Return to Ocean Cruising Coming Soon

Whether you love to cruise the high seas or want to take another type of ship-sailing adventure, you can set your sights toward cruising in the near-distant future, or in 2022 or 2023. A current news release (April 2021) announced the next phase, issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), of its Framework for Conditional Sailing Order. These guidelines will direct cruise ships on what they need to do to resume sailing.

Hastening the Process

Cruise operators have urged the CDC to give them additional instructions to hasten the return of sailing in the U.S. The cruise industry, during the past year, has practically shut down because of the pandemic, despite the fact that voyages have taken place in other places around the globe.

In its most recent press release, the CDC stated that the second phase of the sailing order will enable cruise operators to schedule trial voyages to adapt to new COVID-19 procedures. These voyages will use volunteers before sailing commences with paying passengers. Thousands of people have already inquired about being a volunteer through cruise lines, such as Royal Caribbean.

While the CDC says people can travel safely, they still advise cruise travelers, for the time being, to stay at home. The new update by the CDC, defined as technical guidance, mandates that the reporting frequency for COVID 19 take place daily.  A new color-coding system will classify ships, so routine tests can be conducted of crew members, based on a vessel’s color.

Although the CDC’s “Framework” has sidelined the majority of cruise vessels in the U.S., it still opens up the way for cruise vessels to eventually sail. This is especially helpful to know after a no-sail order was extended several times before the Conditional Sailing Order took effect in October 2020.

The CDC’s sailing order applies to U.S. passengers’ ships, operating overnight cruises from the territorial waterways or territorial seas in the U.S. It does not apply to small cruise operators with less than 250 passengers and crew. Therefore, the order primarily applies to areas, such as Alaska, Hawaii, San Juan Puerto Rico, and St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. The order applies to foreign-flagged and American flagged ships that, again, carry over 250 people.

If you want to set sail now, some cruise operators with the lower passenger count currently accept reservations that allow you to travel now versus the far-distant future.

Current Legislation

 As of April 20, 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives joined the Senate in asking that the CDC revoke the Conditional Sailing Order that was established in the fall of 2020.

Two representatives, Don Young (R-Alaska) and Maria Elvira Salazar (R-Florida) introduced legislation to end the no sail-order, requiring the CDC to offer guidelines for the safe return of cruise operations in the U.S. Moreover, the bill includes the establishment of an interagency work group so passenger activity can resume July 1, 2021.

Another bill has already been enacted called the Careful Resumption Under Improve Safety Enforcements Acts, known as the CRUISE Act. The CRUISE Act legislation was introduced by senators Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Rick Scott (R-Florida). 

The 2 Congress members and 3 senators supporting the above legislation come from states that have been hit especially hard by the CDC mandates.

While some cruise ships have resumed operations in Europe and other international destinations, most vessels, based from U.S. cities plan to resume operations in June or July. In these cases, base ports for the ships will be in places, such s Nassau in the Bahamas or Bermuda. The CDC currently blocks ships from sailing from U.S. ports, something that has triggered a lawsuit in Florida.

Therefore, you will find it easier to cruise on the smaller cruise lines in the U.S. at this time. While things may be slow at first, cruisers will again enjoy cruising if the remain patient.

For example, AmaWaterways will not feature any cruises until the end of May 2021. The cruise line states it will assess sailings beyond that time, 45 days in advance of start dates.

The smaller ship line, American Cruise Lines, has resumed cruising along the waterways of South and Carolina and Georgia. The line’s 100-passenger ship, the Independence, set sail on March 13, 2021. It also has one ship sailing the Mississippi River. The company plans to schedule 13 more cruise ships on U.S. waterways in the coming weeks. 

Avalon Waterways plans to suspend operation through the month of May for U.S. passengers.

Azamara will cancel sailings until the end of June.

Carnival Cruise Lines

The popular cruise line plans to pause service until June 30.

Celebrity Cruises

The cruise line has extended its suspension of U.S.-based voyages until June 30, 2021. It plans to beign sailing again in North America, leaving St. Maarten on June 5, 2021.

Celestyal Cruises, which features Greek cruises to the Greek Isles, plans on restarting cruising in the area May 29.

Costa Cruises plans to resume European cruises on May 1, 2021, using the Costa Smeralda. The line’s Costa Luminosa will depart ports in Europe, beginning May 16, 2021. 

Crystal Cruises plans to resume cruise operations on July 3, 2021, starting with the Crystal Serenity, out of Nassau, Bahamas. The line’s Crystal Symphony will begin sailing again on August 5, 2021, with sailing out of St. John’s, Antigua. All sailings for the Crystal Esprit have been postponed until August.  

As an alternative to ocean cruising, you may contact Crystal Cruises about river ship cursing, scheduled to start between June 4 and June 7, 2021. The cruise company has delayed introducing its new expedition ship, the Crystal Endeavor, for the time-being.

Cunard Line has canceled its departures for its 3 vessels, the Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth, and Queen Mary 2 until August 27, 2021, October 11, 2021, and November 12, 2021, respectively. Instead, the cruise line, which is based in the UK, plans to feature UK-only cruises for residents living in the UK. The Queen Elizabeth will feature summer 2021 cruises.

Disney Cruise Line

Sailings for the ships, the Disney Dream, Disney wonder, and Disney Fantasy have been canceled until May 31, 2021. Scheduled trips on Disney Magic have been stopped until August 10, 2021.

Emerald Waterways plans to cancel sailings through the end of June.

Hurtigruten did resume cruise sailing to the Arctic in July 2020. However, cruises will not resume, until announced, as one of the vessels reported a COVID-19 outbreak.

Holland America will not resume sailings at this time, until, possibly, July. The line cancelled 2021 sailings to Alaska that depart or end in Vancouver, British, Columbia, Canada.

MSC Cruises has cancelled departures out of North America, at this time, through the end of May. However, the company has scheduled cruises departing the UK, beginning May 20, 2021.

Norwegian Cruise Line

The cruise line, along with its brands, plans to suspend travel until, at least, June 30, 2021. The company states it will restart sailing on July 25, 2021 with one of its ships featuring Greek Islands sailings from Piraeus, Greece. It then plans to begin Caribbean sailings out of the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. One ship will be used out of each of the ports. 

Oceania Cruises states it will cancel sailings on all of its ships until the end of July.

Paul Gauguin Cruises plans to cancel all of its sailings until, at this time, May 15, 2021.

Princess Cruises

Cruises featured by the Princess Cruise line that leave Seattle have been cancelled through June 27, 2021. Los Angeles, Rome, and Ft. Lauderdale cruises remain cancelled until June 30, 2021 and voyages leaving Southampton, England have been postponed until September 25, 2021.

Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, a new cruise line, associated with the Ritz-Carlton, is delaying its first voyage until November 10, 2021. The line was first slated for debut last year in February.

Royal Caribbean International

The cruise brand and provider announced it will suspend all U.S.-based sailings until June 30, 2021 and restart North American voyages from the Bahamas on June 12, 2021.Cruises from Bermuda will begin in June and cruises from Cyprus in July. Royal Caribbean plans to deploy one ship on each of the new routes. 

Scenic Luxury Cruises and Tours will not sail again, according to current plans, until after June.

Seabourn has made plans to reinitiate operation in July, with one ship sailing, out of Piraeus, Greece, to the Greek Islands. All sailings to Alaska have been cancelled. 

Tauck has cancelled cruises until after May 2021.

Viking plans begin cruising again on May 22, 2021, featuring UK-only sailing for local UK residents out of Portsmouth, England. It has also scheduled “welcome back” voyages from Bermuda and Iceland in June and July 2021. Other than those scheduled itineraries, the cruise line has cancelled other sailings until the end of July.

Most of the cruise lines will initiate sailings in North America, primarily from the Caribbean in June or July. You just need to check with cruise providers to get a sense of where you stand. 

Cruises Will Be Shorter

At this time (April 2021), you will have more success scheduling any cruise vacations in 2022 or 2023. You will also find that many cruise schedules will be shorter, which is not necessarily bad. You can see a a lot of great attractions, even if you narrow the itinerary from 12 to 6 days.

Be prepared to follow any quarantine guidelines and get the instructions on COVID-19 sailing requirements.

Because the space inside a cabin is close, more restrictions have been placed on taking trips on a cruise ship in the wake of the coronavirus. Therefore, your choice of a cabin may also be important.

Unfavorable Cabin Locations

Certain cabins are not good choices anytime. For example, you do not want to choose a cabin close to stairways or elevator banks. Not only are they noisier, more people tend to congregate in the areas – not the best places to practice social distancing.

This can be especially problematic if air vents have been built inside the cabin doors. While the vents are meant to improve the flow of air, they also allow sounds from the hall to drift into a room. 

Stay Away from the Anchor and Bow

While you may not be able to find the location of a ship’s anchor on a deck plan, it normally is close to the front of the ship. If you book a cabin close to the anchor, this can be an issue if you sail to several tender ports. 

Tender port represents spots where a ship anchors offshore and passengers tender to land on small watercraft. You also do not want to settle near the ship’s bow at the front, as you can feel the ship’s teeter-totter motion, something that can be rather distracting during a storm or high waves.

Splurging on a Suite

Because of the location of some cabins and their lack of space, you may want to splurge, especially because of the pandemic, on a larger suite. Not only do you enjoy more space, you also receive priority embarkation and more pampering – something worth getting after waiting a long time to cruise.

The perks of staying in a suite on an ocean cruise make spending the extra money worth the experience. Suite guests have their own special check-in area when they arrive at the terminal. Also, some suite guests can access a private lounge area where they can rest and enjoy a snack. If you book a suite, you will be one of the first guests to board the ship, allowing you to begin your holiday sooner.

Suites on cruise ships are far bigger than regular cabins, thereby reducing the threats associated with getting a virus in a closer space. As most cabins are smaller than hotel rooms, enjoying the sprawling comfort of a suite, which can be bigger than a house, does make a difference.

Some luxury suites cover a space of 2,000 to 4,000 feet. Comparatively, most major cruise lines feature cabins that measure 150 to 185 square feet, with balcony suites spanning 175 to 220 square feet. If you cannot afford to spend extra on a suite, it is better to choose a cabin with a balcony.

Suites on cruises have more space and feature better locations as well. Many suites are located in the middle, or the equilibrium point – the most stabilized area during rough sea voyages. This is a good location to select if you are prone to getting seasick.

When taking an ocean cruise during more restricted travel times, it’s nice to have those extra upgrades that come with a cruise suite. These upgrades include spa-type toiletries, higher-thread counts, and coffee and tea service. Suites frequently come with a private butler, at your service 24/7, or a private concierge. 

Because cruises, in the current travel environment, are typically shorter, it might not hurt to take a shorter cruise and spring for a suite instead of the more confined cabin.

During this time, it is important to remember that most cruising will only be available to those who get vaccinated for COVID-19. Again, you need to check with the cruise line to find out about the protocol you’ll need to follow.

Some of the Popular Cruise Holidays

At this time (April 2021), Greece is a destination of choice featured by many cruise operators, such as Norwegian, Seabourn, and Celebrity. all planning routes around the Greek Isles in summer 2021. MSC Cruises will also be running several itineraries in European waters in May, with calls at ports in Malta, Italy, France, Spain, Croatia, Spain, and Montenegro. Included in MSC Cruises’ routes is Venice. However, embarkment from the port will be rerouted to an industrial port nearby, following a new environmental guideline.

COVID-19 Testing Documentation

To give you a snapshot of what to expect during most sailings, as defined by Carnival, you will need to arrive at the terminal, tested and with the proper documents. Guests who are 2 years or older will need to show that they have been tested negative for a SARS-CoV-2 test taken from 24 hours to 5 days before setting sail. The negative test report document must be legible, identifying the approved and licensed testing service, and include a sample collection date, test type, and identification of the tested person.

Carnival cruise guests must complete a health questionnaire 72 hours before sailing and have their temperature taken during boarding. Only guests who book appointments will be allowed to access the terminal and boarding area. Guests must complete an online check-in and choose an appointment for an arrival time by midnight (Eastern Time) before the date of embarkation. 

You can resume ocean cruising soon, if you so choose. Also, keep in mind that passenger ships carrying under 250 people are scheduling regular cruising now. Most of these cruises are taking place, in the U.S., along the Mississippi River. So, if you are waiting to take an ocean cruise, for instance, from Nassau in the Bahamas in June, you might still think about traveling on one of the river cruises in the U.S. 

As noted, it is important to follow the instructions for onboarding and follow other rules, such as wearing a mask, during the voyage. While these rules have changed the activity of cruising, they will not take away form enjoying a memorable cruise holiday.