The federal government has just announced that the moorings of the ban on cruises in Canada will be lifted on 1er november. During this time, stays over the rivers and seas resumed their course in the United States. What should those with a thirst for floating cabins expect, especially when it comes to travel conditions? The answer isn’t crystal clear, but the clues are encouraging.
Posted 24 Jul. 2021
Guy Bergeron, head of the specialized agency Cruises for All, expects “a second wave”, in his own words. No, not the ones we’ve been used to for months, but rather a second tide of customers, after a first batch of sea-legged travelers recently showed up to book a stay, despite the risk of possible sanitary constraints on board.
“The demand is there, I have customers who have bought four trips for next year, they want to recover after having been deprived of it for two years”, illustrates Mr. Bergeron. Same observation with his counterpart Marc Leclerc, of Amarc cruises and travel, which fills its order book for 2022 and even 2023.
But a question quickly emerges on the surface: under what conditions will these cruises take place? With masks galore, disinfectant fountains, stopover restrictions and semi-deserted boats? Not easy to predict with such a distant horizon, but the two agency leaders are unanimous on one point: it is better to abstain before next year.
Mr. Bergeron has indeed been able to observe that trips have been organized lately and, it would seem, cruising is not really fun. “Tests have been carried out, in shitty conditions, with masks all the time, the impossibility of going out alone, tests to pass, ships 30-40% full. These travelers are sort of guinea pigs. And in my opinion, a cruise is too expensive to be used as a guinea pig,” he says.
I don’t recommend a cruise before 2022. It’s too complicated, it changes a lot. I have clients who are going to leave anyway, but I have warned them of the complications they may have.
Marc Leclerc, owner of Amarc Cruises and Travel
Among the sticks in the propellers, we also find, currently, the fluctuations of regulations according to the countries, the federated states or the cruise companies, sometimes coming into conflict with each other – the agencies we spoke to did not have tender words for the governor of Florida, who has prohibited companies from requiring a “vaccination passport” from their customers, which in particular complicates the organization of such trips. “Nothing is clear at the moment. For example, we recently learned that one of the Norwegian cruise lines will not recognize the validity of an AstraZeneca vaccine if a different vaccine has been given as a second dose,” says Mr. Bergeron. For his part, Mr. Leclerc recalls that the government’s advice advising against non-essential travel is still in effect, which leads to insurance problems.
Veil of optimism
In any case, even if overnight package trips in Canadian river waters will be allowed again on 1er November, the real local cruise season cannot be launched before 2022, since winter will soon be on its way. Will conditions have improved by then? Very clever who can guess it, but the agencies want to be optimistic.
For the owner of Amarc cruises and travels, if the companies require a complete vaccination for all passengers, the conditions of stay should be all the more pleasant and much less restrictive. “However, cruise customers are not 20-year-olds, rather people over 50, who are generally vaccinated,” he foresees.
His colleague from Croisières pour tous also thinks that companies will soon get up to speed, to simplify and harmonize requirements and situations.
Faced with the uncertainty left by the distant horizon of 2022, it nevertheless reassures its customers with refund or postponement policies, which can be invoked until final payment, which is generally made between 90 and 120 days before departure. “At that time, customers will have a much clearer picture of the conditions of their cruise and will be able to make their decision,” he points out.
Normalcy on the horizon?
René Trépanier, general manager of the Croisières du Saint-Laurent association, shares this optimism. “We are among the last to resume. It is an economic disadvantage, but an advantage to see how the recovery takes place elsewhere, ”he raises, specifying that of the 800,000 cruise passengers who have traveled since the restart, only 31 cases of COVID-19 have been detected. He says he expects, for next year, attenuated sanitary measures. “International tourism is resuming, normalcy should return in 2022,” said Mr. Trépanier. The association is also working with an expert in health measures who is currently observing the recovery in Europe.
The possible health measures do not seem to scare the customers of luxury companies, who see so far on the horizon. Regent Seven Seas Cruises, after seeing its order book overflowing for 2022 and 2023, put on sale in mid-July places on board the Seven Seas Mariner for a world tour in 2024. Prices? From $92,310 to $251,200 CAD. In less than three hours, all the packages were sold out. “For our customers, World Cruise 2024 is more than a cruise, it’s a return to normal,” said Jason Montague, president of the company.