Shhh, don’t tell those in charge but I have just been on a cruise - on the ocean! Yes, I know that at the moment, we are not supposed to but after spending more than five months landlocked I could not wait to get back on the high seas - and neither could my husband. We had a wonderful time!
Life has been so strange since March when we were on a Seabourn cruise in Australia that was cut short because of COVID-19. I don’t think a day has gone by since then when I have not thought wistfully about all the cruises I should have been on this year, or all the new ocean and river ships I was lined up to visit. Or not looked longingly at all the fabulous cruise deals ROL Cruise is offering for 2021 and beyond. In Japan, around the Adriatic, to Norway, from the UK and so many more. I wonder just how many of you are in the same boat (pun intended), having had this year’s cruises cancelled or postponed.
Unlikely as it might sound, there is something positive to take away from this pandemic. Namely, it has reinforced just how much we all miss our wonderful cruise holidays and can’t wait to get back to sea. Just think. Whether you prefer big or small ships, like to stay close to home or want to see the world, travel alone or with your loved ones, fancy exploring one of the world’s great rivers, there is a cruise for you.
Whichever ship you choose, you will be looked after by caring crew who giver their all to ensure you have a great time, dine like kings from morning until night and always have friendly bar staff ready to pour your favourite tipple. Choose the newest ships and you’ll enjoy levels of luxury and facilities that far outstrip the most highly-rated hotels in the world. And of course, you’ll visit spectacular places and build so many wonderful memories.
Lockdown was a perfect opportunity to reflect on all the great experiences I’ve had on cruises, whether on the oceans or rivers. Penguin spotting on voyages to the South Pole and looking out for polar bears in the Arctic, tip-toeing around wildlife with no fear of humans in the Gálapagos, seeing the spectacular temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia and touring around Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam on the back of a motorbike on a cruise along the Mekong River.
Closer to home, I’ve seen spectacular places and priceless artworks in St. Petersburg, celebrated Christmas on cruises along the Rhine and Danube Rivers, marvelled at the majesty of the Norwegian Fjords. In the Mediterranean, I’ve also been lucky enough to visit so many world-class cities - the likes of Rome, Florence, Venice, Barcelona - that are either on the water or close by. I could have seen them all on a land tour, I know, but it is so much easier on a cruise.
And that’s a keyword: easy. You get on board, unpack once, go to sleep in one destination and wake in another. The cruise I’ve just done was on a small ship hopping around the Greek Isles - favourite islands such as Santorini and Mykonos, but also places that are so tucked away the only way to get to them, apart from on a cruise, is by ferry. Packing, unpacking, negotiating ferry timetables, waiting in terminals. Talk about hard work.
Did we have any worries about travelling during a pandemic? Not at all. Indeed, with all the new protocols cruise lines (and also the airports and airlines (have put in place, everyone on board felt very safe. We were not allowed on the ship until our temperatures and blood oxygen levels had been taken and they were checked again every day - a quick and painless (and oddly reassuring) process.
Using a neat machine, all cabins were fumigated every other day, the customer-facing crew wore masks or face-shields and, rather than self-service buffets, our meals were served to us. Other cruise lines will be implementing at least the same protocols when they return to service, as well as a reduction of guests on board to allow for social distancing. Importantly, none of this detracted from the holiday one bit.
To be clear, I don’t suggest ignoring Foreign Office advice against ocean cruising as it invalidates almost all travel insurance policies but reminds keen cruisers to get ready for when that guidance is lifted. And bear in mind that river cruising is allowed now in countries on the green list.
We loved our cruise to Greece so much we booked to go on the Douro River in Portugal. I’m keeping my fingers crossed I will soon be enjoying another fabulous cruise. Wish me luck.