I recently learned that NOW is the best time to take a cruise.
I live in the mid Atlantic region of the U.S. and by the end of February I am quite tired of cold weather and dreary skies. Without fail, by this time I am looking for travel options to warm and sunny destinations. This year was no exception.
Finding last minute cruising deals
As I search for places to go and things to do as a solo traveler, I usually don’t look at cruises. Single supplements usually raise the price to double. On a whim though, this time I looked for cruise options – just in case. To my surprise, I discovered that last minute cruises with Princess had only an insignificant 10% upcharge for a solo booking. Now I started looking at cruising options in earnest!
My favorite site for finding cruises and their current prices is VacationsToGo.com. With its filters, it is easy to narrow down the available sailings by month and cruise line and to see the current cost. My choices for a Princess Cruises sailing in March included itineraries to the Caribbean, Hawaii, and Central America, among others.
There are some sights on this globe that are easier to get to and see on a cruise. Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska and the Norwegian fjords are prime examples. Another location that is best experienced by ship is a passage through the Panama Canal.
As fortune would have it, a discounted 15-day full transit trip through the Panama Canal was scheduled for the Ruby Princess leaving March 11. This was something I had always wanted to do, so, with a week to spare, I booked this last minute trip.
The best time to cruise is right NOW
The pandemic impacted the travel industry hard, and it impacted the cruise lines even harder. After being grounded for over a year, big ship cruising started again slowly during the summer of 2021. In mid February of this year, the CDC eased travel guidelines for cruise ships to Level 3. A month later, the CDC eased the guidelines yet again to Level 2.
With these lower advisory restrictions and summer vacation planning in full swing, cruise lines are undoubtedly hoping and planning for a busier sailing season. This past winter and spring, cruise ships were only partially full. In fact, my Panama Canal cruise was only about two-thirds full, which certainly made for a very nice cruise experience.
As cruise lines ramp up to fill berths for the upcoming summer vacation season, there should be lots of good deals in the next few months, especially if you have the flexibility for last minute travel plans. As a solo cruiser, I loved the option to book a cruise with Princess with no or a very low single supplement – something that probably will not last.
If you are wondering what cruising is like right now, I will share my current experience on the Ruby Princess. First, in order to cruise, all guests had to be vaccinated (all crew are also fully vaccinated). In addition, I needed a negative test result (either antigen or PCR) taken no more than two days before embarkation.
My recent cruising experience
Masking for guests on my ship was not mandatory but was recommended in tight spaces like elevators, bars, and theaters. The cruise line provided a package of masks in my stateroom. All crew wore N95 grade masks at all times.
I chose to wear a mask the majority of the time to protect myself and others and out of respect to the crew. Others also wore masks, especially in indoor spaces, but many did not. In addition, there were hand sanitizer stations located all over the ship.
Wonderful service is a hallmark of a successful cruise. My stateroom attendant told me that only about 50% of the crew were back on board for my cruise, which resulted in a greater workload for those fortunate enough to be called back to work.
Despite these challenges, those I spoke with were very happy to have a job again. All the service I experienced was exceptional and delivered with a (masked) smile.
If you enjoy cruising, or you’ve always dreamed of taking a cruise to a specific destination, this is the time to get back on a ship. There are great deals to be had right now, especially for last minute sailings. As ships fill up, those deals may not last. Also, in the short term at least, ships will most likely not be fully booked, which will make for a much more pleasant journey.
As for me, I am eyeing another Princess cruise soon. This time, I’m considering a midnight sun sail along the Norwegian coast to the Arctic!
Note: Princess Cruises provided a media upgrade to a mini suite and covered my WIFI expenses. All content and opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own.