Want to cruise this weekend on an eight-day Historic South and Golden Isles sailing between Amelia Island and Charleston? Yes, we consumed our morning coffee before writing this, and no, you’re not reading an old post from March of 2019. Cruising in the United States is back, after a year’s hiatus. You can now cruise again, this coming Saturday if you wish or any other Saturday thereafter.
This past weekend, American Cruise Lines’ 100-passenger Independence sailed from Jacksonville, Florida (Amelia Island) and is currently en route to Charleston, South Carolina. In Charleston, passengers will disembark and a fresh group of passengers will board to cruise back to Amelia Island.
“American Cruise Lines resumed our domestic cruise operations on March 13th,” Alexa Paolella, a spokesperson for American Cruise Lines, told us. “With our new protocols in place, we remain dedicated to the safety of our guests, crew, and the communities we visit. We look forward to exploring this beautiful country again aboard our small 100-190 passenger modern riverboats and small coastal ships.”
The company’s ships will be sailing, at least for now, at up to 75 percent capacity. With its new protocols in place, American Cruise Lines could see its entire 13-ship fleet operating in U. S. waters by the end of summer.
In fact, the process of bringing its ships back into service is already underway on other waterways. You can cruise the Mississippi beginning next weekend, for example, on American Cruise Lines’ brand new 190-passenger American Jazz. American Queen Steamboat Company also is offering Mississippi river cruises on two of its river boats.
Meanwhile, At Sea
There was more good news last week too. One cruise company cleverly sidestepped what some consider to be overly rigid CDC requirements to resume cruising in U.S. waters. Crystal Cruises announced that it will homeport Crystal Serenity in the Bahamas, with seven-night roundtrip voyages from Nassau and Bimini.
Bookings open on March 18, 2021 (yep, that’s Thursday) for sailings that begin on July 3, 2021. Because Crystal Serenity will not operate in U.S. waters, it avoids having to comply with CDC requirements. But will it be safe you ask? It certainly seems that the U.S. is quashing the pandemic, and with more than 90 days between now and Crystal Serenity’s first sailing, the situation appears poised to only get better. See Crystal’s Bahamas Escapes Itineraries Open For Booking March 18 When will Crystal begin river cruising again? Our best guess: Mid-summer.
How did we get it so wrong when we guessed that the British Isles would be among the first destinations to return? We never thought back in February, when coronavirus seemed to be worsening in the U.S., that cruising would resume in our own backyard. We also guessed that cruising would not resume until spring, and while we know this is a technicality, cruising resumed a week before the official first day of spring. That’s something to celebrate.
UPDATE: As we were preparing this story, we heard from Viking. Turns out, we weren’t wrong after all. Viking reached out to us to announce that it will resume cruising in the British Isles. Three special sailings begin in May. See Viking Will Sail The UK In May. When will Viking begin again on the rivers? Same answer as for Crystal: Mid-summer.
Just in case you haven’t had your morning coffee, we’re reiterating here – and also because it seems like a dream to us. Two cruises companies have resumed operations in U.S. waters; one company will start close-to-home cruises the day before America’s Independence Day; coronavirus cases and deaths are plunging; vaccines are getting into people’s arms; life is ambling back to normal. All of that combined feels almost as good as casting off from the piers and setting sail for voyages of enjoyment and discovery. Welcome back cruising. We’ve missed you.