As the vaccine rollout continues in the US, and things are starting to look up, we have seen travel pick back up. This makes me happy as a travel agent, as long as people are still taking precautions and social distancing, but one of my favorite forms of travel has no start date in sight from the US.
Cruise travel got a bad reputation early in the pandemic as some ships were stranded with COVID-positive guests and crew. Finding a country that would take in the passengers was difficult in the early days, and the rapidly-spreading virus seemed to spread even quicker on an enclosed ship. Once cruise ships were able to disembark their passengers they were then met with the difficult task of repatriating their crew, who come from countries all over the world.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) halted cruising in early 2020 and has yet to fully relax the guidance despite the record number of vaccines in arms and the upgrades made to safety protocols and ventilation systems on cruise ships through the Healthy Sail Panel, a cooperative effort between Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Lines focusing on guest health and safety. Some cruise lines have resumed cruising safely in other countries (like Royal's Quantum of the Seas that's been sailing from Singapore with strict regulations since late last year), and some tried unsuccessfully to resume sailing from international home ports before vaccines were available. Although the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), travel agents, and elected officials have tried to show the CDC how cruising is the only form of travel that has yet to resume, and causing companies to lose millions of dollars a month, the CDC has yet to rescind the order.
So what does that mean for the state of cruising?
Well, if you plan to leave from the US you may be waiting another couple of months, or more. The good news is that cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Celebrity, and Disney have worked with local international governments to start cruising with vaccinated adults from international home ports.
Starting this summer, Royal Caribbean will take home port in Nassau, Bahamas and King's Wharf, Bermuda. Norwegian will port in Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and Athens, Greece. Celebrity will take port in St. Maarten; and Disney Cruise Line will offer staycations in port in the United Kingdom (UK). While Carnival has announced they will not sail from anywhere but a US port, I will keep an eye on any developments as they become available.
While many people are excited to return to cruising, there are others who wish they didn't need to be vaccinated, or have to fly internationally, to get back on their floating resort. If you're thinking about taking part in one of these upcoming cruises make sure you research the entry requirements for the country you'll be leaving from since you will likely have testing or proof of vaccination requirements to even fly into the country.
To be honest with you, if I were able, I would be joining one of these summer sailings; but since I can't I will be patiently waiting and hoping my December cruise from Florida sets sail.
What are your thoughts on these new home ports? Are you excited to start cruising again?