Why Brian Can’t Wait to Get Back on Board a Cruise Ship
This story by Traveller writer, Brian Johnston, was a ray of positivity and we just had to share it. Read on for excerpts from the article and for the full story see the link at the bottom. Permission given by publication and author to appear here.
I’m always being asked if I’d go back to cruising. Without hesitation, I answer: anytime you’re ready, issue me a key card, toot the ship’s horn – I’m off. Why would I not want to travel in elegant ease? I love cruising’s salty spray, the rattle of cocktail shakers, the seascapes, the port panoramas.
Of course, the abundant naysayers, most if not all who have never cruised, roll their eyes and trot out the anti-cruise cliches. Me? I smile and think about some of my best travel experiences: cruising the fiords, swimming with manta rays in Moorea, spotting polar bears on ice floes.
Before you point out that cruising has had its issues, believe me: my love for cruising hasn’t blinded me to the enormity of the pandemic. But I’ve carefully noted, as you may care to do, what has been done to address health issues surrounding cruising since COVID-19.
I’m not at all surprised at the widespread support for cruising among those who’ve actually cruised and I’m far from the only white-water devotee prepared to sail again.
The wait has been longer than expected, and pent-up demand has grown. Cruise companies from Regent to Ponant are recording record sales for the 2022-23 season. Silversea has launched 315 new voyages, the most in its history. Oceania clocked its highest volume of sales in a single day when its new Tropics & Exotics itineraries launched in March.
No one is saying this is going to be easy or that the cruise industry is at all beyond reproach. But in the months since the pandemic began, the cruise industry has adopted medical and public-health measures more stringent than in any other tourism sector.
Ships have implemented reduced passenger numbers, mandatory mask wearing where necessary, frequent fogging and sanitising of interiors, and regular testing of passengers.
Passengers must supply health declarations and negative COVID tests before boarding. Crystal and Saga Cruises will be the first companies to make vaccination a requirement for passengers when they resume in May. Odyssey of the Seas will carry fully-vaccinated passengers in Israel.
MSC is already sailing in Europe, Royal Caribbean and Dream Cruises out of Singapore. Odyssey of the Seas is sailing itineraries from Israel from May. Small-ship companies have operated for months. Silversea is set to sail the Eastern Mediterranean by June.
THE EASE OF TRAVEL
Contrary to popular opinion, cruisers aren’t timid travellers. They just want to abandon travel’s nitty-gritty and get on with seeing the world. Imagine unpacking once, ignoring train timetables, never worrying about hotel rooms, and floating from A to B overnight. Many cruise ports are within walking distance of town centres and other attractions for easy DIY sightseeing. Shore excursions, which make things even simpler, are more varied than ever. The rise of add-on and extended land packages will open continental interiors to cruise passengers. Luxury companies are also offering more two- and three-day mid-cruise excursions.
THE EXCITEMENT OF THE PORT ARRIVAL
Arriving in cities such as New York and Hong Kong by sea is glamorous, and fortified harbours such as Valletta and Corfu impress from the water. Stockholm, Cape Town and Nagasaki are just some other destinations that ought to be admired from a ship. The approach to islands (Santorini, Komodo, Moorea) is spectacular too, and even the smallest ports (Molde in Norway, Kotor in Montenegro) can be wrapped in grand scenery. Dubai is becoming a regional cruise hub; pre-COVID passenger numbers were soaring. Good news for those who like dramatic arrivals in cities with glittering skylines.
THE ACCESS TO REMOTE PLACES
Cruising doesn’t confine you to mainstream destinations but gets you into nooks once confined to intrepid explorers. On expedition ships, you can venture into the Arctic or Amazon yet be guaranteed lobster dinners and Egyptian cotton at day’s end. Zodiac excursions offer immersive experiences into the environment in the company of wildlife experts. The newest luxury expedition ships, such as Scenic Eclipse, even feature submarines and helicopters. Africa is largely uncharted cruise territory, but ships have begun visiting more often. Senegal, the Gambia River and Cape Verde Islands are among unusual destinations.
CRUISING IS GOOD VALUE
Luxury cruising isn’t cheap, but tot up the cost of land hotels, four-course meals and transportation and you might find it reasonably priced – and that’s before you consider savings in organisational energy and time. Some of the most expensive land destinations such as Norway, Iceland, French Polynesia, the Baltic and parts of the Caribbean, are great places to cruise because you know your upfront cost, and will certainly save. Luxury cruises have become more inclusive, and all will eventually offer a single fare that covers everything from excursions to speciality dining, beverages and gratuities.
THERE’S A DESTINATION EVERY DAY
What other holiday transports you while sleeping, so that you wake up each morning to a new town outside your window? Cruising is about the excitement of new places every day, which guarantees you won’t be bored. True, a single day’s sightseeing can be frustrating. But remember it’s a full day, unencumbered by hotel moves, practicalities and transits through airports.
IT’S AN EDUCATION IN ITS OWN RIGHT
You could replicate many cruise itineraries yourself, but you’d miss the insight from experts and expeditions teams. Ships also offer classes in cooking, dance, languages and more; lecturers cover topics such as art, history and politics. Look for a themed cruise if you have special interests. Pre-COVID there were 700 annually covering interests such as wellness, photography, food, history, archaeology, ballet and battles. There’s a focus on sustainability, with passengers invited to learn more through lectures, on-board research facilities and eco-activities on shore excursions.
THE GREAT AND UNFORGETTABLE MOMENTS
Relax and enjoy ever-changing scenery. You can experience some of travel’s best moments on cruises, whether sailing from Bora Bora at sunset, admiring Istanbul’s skyline, or feeling waterfalls mist your face in Norway. Sorry if it sounds a bit “kumbaya”, but shipboard sociability provides great moments too. Like-minded people with lifetimes of travel and experience make for good conversation. More cruises are now timed for special events such as Rio’s carnival, the Edinburgh Tattoo and Monaco Grand Prix, with exclusive behind-the-scenes access and no wrangling over hard-to-get tickets.
THE SHIPBOARD EXPERIENCE
Megaships offer Broadway-style shows, surf simulators, water slides and expansive kids’ clubs. But even smaller luxury ships have wellness centres, theatres for lectures and shows, swimming pools and sports options There are no bad cruise ships, only unsuitable ones. You’ll find party ships, peaceful ships, and ships that emphasise enrichment, formality or fun. Some companies have a no-child policy, more shipboard technology, allowing you to access cabins, book restaurant tables and excursions, upload photos, access entertainment and tailor your voyage from a gadget or app.
THE SENSE OF ADVENTURE
Flop-and-drop cruises do exist, but retirees are ever more active, and the average age of cruise passengers is falling. Pick small, expedition or sailing ships – and off-beat or remote destinations – to raise adventure levels. Water-sport fans should look for luxury vessels with platforms from which to launch kayaks, windsurfs, jet skis and paddle-boards. Companies such as Ponant and Silversea offer occasional scuba-diving cruises. More active and adrenaline-filled excursions are on the rise, featuring anything from swimming with sharks to Antarctic scuba-diving.
THE INSIDER EXPERIENCES
On cruises, you can access experiences impossible to organise yourself, such as entry to World Heritage sites, tours conducted by experts from leading institutions, and on-board workshops led by notable dancers, musicians, writers and historians. Skip queues and get fast-tracked into museums and monuments, with exclusive experiences such as the Sistine Chapel after hours, or a champagne reception in St Petersburg’s Catherine Palace. Options for small-group excursions and privately curated tours are increasing, as are tours that address niche interests such as fashion, wine or the arts.