Cruising Plans Still Up in the Air

JULY 9, 2021, SANTA FE, NM — It’s been 473 days since I was last on a cruise ship. It will be another 338 days until I cruise again. That is, if all goes as planned. I’m using a pencil, not a pen.

Social media is awash in rumors and speculation about the return of cruising. Some cruise lines are restarting in the Mediterranean this summer. A few ships have sailed from Florida. The cruise lines are caught between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requirements of 95 percent vaccination among passengers and Florida’s ruling that vaccinations cannot be required.

It’s a bit of a catch 22. So far it seems the cruise lines are severely limiting activities for those who don’t provide proof of vaccination, probably in order to discourage them from sailing. Everyone I know only wants to go on ships that are virtually 100 percent vaccinated.

Cruise lines also are heading to Alaska this summer, after a temporary government lifting of the longstanding requirement that they stop in Canada. That country had extended its travel ban beyond this summer’s Alaska cruise season.

Meanwhile, lines are cancelling other planned cruises for the upcoming fall and winter as this virus isn’t slowing down in most of the world.

As much as I want to be back on the high seas, I’m fine with waiting. Let’s see how things go. I don’t mind wearing a mask indoors, even though I’ve been fully vaccinated since early March. I could unknowingly spread covid, and too many people are unprotected. It’s my way of caring about others. But I don’t want to sail wearing a mask 24/7 or with other severe restrictions.

When I last wrote in January about my cruising plans, Holland America had canceled our 2021 World Cruise, but I had my fingers crossed that the 2022 World Cruise would go as planned.

It is still on Holland America’s schedule, but my sisters and I will not be on it. Too many details are up in the air, such as whether it will go, where it will go and what rules could limit our enjoyment. We don’t want to travel in a bubble.

I don’t fault Holland America. With virus variants spreading and a lack of available vaccinations in many countries, no one knows what travel will be like early next year. I can’t imagine that Brazil, India, Japan or China will be open to cruises. One friend in the travel business guessed, “it may not be a world cruise, but a cruise around a lot of the Caribbean and maybe the Mediterranean.”

Given the uncertainty, we cancelled the 2022 World and have turned our attention to planning our summer and fall 2022 cruises. I wrote about them in January, but here’s a brief recap. We are booked on seven back-to-back cruises on Holland America’s Volendam for 104 days and 56 ports, stretching from Norway’s most northern islands south to Egypt. Then we will spend three weeks on land, returning to the United States on the Rotterdam. It will be a special cruise, celebrating the 150th anniversary of Holland America’s first transatlantic crossing.

On a side note, if you are an expert on the Schengen Visa program for the most of the European Union plus some other countries, I’d love to hear from you. We are limited to 90 days in these countries. I’m trying to find the right person at Holland America to tell us how all our sea days will count, but understandably that’s not the company’s priority right now.

With so many ports, I have started my planning early. So far I’m still in the mostly Norway early days of our journey. Most of these ports are new to me, so I’m starting from scratch. I just hope this time isn’t wasted. A few days ago I had a dream (nightmare?) that Holland America sold the Volendam and canceled all our summer 2022 cruises. It’s one of the company’s smaller ships, now that the Amsterdam and previous Rotterdam have been sold. I’ve heard that virtually any cruise ship is for sale at the right price these days.

We also booked the 2023 Grand Voyage, from early January until mid May. I’ve put down two small deposits for “futureDam cruises,” meaning they are planned but no itineraries yet. Once is a rumored Grand Asia voyage in late 2023 and the other is the 2024 Grand World. No news yet about the itineraries, but I am so ready to cruise that it almost doesn’t matter.

Meanwhile, I have returned to Santa Fe for the summer, staying in the same condo that I rented last year. It’s nice to be away from the heat and humidity of Dallas and to see friends I made here last summer. I’m sure I will be blogging about it, even though it strays from my cruising theme.