The update and upside of cruising
One frequent topic of conversation right now when people start talking about travel is, “What’s going on with the cruise lines? Are they sailing yet?” Here’s an overview of the latest on ocean cruising. In a future post, I’ll include the updates on river cruising.
When the pandemic hit last spring, the CDC issued a “No Sail” order, which stopped all cruising all over the world. In October, the order was withdrawn, with mandates that cruise lines could begin sailing again based on strict new protocols to assure the safety and health of guests, crew members, and local populations.
Since the original shutdown of cruise operations, cruise lines and cruise task forces have been working hard to issue new healthy guidelines and procedures that will be followed once cruises reopen. In the Caribbean and other cruise destinations, some of the measures include early COVID warning and response information systems and certified training in health measures such as testing, masks, physical distancing, hygiene, sanitation and response protocols.
Ocean cruises from the U.S. have yet to begin sailing this year. Originally, some cruise lines were hopeful that they would be back in the waters in January or March 2021. Those dates were revised based on not quite being ready to comply with all of the complex health requirements, and now most ocean sailing cruise lines are scheduled to start later this year.
Some of the changes as cruise lines begin sailing again are: shorter sailings (3-5 nights), and increased sailings to private islands (due to being able to control the sanitation protocols very closely). Individual cruise lines are handling the return to cruising a little differently, but they will all return following the new CDC sailing guidelines.
Here are some updates from the major U.S. ocean cruise lines:
Carnival Cruise Lines is planning to start cruising again in April 2021. Some of the early sailings include 3- through 7-day Caribbean and Mexican cruises. Departure ports include Long Beach (California), Orlando and Miami (Florida), and Galveston (Houston, Texas).
Celebrity Cruise Lines is scheduled to begin cruising in May 2021. One of their new offers, in addition to 7-night sailings, is a 5-day Alaska sailing. Other destinations include the Galapagos Islands (7-night) and the Caribbean islands (7-10 night sailings).
Disney Cruise Line will resume sailing in May 2021, beginning with short 3- and 4-night Bahamas cruises, and 7-night Caribbean cruises from Florida. They also have some 7-night European cruises from Barcelona departing at the end of May.
Holland America will begin sailing in July with 7-, 14-, or 21-night European sailings from Amsterdam, focusing mostly on Northern Europe. Other sailings will include northbound, southbound, and round-trip 7-day Alaskan itineraries.
Norwegian is scheduled to begin cruising again in May of 2021, going to Alaska and Hawaii for 7-night itineraries, as well as some European destinations.
Princess will begin sailing in mid-May, highlighting 7-day Alaska trips, including northbound from Seattle or Vancouver, southbound from Seward/Anchorage, and round-trip from Seattle. Other scheduled itineraries are 7-night Caribbean cruises from Florida. Australia and New Zealand cruises are scheduled to resume in June 2021.
Royal Caribbean, like most other cruise lines, is planning to resume in May. To begin with, they will offer 4 through 7-night cruises in the Caribbean from ports in Florida, as well as a few European and Far Eastern cruises, mainly 4-5 nights in duration. The European cruises are scheduled to depart from Barcelona, Southampton, and Copenhagen. The Far Eastern cruises will depart from Shanghai and Tianjin in China.
Is cruising safe?
This could probably be the topic for an entire post all by itself! Short & sweet, my opinion is that when cruising returns, it will be VERY safe. In some ways I think it will feel safer and cleaner than following your daily routine when you’re home. Because cruise lines have been stopped for so many months, they will do everything possible to keep their guests and crew healthy and safe, so that people can return to the cruising vacations they love.
When is the best time to book a cruise?
Now. Yes, I’m serious. Think about it: Right now, while cruises aren’t sailing, their prices are good. I’ve got my next cruise booked for December 2021, and because it’s right before Christmas, it’s not going to have rock-bottom prices. (Let’s be realistic—it’s the holidays!) But as soon as cruising opens up and people start to feel safe, those prices will start to increase. The cruising boom will begin, and you don’t want to be kicking yourself for not booking earlier.
I’m not saying you have to book for May 2021 and be the first one on board (although just think how pampered and joyful that first batch of cruisers will feel!). But cruise pricing is available through 2022 and sometimes into 2023 right now. A small deposit holds your spot, and if the prices DO go down between now and then, I’ve got you covered. I’ll rebook your cruise (keeping your same stateroom) with the new lower price. It’s a complete WIN-WIN. Just sayin’. Early bird gets the worm and all that. My gut feeling is that you should jump on that cruise-booking bandwagon, the sooner the better.
New ships? Oh, yeah.
The upside of the no-sail order in 2020, is all of the amazing brand-new ships out there this year! Just to name a few: Celebrity’s Apex; Princess’ Enchanted Princess and Discovery Princess; Silversea’s Silver Moon, Silver Dawn & Silver Origin; Carnival’s Mardi Gras, Royal Caribbean’s Odyssey; Ritz-Carlton’s first ship the Evrima, and Viking’s ocean ship the Viking Venus. Those are just some of the many newbuilds coming this year.
Let me know if you have questions! I didn’t take time here to go over the protocols and details I’m hearing about cruise specifics. But let me just say that if you’re a cruiser (or want to be), I’m happy to answer any questions you have, and help you figure out whether you should book something, and where to go.