Friday, July 10, 2020

The return of cruising: what to expect and when we might set sail again

Cruising is making a slow comeback, since this popular mode of travel was abruptly halted in the early days of
the COVID-19 virus. Here, in St. Thomas, cruise ships large and small move in and out of the picturesque harbor.

The Mediterranean will be opening up for cruising in late autumn, at
least with some lines. Each line has a different policy, so do homework.


Editor's Note: This story contains projected sailing dates from various cruise lines. Please note that cruise line suspensions can be extended at anytime. Our research is based on  interviews and websites, but the volatile changing times require each traveler's daily research.
Keller and Cookie aboard the Celebrity Century. Some sailings
resume Aug. 1. Celebrity and other lines cancelled sailings
 in Canada, Alaska, and New England following a
 ban on cruise ships from the Canadian government.


THERE'S GOOD NEWS for lovers of ships and cruising. But it's slow to emerge. When the industry lurched to a halt in March, a result of COVID-19, millions of dollars were lost, thousands of cruises cancelled and legions of travelers were nervous and disappointed at radically changing travel plans. Slowly, the world's embattled cruise lines are making a comeback and passengers will again be riding the waves -- as soon as this weekend.
Paul Gauguin, which corners the Polynesian market, will resume sailings July 11, with two voyages for the local market. International passengers may sail as of July 29. Many new guidelines are in place.
Paul Gauguin offers a ring-side view of the Polynesian Islands aboard
a 332 passenger luxury ship booking now for late summer and autumn.
The industry has spent more than $40 billion to prepare ships and train crews for the new "Covid protocol."
American Cruise Lines' small, sleek ships can access ports and coves not
available to larger vessels. Its New England cruises resume in August.
A leader in the "Covid precaution" arena is American Cruise Lines, offering the attractive possibility for Americans to reach a cruise ship without flying and exposing themselves to airport crowds and recycled cabin air. Cruising close to home is the line's specialty and bookings are brisk.
American will be back on the waters in August, with cruises scheduled around New England.  An earlier date of July 22 was scratched just before this article's publication. With its liberal refund policy, the cruise line is creating good will.  Travelers disappointed at the postponement will receive a 100 per cent cent refund or a 125 per cent future cruise voucher if the line cancels. This liberal policy also allows 24-hour pre-cruise cancelation with 100 per cent voucher for a 2021 cruise. The line also navigates several of America's prettiest rivers, with leisurely transits of the Mississippi, Columbia and Snake Rivers.
Keller and Cookie aboard Cunard's Queen Elizabeth.
The revered line will resume some sailings in November,
including Elizabeth and her sisters, Queen Victoria and
Queen Mary. Do check with your travel agent or website.
Those cruises will resume, too, in 2020, with the line's popular Alaska cruises back on the 2021 docket.
American's river and coastal waterways cruises operate in over 25 states so many guests can skip flying entirely and drive straight to the ship."We are doing our best to keep adjusting as things progress and change," says Alexa Paolella, public relations manager for American Cruise Lines.   American's popularity -- especially now, with the virus fears -- is high, in part because it offers guests a 100 per cent cruise voucher credit and the ability to cancel for any reason 24 hours before a cruise. Further enticement is, says Paolella, "We visit only small U.S. ports and cruise within sight of land." This appeals to cruisers concerned about the possibly having to leave the trip for medical care. American’s ships are also small -- 100-190 passengers max -- and sail at reduced capacity of 75 per cent or less.
LIKE AMERICAN, many other cruise lines are introducing independent air systems to staterooms, so there is no shared duct work in cabins and some lounges. One of our booking agents said her balcony rooms are going first, which is usually the case.  Now more than ever, though, balconies are appealing for the fresh air and privacy. Lines are also making properly distanced outdoor cafe tables available. Indoor dining will have distanced tables.
Here's a partial list of cruising's revamped schedules:
Favorite view for veteran cruisers: a sail in from a comfy stateroom balcony.
Viking resumes Oct. 1, followed by Carnival's Spirit for Hawaii and trans-Pacific cruising. On Oct. 7, Holland America, Disney, Princess and other popular mid-priced lines continue staggered resumptions which are slated as early as late September. Norwegian Cruise Line announced an Oct. 1 resumption, as did upscale lines Regent and Oceania. Seabourn's Sojourn is back on the water Oct. 14 and Crystal's Symphony is booking for an Oct. 23 sailing. Cunard's Queen Victoria resumes operation Nov. 2.
Keller and Cookie in Europe, awaiting a tour on a sunny
day off the ship. Europe is slowly opening up to cruising.
INTERNATIONALLY, many countries are opening domestic cruise and ferry lines to their countrymen. Genting Cruise Lines restarts operations for its Asian luxury Dream Cruises with Explorer Dream, July 26.
The 1,867-passenger ship offers two and three-night "Taiwan Island-Hopping" itineraries, departing from Keelung and calling at Penghu, Matzu and Kinmen islands -- just for the domestic Taiwanese market at the moment.
COVID-19 caused many countries to impose travel restrictions and close their borders to outside visitors. Early on, dozens of cruise ships were turned away from various ports  as countries acted aggressively to prevent ships from docking. While passengers were brought home, crew were stranded for weeks and some are only now getting returned to their homes.
Cruising into northern Europe's capitals, including Oslo, along with 
Copenhagen, Helsinki, Stockholm and the Baltic Republics, is resuming.
SO WHICH other lines are back in business?   Norway's Hurtigruten is offering enticing savings to book a lovely Norwegian coastal cruises, or venture to Antarctica. It restarted its coastal sailings July 16 for Norwegians and Danes, on vessels carrying 500 passengers.Sea Dream also resumed cruising from Norway with just 112 passengers.
THE INTERNATIONAL cruise industry, including Royal Caribbean Cruises, is making radical changes to adjust to COVID-19. The line's marketing department calls the changes "evolutionary," aimed at still giving passengers a consistent experience, according to CEO  Richard Fain.
Cookie often plays piano during dinner on the couple's frequent cruises.
She hopes to be back on sea and at the 88s within the next few months.
RCCL has four cruise lines:: Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara and Silversea Cruises. All are currently on pause, due to a "no sail" order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Celebrity, Royal Caribbean and Azamara have suspensions through Aug. 1, while Silversea has taken a ship-by-ship approach to resumption.  'EVEN IF there had never been a COVID-19, cruising would be different today than it was a year ago.  One of the things we're proudest of is that the industry is constantly changing and adapting to people's needs," said Fain.

Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers don their masks for all outings
and hope their fellow humans do the same. It's a mater of safety and manners. 
UP NEXT: Should you wear a mask or not? Of course! Really, it shouldn't be an issue.  It's healthy, respectful and necessary. As we travel, shop, traversing new territory, we find it essential to wear a mask -- for our protection, and others'.  We appreciate that most of our comrades follow suit, for it's mandated in California that masks be worn and distancing observed in all public places. We explore masking and how it's helping fight the virus. Remember to explore, learn and live, and please wear a mask for your sake -- and for the rest of us. Meanwhile, explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a fresh look at travel, nature, the arts, family and fun.


  1. Most excellent news. We are ready!

  2. We really need to be back on ship. What a long dry spell. Thanks for the hopeful research.

  3. We are torn between the choices: await a vaccine or go for it now. We really miss cruising, now entering month five of isolation.