Why Staycation Cruises Could be a Huge Travel Trend in 2021
Additional reporting by Andrea Saadan.
While most international travel has ground to a halt over the past year, it was the cruise industry that, very publicly, felt the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic near the beginning of the global crisis in early 2020. Who can forget those daily news dispatches in the first quarter, detailing passengers' daily struggles as ships were stranded at sea for weeks at a time, while nations and ports grappled with healthcare protocols?
For cruise-lovers, the industry's gradual voluntary shut-down by the second half of 2020 was devastating, though necessary—the good news is that it looks like cruises will be back this year, as soon as the summer, though only in select parts of the world and, well, there's a twist: this year, it looks like the hottest cruises will be... cruises to nowhere.
Obviously, cruises-to-nowhere aren't new, they've been around for a long time—in parts of the United States, they were popular inexpensive short breaks designed for long weekends and/or journeys into international waters, just beyond the reach of local gambling and sales tax jurisdictions, until they were outlawed in 2016 due to complications with staff visas and laws prohibiting foreign-flagged ships from transporting people between domestic ports.
This year, the cruise to nowhere gets rebranded as a staycation, and with international travel restrictions unlikely to sort themselves out anytime in the near future, luxury cruise companies are stepping up with cruise-to-nowhere packages designed to pamper guests with all the bells and whistles ordinarily offered on more far-flung long haul adventures.
Case in point: Cunard, which announced today that it will offer a series of summer sailings out of Southampton on its legendary Queen Elizabeth. These staycation cruises will remain in British waters throughout the duration of the journey and will be "seeking out the very best of the summer sunshine," according to a statement from the company.
With the UK vaccination rollout on target for an early summer back-to-normal, but international travel rules still unclear, a staycation cruise sounds like a great way to get out to sea this summer.
"With the UK Government confirming that domestic travel is close on the horizon, we are introducing a series of exciting, shorter duration holidays for British residents looking for the perfect staycation in Cunard luxury this summer," said Cunard President Simon Palethorpe. "These will be sailings from Southampton, for UK residents, around the UK and will make the very most of the summer sunshine."
Meanwhile, in Singapore, the tourism board approved Genting Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International cruises to nowhere late last year, on Genting's World Dream and Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas ships, complete with "stringent hygiene and safety measures through the passenger journey—from prior to boarding, to after disembarkation," according to a statement.
Cruise companies aren't the only ones offering trips to nowhere—late last year, Singapore Airlines considered launching flights to nowhere.
However, the plan was quickly scrapped amid outcry from the public and climate activists so the carrier pivoted to launch more environmentally-friendly initiatives to sustain the business while offering Singaporeans a taste of their in-flight services and dining experiences.