U.S. Cruise Port Happenings

Cruising from U.S. ports is back for this fall and winter. More cruise lines have restarted cruise operations. More ships—big and small alike—are back in the water, although sailing at reduced capacity and with new health and safety protocols. Here’s a sampling of what’s happening in the U.S. as cruise lines navigate a course to cruise recovery. 

On the restart side, MSC CruisesMSC Divina is now sailing from Port Canaveral, FL, on three-, four- and seven-night cruises to the Bahamas and the Caribbean, including stops at MSC Cruises’ private Bahamian island destination, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve. Port Canaveral, a new home port for MSC Cruises, is along the "Space Coast" and convenient to Orlando’s theme parks and other central Florida attractions. 

In addition, MSC Meraviglia sailed in August from PortMiami to the Bahamas, becoming the line’s first ship to sail from a U.S. port in 18 months. The new 2,270-passenger MSC Seashore also begins sailing from Miami this November. An evolution of the Seaside-class, MSC Seashore will have the largest MSC Yacht Club afloat at 32,291 square feet and also a New York-themed piazza. 

Another new opportunity for U.S. travel advisors? Royal Caribbean International, which has recently been returning many ships to service, won’t send its newest, most innovative vessel, Wonder of the Seas, to home port in China in spring 2022 as planned. Instead that ship will begin sailing a series of cruises from Port Everglades on March 4, 2022, just in time for U.S. spring break. 

The 5,734-passenger Wonder of the Seas, also the world’s largest cruise ship, then will reposition to Europe for the 2022 summer season and operate western Mediterranean voyages from Barcelona, Spain and Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy.

Among the new features on that Oasis-class ship is the “Suite Class Neighborhood,” the eighth neighborhood for the ship class, but it’s only found at present on Wonder of the Seas. That neighborhood will offer Royal Suite Class guests an elevated Suite Sun Deck in a new location; those suite guests can soak up the sun in a plunge pool, loungers and nooks or head for that deck’s bar. The new neighborhood also will offer the exclusive Coastal Kitchen and Suite Lounge, plus an Ultimate Family Suite to accommodate a family of 10.

MSC Divina

MSC Cruises’ MSC Divina is now sailing from Port Canaveral, FL, on three-, four- and seven-night cruises to the Bahamas and the Caribbean. (Photo by MSC Cruises)

Royal Caribbean’s full fleet is expected back on the high seas by spring 2022. Oasis of the Seas began sailing seven-night Bahamas cruises from Cape Liberty, NJ, on September 5 and the ship will shift to operating week-long eastern and western Caribbean itineraries from Miami, starting in November. 

In addition, Liberty of the Seas’ cruises from Galveston, TX, started October 3, while Serenade of the Seas’ four- and five-night western Caribbean cruises start from Tampa on October 16 and then seven-night Caribbean itineraries begin in December. Navigator of the Seas is expected to sail from Los Angeles in November, and other ships are returning across the globe too this year. 

Half of Carnival Cruise Line’s U.S. fleet of 11 ships is now sailing and cruisers can get their “Fun Ship” fix at seven U.S. home ports. Multiple Carnival ships are now sailing from certain home ports—three ships from Galveston, TX, for example. 

In September, Carnival Pride became the first cruise ship to sail from the Port of Baltimore since the pandemic began. It will continue to operate voyages this fall and then in early November reposition to Tampa as its home port. In turn, starting in mid-November, the newer Carnival Legend will replace Carnival Pride for Baltimore sailings. 

The line also announced some upcoming, revised start dates. Carnival Radiance has a new maiden voyage date of December 13 from Long Beach, CA; that was rescheduled from November 5 due to a revised dry dock transformation plan. Carnival Conquest’s restart from Miami on October 8 has been rescheduled to December 13, while Carnival Sensation’s October 21 restart from Mobile has been moved to January 2022.

Norwegian Cruise Line, too, has returned to service and now fully one-third of its ships are back sailing across the globe. Norwegian Breakaway is currently operating week-long voyages to Bermuda from New York City, while Norwegian Encore operated Alaska cruises this past summer and early fall from Seattle. In August, Norwegian Gem became the first ship to sail from a Florida port with all fully vaccinated guests and crew members. It’s now sailing week-long Caribbean cruises. 

The 2,394-passenger Norwegian Gem also became the line’s first ship to use the line’s new PortMiami terminal, which can accommodate ships carrying up to 5,000 passengers. Additional Norwegian ships are scheduled to restart, too — with the entire fleet returning to water by April 2022.

Norwegian also has extended its mandatory vaccination protocols for all guests and crew for all sailings through December 31, 2021. Guests who are not old enough to be vaccinated will not be permitted on the sailings. 

Wonder of the Seas

The “Suite Class Neighborhood” is the eighth neighborhood on Royal Caribbean International’s Oasis-class ships, but it’s only found at present on Wonder of the Seas. (Photo by Royal Caribbean International)

Many more cruise lines are also restarting including Princess Cruises with Majestic Princess first sailing from Los Angeles on October 6; Holland America Line with six ships expected back in operations globally by December; and Celebrity Cruises with the industry’s first sailing from Port Everglades, FL, this past summer, as well as voyages elsewhere. 

Many small-ship cruise lines have operated U.S. coastal, Alaska and river cruises from U.S. ports as well in 2021. The good news is that every week, more ships are restarting service. That said, schedules sometimes change quickly during this pandemic era, so consult each line’s website or agent portal for the latest updates. 

Virgin Voyages introduced its new Scarlet Lady to travel advisors at September events in both New York and Miami. See our first impressions of that new ship, which has an adults-only concept and a wellbeing program that spans everything from a boxing ring to wellness pools.

Crystal’s new expedition ship, the 200-passenger Crystal Endeavor, will debut on a nine-night Caribbean voyage from PortMiami in October. On the Mississippi River, American Cruise Lines’ new 175-passenger American Melody, a Modern Riverboat class vessel, debuted in August; two more in that series, American Symphony and American Serenade, will set sail in 2022. 

Next year, Disney Cruise Line’s new Disney Wish will sail a maiden voyage from Port Canaveral on June 9, 2022, followed by a season of three- and four-night cruises to Nassau, Bahamas, and Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. Families can expect “characters” from Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars to be interspersed throughout the cruise experience. In the Marvel Super Hero Academy, for example, kids can train as the next super hero such as Black Panther.

In spring 2023, Oceania will debut its new 1,200-passenger Vista with several voyages planned for departures from U.S. ports, including an 11-day voyage from New York to Montreal on September 18, 2023; and two 16-day voyages between Miami and Los Angeles on October 16, 2023, and November 3, 2023. Many more new ships are expected to touch U.S. ports, too, in the next two years. 

Galveston has been tapped as the new U.S. home port for Norwegian’s new Norwegian Prima in winter 2023-2024. One unique feature of that ship, the first in six Prima-class vessels, is that the three-story theater will transform into a Las Vegas-style nightclub. Many other new ships from other lines too will sail from U.S. ports in 2022 and beyond. 

American Melody

American Cruise Lines’ new 175-passenger American Melody, a Modern Riverboat class vessel, debuted in August. (Photo by American Cruise Lines)

New Programs

The pandemic has provided time for lines to add new programming, guest services or perks to the cruise experience. Seabourn is now offering eight new services and perks, including a new Seabourn Source app, free Wi-Fi and a tripling of its shipboard bandwidth, new entertainment offerings, including a Latin-themed production show on Seabourn Ovation, several new culinary options, a new housekeeping “duo” approach and more.  

Celebrity Cruises recently announced four new wellness-focused Caribbean voyages in partnership with Gwyneth Paltrow’s goop. For example, Drea Wheeler, a fitness expert known for her Bodylicious classes, will join Celebrity Millennium’s 10-night eastern Caribbean sailing from Port Everglades, FL, on December 13.  

On the package side, American Queen Steamboat Company, now known as American Queen Voyages will introduce an updated, two-night 2022 “Music City Stay Package.” Included is a stay at the Gaylord Opryland Resort, daily breakfast, visits to such attractions as the Grand Ole Opry and Country Music Hall of Fame and ground transfers. In addition, the river line will add more special edition voyages featuring Nashville, plus more performances by country music legend, Lee Greenwood.

Azamara has inked a new partnership with Starboard Cruise Services—an LVMH Moët Hennessy company—for a destination-tailored retail program. Look for boutique goods that reflect experiential, cultural and artisanal touch points. They’ll be curated for each specific travel journey.

Health and Safety 

Certainly, new health and safety protocols—not simply on ships sailing from the U.S. but on all ships across the globe—are helping keep guests, crew members and community members in destinations as safe as possible. 

For example, Regent Seven Seas Cruises recently undertook its first voyage in just under 18 months with new ship Seven Seas Splendor cruising from Southampton, England and a new enhanced "SailSAFE Health and Safety Program" that includes all fully vaccinated guests and crew. 

Separately, Travel Agent recently sailed on Viking from Malta, and among the stringent health/safety protocols for guests on that sailing were daily saliva PCR tests. Those samples are evaluated daily at a full onboard PCR lab, which is run by a doctor and operated by two dedicated PCR lab technicians who sail aboard. In addition, late at night, two large robots transit corridors and public spaces and use UV ray technology to kill viruses. 

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