Thursday, May 6, 2021

Cruising's steady worldwide return: in the U.S., an opportunity to discover homegrown wonders


American Cruise Lines' American Harmony is an attractive alternative to "foreign port" cruising.
American is cruising with 75 per cent occupancy, high hygiene standards and a negative Covid test. 

Cruise ships are readying to ride the waves again.



AFTER A BRUTAL year, the cruise industry is making a comeback.
Good news is on the horizon for lovers of ship travel, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updates it policies, shedding hope for summer cruising.
This ship in the Greek Isles will be sailing again
probably by mid-summer. Holland America
and other lines plan to sail Corfu, Santorini
and Mykonos, all ports whose tourism took
a nosedive during the pandemic. Check your  
cruise line websites or consult a travel agent.
Many lines hope to be cruising again by June 1, with other lines following through the summer and into autumn. Most are insisting on vaccinations for both passengers and crew.  But even with vaccinations and a possible green light from CDC, it will take ships time to prepare, after more than a year of uselessness.

STILL, THIS WEEK brought hopeful news. Those of us who cancelled cruises for 2020 and 2021, are encouraged that some lines are already cruising, using foreign ports for departure. It is encouraging, too, to see that the millions who make their living as cruise booking agents, ship crews and tourism workers will return to employment.  They all took a huge hit during the pandemic as cruising crashed to a standstill.
Keller and Cookie catch the
wind  two years ago in Alaska,
viewing whales. Alaska and Florida 
are suing the CDC for its decision
to halt cruising to their ports.
During the rough year, many cruise lines moved their vessels out of the U.S. because of stringent CDC restrictions. Most port cities have not witnessed cruise ship activity since the outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020, except for the occasional "bare bones staff" ship coming in to refuel. 
U.S. BASED American Cruise Lines, is ahead of the "comeback game."  Its modern, small river and coastal boats are all U.S. built, registered and crewed, "and not subject to the issues other lines are," said Alexa Paolella, American's public relations manager. She noted that the line's CEO, Charles Robertson, is an ardent student of boat design, involved in the vessels' sophisticated blending of contemporary elegance with functionality. American's new river boats boast the artistic flair of a top Miami firm, Studio DADO, which works with other high-end lines, including Regent Seven Seas.
American Cruise Lines' beautiful American Song offers  
 94 spacious cabins with stellar views. Here, she glides
serenely along Pacific Northwest waters at sunset. 

Paolella says many of the Connecticut based line's routes are selling out as deprived cruisers eagerly return to the waters. American's "close to home" cruises ply the eastern and western seaboard, as well as Mississippi-Ohio, and Columbia-Snake rivers, creating a devoted return clientele. Repeat customers enjoy eight-day Mississippi cruises, with an inviting mix of history, culture, food and fun, enhanced by stops in fabled port cities: Memphis, New Orleans, Nashville and St. Louis. For the true aficionado, American offers longer itineraries: a 22-day Complete Mississippi Cruise or a 15-day Grand Heartland Cruise, which remarkably explores ten states in a single journey. American also offers shorter 5-day highlights cruises, holiday and theme cruises, curated to celebrate iconic Mississippi themes, from Mark Twain to food and music.
American Cruise Lines offers a music cruise -- here to see
the bars and music hang-outs of Nashville. Many cruisers
are looking for travel opportunities closer to home this year.

(This piano player is excited about American's new "Music Cities" cruise while my foodie partner is eying the culinary cruises with Cajun, Creole and Memphis barbecue.)
AMERICAN'S diverse repertoire includes riverboats, coastal cruisers and paddle wheelers with varied itineraries, "plus theme cruises and holiday cruises," says Paolella.  American's high ratings reflect loyalty of pampered passengers who sing the praises of the largest staterooms afloat, complimentary shore excursions and happy hour, signature perks since the line's 1991 inception. American makes waves in the industry, says Paolella, "because we offer the smooth sailing of larger ships with the up-close access of small-ships, and the convenience and security of cruising close-to-home."  

 MORE ENTICEMENT for cruisers: Holland American president Gus Antorcha said in a phone visit this week, "We’re back!” The line has been preparing for a return to service during this fallow year. Holland will begin sailing from Piraeus in August aboard Eurodam with fully vaccinated passengers and crew. Antorcha said, "We are grateful to the government of Greece for allowing us to show we can safely operate our cruises." 

Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers
aboard Cunard Line's Queen Elizabeth before
the pandemic shut down cruising worldwide.

ALSO THIS WEEK, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Norwegian and Crystal Cruises announced plans to restart. Viking Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain applauded the CDC for updating its pandemic cruising policies so his fleet can resume sailing from U.S. ports. "We’re pleased and excited because it sets forth a pathway that we think is achievable, practical and safe,” Fain said.
Viking River Cruises, the first cruise line to suspend operations of its river and ocean cruises, is enthusiastically updating its cruise schedule. Monaco based Silversea Cruises, which pioneered all-inclusive luxury cruising with its sleek Silver Cloud, resumes Mediterranean sailings with its lovely Silver Moon.
THE VENERABLE Cunard Line, founded in 1840, has been cruising around the United Kingdom for U.K. residents only and is beginning to reschedule sailings for its distinguished fleet: Queen Elizabeth, Queen Victoria and Queen Mary. Its President Simon Palethorpe said, "We know how much everyone is desperately looking forward to longed-for vacations overseas.'' (He is also president of Carnival UK.)
HOW QUICKLY cruise lines can cruise again will depend on their compliance with the CDC's framework for conditional sailing order. Friends in Israel, England and Singapore are taking advantage of cruises for residents only; those cruises have been off-limits to Americans.   As of late Thursday, Royal Caribbean set July 1 for getting its ships back in water. Oceania plans August sailings, Cunard and Regent Seven Seas say September. Norwegian Cruise Lines and many other lines will insist both passengers and crew be fully vaccinated.  Once vaccinated, travelers will be able to take a rapid antigen COVID-19 test before embarkation.

Self-serve buffets are becoming a thing of the past
 as cruise lines do away with them, or offer them
only in modified version, with servers serving. 
MANY LINES have been redesigning and rearranging public spaces, including dining rooms, gyms and theaters, to accommodate social distancing. Buffets -- where they still exist -- will insist upon servers, no self-service. In a letter to the industry Wednesday, a CDC official said that "while cruising will never be a zero-risk activity, our public-health agency is committed to getting passenger operations in the U.S. restarted by early to mid-summer." All encouraging for cruise lovers!   We're fully vaccinated and our bags are packed. Sail on!
UP NEXT: As travelers return to the air, Europe opens up, and ships return to the waters, there's hope on the horizon for cruise and travel lovers. The rapidly changing rules regarding the pandemic and travel are not easily understood. We'll help unravel the mysteries and confusion. Meanwhile remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each week for a fresh spin on travel, the arts, nature, family and more, with our specialty: cruising. Please share the link, and enjoy! 


  1. Oregon Ocean LoversMay 6, 2021 at 9:42 PM

    So grateful for your update. Taking notes, thinking the close-to-home American Cruise Lines options are a pleasant segue back to "normal."

  2. IDAHO native sonMay 6, 2021 at 9:47 PM

    We live in Idaho and have never taken the American Cruise Lines trek which begins or ends near us. This is a great option while we await for Covid to dissipate.

  3. St. Louis CruisersMay 7, 2021 at 8:42 AM

    Wow. Nice piece of research and updating. We are over a year without a cruise and miss it deeply. Have taken the American Lines' Mississippi and highly recommend. Maybe we will do that again. You've inspired us!

  4. Tennessee Travel LoversMay 8, 2021 at 10:11 AM

    We are so "cruise starved" that we have made a collage of cruise catalogue covers. Ready for the real deal. Saw one of your stories in an airline magazine "B.C." before Covid. Love your lively spin on travel and always well conceived photographs.

  5. California CruisersMay 11, 2021 at 3:54 PM

    So exciting. We can't wait to get back on a ship. Your piece gives us hope.

  6. Pittsburgh "Pirates"May 12, 2021 at 1:25 PM

    We want to get back to Europe and cruise again before our passports expire. That gives us about 15 months and your story cheers us. We might make it!!! Thank you both.