By Jeannine Williamson
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your cruise director Gene speaking, we are sailing and we are so proud to say we are back.” After the announcement the sound of cheering, applause and the celebratory clink of glasses filled the Sky Lounge on MSC Virtuosa’s maiden voyage this May. As the line’s new flagship shed its mooring ropes in Southampton and marked the restart of cruises in UK waters I wasn’t the only one with a tear in my eye.The Dive Pool, Golden Horizon, Tradewind Voyages
My last time on water was August 2020, when CroisiEurope became the first river line to open up itineraries to international passengers. But that was almost scuppered when UK quarantine measures were imposed on France the day after my return. Back then, everything felt so uncertain, but with several cruises under my belt so far this year - and more in the offing - I am feeling buoyed up, in every sense, about the industry that is so close to my heart.Le Commandant Charcot, Ponant
The first couple of days on MSC Virtuosa highlighted everything I had missed about being on a cruise ship; in particular the wide choice of food, bars and entertainment ‘under one roof’ coupled with the friendliness of the ever-smiling crew members who were clearly as delighted to be back as me.
The other thing that really struck me were the myriad of wonderful ‘wow factor’ technological innovations put on pause during the pandemic and now being unveiled. Who couldn’t resist the charms of MSC’s Rob, the first humanoid robotic bartender at sea enticing passengers to “come here and try one of the best drinks on the galaxy” as he expertly mixes cocktails?Ocean Medallion, Princess Cruises
On the inaugural sailing of Tradewind Voyages’ gorgeous Golden Horizon, the world’s largest tall ship, I experienced how retro charm can be combined with cutting-edge amenities. Especially novel is the 4.35 metre dive pool where passengers can have a taster scuba diving session or take the plunge and embark on a PADI-certified course.
Alas, I received the dreaded ‘ping’ and had to self-isolate which meant cancelling my eagerly awaited trip on Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady. But I hope to get back another time and celebrate by ‘shaking for Champagne’ with the Sailor App. However, I’ll soon be embarking on a Summer Seacation on Princess Cruises’ Sky Princess where I can try out the wearable and contactless Ocean Medallion. After that it will be the inauguration of Ponant’s first electric hybrid polar exploration ship, Le Commandant Charcot.Panorama Restaurant, Amadeus Imperial
Then I can’t wait to get back on the river to experience the Nicko product for the first time, on a festive market cruise on the Danube on MS nickoVISION, followed by my first ever Christmas on water aboard Amadeus River Cruises’ newest vessel MS Amadeus Imperial.
To coin Rod Stewart’s famous song, I am sailing. It’s been so long coming and I know I echo the thoughts of so many agents and cruise-loving clients when I sign off this article by saying it’s a fantastic feeling to be back and there is so much to look forward to.