By Dave Monk
Boarding a ship again this year was an emotional moment - especially when I stepped into the atrium to the sight and sound of crew welcoming me back to the sea.Dave Monk in The Manor of Scarlet Lady
From that initial embarkation, on MSC Virtuosa - the first ship to leave British shores in May - I’ve been on four more ‘seacations’: the maiden voyage of P&O Cruises ship Iona, the revamped Celebrity Silhouette, tall ship Golden Horizon and Sir Richard Branson’s new baby, Scarlet Lady.
Though all have set sail along the south coast - sometimes on scenic cruises, sometimes to further destinations - they have been very different experiences.
Take Iona, the largest ship built for the UK market, with its three-storey windows flooding the atrium with light and views of the passing scenery. It offers a vast range of food and entertainment with a very British twist.Sky Dome, Iona, P&O Cruises
Contrast this with the billowing sails of Golden Horizon, looking like something from a past age as we sailed from Portland to Dover.
Neither of these is anything like the experience of Scarlet Lady - Virgin Voyages has stamped its individuality on its first ship with sex talks, a lively nightclub and colourfully different stage shows.Compass Deck, Golden Horizon, Tradewind Voyages
My Celebrity Silhouette cruise was the only one to pause at ports, allowing me to visit the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland where I drank Bushmills whiskey literally ‘on the rocks’.
If there’s a silver lining to the pandemic, it has been appreciating everything cruising offers, as if for the first time. Unpacking once; having bars, lounges and restaurants only minutes away; enjoying live music and stage shows; being pampered in spas; socialising (albeit at a safe distance) with new people or old friends.
It’s been a joy simply to break away from the four walls which have constrained most of us for the past year and open that balcony door, or walk on to the promenade deck, to hear, smell and see the ocean again.
Of course, the summer ‘seacations’ have just been the first cautious steps towards the resumption of cruising for Britons and the world is slowly opening up to allow us to sail to foreign shores once more.
Looking further ahead, there’s lots to come in the next few years. Cruising - both ocean and river - is constantly pushing the boundaries, testing innovative ideas and inventing new itineraries.The Manor, Scarlet Lady, Virgin Voyages
Carnival Cruise Line now boasts the first rollercoaster at sea on Mardi Gras. Expedition lines are turning their ships into James Bond movie extras with helicopters and submarines.
Environmentally, more vessels are being powered by liquefied natural gas or hybrid electric systems.
On the sales side, it seems that cruise lovers denied their favourite holiday for more than a year are preparing to spend more, book a better cabin or tick off that bucket-list itinerary.
New-to-cruisers who have dipped their toe in the water are realising what they’ve been missing and many are being converted to loyal guests.
With a fair wind, the dark clouds for the cruise industry are passing and a bright horizon is spreading before us. Full ahead, captain!