Crystal Ball: When Will We Sail the High Seas Again?

Day 300, Pandemic

Sunday, Jan. 16, 2021; Dallas

Three hundred days ago today we arrived at home after abandoning our 2020 World Cruise. We had no idea at the time that we would not be back for the 2021 World Cruise. Now I’m wondering about the 2022 World Cruise. But the 2023 World is opening this week for booking!

When we came home in the middle of the 2020 world cruise, no one realized just how catastrophic the pandemic would be. Cruise lines have taken a real hit. Most attempts to restart late last year failed to prevent covid-19 outbreaks. The industry continues to bleed money and slowly is decommissioning ships. Every month or so cruise lines cancel more scheduled cruises.

Covid-19 vaccines should be a game changer. I’m eager to get mine, even knowing that we’ll still need to follow mask and social distancing guidelines. But the vaccine is the first step in the return of cruising.

As much as I miss cruising, I’m waiting until 2022 to sail. I don’t want to be limited to bubble-like small-group ship-organized tours, or dining apart from other cruisers, which are likely to be among the restrictions of early cruises.

First up for me is the 2022 world cruise starting in Fort Lauderdale on Jan. 3. It is planned to follow the itinerary of the canceled 2021 world. Other than for a few days while sailing up the Amazon, it will be a Northern Hemisphere cruise (as opposed to the 2020).

I say planned because we really have no idea which ports will be open to U.S. cruise ships in a year. My sisters and I haven’t booked any tours or made port plans yet. Given all the uncertainty, I’m only giving it even odds that this cruise will actually sail.

One reason for my skepticism is that Holland America this week is opening booking for the 2023 World Cruise, about five months earlier than usual. It’s another great itinerary, and we have already pre-booked it. But why announce it and open booking so early? Is it as an alternative to soften the blow of cancelling the 2022 world? Or perhaps the cruise line just wants to improve its cash flow with early deposits.

Speculation is the new pandemic parlor game on the world cruise threads on Facebook and Cruise Critic. I’m sure the cruise lines also wish for more clarity from their crystal balls, too.

Being a planner and not having a lot else to do, I just signed up for SIX back-to-back cruises on Holland America’s Volendam for the summer of 2022. The mostly two- and three-week cruise segments start in mid June, sailing from Rotterdam to the Polar Ice Cap and Iceland, to the northernmost parts of Norway, through the Baltic to Saint Petersburg, around the British Isles, Belgium and France, and finally to Rome, arriving in mid September.

21-Day Spitsbergen & Icelandic Fjords Explorer
14-Day Voyage of the Midnight Sun
14-Day Northern Capitals Explorer
14-Day Baltic Explorer
14-Day British Isles Explorer
13-Day European River Explorer

Friends from recent World and Grand Asia cruises are doing the same, and they have suggested leaving the ship for a few weeks to explore parts of Europe before rejoining the Volendam for the transatlantic return to Florida. It should get us there about six weeks before the 2023 World Cruise begins. If all goes as planned, I may be close to just living on a cruise ship for a year or so. Or it all could fall apart. That’s a long time to be away.

As I wrote in my Christmas card note a month ago, “this pandemic taught me to plan in pencil, not pen.” It’s fun to dream. Who knows when we will cruise again? All I can do for now is continue to stay healthy, get vaccinated, plan and take each day as it comes.

Meanwhile, I’m in Dallas for a few months and don’t anticipate any travel to blog about. So I’ll relive some interesting cruises of days gone by. I’ll start with blogging and sketching about a 2013 cruise from Galveston to Dubai. Watch for the first blog post in the next few days.

2013 Galveston to Dubai