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SeaDream Yacht Club just celebrated its resumption of cruises on June 20, but the news is relatively insignificant to North American travelers as its ships are currently deployed in Norway, where U.S. citizens cannot yet enter. The first seagoing line to accept U.S. passengers for international travel will likely be Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line (BPCL) in July.
To be sure, any cruise line restarting service is great for the travel industry, so SeaDream’s success equals success for cruising overall.
For now, though, American clients must look to regional cruises. Outside of river cruises and domestic oceangoing cruises — which are expected to resume in the coming months along the Mississippi River and in Alaska — foreign ocean options are rather limited. Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) recently announced an extension of suspended operations from U.S. ports until Sept. 15 — that is, for member lines.
BPCL and Viking, however, are not members of CLIA. In fact, according to BPCL, the line was first to receive Green approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding its No Sail Response plan. This permitted the company to disembark crew via commercial travel in preparation for its planned return on July 25. The brand’s Grand Celebration is then set to depart from West Palm Beach, Fla., to visit Grand Bahama on its signature two-night itinerary.
Viking, on the other hand, is targeting a Sept. 1 return, but the company may run into the same hurdles as SeaDream regarding U.S. guests, as most of its ships are positioned abroad. Somewhat closer and more realistic is Viking Star’s scheduled Canada and New England route. The only problem is Canada has banned the arrival of cruise ships through October. Chances are Viking will have to redeploy at least some of its ships on alternative itineraries to accept any North American guests.
In fact, that’s exactly what Crystal Cruises, a CLIA member line, is doing. Starting in October, the Crystal Serenity is scheduled to sail on a series of new weeklong Caribbean itineraries between Miami and the U.S. protectorate of San Juan, Puerto Rico. The luxury line originally planned six such Simply the Best sailings but has already extended them through December for a total of 11.
The incentivized itineraries include up to 80% savings on the best stateroom or suite available at reservation; $250 or more onboard credit per stateroom or suite; reduced deposits of only $100 per guest; and low solo rates from 125%. Children under 18 years old can travel from $199 when they are the third guest in a booking. Travel advisors are also eligible for $100 bonus commission for each “Simply the Best” booking.
The likelihood that more cruise lines will have to also follow suit by repositioning vessels closer to local ports — and offering clients savings — is high.
For example, MSC Cruises, which already has a U.S. presence from Florida is reevaluating which homeports are best for the brand. Come November, MSC Seaside will depart from Port Canaveral — nearer to Orlando’s theme parks — instead of Miami to embark on three-, four- and seven-night cruises to the Caribbean and the Bahamas, including the line’s new Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve private island. However, MSC Armonia and MSC Meraviglia will continue to leave from Miami.