The great summer 2021 cruising restart is underway -- and we couldn't be happier to be back. In May and June alone, Cruise Critic editors have been onboard three large cruise ships (albeit it at reduced capacity) -- MSC Virtuosa in the U.K., Celebrity Millennium out of St. Maarten and Adventure of the Seas out of The Bahamas.
For all three of us, it's been a long, long wait to get back onboard those traditional cruise ships. Returning has been a mixture of emotions and feelings -- some expected and some unexpected.
One thing that's been fun is rediscovering all of the things we love most about cruising. The saying is true: You don't know what you've got until it's gone. Even things that seemed cheesy are now fun to do again.
Here are the eight things we love the most about cruising again.
I've been stuck on land since July last year. Although I appreciate it has been a lot longer for many people, when you write about cruising for a living, it's very tough not to either be on the sea or planning for a cruise.
I've glimpsed it a couple of times and even went on a boat in April to look at some cruise ships docked in Torbay on the English coast, but it's not quite the same as being onboard, feeling a sense of calm looking at it, waking up to it, feeling it rock you to sleep, surrounded by it.
-- Adam Coulter, U.K. Managing Editor
My last cruise before lockdown was an 80s music theme cruise, so it's no surprise that I've been craving live music. My sailing on Adventure of the Seas had some excellent performers, including a Caribbean-style band on the pool deck, an acoustic singer who was so good they had to move him from the pub to keep social distancing, a piano player in the Schooner and a rocking band that played all the favorites.
Broadway has yet to come back in the U.S. While Adventure lacked a big Broadway production like the larger Royal Caribbean ships, I still enjoyed the ice show in Studio B and one of the signature performers, a former quarter-finalist on "America's Got Talent". The fact that Royal put on a show, complete with singers, dancers and a full orchestra, for a ship that had about 1,000 people on it was remarkable.
-- Chris Gray Faust, Managing Editor, U.S.
I'd say I'm an extroverted introvert. It's part of why I love cruising. Making new friends with people onboard who gravitate toward the same activities we do is always a bonus. I can't recall a cruise where I haven't left with phone numbers and social media contacts for new pals. I've often reconnected with these people over and over, sometimes even sailing with them again.
The lockdown destroyed our social interactions, mine included. So being onboard Celebrity Millennium meant a chance to meet new people and make new friends. It happened quickly and organically, whether at our trivia sessions, spending time on the sundeck or hanging out at the lounges. We left with new friends we've already been in touch with since sailing.
-- Colleen McDaniel, Editor-in-Chief
Being on land so long, I genuinely forgot what a bubble it is onboard a ship, from being welcomed back onboard to cheers and smiles to the: "Good morning Mr. Adam! How are you today?" from my cabin steward, to being served at the bar and the restaurants -- unfailingly with a smile and warmth.
And for me (and I'm sure this holds true for many cruisers), catching up with crew who have become friends, hearing their stories over the past 16 months and sharing mine. * -- AC*
I brought one of my oldest friends with me on Adventure of the Seas. She lives in Wyoming, I'm in Pennsylvania, and we take a cruise together at least once a year. (She was also with me on that last 80s cruise before lockdown.) She was raring to get back to sea and get a break from caretaking.
There's nowhere like a cruise to have that right mix of downtime and fun activities to reconnect. We went to countless trivia games -- winning three; raced down the waterslides at Perfect Day at CocoCay and witnessed the reopening of Senor Frog's in Mexico. In between the laughter, we caught up on what had happened in each other's lives during the long isolating pandemic. It all reminded me that during this Great American Reunion Summer, setting sail with your nearest and dearest is the best way to get over Zoom fatigue. -- CGF
Not that I have been going out much (translation: not at all), but it's still a great feeling to have a pre-dinner drink, eat dinner, watch a show, decide to shoot some zombies (in MSC Virtuosa’s 4D Theater); go back to where your friends were drinking and end up doing some karaoke. And not have to figure out how to get home at the end of the night. -- AC
Like everyone else, I took on more involved cooking and baking duties during the pandemic. (Yes, I'm one of those people with a sourdough starter now languishing in the refrigerator.) As the months wore on, however, the dishes became simpler and mundane.
Which is why it was so exciting to suddenly be back on a ship with so many choices. Sushi at Izumi! Lobster and escargot in the main dining room! A delicious variety of flavored pound cakes and croissants at Cafe Promenade! Indian food for lunch in the Windjammer! Dear reader, I tried them all. (Luckily, my pandemic-era exercise habits meant I got off the ship at the same weight I started).* -- CGF*
If you've cruised a lot, you start to skip some of those everyday activities that seemed like so much cheesy fun as a newbie. The photographer who takes your photos at the dinner table or pierside. Every trivia session. Art auctions.
I missed cruising so much, I embraced all those things I have started passing on over the years. Photo at the dinner table with my husband? You bet. Where can I buy a copy of that? If there were a pirate to pose with, I would have happily obliged. Pool games? Why not! I can't wait to see if the passengers can beat the officers in a game of volleyball.
It's refreshing to feel a little like a first-timer again. I found true joy at every corner on Celebrity Millennium. It showed me maybe I had taken some things for granted. Never again. Sign me up for the next silent disco. -- CM