Cruising in the times of Covid have sidelined many of us. For almost two years, there were no cruises at all. So not much writing about cruises to be done. The last story I wrote for AllThingsCruise was about the naming of the Sky Princess in December 2019.
Finally, this August the first glimmer of cruising came back. We were invited by Viking Ocean cruises on a five-day sail around Bermuda. There were many hoops to jump through. The first was that instead of sailing to Bermuda from the eastern seaboard of the U.S., we had to fly into Bermuda. Then we had to fill out an extensive health/lifestyle questionnaire for the Bermuda government to be admitted. Then we were tested again in the airport upon arrival. (We could not go ashore in Bermuda until a negative result was reported, about 9 p.m. that evening.)
Of course, we had to have negative Covid test within two days of arrival to even get on the ship. So lots of tests. Because Viking was proactive and had labs installed on their ocean ships, we were tested every day of the voyage.
All went smoothly. We were negative all the way through. Of course, we had to wear masks everywhere inside the ship except when eating, drinking and in our cabins. That was to be the norm for all cruise ships until just last week when that restriction was lifted by most brands.
Not long after, we were invited by MSC Cruises to a three-day inaugural sailing of the MSC Seashore out of Miami. She was christened on this cruise by the lovely Sophia Loren, who has been the godmother of all the MSC ships. Most of the passengers were either travel media or travel agents, so there was a lot of hard sell in the programming but it was nice to sample the MSC experience. The mask protocols were the same.
Fast forward to January 2 of 2022 when we boarded the Holland America Zuiderdam in San Diego for a two-week cruise through the Panama Canal. I had booked this cruise nearly two years prior during the depths of the Covid shutdowns. They were offering almost free everything and for a small deposit we had something to look forward to. The cruise went very well except there were several ports that refused the ship because of the number of Covid cases aboard so the itinerary changed almost every day.
We didn’t really care, we were so glad to be at sea again. And the crew was fabulous. So glad to be working again. And did I mention that masks were still required inside the ship?
Which brings us to now when we are going to take the great leap! Because we had Future Cruise Credits (FCCs) from a Royal Caribbean cruise cancelled in June 2020 that were near expiring, we booked ourselves on the Allure of the Seas out of Ft. Lauderdale on April 2.
Confession: I have never sailed on a mega-ship. I have toured a couple, but never actually sailed on one. In July 2019 I took my grandkids on the Norwegian Breakaway for a week and that is the largest ship I have sailed on.
So a new adventure awaits us. A big, big ship. We are really excited about the specialty dining and the entertainment. We are happy that mask restrictions have been relieved. Usually I write about small ships so we will see how this experience compares. As my good friend Rick Sylvain once wrote: “I never met a cruise I didn’t like.” I am hoping for the same.
Cover photo: Allure of the Seas at port in Nassau, The Bahamas, courtesy Royal Caribbean