prices to multiply and availability to evaporate. Compounding those issues are labor shortages in many popular vacation destinations, already slim inventory gobbled up by last year’s cancelations, and a hampered import market that’s making it impossible to get a rental car or wrap up that hotel renovation. Consumers may feel safe traveling again, but it’s going to be a bumpy rebound.

Those of us who remain stuck in place can still daydream. According to the National Institutes of Health, simply planning a trip can spark immeasurable joy—and there’s high hope that the ongoing challenges of availability and border restrictions will iron themselves out by 2022. Getting into an adventurous frame of mind can remind us of the power of travel—not only in the billions of dollars in daily economic activity but also to forge cross-cultural connections and bring us closer to those we love.

By The Numbers

  • $150 million The amount of cash U.S.-based airlines were losing on a daily basis as of March 2021.
  • 1.2 million Average increase of daily travelers passing through TSA checkpoints in June 2021, compared to June 2020. The number still represents roughly a 30% decline from 2019 figures.
  • 67 Percentage of people who would feel confident traveling once vaccinated.

Why It Matters

It’s not just your vacation or business trip that’s on the line. The travel industry customarily accounts for 10% of the global economy, rippling to the remotest corners of the world. Each trip a person takes sets off a domino effect of consumption that directs dollars to airlines, hoteliers, restaurateurs, taxi drivers, artisans, tour guides, and shopkeepers, to name a few. In all, the tourism industry employs 300 million people. Especially in developing countries, these jobs can present pathways out of poverty and opportunities for cultural preservation.

In 2020, the pandemic put a third of all tourism jobs at risk, and airlines around the world said they needed as much as $200 billion in bailouts. By December, the World Tourism Organization had tallied $935 billion in global losses from the tourism standstill, and was estimating that the ripple effects would result in a total economic decline exceeding $2 trillion. Even with international tourism now cautiously reopening, the organization expects that the world will not return to 2019 tourism levels until 2023.

According to data from the World Travel and Tourism Council, every 1% increase in international arrivals adds $7.23 billion to the world’s cumulative gross domestic product. Any improvement in this sector is significant—and it’s just beginning.

Americans, who have easy access to vaccines and command an overwhelming share of the international travel market, are back on the road; two-thirds intend to take a trip in 2021. In the U.S., flight capacity has climbed back to 84% of 2019 levels. The questions are what it will take for the rest of the world to catch up and how the industry must evolve to be flexible at handling future Covid-19 variants so travelers will feel safe and willing to spend.

Grounded for many months, airlines are beefing up their summer schedules—though the number of flights will be a fraction of their pre-pandemic frequency. Airports are still mostly ghost towns (some have even been taken over by wildlife), and international long-distance travel is all but dead. Around the globe, the collapse of the tourist economy has bankrupted hotels, restaurants, bus operators, and car rental agencies—and thrown an estimated 100 million people out of work.

With uncertainty and fear hanging over traveling, no one knows how quickly tourism and business travel will recover, whether we will still fly as much, and what the travel experience will look like once new health security measures are in place. One thing is certain: Until then, there will be many more canceled vacations, business trips, weekend getaways, and family reunions.

Travel will normalize more quickly in safe zones that coped well with COVID-19, such as between South Korea and China, or between Germany and Greece. But in poorer developing countries struggling to manage the pandemic, such as India or Indonesia, any recovery will be painfully slow.

All this will change the structure of future global travel. Many will opt not to move around at all, especially the elderly. Tourists who experiment with new locations in their safe zones or home countries will stick to new habits. Countries with strong pandemic records will deploy them as tourism marketing strategies—discover Taiwan! Much the same will be true for business, where ease of travel and a new sense of common destiny within each safe zone will restructure investment along epidemiological lines.

With the support of IATA and others, the International Civil Aviation Organization developed a global restart plan to keep people safe when traveling. Restart measures will be bearable for those who need to travel, with universal implementation the priority. It will give governments and travelers the confidence that the system has strong biosafety protections. And it should give regulators the confidence to remove or adjust measures in real time as risk levels change and technology advances.

Contributors: Nikki Ekstein

Source: The Future of Travel in the Covid-19 Era – Bloomberg

.

Critics:

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the tourism industry due to the resulting travel restrictions as well as slump in demand among travelers. The tourism industry has been massively affected by the spread of coronavirus, as many countries have introduced travel restrictions in an attempt to contain its spread. The United Nations World Tourism Organization estimated that global international tourist arrivals might decrease by 58% to 78% in 2020, leading to a potential loss of US$0.9–1.2 trillion in international tourism receipts.

In many of the world’s cities, planned travel went down by 80–90%.Conflicting and unilateral travel restrictions occurred regionally and many tourist attractions around the world, such as museums, amusement parks, and sports venues closed. UNWTO reported a 65% drop in international tourist arrivals in the first six months of 2020. Air passenger travel showed a similar decline. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development released a report in June 2021 stating that the global economy could lose over US$4 trillion as a result of the pandemic.

References

Richard Branson Plans To Get To Space Before Jeff Bezos

US-ECONOMY-NYSE-VIRGIN

The “billionaire space race” just got a bit more literal Thursday, as Virgin Galactic announced that it would be opening up the flight window for its first fully crewed mission to space on July 11, and that one of its first passengers would be Richard Branson. That’s 9 days prior to Jeff Bezos’ planned launch on July 20 on a capsule from his company Blue Origin.

If everything goes as planned, Branson wouldn’t be the first billionaire to go to space, but he would be the first to go on his own company’s spacecraft. Shares of Virgin Galactic stock soared in after-hours trading, up to over $51 at the time of publication. The stock had closed down at $43.19 on Thursday.

The “Unity 22” mission, as the company has dubbed it, is part of a series of test flights Virgin Galactic is conducting before it opens up its space tourism business to paying customers. The mission’s goal, the company says, is to accomplish several things: first, to evaluate the customer experience, including the periods of weightlessness and views of Earth. Second will be to test aspects of conducting research experiments, another revenue stream for the space. Third is to ensure that the company’s training program adequately prepares customers for the experience.

Joining Branson on the flight are Beth Moses, Virgin’s chief astronaut instructor; Colin Bennett, the company’s lead operations engineer; and Sirisha Bandla, the company’s VP of researcher operations, who will be conducting a science experiment for the University of Florida.

Virgin Galactic was founded by Branson in 2005, and began publicly trading on the New York Stock Exchange in 2019. If July’s flight is successful, the company plans two more test flights evaluating other aspects of the experience before beginning commercial service in 2022.

“It’s one thing to have a dream of making space more accessible to all; it’s another for an incredible team to collectively turn that dream into reality,” Branson said in a statement. “As part of a remarkable crew of mission specialists, I’m honoured to help validate the journey our future astronauts will undertake and ensure we deliver the unique customer experience people expect from Virgin.”

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website. Send me a secure tip.

I’m a senior editor at Forbes covering healthcare, science, and cutting edge technology.

Source: Richard Branson Plans To Get To Space Before Jeff Bezos

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Critics:

Virgin Galactic is not the only corporation pursuing suborbital spacecraft for tourism. Blue Origin is developing suborbital flights with its New Shepard spacecraft. Although initially more secretive about its plans, Jeff Bezos has said the company is developing a spacecraft that would take off and land vertically and carry three or more astronauts to the edge of space.

New Shepard has flown above the Karman line and landed in 2015 and the same vehicle was reflown to above the Karman line again in 2016. In April 2021, they completed their fifteenth test flight, with the next mission, NS 16, aiming to carry a crew as early as 20 July 2021.

On 16 September 2014, SpaceX and Boeing were awarded contracts as part of NASA’s CCtCap program to develop their Crew Dragon and CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, respectively. Both are capsule designs to bring crew to orbit, a different commercial market than that addressed by Virgin Galactic.

Now-defunct XCOR Aerospace had also worked on rocket-powered aircraft during many of the years that Virgin Galactic had; XCOR’s Lynx suborbital vehicle was under development for more than a decade, and its predecessor, the XCOR EZ-Rocket experimental rocket powered airplane did actually take flight, but the company closed its doors in 2017.

See also

 

Canada Launches C$2,000 Mandatory Hotel Quarantine For All Arrivals

Countries are responding to the threat of new variants of Covid-19 in different ways, but many are introducing the idea of mandatory quarantine in government-designated hotels to ensure that restrictions are met.

Canada is the latest to do so, with prime minister Justin Trudeau announcing Friday that all arrivals into the country would be affected.

Speaking outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Friday, Trudeau announced that starting next week, all international passenger flights must land at the following four airports: Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary and Montreal.

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Mandatory PCR testing (using a nasal swab) will be introduced at these four Canadian airports for people returning to Canada–this is in addition to the pre-boarding tests that travelers are required to take before they can fly.

Trudeau said, “travelers will then have to wait for up to three days at an approved hotel for their test results, at their own expense, which is expected to be more than $2,000 (US$1,500).”

The government believes this will discourage people from traveling or taking a holiday when they know they must pay for a hotel stay in quarantine upon their return. MORE FOR YOU Why Huawei’s New Update Is Seriously Bad News For Android UsersWhatsApp Users Suddenly Get This Surprise New Boost From FacebookHuawei’s Striking New Billion-Dollar Gamble Targets Apple, Google (And Tesla)

Trudeau added (quoted in The Guardian) that “those with negative test results will then be able to quarantine at home under significantly increased surveillance and enforcement.”

Dr Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer said that the high cost was due to the fact that these facilities had to provide prevention control measures, food, security and PCR testing. She also added that returning passengers had to also take another PCR test ten days after arrival.

Trudeau is also reinforcing measures at Canada’s land borders. “We will also, in the coming weeks,” Trudeau said, “be requiring nonessential travelers to show a negative test before entry at the land border with the US, and we are working to stand up additional testing requirements for land travel.”

The government said that all main carriers have agreed to suspend flights to Mexico and Caribbean destinations until 30 April.

Alex Ledsom

By: Alex Ledsom

I have lived in Provence ever since I exchanged my London city life for the south of France. I have a background in research, business and finance.

.

Global News

As travel measures begin to take effect starting Sunday to discourage non-essential travel out of Canada, people are rushing to book flights to try and return home. But as the country is set to implement a mandatory three-day quarantine at a hotel at the expense of returning travellers, it has people worried they could be left with a costly bill. Mike Drolet reports. For more info, please go to https://globalnews.ca/news/7590341/co…​ Subscribe to Global News Channel HERE: http://bit.ly/20fcXDc​ Like Global News on Facebook HERE: http://bit.ly/255GMJQ​ Follow Global News on Twitter HERE: http://bit.ly/1Toz8mt​ Follow Global News on Instagram HERE: https://bit.ly/2QZaZIB#GlobalNews#COVID19#coronavirus

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Bucket List Travel: Top 10 Places In The World And Top 29 In The U.S.

Do you have a travel bucket list? These days, more people are dreaming about travel than actually traveling. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t keep adding places to your travel bucket list. Lonely Planet has just released its second “Ultimate Travel List,” which ranks what its editors describe as the world’s top 500 “most thrilling, memorable downright interesting places on this planet.” Let’s just say that it’s a bucket list to end all bucket lists.

In order to determine the best places around the world, Lonely Planet created a comprehensive list featuring each attraction and sight recommended by its authors in its guidebooks over the years. That was then whittled down to a shortlist, and everyone in the Lonely Planet community was then asked to vote on their top 20. Each entry ended up with a score that was used to create the definitive ranking of the world’s top 500 places, which has been released both online and as a book.

According to Piers Pickard, VP of publishing, Lonely Planet changed the way it calculated its travel bucket list in 2020 (the last Ultimate Travel List came out in 2015). “For this edition, we awarded extra points to destinations and attractions that are managing tourism sustainably,” says Pickard.

Recommended For You

Perfect for a moment when people are craving the outdoors more than ever, this year’s list included a number of natural locations. Nine U.S. national parks make the cut, with three in the top 20 overall list, including Yellowstone National Park (#5), Grand Canyon National Park (#13) and Yosemite National Park (#20).

U.S. cultural and art institutions were also featured, with notable entries such as The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. (#105 overall) and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum (#418 overall) ranking among the world’s best places to travel.

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READ MORE: “Revealed: The 11 Most Endangered Places In America”

And the timing really couldn’t be better. “After seven months of staying at home, now’s the perfect time to start thinking about where and how to travel once normality returns,” says Pickard.

Read on for Lonely Planet’s ranking of the top 10 places around the world, followed by the top 29 places in the United States. 

Note: Should you decide to plan a trip anywhere during the coronavirus pandemic, you should check local travel restrictions for the destination you are hoping to visit and consider warnings from the State Department and CDC. Travelers should also consider risk factors like age and existing health issues before going on a trip and take precautions to keep themselves and others safe.

Galapagos Sea Lion lonely plane travel list bucket list travel
Sea lions on the beach in the Galapagos, which was ranked as the second-best place in the world on … [+] getty

Ranked: Top 10 Places Around the World

  1. Petra, Jordan: The red sandstone “lost city” that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  2. The Galápagos Islands, Ecuador: Destination that changed the course of science and is home to some of the rarest animals on the planet, from ancient tortoises to blue-footed boobies.
  3. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia: Down Under’s most sacred landmark (also known as Ayer’s Rock).
  4. Okavango Delta, Botswana: A sprawling flooded ecosystem in Africa where you can experience the best of slow travel.
  5. Yellowstone National Park, United States: The world’s largest geothermal area; home to geysers and grizzlies.
  6. Lake Bled, Slovenia: A photogenic lake that has been visited over the years by religious pilgrims and royalty.
  7. Iguazú Falls, Argentina/Brazil: A powerful waterfall that is actually made up of 275 waterfalls.
  8. Temples of Angkor, Cambodia: A sprawling series of temples in the jungle that Lonely Planet calls “a monument to human ingenuity.”
  9. Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia: The world’s biggest salt flat, which becomes a giant mirrored illusion after it rains.
  10. Annapurna Circuit, Nepal: The ultimate trek to picturesque teahouses and high-altitude overlooks.
Grand Prismatic Geyser Yellowstone National Park top ranked United States
Grand Prismatic Geyser in Yellowstone National Park, the top ranked-destination in the United … [+] getty

Ranked: Top 29 Places in the U.S.

  1. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming/Montana/Idaho (#5 on the overall list)
  2. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona (#13 overall)
  3. Yosemite National Park, California (#20 overall)
  4. Redwood National and State Parks, California (#49 overall)
  5. Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco (#60 overall)
  6. Monument Valley, Arizona (#64 overall)
  7. Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii (#75 overall)
  8. National Museum of African American History & Culture, Washington D.C. (#105 overall)
  9. Denali, Alaska (#121 overall)
  10. French Quarter, New Orleans, (#138 overall)
  11. Death Valley, California (#149 overall)
  12. Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Orlando (#188 overall)
  13. Empire State Building, New York City (#200 overall)
  14. Mesa Verde, Colorado (#220 overall)
  15. Taos Pueblo, New Mexico (#233 overall)
  16. The Strip, Las Vegas (#236 overall)
  17. The National Mall, Washington D.C. (#287 overall)
  18. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City (#295 overall)
  19. National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum, New York City (#316 overall)
  20. Pike Place, Seattle (#343 overall)
  21. Independence National Historic Park, Philadelphia (#376 overall)
  22. Statue of Liberty & Staten Island, New York (#387 overall)
  23. Acadia National Park, Maine (#393 overall)
  24. Art Institute of Chicago (#407 overall)
  25. Walt Disney World, Orlando (#410 overall)
  26. Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, Jackson (#418 overall)
  27. Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles (#420 overall)
  28. Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts (#430 overall)
  29. Everglades, Florida (#481 overall)

READ MORE:

• “TikTok Famous Flight Attendant Reveals 13 Airline And Hotel Hacks You Need To Know”

• “50 Best Trips For Solo Female Travel (And Why Now Is The Time To Go)”

•  “Escape From America: 5 Cheapest Places To Move If You Want To Leave The U.S.”

• “Want To Escape From America? 12 Countries Where You Can Buy Citizenship (And A Second Passport)” Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website

Laura Begley Bloom

Laura Begley Bloom

I’m a travel and lifestyle authority and a content strategist who works with brands to create powerful storytelling. In this column, “Transformative Travel,” I look at how travel can change women’s lives. I profile the doers and the disrupters and cover the trends and the destinations that appeal to women today. I have been writing about travel since the early days of my career, when I started off as a honeymoon editor, even though — ironically — I was single at the time. Since then, I have written for a number of publications, including Food & Wine, Wallpaper and The New York Times. I have been the editor-in-chief of Yahoo Travel, which was named the top online travel magazine under my leadership. Before that, I was deputy editor of Travel & Leisure. Throughout my career, I have appeared regularly on television, including Good Morning America and NBC Today. Journalism is part of my heritage: My great great grandfather was a Civil War correspondent for the Chicago Tribune. Follow me on Twitter (@laurabegley) and Instagram (@laurabegleybloom).

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New Europe Travel Bans: Covid Red Lists, Here’s What To Know

As Covid creeps up again across Europe, many countries are reimposing travel restrictions on neighbours.

As this happens, the map of Europe is being color-coded red, green and yellow.

Travelers on high-risk red lists are being shut out, either with total travel bans or quarantines. Those on green lists meantime have a green light to travel.

But n a sign of the times, Norway for example no longer ranks any zones as green in Europe or beyond.

Hungary First In EU To Reinstate Blanket Ban Foreigners

Police control EU travelers at Hungarian borders as Hungary closes to foreigners Covid
Police officers control car drivers at the Hungarian-Slovakian border on September 3, after Hungary … [+] AFP via Getty Images

The most spectacular and controversial return to shutdown EU borders came with Hungary’s decision to add all countries to its red list from September 1.

Barely two months after reopening to Schengen travelers, it’s defying the bloc’s recommendations on internal borders and travel freedoms. The measures will stay in place at least until October 1. Recommended For You

Green Lists Shrinking, Red Growing

Links to government restrictions are included in the country headings. See useful details on the Reopen Europe website too.

PROMOTED

BELGIUM

Man at Brussels airport in Belgium with mask as Covid Travel Bans return to Europe
“Travelling within Europe: pay attention to the colour code of your destination,” urges the Belgium … [+] AFP via Getty Images

Belgium in early August added many parts of Romania, France and Spain to its red list. That means a total ban on non-essential travel to those places. Travelers returning must both quarantine and test on return.

  • The current red list includes Andorra, Croatia, Denmark, Hungary, Romania, many parts of Spain and France, and Scotland’s Aberdeen.

CYPRUS

  • Countries are divided in 3 categories: A (no restrictions), B (some), and C (no entry other than for citizens/residents).
  • Banned C list countries include France, Luxembourg, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro.
  • Germany, Norway, Hungary and Slovenia are among the A listers.
  • B countries must show a Covid-19 test result taken within 72 hours. They include Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.K.

CZECH REPUBLIC

Czech Republics Green Red covid risk zones and destinations for travel in Europe
The same quarantine rule applies to Czech citizens returning from the red countries Czech Republic Ministry of Health

DENMARK

Denmarks yellow blue green Covid map Europe for travel bans
The Danish government’s health map of the EU, Schengen zone and the U.K. indicates “open” and … [+] Danish Police/Statens Serum Institut

FINLAND

Finland covid travel restrictions green red yellow lists for Europeans and others
Residents from mixed red-green countries face no travel restrictions either to Finland. They include … [+] Finnish Border Guard

Finland too has a red, green, yellow system, updated on August 24.

  • Italy, Hungary and Slovenia are currently among the handful of welcome green countries.
  • Most other EU/Schengen countries and the U.K. fall on the yellow list, allowing onlyessential travelers including workers to visit.
  • Family members, parents, siblings, spouses and couples are among the exceptions.

HUNGARY

A boy on scooter looks on as Hungarian police officers control drivers at border Europe
Exemptions from Hungary’s wide-reaching new travel restrictions include freight transport, … [+] AFP via Getty Images
  • Almost all foreign tourists are now on Hungary’s Red List for a month.
  • The government advises its citizens against travel to some 40 red list countries in Europe and overseas.
  • Those who do must self-quarantine for 14 days, or until they can show two negative tests taken with a two day interval.
  • Exemptions include transit passengers and Visgrad Group travelers (Poland, Czechia, Slovakia) with a negative Covid test taken within five days.

IRELAND

Men in masks by holiday advertisement Ireland no non-essential overseas travel Europe
Ireland has a Green List for travel, and a not green list, which it doesn’t officially call a red … [+] PA Images via Getty Images
  • The Green List just shrunk, even for Europeans. As of August 31, “normal precautions” and a green “security status rating” says the government, applies only to Estonia, Finland, Greece, Greenland, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Slovakia.
  • With the EU Covid seesaw, this could change at any time. The list is constantly under review.

LATVIA

Latvias red list was super-sized in past days.

  • The list from the Latvian Centre for Disease Prevention and Controlshows red and yellow countries, with infections above the required threshold of 25 cases per 100,000.
  • Some 25 European red list countries include Austria, Belgium, France, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. They are classified as a “Serious threat to public health”.
  • Even those who transit these countries must quarantine on return. The state “discourages” travel to those places.

LITHUANIA

Map of red list countries in Europe EU and world travel bans restrictions in Lithuania
A map of “red painted” countries shows on Lithuania’s KORONA STOP government website shows how the … [+] Lithuanian Government
  • The red list of countries grew on August 31, with travelers from Belarus, Italy, Slovenia and Slovakia now also facing mandatory self-isolation on arrival.
  • Norway, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland, Hungary and Latvia are the only EU/Schengen countries on the green list, due to less than 16 cases/100,000 in the last 14 days. face no quarantine requirement.

NETHERLANDS

Travelers with face masks at the Schiphol airport in the Netherlands Europe during Covid
Given red and green lists are based on relative Covid risk levels, countries rated Yellow for travel … [+] SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Dutch government zones countries for Covid as Yellow (OK) and Orange (not ok, quarantine required). “Foreign travellers from countries where the health risks are similar to or lower than in the Netherlands can enter for tourism,” it says.

  • Andorra, Bulgaria, Croatia, Malta, Romania , Spain, Monaco and various departments in France are on the orange list.

NORWAY

Norwegian Health map of EU Europe Covid red green yellow countries
The Norwegian Institute Of Public Health map shows there are no longer any green, totally safe Covid … [+] Norwegian Institute Of Public Health

Norway has a red, green, yellow Covid map. Currently no country is marked as a restriction-free green zone. Many more Europeans were added to the “high transmission” risk red list on August 29.

  • Red List: 10-day quarantine for travelers from France, Switzerland and Sweden since August 11. Now applies to most EU/Schengen arrivals–from Portugal to Poland–and to the U.K. The few exceptions include Hungary, Slovakia, Italy and Norway.
  • Yellow list countries are exempt from quarantine, but the Norwegian Institute of Public Health still classifies them as “increased risk”.
  • The government currently advises against all overseas travel.
Norwegian people sit by lake in Oslo amid Covid EU  travel bans no travel in Europe
With Norway adding nearly all EU and Schengen countries to its red list – some 20 in all – … [+] AFP via Getty Images

SLOVENIA

Slovenia too has a color-coded system with green, yellow and red lists.

  • Those in the green category like Canada and Australia can enter restriction-free.
  • Red list countries with more than 40 Covid cases per 100,000 must quarantine for 14 days.
  • The yellow list applies mostly to EU/Schengen citizens, who face no quarantine–provided they are not coming from a red destination.
Temperature control for Covid in Slovenia amid new Europe virus wave and travel bans
Slovenia’s updated red list includes several Europeans – Albania, Andorra, Belgium, Croatia, … [+] AFP via Getty Images

U.K.

The U.K. red list comes in the form of quarantine for a growing number of countries. The Czech Republic and Switzerland are among the latest Europeans to join others like France, Croatia and Austria who no longer enjoy a quarantine-free travel corridor with England.

Showing the nation’s quarantine policy disarray, Scotlandand Wales are imposing quarantine on Greece and Portugal–both of which remain on England and Ireland’s corridor lists.

Further Reading: More Covid Tests, No Travel Bans: EU Urges Europe To Make Common Rules

empty tables on Greek island amid Covid resurgence and new wave of travel bans EU Europe
The empty tables on Meis Island in Greece say it all about the new wave of Covid travel bans and … [+] Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website

You can follow me on Instagram and connect via my webpage too

Tamara Thiessen

Tamara Thiessen

I have three decades of experience as a journalist, foreign correspondent and travel writer-photographer. Working for print, digital and radio outlets on four continents, I am also a veteran hotel industry reporter and author of travel guides and cultural histories to Australia, France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Borneo. Very often on the road between my Paris and Australian bases, I write for Forbes with a globetrotters perspective and newsy edge on travel, culture, hotels, art and architecture. My passion is capturing the distinctive people, places and events I encounter along the way, both in words and pictures. I hold a degree in Professional Writing from Canberra University, an MA in European Journalism from the Université Robert Schuman Strasbourg, and am a member of the Society of American Travel Writers. A love for my wild home-island of Tasmania fuels my commitment to sustainable travel and conservation.

Can the Reemergence of European Travel Save Us From The Worst of the Recession?

Europe is on the verge of an economic crisis that hasn’t been seen for almost a century if forecasts from the EU’s Commission prove correct. 

The anticipated decline of economic activity looks set to reach 7.5 percent due to the widespread chaos caused by COVID-19. Figures are set to fall further should the second wave of infections occur before the pandemic subsides. 

Commissioner for the Economy, Paolo Gentiloni, called the coming recession “a shock without precedent since the Great Depression”.

However, The arrival of news that the reemergence of international travel could resume by as early as July 1st, sent European stocks rebounding by as much as 7 percent. Elsewhere, shares in TUI rose by as much as 35 percent, while British Airways’ owners jumped 20 percent. 

As a continent that’s built on a vibrant travel and tourism industry, could the reopening of borders help to save Europe from the worst of the inevitable global recession? 

Quantifying the value of European tourism.

Europe is the continent that gains the most money from tourism across the world. With over 600 million tourists that were initially forecast to arrive on the continent in 2020, it’s perhaps no surprise that Spain’s foreign minister is battling to achieve a common EU policy on cross-border movement as the summer months arrive. 

Spain has announced that tourists arriving from July 1st will be free to enjoy the country without facing enforced quarantine measures. Despite being something of a risky move considering the voracity of COVID-19 and the devastation it’s caused in the national capital of Madrid, Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez has announced his desire that Spain opens reciprocal “safe corridors” between European countries that minimise the risk of Coronavirus flare-ups. 

In 2019, tourism brought over EUR 9.4 billion to Spain – amounting to over 12 percent of the nation’s GDP. The importance of establishing an avenue for tourists to enjoy the country during the peak summer months of 2020 could be significant in saving the domestic economy from turmoil and providing a platform to grow from. 

The announcement that Spain was planning to salvage its lucrative tourism season was leapt upon by global airlines, with Ryanair announcing that it was intending to run flights at up to 40 percent of its usual schedule in order to transport tourists to Spain and other European destinations. 

Could a galvanised tourism industry bring European investment opportunities?

The reemergence of tourism in Europe, if successful, could bring levels of investment opportunities that had seemed long dead and buried during the height of the COVID-19 crisis. 

Global work-from-home schemes and furlough initiatives have left a significant number of employees worldwide with an income that they’ve been unable to spend in social scenarios. While it’s reasonable to expect some citizens to be cautious about flying in confined spaces following months of lockdowns, it’s fair to expect huge volumes of tourism should their safety be guaranteed. https://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

Growing confidence in European tourism has led to a 24 percent boost to the share price of Melia Hotels, Spain’s largest hotel operator, while International Consolidated Airlines Group, the parent company of Iberia Air and Vueling saw price increases of 10 percent. 

To assess the respective value of European tourism markets and whether they’re likely to yield respectable returns, it’s important to come to terms with the risks associated

While a vibrant return to tourism would benefit European markets ahead of other continents, it’s important to remember the severity of Coronavirus in its spread across the popular summer tourism destinations and cities. With Spain, Italy and the UK collectively suffering from the worst of outbreaks, a dash to accommodate tourism represents a huge risk that may never be taken. 

The coming months will likely see further market optimism as more European nations declare their intentions for reviving their tourism industry in some form, ready for the hugely lucrative summer months, and investors could benefit from healthy returns should hotels and airlines successfully begin to accommodate guests from July onwards. 

Could tourism save Europe from a deep recession?

It’s clear that the coming months and years will send Europe into a recession of unprecedented proportions, with much of the world following suit. The full scale of devastation will be dictated by consumer spending and governmental initiatives to stage a recovery. 

Nations have turned their attentions towards opening their respective doors in time for the peak tourism season. If consumers are confident enough in their safety, and there are no further outbreaks, the spending of money on summer holidays will be a significant help in softening the initial impact of significant losses in productivity across the continent. https://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

The loss of tourism across Europe in the summer of 2020 will be a huge blow to the wealth of a continent that largely hinges on welcoming huge numbers of visitors from around the world. While it’s clear that a vibrant peak holidaying season won’t prevent a significant recession, it will go some way in boosting the GDP of hard-hit countries and restore investor confidence in an industry that was reportedly facing widespread cutbacks owing to months of inactivity due to lockdown measures. 

The future is undoubtedly difficult for a lot of international markets, and talks of a return to tourism could be dangerously premature, but ultimately travel could help to cushion the impact of an unprecedented economic downturn.

Dmytro Spilka

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer CEO and Founder of Solvid and Pridicto

How Travelers Are Beating Tough Flight Restrictions Eight Month Into the Pandemic

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Travel curbs and border restrictions are upending lives around the globe, with some people resorting to chartering planes on their own or paying many times the regular ticket price to get back to their jobs and homes.

Eight months into the pandemic, the push to normalize is seeing some try to travel internationally again, whether for a long-delayed but essential business trip or to return to where they live. Yet with global coronavirus cases surpassing 18 million and rising, airlines are only reluctantly adding flights to their bare-bones schedules, and virus resurgences have some countries imposing new travel rules.

The flight paralysis underscores how deep and lasting the pandemic’s damage is proving to be. The number of international flights to the U.S., Australia and Japan has fallen more than 80% from a year ago, while flights to China are down by more than 94%, according to aviation industry database Cirium.

Travelers have to be creative just to get on a plane. Support groups have sprung up on Facebook and Wechat for those who have been stuck thousands of miles from their jobs, homes and families. Unable to get tickets, some are attempting to organize private chartered flights, while travel agents say they’re having to bribe airlines for limited seats. Others are shelling out for business or first-class tickets, only to be turned away for lack of the right documentation.

“So many people with families are separated, it’s so heart-breaking,” said Ariel Lee, a mother in Shanghai who administers a few Wechat groups of 1,650 members in total trying to get into China. “The toughest part is there are no clear guidelines and there’s no end date to this.”

The hopeful talk of travel corridors and a summer recovery have faded away among airline industry experts, replaced by a consensus that global travel will not effectively re-start before a vaccine is found.

“We are not going to see a material recovery for international travel in the near future,” said Steven Kwok, associate partner of OC&C Strategy Consultants Ltd. “The pandemic also brings about a consequential impact beyond the virus outbreak –- it is causing a slowdown in the global economy, which will hurt travel appetite for a longer term.”

Higher prices

Chris Wells had been stuck in his hometown in Texas for half a year, eagerly looking to return to Guangzhou, a city in southern China where he’s been living and working for more than a decade. International travel to China has been severely limited by the government to stem imported infections, and any seats on flights are snatched up almost instantly.

Wells, 41, a manager in an international sourcing company, searched and searched for a ticket. The only one he could find: an $8,800 one-way, first-class flight from Chicago to Shanghai, via Zurich.

“It was the only seat available,” he said. “I’d normally never pay that much for a ticket, but I was desperate to get back so I grabbed the seat when I found it.”

Cherry Lin, a Shanghai-based travel agent, said her company is having to pay kickbacks to airlines — more than 10,000 yuan ($1,438) per seat — to get tickets on popular routes like those departing from the U.S. and U.K. that they can then sell to customers.

The flight or passenger cap set by many countries largely limits seats, pushing fares up — a ticket for a direct flight from London to Shanghai is currently going for about $5,000, said Lin, but those are quickly purchased.

Additional seats are likely to pop up this month as more airlines resume flights, “but still not enough that everyone can easily buy online,” she said.

Changing rules

Jessica Cutrera, 44, an American who has lived in Hong Kong for more than a decade, was looking to return to the Asian financial center last month when the city suddenly required a negative virus test for passengers coming from high-risk countries including the U.S. She had to show results from a test taken within 72 hours before boarding and fulfill a requirement that travelers present a letter — signed by a government official — verifying that the lab is accredited.

Getting test results within 72 hours was hard enough given that testing is so backed up in the U.S that results usually aren’t available before a week. Then there was the required letter. “I called everybody I could find,” she said. “Most offices and agencies said no, it didn’t make sense to them to sign such a letter.”

Eventually, someone in California agreed to sign. So Cutrera flew from Louisville, Kentucky, to Chicago, and then to Los Angeles, where she had the test done. A few days later, she was allowed to board her flight to Hong Kong, while others trying to get on the same plane were turned away as they didn’t have the proper paperwork.

Cutrera is proving to be one of the lucky ones, as many continue to be in limbo.

Lucy Parakhina, a 33-year-old Australian photographer, had decided to stay in London, where she has lived for two years.

But in June, she started to plan a return trip when her U.K. work visa expired. Though she managed to buy a one-way ticket from London to Sydney for less than 700 pounds ($922) with Qatar Airways, she was bumped from her flight and told it was postponed.

She already left her job in London and gave up her apartment, and won’t have income to stay in the U.K. beyond September. But with a virus resurgence in Australia showing no signs of ebbing and international flights down by 92% to the country, she’s likely stuck for a while.

“Now the only thing I can do is to wait for the easing policies and my flight to depart as planned,” she said.

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