How to Pick Your First Post-Pandemic Cruise

If you’re dreaming of a post-pandemic cruise vacation, here's what you should know before you book your trip.
Cruise ship at sea (Photo: Shutterstock)
Cruise ship at sea (Photo: Shutterstock)

Cruise lines around the world are gearing up for a relaunch, and frequent cruisers are not-so-patiently waiting to resume sailing with them. If you’re thinking about traveling later this year or early next year on a cruise (which could resume as early as July), here’s what you should know before booking a post-pandemic cruise vacation.

What to Consider Before You Book Your First Post-Pandemic Cruise

At least for a while, cruises are going to feel a little different than they used to. “It won’t be your same old cruise, at least initially. There will be a bunch of new rules,” says cruise industry expert Fran Golden. In addition to vaccine requirements and continued protocols around masking, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is unlikely to allow buffets or other self-serve options that are popular with families for the foreseeable future.

For a lot of travelers, the idea of being around other people who are not in your bubble may still be worrisome, even on a ship whose passengers will largely be vaccinated against the coronavirus, so being flexible while planning (and taking) your first post-COVID cruise will also be the key to a fun and enjoyable vacation. And if your goal is to visit a particular country or destination, then you may want to wait a bit longer. Because of the ever-changing rules and regulations at different borders, cruise itineraries are likely to be modified from pre-pandemic routes for the purposes of safety and simplicity.

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When you think you might be willing to step on board a cruise ship again, you should always consider your family’s comfort level with the on-board protocols. Be sure to read through all of the information the cruise line provides, and do your research to see what is (and isn’t) open in each port. Parents may also want to consider kids’ comfort level with what may be repeated COVID testing, says Golden, as well as “how comfortable you are with your unvaccinated kids hanging out with other unvaccinated kids outside your community.”

How to Pick Your First Post-Pandemic Cruise

There are dozens of cruise lines and hundreds of ships to choose from. And, let’s just be honest, every cruise line wants passengers back on board when cruising resumes. Still, there are a few ways to pick out the cruise line that’s best for you and your family when you’re ready to sail again.

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For example, consider each cruise line’s vaccination or testing rules. Norwegian Cruise Line has said it plans to require 100 percent of its passengers to be vaccinated on its startup cruises. Royal Caribbean is requiring vaccinations for anyone age 18 or older. You should also look at the kids’ club protocols if your children are in that age range. In terms of shore excursions, you may be comfortable going wherever the cruise line sails, or you might prefer a shorter voyage that only stops at the line’s private island.

And if you’re ready to book a cruise for late 2021 or early 2022, Golden suggests booking sooner rather than later to get the best deals. “All indications are prices will be on the rise due to pent-up demand. When it comes to the name-brand lines, no one cruised in 2020 and the first part of 2021. If you see a deal, grab it now.”

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Megan duBois
Megan duBois is a freelance writer who covers theme parks, cruising, food and drink, and family travel. Her work has appeared on Buzzfeed, Popsugar, Insider, Orbitz, The Daily Meal, Family Vacation Critic, TravelPulse, and more. Megan has been quoted as an expert and thought leader on theme parks for Forbes and other outlets. Follow her on Instagram @MinglingwithMickey and Twitter @Megand513 for theme park travel tips and tricks, and email her at megand513 [at] gmail [dot] com for story ideas.

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