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Following a year without cruising, U.S. travelers will soon be able to set sail on ocean cruises again. Thanks to foreign home-porting options, Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises and Royal Caribbean International will offer clients voyages in the Caribbean this summer.
Among the new options: Celebrity Millennium will embark from St. Maarten beginning June 5, and Crystal Serenity will leave from Nassau and Bimini, the Bahamas, starting July 3. Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas will depart from Nassau as soon as June 12, while the line’s Vision of the Seas will sail out of Bermuda starting June 26.
The response from the travel advisor community and cruisers alike has been glowingly positive, especially amid delays from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which currently forbids cruises from sailing directly from the U.S.
It makes a lot of sense that Royal, Celebrity and Crystal would start cruising in the Caribbean and skipping the U.S.
“It makes a lot of sense that Royal, Celebrity and Crystal would start cruising in the Caribbean and skipping the U.S.,” said Danny Genung, CEO of Harr Travel in Redlands, Calif. “It appears that the CDC has still not provided the guidance promised in October of last year. With vaccines rolling out rapidly, cruisers are anxious to get back out there.”
In fact, COVID-19 vaccines will be required of adult guests joining these new sailings, at least initially. Crystal will not be accommodating children for the time being, but Celebrity and Royal Caribbean will permit those under 18 to sail as long as they test negative for COVID-19. Plus, Crystal’s crew will be expected to have the vaccine (depending on availability in their home countries) while Celebrity and Royal Caribbean have announced that staff vaccinations will be required.
The decision to restart cruising in the Caribbean — and the options that lines are offering to help get clients to the region — is resulting in a positive outlook among advisors and instant demand from clients.
“It was really nice that Celebrity mentioned their balcony pricing includes flights, since air lift into St. Maarten could prove tricky otherwise,” said Cathy Udovch, elite cruise counselor and an independent affiliate of TravelStore in Irvine, Calif.
Royal Caribbean is taking a slightly different approach, blocking out seats to the Bahamas and Bermuda at subsidized prices for clients who book through the line’s air department.
“I really like Celebrity sailing out of St. Maarten and doing eastern and southern itineraries, leading to possible back-to-back options on the Millennium,” Udovch said.
“We have already booked quite a few customers on the Crystal sailings and have more than a dozen booking requests already for Celebrity and Royal,” Genung said.
Most importantly, clients feel confident about the health and safety measures in place, according to Genung.
“Safety and security are the top priorities of these cruise lines and the countries where they will be sailing,” he said. “I respect their decision to require vaccines and see it being part of what it takes to cruise, at least for the time being.
Overwhelmingly, my customers approve of this — and those who don’t are looking to take a different vacation for now. The demand is off the charts.”
I respect their decision to require vaccines and see it being part of what it takes to cruise, at least for the time being. Overwhelmingly, my customers approve of this — and those who don’t are looking to take a different vacation for now.
Of course, not all of the details of the new cruises are known yet, and some advisors, including Udovch, still have lingering questions.
“What type of assurances has each cruise line gotten from ground operators about health and safety guidelines, and will they have consequences for passengers who break any of their guidelines?” Udovch said. “What will their protocols be for a passenger who tests positive during a cruise or upon return home?”
Until there are more answers, Udovch is simply preparing clients as best she can.
“It seems that most cruise lines, guided tour operators and many destinations will begin to require vaccinations, so I advise all my clients to just plan as if that is fact,” she said.
The DetailsCelebrity Cruiseswww.celebritycruises.com
Royal Caribbean Internationalwww.royalcaribbean.com