A Long List Of What We Miss About Cruising During The Pandemic
We often reflected on the long list of things we miss about cruising during the pandemic shutdown. We cruised a lot over the years. And found it a great way to taste test new locations before we returned for a longer stay.
Many people are avid anti-cruisers. Covid-19 has not increased the popularity of cruising. During the pandemic, there were many reasons why we did not travel beyond our local area. So cruising was definitely not on the planning board yet! But we will cruise again one day.
When we planned 2020 travel, we thought it would be a big cruising year. But you know what happened to that plan! We even got stranded by the pandemic on our South America cruise at the beginning of 2020! We miss so many things about the cruising experience – new destinations, learning about so many things, making new friends, food and pushing our boundaries. But there were also other things we don’t miss at all!
Thinking about and planning for future travel kept us going some days. But that made us think about the long list of things we miss about cruising during the pandemic.
We Thought 2020 Would Be An Awesome Cruising Year
We started the year with two months cruising around South America. When we boarded in Miami early in January 2020, Covid-19 was just a forming risk. As we cruised through three back-to-back cruise segments, the news and risk increased. The cruise company implemented tighter controls for new passengers and staff that boarded in Rio de Janeiro and then Buenos Aires. And new procedures were put in place onboard.
The new practices stopped Covid-19 from getting onboard. And at that time South America had virtually no cases, so port stops posed little risk. It was the most amazing cruise experience. We made it to two days before our final port stop in Peru and then the pandemic stranded us at sea. We ultimately cruised back to Miami with a great trip through the Panama Canal. With no infections on board, nobody felt sorry for us stranded on a luxury cruise ship! And we ultimately made it safe back to Canada for our 14 day quarantine.
But we had other cruises booked for 2020 that got cancelled. We planned to cruise in Europe in the fall. And for Christmas we planned to cruise for 26 days around Australia. We knew in March when we headed back home from South America that those cruises would not happen.
Reminded Of Cruising Regularly
During the pandemic we continued to work on the backlog of travel posts created by travelling almost 6 months a year. We connected with many fellow cruisers and cruise ship staff on social media. And our photos streamed to our AppleTV. So we were reminded of cruising regularly.
One day we picked up a delivery box and were delighted when we opened the package. Oceania Cruises had implemented a promotion called “Remember The Future”. And we got an early view of the treats in the Oceania picnic basket.
The cooking supplies and Jacque Pepin cookbook brought back memories of so many of our favourite meals cruising. And we were reminded why Oceania was so often voted the “Finest Cuisine At Sea”. Even if the package did not include some of Oceania’s amazing dark chocolate!
The picnic basket was the perfect gift as we travelled locally in this pandemic year. The package sure made us recall all the things we miss about cruising during the pandemic shutdown.
Just Some Of The Things We Miss About Cruising
Most of the things we miss about cruising during the pandemic shutdown apply equally to larger trips and international travel. But some aspects of cruising are quite unique.
1) A New Destination Every Day
Such excitement when we pushed open the curtains and started a day as we headed into a new port. The cruise in and out of a new port offered views of the area that we often missed on our day in port. We joined the crowds on the upper decks and moved from side to side and took it all in. There were people who lived on cruise ships who said this new view every day was what kept them onboard.
When we had no firm plans made for the day, the entry to a new port often gave us an overview of the area and helped us plan our visit. When we cruised into Alesund in the Norway fjords, we knew that one of us would climb the hill to the observation deck. Church steeples seen from the ship drew us to explore. And the sight of a city close by meant we could take our own tour.
Every port offered so much to discover. There were often so many choices of things to do as either tours or local exploration. During the course of a cruise we tried to do a mix of different activities – active, educational, foodie or just picturesque.
A new port every day was one of the reasons why people often don’t cruise. Some ports we visited we were glad we had only one day. But for most ports our cruise visit gave us a taste test and we saw if we wanted to return for a longer stay.
2) Seeing Amazing Scenery From The Water
We loved to see new places from different perspectives. And that view from the water was one we constantly craved. There were places where we cruised through stunning natural beauty like the glaciers in Alaska, the fjords in Norway or the awesome sights in Patagonia. And when we cruised on the Yangtze River, so many cities put on the most amazing night light shows. The water was really the best spot to be!
Cruising through canals and dams were always a major treat. We cruised through the Suez Canal and then through the Panama Canal. Everyone was on deck as we moved through the series of locks at the Three Gorges Dam.
We watched the seas from our cabin as the waters sprayed up the deck. And spent hours amazed at the absolute flat seas in the North Atlantic. These views kept us content for hours.
And there was something special to be said about sunrises and sunsets from sea. We just loved to catch the glow of the sun at the horizon. Even if it took hours to set when we cruised in the Nordic Countries.
3) Learning So Many New Things
There was so much to learn about each new destinations on a cruise. We often did much research during the planning stage for a new trip. During the cruises, there were enrichment lectures and we learned even more. And of course, there were new languages to pick up too. Often the multicultural staff on the cruise ship suffered as we butchered their native tongue!
But we learned more than just about the destinations. On many trips, we learned about naval traditions. We crossed the equator many times. And each time we got a different version of the ritual.
We also enjoyed the various educational sessions onboard that were also entertainment. Cooking demonstrations were always a favourite as chefs showed us their specialties and put on a show. David loved the magic lessons. And was dragged to the dancing lessons. There were long cruises where we even learned a little about needlepoint. Even if we never learned to play bridge.
Every cruise we learned a little something new.
4) Making New Friends
As introverts, we were not the life of any party onboard. But when we travelled with others who loved travelling as we did, it was easy to meet interesting people. We always travelled on smaller cruise ships and on our longer cruises it was hard not to make new friends. Many we have stayed in contact with. And we have even met up on our land-based travels.
We did over 17 Oceania Cruises trips, spent about 270 days onboard, visited more than 160 unique ports in 68 countries and cruised on every one of their ships. So it never surprised us when we got onboard and were met with smiles from those we sailed with before. We spent a lot of time talking with staff about the places we visited together, their families at home and life on the ship. Everyone liked to think we were all part of one big family onboard!
Even when we were not cruising, we stayed in contact through social media. That was particularly true during the pandemic. When we all need to believe we will meet again on the seas!
5) Food, Food and Food
We must caveat this section by noting that we often travel with Oceania Cruises and as noted above, they are known for great food. But when we cruised with other cruise lines, the food was exceptional too.
There was always an amazing variety of food. Different dining venues offered something for everyone. And often with an amazing view! We often joked that we never had to go more than 90 minutes between food. And even then, there was also the great cappuccino bar for food in between.
We loved the ritual of Afternoon Tea. Whether we cruised or travelled by land, we planned Afternoon Tea treats on a regular basis. Onboard the ship, Afternoon Tea provided a wide array of food. We loved when there was a themed Afternoon Tea – like chocolate, eclairs, cheesecake or strudel.
Eating out and making menu selections was always hard on any trip where we were away a long time. But we sure miss not cooking and cleaning!
6) Celebrating Holidays At Sea
Many people would never book a cruise over a big holiday and be away from family. But we had a small family that was spread out. So there were rarely big family gatherings for holidays.
Over the course of many years travelling we celebrated Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and both of our birthdays at sea. We were at sea and watched the final game of the Super Bowl one year. And we even were cruising when U.S. presidential election results came in. The staff always did an amazing job at decorating and celebrating the holidays with grand spirit. A treat for both staff and guests away from home.
This year with pandemic shutdowns, we have been home alone through all of the major holidays. We have not even seen our children due to travel restrictions and the risk of infection since nobody lives at home anymore. So we definitely are recalling holidays at sea.
7) Far More Active When We Travel
For much of this year, even getting outside for exercise was a challenge. We moved to a small condo which was awesome when we travelled 6 months a year. Not so great for getting outside during a pandemic. Even after strict lockdowns were lifted, we struggled to find open spaces on the very crowded parks in the city of Toronto. Local trips helped to get us out into nature. Some weeks, these outings were the only thing that saved our sanity.
When we travelled, even in normal years we were much more active than at home. We needed to walk somewhere to get anything on a ship and many trips were easier and faster when we used the stairs. Even on sea days, we met our step count with no trouble at all! The pool provided both exercise and our daily dose of sunshine!
It was often a balance between the great food onboard a cruise ship and the extra activity. We did not gain our “Covid 20” extra pounds during the lockdown. But that just meant we ate less food and were less active. Not the way we want to be.
8) Pushing Our Personal Boundaries
Both David and I lived quite adventurous lives. David was in the Canadian Navy for 25 years. I got my thrills from skydiving over 150 times and then as a private pilot. When we met, scuba diving became our leisure activity in warm climates. And we challenged ourselves with new locations and the occasional scuba dive with a shark!
When we travelled, we looked for activities that took us just a bit out of our comfort zone. We rented boats, took helicopter tours, hiked up volcanoes and scuba dived down into a blue hole. While we still found things that challenged us at home, it is sometimes hard to find the same thrills.
Things We Don’t Miss
The list of things we miss about cruising during the pandemic shutdown was long. Local travel helped provide us with a little of what we missed.
But to be fair, there were many things we don’t miss at all. We won’t talk about the new restrictions that will likely be in place when cruising returns – masks, testing, distancing and more. It was still too soon to know what things might take the shine off of cruising before the pandemic is truly over.
But we know some of the things we like least about travelling will remain and may even get worse!
1) Travelling To And From The Ship
We loved the views from an airplane and the excitement as we headed away. But much of the rest of the travel experience was far less glamorous. Busy airports, long security lines, long waits in the airport, lines for cabs and drives to cruise terminals all were necessary evils when we started or finished a cruise vacation. And this will all get worse when new Covid-19 protocols are put in place. We don’t expect many of the precautions to be lifted for many years.
We have the time and flexibility to take longer vacations than many people. So we often plan to arrive in our departure city early. Often it let us acclimatize to the local weather or time zone. Similarly, we extend our vacation when we can at the final port destination.
We rarely took one week cruises and have done cruises that are months long. This all helped us to spend a greater percentage of our vacation on break and not in transit.
2) Being Disconnected
There are many times when being disconnected from communication and the internet was not such a bad thing. We certainly spent more time lazily with a book when we were away!
We wrote many times about getting connected when travelling. And connectivity when cruising was often a challenge. As travel bloggers this lack of connectivity often backed up work so that we worked much harder when we finally were home. For those still actively working, the situation was much the same.
3) Moving At Our Pace
Life on a cruise was not strictly regimented. But there were still schedules for many of the things onboard. We sometimes made it harder on ourselves when we wanted to do everything! Tours booked on the ship or as independent tour groups marched to the agreed-to itinerary. And I won’t even start on how much I don’t miss 50 person bus tours! Or line ups for almost everything onboard a ship.
We travelled on our own for many long trips – ten weeks living in Italy, five weeks around British Columbia, a month as we explored the Utah and Arizona, 4 weeks around Portugal and so many more. We planned out these trips in detail. But we also left room for changes and allowed for spontaneity. This was how we travelled locally this year.
So Many Things We Miss About Cruising During The Pandemic Shutdown
We were delighted when we started our year with a long cruise around South America. Even if it got disrupted at the end by the pandemic. We at least got an extended cruising fix this year!
But even with that long cruise, as the weeks moved to months, we often thought about the things we miss about cruising during the pandemic shutdown.
We were glad we managed the risk of local travel. And we enjoyed some aspects of travel on much shorter local travel. But we were worried it would be some time before we cruised again. A long list of concerns kept us close to home for awhile. When a chance to cruise again safely came with a Caribbean cruise at the end of 2021, we were ready!
Are there other things you miss about cruising during the pandemic?
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