Time to cruise again

Jewel Of The Seas in Limassol, Cyprus

With international cruise lines announcing their return to sailing dates over the summer and regional itineraries opening up new exciting opportunities, there is no better time to prepare for the big return of cruising. After over a year of voluntary suspension of cruising, global cruise lines will set sail this July, with water-tight health and safety regulations and a special focus on the Greek Isles.

Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas is ready to set sail from Cyprus this July 10th on 7-night itineraries covering the gorgeous Greek Isles, including port of calls in Rhodes, Mykonos, Piraeus (Athens), Santorini (Thira), and Souda Bay.

Beginning this July 3, Seabourn Ovation will operate a series of seven-day cruises exploring beautiful and historic ports throughout the Greek Isles. Guests will also be able to book longer 14-day voyages, which combine individual 7-day voyages with a variety of different ports on each. Seabourn will take guests to the ports of Agios Nikolaos, Rhodes, Mykonos and Nafplion as well as Limassol, Cyprus on one itinerary. On the other, guests will have the opportunity to experience Patmos, Rhodes, Thira and Spetsai along with a call at Paphos, Cyprus.

Norwegian Cruise Line recently announced its return to service, with three new itineraries sailing Europe and The Caribbean beginning July 25. The Cruise Line will restart operations with Norwegian Jade, Joy and Gem as the first of its 17-ship fleet to welcome guests back on board. Travellers can enjoy all new seven-day cruises to the Greek Isles on Norwegian Jade from Athens (Piraeus) beginning July 25. They can also island hop with week-long Caribbean itineraries available from Montego Bay, Jamaica as of August 7, 2021 on Norwegian Joy or from Punta Cana (first time in the cruise line’s history!), Dominican Republic on Norwegian Gem beginning August 15, 2021.

While the Mediterranean sailings are the obvious choice for travellers from the Middle East due to the airlift, there is evidence that all three of NCL’s sailings are popular in the region. “We have seen so many changes in the Middle East and Africa market. It’s been great to see that one of our first bookings since announcing these sailings was from Israel and for the Dominican Republic itinerary,” Nick Wilkinson, Regional Vice President MEA, Norwegian Cruise Line tells TTN’s Kim Thomson in a roundtable.   

Further down the line and closer to home, PIF-owned Cruise Saudi announced a winter 2021/22 season partnership that will see MSC’s Magnifica in the Red Sea from November 13, 2021 to March 26, 2022. The itinerary includes a visit to a number of ports including Al-Wajh Port, the gateway to Unesco site Al Ula, over seven-day sailings. MSC Virtuosa, as a part of its winter programme in the Arabian Gulf, will also make trips to Dammam Port weekly from December 2, 2021, to March 24, 2021, visiting Al-Ahsa oasis, another Unesco World Heritage site.

Most of the above cruise lines have specified that only fully vaccinated guests will be welcome onboard. There may be age restrictions on the guests, with some brands like NCL opting to not allow under 12-year-olds onboard for safety reasons, while others asking for proof of negative PCR for under-18s.

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the leading voice of the global cruise industry, 74 per cent of cruisers are likely to cruise in the next few years; 2 out of 3 cruisers are willing to cruise within a year; and 58 per cent of international vacationers who have never cruised are likely to cruise in the next few years. These positive statistics released in CLIA’s annual 2021 State of the Cruise Industry Outlook also mention that there will be 20 new ships debuting this year.