The Ultimate Guide to Cruising in 2021.

Cruising in 2021 is going to be very different from how it has been previously. In this ultimate guide to cruising in 2021, find out everything you need to know about booking a cruise and sailing in 2021.  Including when cruises will begin sailing again, what it will be like onboard and how to protect your money.

When will cruises resume?

This is the 1-billion-dollar question! Literally, as that how much some companies are burning each month keeping their fleets afloat.

Looking at the situation now, we predict cruising will not return until the second half of 2021.

Why do we predict this?

First, cruise lines are already cancelling cruises until April and we expect that to continue beyond April. 

Secondly, distribution of the vaccines has just begun and it’s going until the vaccine has rolled out to a significant portion of the world’s population.

Finally, the CDC in the USA has put big barriers in the way for cruising to resume. 

It is going to take cruise lines months to comply with the new regulations, re-crew the ships including quarantine crew and training the crew members on new protocols and health procedures.  

Cruising in 2021 guide
Serenade of the Seas waiting to be put back into service

There are a few cruise lines already cruising in Europe – Aida, MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises. But these are mostly limited to EU citizens from certain approved counties. 

Will it be safe to cruise?      

Experienced cruisers know that the level of hygiene is already incredibly high on cruise ships. Outbreaks on ships are hyped in the media and cruise ships unfairly get a bad reputation. 

Unlike a land-based vacation, cruise ships are a controlled environment where no one else can wander in from outside. This makes a cruise a very safe form of international travel for holidaymakers.

During the downtime, cruise lines have been working on making cruises even safer with new protocols, procedures, and technologies. 

Cruise ships have been fitted with new air filters, bacteria killing UV lights and disinfecting fogging machines. We had the opportunity to see many of these technologies in action on our recent SeaDream cruise.

New cruise ship technology
UV light technology used on SeaDream to disinfect cabins.

Should you book a cruise in 2021?

This is a tricky question and there are benefits to both booking a cruise now and waiting to book your next cruise. 

Why book a cruise now.

Pent up demand, reduced capacity on ships and attractive cruise deals have led to a surge in cruise bookings for 2021. Meaning if you do not book soon you could miss out on some great deals. Plus, when cruising resumed, we predict another surge in booking pushing up prices and reducing demand.

Now is when you will find some of the best deals to book cruises. Almost every cruise line will have some great offers now – offering some of their best discounts and deals. This includes money off, extra onboard credit, second or third guest free and low deposits. 

Most cruise lines are offering a “cruise with confidence” program. This gives you extra flexibility when booking a cruise with no penalties to change your booking up to the last minute. You can book now and change your mind later. These programs will probably be removed when life returns to normal. 

Why wait to book a cruise.

This is a developing situation and things still can change. Cruises could still be cancelled, so you need to know what the cancellation and refund policies before you book – so it is well worth looking on the cruise line’s websites before choosing to book

On a plus side, if your cruise is cancelled most cruise lines are offering generous future cruise credits to book another cruise with – most lines are offering around 20% compensation. Remember this is a future cruise credit, not a refund. 

Cruise lines are also losing a lot of money and there is a possibility a cruise company or travel agent could go bankrupt in these uncertain times. We don’t think this will happen but we recommend, if possible, you pay your cruises using a credit card – one that protects you in the unlikely event your cruise line goes bankrupt.

We also recommend not booking flights yet. If you, pay on a credit card and book one with a flexible cancellation policy. 

Your cruise itinerary could also change. As cruises visit different countries, is possible that local regulations could stop a cruise visiting a port at short notice. 

Cruise ship mask
Cruise lines will require all guests to wear masks outside their cabin.

The onboard experience will change too, with new protocols and measures in place to keep people safe. These could take away from the enjoyment of your cruise experience.

Finally, many insurers will not be offering insurance for cruises or will have expensive premiums. We strongly recommend scrutinising your insurance policy or speaking to your insurer to check that you are fully covered for any medical situations or cancellations related to the pandemic. Also, you should always have travel insurance at the time you book the cruise. 

Where will ships be cruising in 2021? 

Most destinations seem to be up for sale now – Alaska, Northern Europe, Mediterranean, Caribbean, Asia, and Australia. But remember that these are all subject to change.

You will see shorter cruises in 2021., especially from the USA and in the Caribbean – with most initially sailing 3 or 4 nights. 

We expect to see more round-trip cruises with no stops, just sea days or only visiting cruise line Private resorts. These are controlled environments meaning they can test everyone visiting the island including crew and passengers. 

Changes to cruising in 2021.

When cruising in 2021 does initially restart there will be some huge changes both at the port and on board the ship. 

Social distancing, daily health screenings, touchless boarding and reduced venue capacity will be implemented when cruises return.

Masks will be always required when outside your cabin unless eating, drinking, or swimming.

Buffets will be converted to table service or have crew plating food for you. Dining rooms will have reduced capacity with paper menus replaced with the cruise lines mobile apps. 

If cruises do visit a port, shore excursions will be limited. You will need to stay within the “ship bubble” meaning you may have to book ship approved shore excursions – doing it DIY in most ports will not be permitted.

Cruise ship social distancing
Social distancing will be implemented on cruise ships.

What cabins should you book for a cruise in 2021. 

We have always said book a cabin in your budget but with the current situation, we recommend booking a cabin with a balcony. 

Balcony cabins cost a little more, but they provide you with fresh air and private outdoor space. On your balcony, you can relax without a mask and it gives you access outdoors on the small possibility you are quarantined to your cabin.

Read our full guide to choosing the right cabin for you. 

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David McDonald
As one half of Cruise with Ben & David I am a huge cruise enthusiast and have sailed on over 30 cruises. On dry land, I am a Head of Design at a digital media company based in London. I have had the opportunity to work with brands such as the Financial Times and The Telegraph.