Voyages to Recovery: Topical Themes to Entice Clients

Early 2020 started as a fabulous year in travel. Then, the world changed. Now, as the industry moves toward recovery, here are Travel Agent’s anecdotal selection of “2021 Voyages to Recovery,” specific itineraries based on topical themes that our editors and travel expert sources believe could entice clients to book. 

The good news? In its second quarter 2020 financial report, Carnival Corporation said that, “despite substantially reduced marketing and selling spend, the company is seeing growing demand from new bookings for 2021. For the six weeks ending May 31, 2020, two thirds of the company’s 2021 bookings were totally new bookings.” The other third came from Future Cruise Credit (FCC) use.   

So, check out these “Voyages to Recovery,” a sampling of appealing cruise options within themed topics. Just keep in mind that other cruise lines could have similar options. Also, any cruise line cited for a specific voyage (either in this article or two accompanying online stories) is mentioned only once. That way, agents get a broader scope based on multiple industry options. This is a snapshot look at what’s available in the marketplace to help entice clients to book for 2021.  

For U.S.A. Cruising 

Seeking a close-to-home cruise, perhaps a drive-to cruise or one that departs/returns to U.S. ports? Our first “Voyage of Recovery” is American Cruise Lines’ eight-day “Columbia and Snake Rivers” itinerary. Plying the Pacific Northwest region that Lewis and Clark explored, this journey takes cruisers to ports within Oregon and Washington state. 

Multiple American Cruise Lines’ vessels operate this itinerary between Portland, OR, and Clarkston, WA. One good choice is the 190-passenger American Harmony, new in 2019. Sailing multiple dates on this itinerary (such as March 31, 2021), this “Modern Riverboat-class” vessel calls at Astoria, OR; Mount St. Helens, WA; the Columbia River Gorge/Stevenson, WA; The Dalles, OR; Pendleton, OR/Richland, WA; and Clarkston (overnight). Guests also receive a one-night complimentary pre-cruise hotel stay.

American Cruise Lines’ 190-passenger American Harmony is a “Modern Riverboat-class” vessel. Shown here is the atrium. // Photo: American Cruise Lines

Nestled between Mount Hood and Mount Adams, The Dalles’ was the last stop on the historic Overland Oregon Trail. If the pioneers made it to this point on the Columbia River, they’d survived a treacherous journey. Today, the scenery is simply stunning, the journey arriving by riverboat is easy. New for 2021, American Cruise Lines will add luxury “American Cruise Coaches” to follow the river ships and provide ground transportation for guests; this includes any offered shore excursions or “on-off” shuttles to downtown areas.

“We have seen an increased consumer demand for U.S. river cruising,” says Michelle Fee, CEO and founder, Cruise Planners. “Americans want to travel but with so many unknowns about international travel right now, sailing down historic U.S. rivers is growing in popularity.” She characterizes Cruise Planners’ 2021 U.S. river cruise bookings as “very strong” — up more than one-and-a-half times from 2019 levels. “Many river cruise embarkation ports are within driving distance or a short flight from home, which makes vacation getaways accessible for more Americans,” she adds.    

On the Mississippi River, American Queen Steamboat Company’s newest fleet addition, the 245-passenger American Countess, sails a nine-night “Charms of the South” itinerary (New Orleans-Memphis), departing March 6, 2021, among many other departures. This paddlewheel vessel is the former Kanesville Queen, totally rebuilt from the hull upward, lengthened with a new mid-section and updated with new interior spaces by AWSC.

On this voyage, guests enjoy a complimentary, one-night, pre-cruise hotel stay in New Orleans. The first two port calls are at Louisiana’s Nottoway Plantation, the South’s largest standing antebellum mansion, and quaint St. Francisville, LA, with more than 140 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. The ship also calls at Natchez, MS, which author Hugh Bayless included in “The 100 Best Towns in America;” Vicksburg, MS, with southern cultural sites, Civil War history and eclectic museums; Port of the Mississippi Delta; and Memphis, TN, for blues, Elvis history and barbecue. 

American Countess is American Queen Steamboat Company’s newest fleet addition. Shown here is a rendering of the library. // Photo: American Queen Steamboat Company

If cruisers seek a small-ship Hawaii-focused ocean adventure, UnCruise Adventures offers an appealing seven-night “Hawaiian Seascapes” itinerary on the 36-passenger Safari Explorer. Multiple departures of this itinerary are offered from January to May 2021 and in November and December 2021. The ship sails one way from Molokai (a less visited isle with spectacular natural scenery) to Hawaii, “The Big Island,” home to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, or the reverse itinerary. Cruisers also will visit the islands of Lanai and Molokai.

Clients can chat with a local Kahuna in Molokai’s ancient Halawa Valley; hike up Hualalai Volcano and peer into the crater or venture inside a lava tube; and search for dolphins, whales, and other sea life in a natural marine sanctuary. Cruisers will also visit two National Historic Parks and snorkel among coral gardens and at a sea turtle habitat. One fun evening activity is a pa‘ina (feast) and Hawaiian jam session with Molokai locals. 

UnCruise Adventures offers a seven-night “Hawaiian Seascapes” itinerary on the 36-passenger Safari Explorer. Shown here is the bar on the ship. // Photo: UnCruise Adventures

For clients who desire a big-ship Hawaii experience with onboard dining, a full-service spa and myriad activity and entertainment choices, yet maximum Hawaii port time, check out Norwegian Cruise Line’s 2,186-passenger, American-flagged Pride of America. This ship sails weekly year-round from Honolulu, Oahu and calls at Kahului, Maui (overnight); Hilo, Hawaii; Kona, Hawaii; and Nawiliwili, Kauai (overnight). 

Guests enjoy scenic cruising along Kauai’s Napali Coast, and Pride of America has an onboard cultural ambassador who provides enrichment opportunities for guests desiring to learn more about Hawaii’s native Polynesian culture. The biggest plus, though? Pride of America’s itinerary offers guests nearly 100 hours of time to explore ashore. American-flagged vessels can sail intra-Hawaii for the entire week with no foreign port call required (something the U.S. Jones Act requires for foreign-flagged vessels — the bulk of the global cruise industry’s fleet). 

Above the U.S. border, Canadian policy closed that country’s ports to cruise ship visits this summer, so many advisors believe 2021’s Alaska season could be strong. For a big-ship Alaska experience featuring the tried-and-true port trio of Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway as well as Tracy Arm fjord, Icy Strait Point and Victoria, B.C. we like Carnival Cruise Line’s 11-day Alaska cruises on the 2,124-passenger Carnival Miracle, departing June 20 and August 22 (port order varies between those departures).  

Ten-night options without Ketchikan or, alternatively without Icy Strait Point, are also available. The big draw is the departure point — San Francisco, CA, a great city to explore pre- or post-cruise and reachable via domestic flights or even a drive for some West Coast clients. For those who enjoy days at sea, these cruises also have four of those, providing a good mix of sea time and shore time. 

Guests looking for a big-ship Alaska experience next year should note that Carnival Cruise Line has 11-day itineraries on Carnival Miracle, departing June 20 and August 22. // Photo: Carnival Cruise Line

For Superb Eco-Adventure

For clients who desire to gaze at blue-footed boobies, seals, turtles, marine iguanas and sea lions as well as stunning scenic beauty, the Galapagos Islands await. Located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, this remote island chain is protected as a marine reserve, so cruisers often can observe much of what naturalist Charles Darwin did during his 1835 visit on the HMS Beagle

To explore the Galapagos in style, one pampering choice is Silversea Expeditions’ new, 100-passenger, all-suite Silver Origin. This pampering luxury expedition ship launched earlier this year and replaces Silver Galapagos in the islands; it sails year-round between Baltra and San Cristobal on two alternating seven-night itineraries.

For example, on the February 13, 2021 sailing from San Cristobal to Baltra, Silver Origin’s seven-night itinerary calls at Isla Bartolome, Playa Espumilla (Santiago), Punta Vicente Roca (Isabela), Punta Espinoza (Fernandina), Tagus Cove, Elizabeth Bay, Post Office Bay (Floreana), Champion Islet (Floreana), Punta Cormorant (Floreana); Cerro Dragon (Santa Cruz); Isla Guy Fawkes, Bahia Borrero (Santa Cruz), Santa Cruz Highlands; Fausto Llerena Breeding Center, Puerto Ayora; and finishes in Baltra. One highlight is Punta Espinoza where cruisers will see the distant slopes of La Cumbre volcano and marine iguanas (often hundreds of them) resting on the black rock of recent lava flows. Often, sea lions are spotted too. The ship carries eight Zodiacs

Silver Origin has a forward Explorer’s Lounge, two restaurants, an Observation Lounge, spa, fitness center and Basecamp lounge with a large, interactive digital wall where guests can access destination-related pictures, videos, excursion previews and scientific presentations. Silver Origin offers eight different suite categories, the largest at 1,722 square feet. All suites have private balconies. Certain categories feature a Horizon Balcony, offering more living space, yet — with the push of a button — enclosable based on weather conditions. Select suite categories also incorporate an ocean-view bathtub and shower, some accessible from the balcony. 

Silver Origin has a Basecamp lounge with a large, interactive digital wall where guests can access destination-related pictures, videos, excursion previews and scientific presentations. // Photo: Silver Expeditions

For a small ship international eco-adventure in a compact timeframe, Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic operates an appealing six-day “Wild Iceland Escape” itinerary on the 148-passenger National Geographic Explorer. Guests will see dramatic waterfalls and tundra landscapes, soak in geothermal hot springs, hike over cooled lava fields, view Iceland’s newest isle, Surtsey, and, in the remote Westfjords region, look for nesting puffins and gannets on the Latrabjarg cliffs and humpback and minke whales in surrounding waters.

For more time in Iceland, Lindblad’s optional one- to three-day extensions allow guests to pick their personal passion — perhaps heading across to the volcanic wilderness, spending a day at Reykjavik’s Blue Lagoon or several days exploring the Snaefellsnes peninsula, home to an ice cave, lava tube cave, black pebble beaches and basalt sea stack columns. 

In Antarctica, numerous high-quality expedition ships from multiple brands create opportunities for eco-activities and getting “up close” to penguins and marine life. For those who like an international aura onboard, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ 12-day “Expedition Antarctica” voyage sails roundtrip from Ushuaia, Argentina on January 21, 2021 and several other dates. Both English and German are spoken onboard.  

One plus of this choice is the ship. Launched in fall 2019, Hanseatic Inspiration is a gorgeous expedition ship with luxury interiors and amenities, sizable outdoor space for guests to peruse Antarctic scenery and wildlife/marine life, multiple dining venues and 24-hour room service. One nice feature is the full-service, eco-friendly spa constructed with natural materials. Spa treatments use natural ingredients too.  

On Zodiac expeditions, cruisers can often spot penguin chicks gathering in their “nursery” or view whales, seals and seabirds. Cruisers will also see majestic tabular icebergs and shelf ice in the Weddell Sea, retrace the routes of 19th-century polar explorers; and hike on pristine landscapes with Expedition Team guides. For the ultimate in bragging rights, clients can book Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ optional overnight Antarctica camping adventure (at an added fee). 

Hanseatic Inspiration is an expedition ship with luxury interiors and amenities and sizable outdoor space. // Photo: Susan J. Young 

For Theater and Book Lovers 

For guests who love sea days, Cunard Line’s 2,691-passenger Queen Mary 2’s weeklong transatlantic voyages are a good option. This ship — a true ocean liner in its construction design — has a planetarium, multiple dining venues, a ballroom dance venue, a museum, and activities to keep guests busy for six days at sea as it sails between New York City and Southampton, U.K. (for London). Queen Mary 2 will make 23 crossings between April and December 2021, including a few that cross to/from Hamburg, Germany or Le Havre (Paris), France

Adding to the appeal are unique events that Cunard offers during select transatlantic voyages. Stellar options include the “London Theatre at Sea with The Olivier Awards” voyage, a weeklong eastbound cruise departing May 14, 2021, or the seven-night “Literature Festival at Sea” with a westbound departure on November 14, 2021. The latter is curated by the programming team of The Times and The Sunday TimesCheltenham Literary Festival; authors, poets, historians, critics and journalists will participate in guest enrichment programming.  

Small ship luxury operator Ponant has an enticing seven-night “Theatre & Literature”-themed and Croatian-intensive itinerary in the Adriatic Sea for 2021. Sailing roundtrip from Venice on June 25, 2021, the 244-passenger Le Lyrial will visit Korcula, Sibenik, Split, Dubrovnik, Hvar and Rovinj, Croatia, as well as Kotor, Montenegro. This voyage combines sea travel with shore visits in destinations famous for their architectural treasures. Antoine Gallimard, president and CEO, Gallimard, a major French publishing house, will be the special guest and host on this literary-themed voyage.

For Private Island Getaways

Itineraries that feature private Caribbean island days are a good draw, particularly for pandemic-weary consumers seeking fun in the sun for rejuvenation. “I think the cruise lines will continue to invest in their private islands — and operate more island-only itineraries — because they have better control over health and safety protocols since they operate the space,” says Christy Scannell, travel designer and owner, Dream Vacations, San Diego, CA. “Also, many avid cruisers have already enjoyed the Caribbean ports and simply want the ease of a beach escape.”

Royal Caribbean International’s “Perfect Day at Coco Cay” in the Bahamas has a Thrill Waterpark with multiple slides, water activities and the Caribbean’s largest wave pool.// Photo: Susan J. Young 

Scannell says that as the cruise lines continue to invest in their islands, these “mini-paradises” are becoming spectacular destinations with something for everyone. “Personally, I love the cruise-line private islands and always look forward to visiting,” she says. For example, Royal Caribbean International’s “Perfect Day at Coco Cay” in the Bahamas delivers beaches, a Thrill Waterpark (with multiple slides), the largest wave pool in the Caribbean and even a hot air balloon experience, while MSC Cruises’ new eco-focused Bahamian private island, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, has kayaking, snorkeling, a stingray adventure, private cabanas and beachside stargazing. 

A relatively recent trend is for cruise lines to design certain Bahamas/Caribbean voyages with more than one private-island experience port call. One good choice is Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ 10-day “Idyllic Caribbean Isles” luxury cruise roundtrip from PortMiami, sailing January 26, 2021 with calls at two private island experiences — Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas, and Harvest Caye in Belize. An added perk is sailing on a luxurious new ship, the 750-passenger Seven Seas Splendor, christened earlier this year. Other sun-drenched ports of call on this itinerary include Key West, FL; Cozumel, Mexico; Roatan, Honduras; Santo Tomas de Castilla, Guatemala; and Costa Maya, Mexico

What’s nifty at Great Stirrup Cay are the new Villas at Silver Cove, 38 air-conditioned villas from studios to larger one-and-two-bedroom villas; they’re equipped with a full bathroom, daybed, club chairs, TV with on-demand entertainment and outdoor patio and lounge seating. They also include access to a private beach and the Silver Cove Restaurant and Bar. Families might splurge for the Lagoon Two-Bedroom Family Suite Villa with even more space and amenities.  

Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ luxurious new ship, the 750-passenger Seven Seas Splendor // Photo: Susan J. Young

For a Unique Twist 

What if clients want something a bit edgy or beyond the norm? How about a day visit to Chernobyl, site of the 1986 nuclear accident? Starting service in 2021, the new Atlas Ocean Voyages can take clients there. The line’s 196-passenger World Navigator will sail two Black Sea itineraries that offer that opportunity.

In fact, guests who combine both voyages into a 16-day grand journey will enjoy the exclusive inclusion in their cruise fare of a three-day/two-night overland tour of Kiev and the infamous Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Guests will sleep in Kiev, Ukraine one night, and then spend the second night at Pripyat, Ukraine. But if clients choose to book only one of Atlas itineraries, they can still purchase — for an additional cost — a one-night overland package to Chernobyl in Pripyat.

World Navigator’s July 28, 2021, seven-night voyage from Athens (Piraeus) will transit the Dardanelles and Bosporus straits and call at Ephesus (Kusadasi), Turkey; Nessebar, Bulgaria; and Bucharest (Constanta), Romania. Guests will enjoy an included shoreside dinner party at Nessebar. This voyage also concludes with two consecutive overnights in Odessa, Ukraine, known for its beaches and 19th-century architecture. The second, nine-night voyage departs August 4 and sails around the Black Sea with an overnight in Sochi, Russia and an overnight in Istanbul, Turkey.

Atlas Ocean Voyages’ World Navigator will sail two Black Sea itineraries in 2021. Shown here is the Navigator Suite living room. Photo: Atlas Ocean Voyages

More Voyages to Recovery

Travel Agent has identified many more stellar voyages for 2021 that could entice clients to book. These are from such lines as Viking, Crystal Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Seabourn, Celebrity Cruises, AmaWaterways, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection and others. 

Go online at and search “Voyages to Recovery” to find other stories in this series about ancient sites, deep destination diving, savory delights, motorsports action, fitness, family fun on the West Coast, quickie getaways and more.

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