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Return To The Seas

For the last two years, the cruise industry has seen a lot of changes, but it's coming back.

In early 2019, when the global COVID-19 pandemic hit, the vast majority of businesses experienced drastic changes. Where possible, office workers started working from home, restaurants switched their focus to carry-out and delivery, and grocery stores asked customers to wear masks and practice social distancing.

Meanwhile, cruise lines shut down entirely, along with most of the hospitality industry. Slowly, however, cruises started running again as new safeguards were put in place and more passengers were vaccinated against the illness.

According to Kim Huber, our travel expert with Cruise Planners, people who love to go on cruises are booking voyages again. And many of them are finding that some of the changes they’re seeing are actually positive.

“I'd say the biggest positive I'm hearing from my clients is that there seems to be a higher level of service,” Kim said. “For example, most of the food options are no longer self-serve. So instead of crowding together at buffet lines and serving yourself, you'll point to what you want and a crew member will serve you. People like that.”

Additionally, she said ships are running at a lower capacity, which means passengers don't feel as crowded as they used to.

“Ships are running at about 60 to 70 percent capacity,” she said. “So you have fewer people competing for the chairs that you want by the pool, and the hot tub isn’t filled with a bunch of other people when you want to get in it. You're not fighting for the premium space, like the good seats in the entertainment venues.”

Pricing is also fairly reasonable right now, she added. However, that may not last long.

“We’re in wave season right now, which lasts until about early March. So the cruise lines are offering premiere specials. When prices start to go up, it’s expected that the costs will be more like they were in 2019. If you're comparing those prices to 2021, you may feel some sticker shock because prices last year were the lowest they’ve been in 20 years.”

For Orlando-area residents, cruises sailing out of Port Canaveral and Tampa are the most convenient because the drive to the port his shorter. That said, there are some differences to take into consideration.

“Port Canaveral is only a 45-minute drive, so there's no need to go the day before and get a hotel,” Kim said. “While there’s long-term parking, I often help clients by reserving a private van or bus to take them to the port and pick them up after the cruise. Cost-wise, it can be the same or cheaper than parking at the port, depending on how long the cruise is. Tampa is a smaller port with fewer cruise lines that call it their home port. Plus, it's a little bit further away, so I don't recommend it unless you're looking for a specific itinerary that only sales out of Tampa.”

About Cruise Planners

According to Kim, the most important aspect of her role as a travel advisor is the extensive knowledge she has about the industry.

“On average, people spend 40 hours planning their own trip,” she said. “I do all that work for free – it doesn’t cost the client anything. Plus, I get frequent notifications from all the cruise lines and I'm up to date on any changes to testing procedures, vaccine requirements, schedules, itineraries. I also know if there's a deal or price reduction available, and I can sometimes save my clients even after they've booked their cruise.”

6 important things to remember about cruising in 2022:

  1. You must show proof of a recent negative test, up to 48 hours before boarding, depending on the cruise line
  2. A negative test immediately prior to boarding may be required
  3. If one person in your party is positive, the entire party will not be allowed to board
  4. Passengers 12 and older must show proof of vaccination with the final dose administered at least 14 days prior to boarding
  5. Passengers are given a specific window of time to board, and if you miss it, you could end up waiting until the end of the day to board
  6. Masks will be required for most indoor activities, except when you are in your stateroom or cabin and while eating

Policies vary depending on the cruise line, so be sure to check with your travel advisor ahead of time.