Written by Jane Archer
‘It is so good to be back.’ The words were spoken with feeling by Izzy, my wonderful butler on Celebrity Apex, but frankly they could have come out of the mouths of any of the thousands of people and crew I’ve sailed with since the great cruise restart this summer.Azamara Quest and Norwegian Jade
And what a summer it’s been! I’ve done five cruises around the UK’s south coast (who knew Portland was so interesting!) and four hopping around the Greek Isles. Know what’s struck me most – apart from how fab it was to be back at sea? How happy my fellow passengers were. Brits, Americans, Europeans. We’ve all missed cruising so much.
Not that everyone I met was an avid cruiser – some were first-timers for whom a cruise was never on the radar – but all were desperate for a holiday after the madness of the past 18 months and applauded the health protocols the lines have put in place to keep Covid at bay.Retreat sundeck, Celebrity Apex
This summer alone, I’ve been on ships big and small, ultra-luxury, family and several that were brand new. As the old adage goes, there is a cruise for everyone - even those first-timers, who all admitted they were hooked.
There was glitz, glamour and plenty of joie de vivre on MSC Cruises’ new MSC Virtuosa, Celebrity Cruises’ refashioned Celebrity Silhouette and Norwegian Cruise Line’s lively Norwegian Jade. I dined like a king on a weekend jaunt around the South Coast on Marella Cruises’ Marella Explorer and joined the red revolution on Virgin Voyages’ new Scarlet Lady as she wowed passengers on her Summer Soiree series of UK cruises.
Celebrity Apex hit a suite (sic) spot on a week of sun, sand and being spoilt in Greece in an Edge Villa – a two-storey suite that came with the aforementioned Izzy and a secret back door that opened to the exclusive suite-only Retreat sundeck – a beautiful space I didn’t want to leave!
Still in Greece, this time on Silversea’s luxurious new Silver Moon, I sampled – literally - the line’s innovative Sea and Land Taste (SALT), which is a brilliant initiative aimed at connecting passengers with different cultures by tasting and cooking local cuisine.SALT Lab, Silver Moon, Silversea
Back in the UK, I was thrilled to be reacquainted with Seven Seas Splendor as she spearheaded Regent’s return to service and enjoyed Good Spirits at Sea on one of Princess Cruises’ seacations. It’s a new venue on Sky Princess where you order a cocktail, learn its provenance as the mixologist works his magic and then dive in. I went for a Bangkok Mule and boy, did it have a kick!Jane onboard Azamara Quest
Last but by no means least to a cruise on Azamara Quest, again in Greece, on Azamara’s first sailing since March 2020 and its first under new owners Sycamore Partners. They bought the line – and another vessel – after ships had been stuck at anchor for a year. If that doesn’t shout optimism in the future of cruise, nothing does.
They’re right to be so positive. The industry has not only bounced back and delighted us with new ships and innovations this summer, but has more of the same lined up for next year and beyond, with dozens of new vessels, more tech and more choice on the way. To paraphrase that old Orange ad, the future’s bright, the future’s cruise.