(Updated 3:36 p.m. EDT) -- It was a busy weekend for cruising, as lines around the world returned to service seemingly one after another, giving cruisers eager to get back out onto the waves more options to do so than ever before.
Crystal Serenity set sail on its first "Luxury Bahamas Escapes" sailing on July 3, 2021. The new weeklong Bahamian immersion voyages will run through November of this year, using Nassau as a turnaround port.
In attendance for the occasion were executives from Crystal, Bahamian government officials, the Honorable Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar, and Director General Joy Jibrilu of The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, along with other dignitaries from the Port of Nassau.
The sailing was also noteworthy as the first time passengers had boarded Crystal Serenity in nearly 16 months. The ship exited Nassau harbor to a water cannon salute as the vessel's loudspeakers played Louis Armstrong's classic, "What a Wonderful World".
"We are delighted to celebrate this historic day in Nassau as Crystal Serenity resumes sailing and welcomes our guests, who we consider our Crystal Family, back on board,” said Carmen Roig, senior vice president of marketing and sales for Crystal.
“We thank the Honorable Dionisio D’Aguilar, Minister of Tourism & Aviation for The Commonwealth of The Bahamas and Director General Joy Jibrilu, The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism for their partnership in helping to accomplish these special voyages and for the warm welcome Crystal has received."
Back in March, the luxury line was the first to announce its intentions to homeport cruises out of Nassau; a decision that was quickly echoed by mainstream line Royal Caribbean, which chose Nassau as the turnaround port for new sailings aboard its Adventure of the Seas.
“It’s a momentous day in Nassau as we bid bon voyage to eager passengers and crew aboard Crystal Serenity. It’s our great pleasure to welcome Crystal Cruises back to The Bahamas after months of anticipation, collaboration and tremendous planning,” said the Hon. Dionisio D'Aguilar, Bahamas Minister of Tourism & Aviation. “The thrilling itineraries that await travelers will help refuel our local economy while also providing an unforgettable experience for guests.”
Crystal Serenity will continue its voyages from the Bahamas through November 13, 2021, with departures occurring each Saturday. Passengers can also elect to embark and sail roundtrip from Bimini, Bahamas, instead of Nassau. Port stops along the way include Great Exuma, San Salvador and Long Island, and sailings are open to all passengers who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Also setting out recently was UK-based Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, which debuted its new ship Borealis (the ex-Holland America Line Rotterdam) to passengers for the first time.
Borealis is the first of the Fred. Olsen fleet to resume cruising, to be followed shortly by Bolette, formerly Holland America Line's Amsterdam. The line acquired the two vessels last summer and has spent the winter months refitting and repainting them for service in the Fred. Olsen fleet.
Borealis set sail from Liverpool on July 5 as part of the line's "Welcome Back" program of ex-UK sailings for residents. The ship is initially sailing at 50 percent of its usual 1,360 passenger capacity.
"Today is a truly momentous day for us, as not only are we setting sail again after 16 months, but we are doing so with the first of two wonderful new ships," said Fred. Olsen managing director Peter Deer. "I must extend my personal thanks to each and every member of our wonderful crew, our shoreside team and our trade partners for their hard work, dedication, passion and commitment, and to our guests, both new and returning, for the support, patience and loyalty they showed as we prepared for our return."
Luxury line Seabourn returned to the waves for the first time since March of 2020 as well, with Seabourn Ovation setting out from Piraeus, the port for Athens, Greece on July 3.
The ship will sail weeklong voyages throughout the Greek Isles from Piraeus through October 2021, under full COVID-19 vaccination requirements. Later this fall, Seabourn Ovation will take over Seabourn Sojourn's scheduled voyages for the remainder of 2021.
The next ship in the Seabourn fleet to enter service will be Seabourn Odyssey, which will resume operations on July 18. Seabourn Odyssey will sail Southern Caribbean itineraries roundtrip from Bridgetown, Barbados
Also recently restarted is upscale line Viking, which has deployed its Viking Sky on a series of summertime cruises operating roundtrip from Reykjavik, Iceland.
“On behalf of the entire Viking family of guests and crew, we are delighted to be back in Iceland—and we thank the government for its support as we continue restarting operations,” said Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking. “This stunning island of fire and ice inspired the original Vikings when they charted new territory, so it especially fitting as a key destination in our ‘Welcome Back’ collection. We look forward to introducing even more guests to this beautiful Nordic country over the summer.”
Fleetmate Viking Jupiter will also sail roundtrip from Reykjavik, Iceland through September 2021. The company welcomed its first American passengers back onboard on June 15 in Bermuda and has since restarted in Malta as well for American passengers.
UK citizens have been able to sail aboard the line since May, when Viking restarted its operations with a series of "Round UK" cruises.
Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas set out from Limassol, Cyprus on July 6, ahead of its first true inaugural voyage that is set to depart on Saturday, July 10.
The ship -- which is sailing with fully vaccinated passengers and crew -- offers itineraries with ports including Limassol, and Athens, Rhodes, Crete, Mykonos and Santorini, Greece.
“Jewel of the Seas’ first sailing out of Cyprus marks the beginning of an exciting return to cruising in Europe for Royal Caribbean,” said Ben Bouldin, vice president, EMEA, Royal Caribbean International. “Cyprus is a beautiful country with a multitude of must-visit regions, and it is an extremely popular destination among our European guests – we know they are ready and waiting to enjoy a Cyprus and Greek Isles getaway this summer.”
Jewel of the Seas still welcomes families onboard, however. Non-vaccinated passengers between 12 and 18 years of age can embark providing they have a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival into Cyprus. All passengers over the age of two years embarking Jewel of the Seas will be given complimentary testing on embarkation day.
The entry of Jewel of the Seas into service follows on the heels of Freedom of the Seas, which became the first Royal Caribbean ship to re-enter service from the United States when it set sail on July 3.