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Trekking through Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park for an up-close-and-personal encounter with some of the 900 surviving mountain gorillas is one of the newly created shore excursions offered by river cruise line AmaWaterways. Photo by Dave Proffer
Columns Hit the Road

Hit the Road: Vaccine could give cruise industry a shot in the arm

The cruise industry has been dead in the water for a year now, and the financial losses are astronomical.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, however, cruising’s popularity was steadily growing.

“…Cruising contributed $55 billion to the American economy in 2019, up 5.3 percent from 2018,” according to a Cruise Lines International Association report. Then… ka-boom!

In March 2020, the SARS-CoV-2 began to wreak havoc on all facets of our lives. By the end of last year, it is estimated that, with the cancellation of all cruises just from the United States, cruise lines and associated industries lost more than $32 billion in economic activity, and more than 254,000 Americans lost their jobs.

These jobs included those working in agriculture, travel agencies, food and beverage services, aviation, hotels and motels and manufacturing.

The City and County of San Diego felt the pain, too.

There were more than 120 cruise ships that didn’t dock in San Diego Harbor in 2020.

“This represents a loss of roughly $200 million in regional economic activity, impacting local businesses and government,” according to the Port of San Diego’s newsletter. “The Port’s cruise industry supports jobs including (those) in retail, restaurant and lodging; transportation, trucking and warehousing; ship agents and stevedoring; and security and manpower services.”

Deep breath. Those numbers are heart-stopping, but there finally are signs that the end of going-nowhere may be in sight. But the cruise industry and its passengers will see changes.

By the time you read this, about 80 million doses of the vaccine, more or less, will have been delivered into Americans’ arms. Well more than a million people each day are receiving a vaccine, and at this rate, 75% of our country’s population will be vaccinated with at least one dose by October.

The hard truth is that those who elect not to get vaccinated for no valid medical reason (and possibly some who do have a valid reason), won’t be able to step aboard an airplane or a cruise ship or enter many countries.

Slowly but surely, cruise ship companies are requiring proof of vaccination at least two months prior to departure, not only to protect guests and staff but because many port countries also demand it.

U.S.-based Crystal Cruises states on its website that at “this time, we are unable to accommodate any guest who cannot be vaccinated.”

Some cruise ships also will require proof of a negative COVID test within 48 hours of departure and will require passengers to take another test while aboard.

So, if you love cruising, are willing to jump through the vaccination and testing hoops, and have a stash of travel cash because you had nothing to spend it on this past year, consider some of these newly available, once-in-a-lifetime cruises and shore excursions.

Some adventures don’t even have a price tag yet, but if you have to ask, you can’t afford them.

• Want to one-up those folks who brag about walking among the penguins in Antarctica? Book a polar cruise on the new Scenic Eclipse, a 228-passenger mega-yacht that comes with two helicopters and a submarine. The latter takes up to six passengers to a depth of 1,000 feet to observe sea life under the ice.

• Crystal Cruises has yet to finalize the details of its four-night “Kathmandu: Capital of Nepal and Gateway to the Himalayas Overland Adventure,” but this add-on jaunt will take participants, via helicopter, from Colombo, Sri Lanka, to Kathmandu. They will stay in a 12-room hotel that sits on a 13,000-foot ridge close to Everest Base Camp.

• The river cruise line AmaWaterways offers a four-night excursion — including two days for trekking through Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park — to see a few of the 900 remaining mountain gorillas and the endangered golden monkey. This one priced at about $5,700.

• For $61,000 per person, travelers on a few Silversea voyages can add on an expedition to Mongolia to spend seven nights with “a nearly extinct tribe of nomadic reindeer herders,” and with Kazakh eagle hunters near the Kazakhstan border.

For additional shore excursions and links to cruise lines, visit afar.com/magazine/the-8-most-extraordinary-cruise-shore-excursions.

Have an adventure to share? Email [email protected].

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