DJ Stephen on stage during an Ubersoca Cruise event (FILE)

The organisers of the Ubersoca Cruise (USC) are promising to respond to passengers’ concerns in the near future. Responding to queries from Loop earlier this week regarding the mounting calls for refunds for this year’s cruises, a spokesperson from USC said: “Ubersoca Cruise is aware of our guests’ concerns and questions. We are actively working on a solution and will respond directly to our passengers in the very near future. Due to confidentiality restrictions we are not at liberty to discuss these matters in public forums.” USC, which is scheduled to take place in November aboard a Royal Caribbean ship, has been under pressure to refund passengers who no longer want to attend the popular soca cruise due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Across USC’s social media, passengers who paid their deposithave been trying to sell cabins and there is even a public petition demanding full refunds to passengers with just over 1,900 signatures. “As paying customers, we demand that UberSoca Cruise put the people they call “family” first over profits. While we often say SOCA TIL WE DIE, we do not mean that we are willing to literally risk our lives for a few vacation days in support of or in furtherance of the Cruise Experience. It is impossible for UberSoca Cruise to deliver the Cruise Experience we all expect with the energy and excitement of a Caribbean Carnival with the new world of social distancing. WE ARE DEMANDING A FULL REFUND NOW!” the petition says. In a letter issued to potential guestson May 19, Nathaniel Turner, CEO and Founder of USC, said they have been actively working in the background to assist those who are experiencing challenges as a result of COVID-19. “We have already found solutions for a number of guests and, in some cases, have agreed to defer payments for those experiencing financial hardship. This is in addition to our offer to waive late fees, name change fees and lower monthly payments which will continue until further notice,” he said. He directed those who are experiencing financial hardship and wish to avail yourself of these and other relief measures, to contact their Support Team directly. While noting that USC will not sail until it is safe to do so, he said they will await further guidance from the CDC/Royal Caribbean (RCL) on what additional safety/security protocols will be implemented on future sailings. “We wish to emphasise that RCL has not made any changes to their November sailings and thereforeUSC 2020 is due to sail as scheduled on Nov 9-14 and Nov 14-19, 2020. Our team meets regularly with RCL and continues to discuss the new protocols necessary to prevent, detect, contain and respond to Covid-19 on future voyages. Should RCL decide to adjust our itinerary or reschedule the cruise we will let you know. In the interim, we must honour our financial obligations to RCLand continue to work with themline to ensure all necessary public health procedures are in place when cruise lines gradually resume sailing over the summer.” Billed as the largest soca festival at sea, Ubersoca comprises twoback to back cruises that dockat a different destination each year for a massive J'ouvert party. This year, the cruise is scheduled to go toBelize.

Bounty Killer (l) and Beenie Man and their designated disc jocks Richie D and Kurt Riley (centre) observe the National Anthem ahead of the Verzuz battle.

Upwards of 480k viewers tuned in to watch the ultimate dancehall showdown on Instagram Live on Saturday. By Loop Lifestyle calculations, Beenie Man won the clash, but who's checking? It was a win for Jamaica, a win for the Caribbean, and a win for the culture. Seehighlights here via the Verzuz IG page View this post on Instagram EPIC NIGHT 🇯🇲🔥🇯🇲🔥 @grunggaadzilla vs @kingbeenieman the culture won! Drop a comment with your favorite moments 🔥🔥🔥 🎥 @artokoro A post shared by Verzuz (@verzuztv) on May 24, 2020 at 11:56am PDT Verzuz, created by producer/musicians Timbaland and Swizz Beatz, is a platform that celebrates artists, legendary songwriters and producers. With virtual competitions reminiscent of clash culture drawing over 750k viewers, the battles not only celebrate the participants, but gives fans insight into some of the most influential songs in music. Loop Lifestyle is still on a high from all the things we gleaned on Saturday, we decided to do a throwback sprinkled with facts. 1 Verzuz organisers copped the Webbys From Home Award recently. The “Crush The Internet” Special Achievement Award was presented by Jill Scott mere days before the ultimate Beenie/Bounty sound clash. 2 Beenie Man introduced his daughter Deshagaye Davis also known as Desha Ravers, a member of the popular Ravers Clavers dance crew. She is as many Jamaicans would say, “a big international dancer”. Get to know here by following her here. 3 Disc jocks Richie D and Kurt Riley assisted the clash. View this post on Instagram #WeWon 🇯🇲 #TeamJamaica Blessed to stand with you Generals @djkurtriley @grunggaadzilla @kingbeenieman A post shared by RICHIE "D" Music (@richiedmusic) on May 24, 2020 at 2:31pm PDT 4 Celebrities and top entertainers from the likes of Busta Rhymes, footballer Daniel Sturridge, Jamaican-blooded models Winnie Harlow and Jourdan Dunn, Sean Paul, Fat Joe, Chris Gayle, R&B Singer/songwriter Johntá Austin – who participated in a Verzuz battle recently with Ne-Yo – and our beloved Bajan queen Rihanna tuned in to watch the showdown. 5 Swizz Beats was overcome with emotions, a day later he revealed that he cried upon realising the impact of the Beenie Man/Bounty Killer Verzuz battle. “…Jamaica, which was thought of as a third world country…I cried,” Swizz Beatz shared in a post-show live chat with co-organiser Timbaland. 6 Bounty Killer wore a black and gold Fendi blazer that completed his typical all-black ensemble. Beenie Man opted for a Gucci suit with Ecru turtleneck. He later changed into a “Team Beenie #oneking” T-shirt. 7 You can purchase your own “Team Beenie #oneking” or “Do you want to be that guy?” T-shirts by shopping via the Beenie Man Merch on Instagram here. 8 Veteran deejay Rory Gilligan aka “Rory Stone Love”, the “Juggling Originator” came out of hibernation for the one-night-only after party. He was joined by fashion designer Mamayashi and up-and-coming reggae recording artistes Yeza and Zia Benjamin, who later performed live for reggae fans. 9 Ciroc, the popular spirits brand, sponsored the Verzuz session. 10 Long live Mayor Delroy Williams, he’s is our kind of people. Bounty - 4 Beenie - 3 Desha - 2 Dancehall - Won #Verzuz #BountyKilla #BeenieMan pic.twitter.com/7QNkNWMIUb — Delroy Williams (@MayorWilliamsJA) May 24, 2020 11Bounty Killer’s razor-sharp dubs were not rehearsed. We’re still stuck on #SlowFlow, the closing statement by Bounty Killer, heard around the world. 12This was one for the history books, and a timely salute to the late record producer Robert “Bobby Digital” Dixon, who passed away days preceding the most-talked-about clash. 13The quotes and memes are endless: “We have five hundred thousand people watching, do you wanna be that guy?” – Beenie Man


Photo courtesy the El Socorro Centre for Wildlife Conservation.

An injured Green Turtle which appeared to have been cut on its head was rescued and taken in for treatment, according to the Non-Governmental Organisation the El Soccoro Centre for Wildlife Conservation (ECWC) in Trinidad and Tobago. The group said via a social media post that the cause of the injury was unknown, however, the juvenile turtle, which was found at Monos Island, was being treated. "At the ECWC we admit and treat all types of wildlife including the aquatic ones. On Wednesday we admitted a juvenile green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) with a huge gash on the top of its head." [related node_id='7053d998-847c-4eaf-8626-8f4ca5b2b5d6'] "The exact cause of the laceration is unknown but the animal needed some assistance and we are happy that the local Marine Mammal Stranding Network spearheaded the rescue." The group said Dr Carla Phillips of theTrinidadand Tobago Marine Mammal Stranding Network was on hand to rescue the turtle and bring it to the Centre. "DrCarla Philips Savage the head of MMSN coordinated the effort to get the injured turtle from Monos Island to theECWC in Freeport.Dr Philips Savage tended to the turtle at the Centre and we are hopeful for a very early release back into the big blue." This is the second incident in which a turtle has been harmed in recent weeks. Earlier this week a Hawksbill turtle was found floating in the waters of Las Cuevas beach. The Hawksbill was taken to be analysed to ascertain the cause of death. Five species of turtle - Green Turtle, Hawksbill, Loggerhead, Ridley sea Turtle, and the Leatherback Turtle, are all protected by law. The endangered Leatherback turtle has been listed as an Environmentally Sensitive Species (ESS). According to worldwildlife.org, nearly all species of turtle are endangered, with three of those species listed as critically endangered.

This March 11, 2019 file photo shows Gabrielle Union at the "America's Got Talent" Season 14 Kickoff in Pasadena, Calif.  (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP, File)

An investigation of Gabrielle Union’s complaints of racism on the set of “America’s Got Talent” concluded that her allegations were unfounded, according to NBC and the show’s producers. In a joint statement network and production companies, FremantleMedia and Syco said according to the outside review Union’s claims had “no bearing” on the show’s decision to drop her as a judge. Syco is the series host and producer Simon Cowell’s joint venture with Sony Music. Union, known for her roles in the films “Bring It On” and “Bad Boys II,” appeared on the talent showcase for a season, until she and fellow freshman judge Julianne Hough weren’t asked to return. The trade publication Variety reported that Union, who is black, believed she was fired because she had asked NBC and the show’s producers to respond to an environment that tolerated racist jokes and remarks. That included what Union said were multiple notes from producers saying she was wearing her hair “too black” for the “America’s Got Talent” audience. NBC sought the investigation into Union's accusations. “Through the investigation process, it has been revealed that no one associated with the show made any insensitive or derogatory remarks about Ms Union’s appearance and that neither race nor gender was a contributing factor in the advancement or elimination of contestants at any time,” NBC and the producers said. A representative for Union didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The findings, which were based on some 30 interviews, did highlight some areas in which reporting processes could be improved, the companies said without offering details.


Minister Kerrie Symmonds (FILE)

Thousands of cruise ship crew are sailing to Barbados to pick up their repatriation flights successfully. Once Barbados could manage the health risk during this COVID-19 pandemic and safely provide aid, the answer has been 'yes' to help workers in the tourism industry, who have been trapped onboard various international cruise liners, to get home. In the wake of the arrival of the second largest ship in the Royal Caribbean Cruise fleet - the Harmony of the Seas, earlier this week, Minister of Tourism and International Transport Kerrie Symmonds told Loop News: "This is just another part of the process of repatriating stranded crewmen onboard vessels which have for no logical reasons been denied entry to other ports across the region and the world. While others have flinched and denied even their own citizens, Barbados has successfully managed this process of repatriation assistance on several occasions now and has, therefore,assisted thousands of crewmen from several lines and dozens of countries." There hasbeen a slew of rescue flights and repatriation flights already to the US, Canada and England, "all of this has taken place smoothly and efficiently and with no significant problems." Post-COVID-19, Symmonds said that all Barbados has done in the sector should not go unnoticed on a global scale. "Our Island in the process has continued to grow in the estimation of the several cruise lines around the world as being a dedicated, well-managed and coordinated country and as a reliable partner and ally of the international cruise industry." Part of the Mia Mottley-led Administration navigation these unprecedented times and waters, he shared: "At a personal level, I take a significant degree of pride and pleasure in the support that our Prime Minister has given to this matter and to the leadership that Barbados has been able to demonstrate to the world." And recognising that the frontline workers at the ports of entry have made these Air-to-Sea transfers possible, he added: "I would also wish to congratulate all the members of staff of the Bridgetown Port, Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) and of the Ministry of Tourism and International Transport and the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Blue Economy, Port Health, Customs and Immigration as well as our private sector agencies involved in the cruise and ground transportation business for all the excellent service that they have rendered."

BHTA Chairman Stephen Austin (FILE)

The tourism sector has been the most negatively impacted by COVID-19 and as such the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) has rolled out its assistance programme starting with its workers. [related node_id='244cc86f-a78b-4157-aac0-cc2448313c85'] Adopting a phased approach, home drums arecertainly beating first within the hardest hit sector. BHTA Chairman Stephen Austin explained that the BHTA’s COVID-19 Assistance Programme is being executed in a number of phases: “We started in March with our own employees for Phase One, which saw member properties and businesses providing care packages including food supplies and cleaning products to their team members." Commercial flights in and out of Barbados ceased, hotel bookings fell by 99 per cent or 100 per cent after hoteliers were predicting growth year-on-year for 2020, some operators had their facilities being used as quarantine facilities, but by and large tourism ground to a complete halt locally. [related node_id='93b31d42-5d8e-4ec2-b3e6-f9ca9582daef'] Austin said:“This pandemic is affecting the entire country and at the BHTA we are very aware that we all have to play our part. We all have to work together in this fight and so we are committed to providing support wherever we can. "As time goes on we will execute the other phases of the programme accordingly." The BHTA is assisting in the local fight against the COVID-19 pandemic by providing support to not only the tourism industry employees, but also to the Government, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), the Harrison’s Point Isolation Centre, the Paragon Facility and charitable agencies, among others. "COVID-19 has stripped us down and allowed many to realize that we have minimal control over these current circumstances. However, we have control of how we respond to challenges, control of our faithandof the brightness of our hope for a better tomorrow," Austin added.