June 1, 2020
Due to travel restrictions, plans are only available with travel dates on or after
Due to travel restrictions, plans are only available with effective start dates on or after
Midnight buffets, mid-day pool parties, scuba excursions, and even muster drills.
We’ve missed them all for a year-plus.
But cruises are now returning to our favorite ports with upgraded health and safety features. Finally.
While they’re taking a phased approach in the United States per CDC protocol through November 2021 — which we’ll detail below — it’s not too early to plan your itinerary, start your packing list, or explore your options for cruise travel insurance. And, of course, you can always chart the high seas from international ports of call depending on where you want to go and how fast you want to get there.1
Here’s a closer look at when cruises are returning, where they’re going, and what you should expect while preparing to get on board.
The reasons why you need travel insurance today vs. pre-pandemic trips haven’t changed.
But in many cases, the urgency behind these reasons has elevated.
Whether you’re forced to cancel your trip at the last minute or find out while on board you have a family emergency back home to tend to, cruise travel insurance can come in big when these events are considered covered reasons by your provider.2
In general, as cruises phase back in, they’ll face some limitations and greater scrutiny that means less flexibility if you’re confronted with an inconvenience or crisis. Cruise travel insurance can not only help with many of these scenarios, but it also provides peace of mind that, if the unexpected does occur, you’re not left unprepared.
If you’re aiming to begin your cruise from a U.S. port, then the CDC holds sway over your vacation planning. The CDC has given eight ships the green light to return to action performing test voyages. These ships hail from Royal Caribbean, Disney, and Carnival.3
These journeys are essentially trials, during which volunteer passengers get a free trip as cruiselines ensure they can conduct business as usual without spreading COVID-19.4 As you might guess, volunteering for a free cruise has quickly become popular. In the month following Royal Caribbean’s call for volunteers, the cruise line received more than 150,000 inquiries.3 On these trips, the goal is to keep the number of passengers testing positive for COVID-19 below 1.5%. For crew, the requirement is even stiffer: 1% or less. And if positivity rates exceed these numbers, then the cruise is over — likely after some additional time spent in quarantine.4
Meanwhile, two Celebrity vessels have jumped to the front of the line – hitting the high seas with real passengers on a restricted basis.3 The Celebrity Equinox and the Celebrity Edge, the latter of which became the first large vessel approved for revenue-generating sailings out of the United States, were able to fast-forward their return by ensuring that 95% of a ship’s passengers and 98% of the crew are fully vaccinated.4
In terms of domestic port openings, both of Celebrity’s live, revenue-generating cruises are embarking out of Port Everglades. The simulated excursions are leaving from Port Miami, Port Galveston, Port Canaveral, in addition to Port Everglades.3
That said, there are other options for cruising — some of which may cut down on the waiting. The Caribbean is seeing several ships ping pong back and forth between ports. This includes Celebrity cruiseline, which is now offering voyages out of St. Maarten to Aruba, Curacao, Barbados, Tortola, St. Lucia, and Barbados.5
If you’re looking to break the ice on the Lido Deck on an Alaskan cruise, Holland America Line resumes cruises there in July. And Costa Cruises began sailing the Mediterranean in May.
Instead of the ocean, you can also take to the river. Here in the United States, American Cruise Lines is sailing right now (it began in Mid-March). And if you’re looking for a freshwater river excursion across the sea, AmaWaterways begins running European routes in July.
Our best advice is to check with individual cruise providers weekly to see updated itineraries and restrictions. Also, U.S. News and World Report has done an excellent job of aggregating real-time updates on cruiseline sailings.6
While the cruise experience won’t be dramatically different, there are changes being undertaken to enhance health and safety that you should be on your radar.
Let’s return to the CDC guidance first, which has ordered that all passengers and crew members wear facemasks unless otherwise exempted. Additionally, it’s recommended that all cruise passengers are fully vaccinated before departing. While different cruiselines will have different requirements, they range from sharing negative test results to showing proof of vaccination.
Once you’re on board, you can expect to see some new enhancements, from temperature screenings to touch-free boarding, mobile ordering in common areas such as pools, and even reduced capacities in theaters and other crowded spaces. There will also be some changes you may not even notice, including upgraded sanitization procedures and improved ventilation systems.6
For many, slight changes and the most minor of inconveniences are a small price to pay for returning to their favorite floating palaces. By staying up to date with your cruiseline of choice’s return to operation schedule, observing their new pandemic-inspired protocols, and packing a cruise travel insurance plan, you’ll have everything you need to jump back into the cruising lifestyle.