While tourism in Europe slowly awakens from its pandemic-induced slumber, the majority of ships worldwide remain out of operation and the Foreign Office has advised British travellers not to go on cruises.
As we look to a future where passengers are once again on board, Telegraph Travel’s cruise experts – marooned by Covid-19 – reveal where they are dreaming of to sailing when it’s "all aboard" once again.
Dreaming of Disney
Planning a first family holiday for our lockdown baby and his toddler sister has been a wonderful daydream for me, a housebound mum. A no-fly cruise is top of our wish list, as is sailing on Disney Cruise Lines. Setting out from Dover to explore Norway’s deep, craggy fjords will be a tonic for our scenery-starved eyes. Our eldest will be gripped with Disney fever and we’ll benefit from the “It’s a Small World” nursery, which takes youngsters from six months. After exploring quaint villages and natural wonders by day, my other half and I will put the kids to bed and tiptoe out to stargaze from our veranda, finding magic in each other once more.
A seven-night Norwegian fjords cruise, departing Sept 4 2021, costs from £5,972 based on a family of four sharing a Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Veranda (0800 171 2317; disneycruise.disney.go.com).
Greek Island Hopping
There’s nothing too extravagant in what I’m longing for. Balmy climes with little to do but loll, carefree meals prepared by someone other than me; nowhere that requires a long flight. A swift voyage around the Greek islands, on a relatively smaller vessel, is just the tonic for a year put on hold. I’d choose an itinerary that allows for a heady culture blend – Minoan ruins to Cycladic architecture – and time to explore narrow, rough-hewn streets on foot. To visit Santorini’s volcano or soak in the Aegean after months cooped up in a west London flat is akin to discovering a new world.
A three-night Iconic Aegean cruise on Celestyal Olympia, departing June 4 2021, costs from £489pp (0800 411 8038; celestyalcruises.uk)
Africa from the Water
In my early 20s, I set off on a two-year backpacking adventure that would take me first to Malawi. It was spring, and I stepped off a plane in Lilongwe to find streets festooned with Love Heart-mauve blooms. During those early lockdown weeks when any glimmer of travel as we know it was snuffed out, I recalled many memories of that incredible trip, but none as vivid as jacaranda season in Malawi. On subsequent trips to central and southern Africa I’ve spent time in deserts, up mountains and in game parks. But there is another way to see it. The Zambezi and Chobe rivers, and their tributaries, offer the chance to see wildlife from the water. A day meandering the channels of Lake Kariba might bring sightings of crocodiles, weaverbirds, egrets, hippos and elephants. And how else to explore little-known gems such as the Gache Gache river and Matusadona National Park?
A nine-day Southern Africa: Travel to the Ends of the Earth cruise, departing February 2021 on the 16-passenger African Dream, costs from £4,604pp (020 8328 1281; croisieurope.co.uk).
Sailing America’s Last Frontier
Alaska is the ideal place to cruise. From your balcony, you marvel as you glide past stark mountains, dense forests and creaking glaciers reflected in mirror-like sea. Wherever you go, you’re never far from spectacular wildlife – humpback whales, bears, elk or eagles. From Vancouver or Seattle, you can sail to the salmon capital of Ketchikan, cruise the Misty Fjords with their 1,000ft waterfalls, explore native Tlingit culture in Kake or raft a whitewater river in Juneau. I’ll never forget watching chunks of ice break off the Hubbard Glacier, or the taste of fried halibut in Seward.
A 12-day cruise on Crystal Endeavor from Vancouver to Seward, departing July 23 2021, costs from £9,200pp (020 7399 7601; crystalcruises.co.uk)
Indonesia under sail
I can almost taste the salty tang of the tropical breeze and hear the waves lapping against the bow of the tall ship as it carves through aqua-marine waters. It sounds like a far-fetched fantasy, but I’m painfully aware that, as I type, that’s where I should be – sailing from Bali aboard one of Star Clippers’ romantic barquentines on an adventure through Indonesia’s castaway isles. The sun will have to keep the Gili Islands’ alabaster sands warm, and the fearsome dragons of Komodo will need to hold their fire. I have been becalmed by the pandemic, but when normality beckons, this is a dream I want to turn into reality.
A one-week round trip sailing from Bali departs on July 3 2021, and costs from £1,465pp (0845 200 6145; starclippers.co.uk)
Eyes on the Big Easy
As soon as I get the green light, it’s the Mississippi for me – not just the bit from Memphis to New Orleans, which is wonderful, but rollin’ down 2,348 miles of Ol’ Man River in the footsteps of one-time riverboat pilot Mark Twain on a cruise from Red Wing, Minnesota, to the Big Easy on one of American Queen Steamboat Company’s head-turning paddlewheels. After months holed up at home, what could be better than two weeks exploring vast open landscapes where bald eagles fly, history was made, wars were won and lost and rock’n’roll was invented. A post-lockdown cruise binge? You bet.
A 14-night Mighty Mississippi cruise, departing Aug 28 2021, costs from £5,895pp based on two sharing an inside cabin (01223 568904; lightbluetravel.co.uk).
Private Pacific Sanctuary
A little more than a decade ago I was in the Galápagos Islands when a dear friend passed away unexpectedly. Emotions were running high during my week-long cruise in this spellbinding volcanic archipelago, but, as I soon discovered, it is the most life-affirming destination on earth. It is home to creatures found nowhere else, and I enjoyed countless close encounters unlike any other. Little wonder that this sanctuary of biodiversity helped inspire Charles Darwin to write On the Origin of Species. I can think of nowhere better for post-lockdown rejuvenation than these “Islas Encantadas” where the tortoise of reality outruns the hare of hyperbole.
A seven-night Galápagos cruise on Celebrity Flora, departing Aug 1 2021, costs from £5,549 (0845 163 6091; celebritycruises.co.uk)
Getting active on the Rhone
Having “done” the Danube and Rhine, I have the Rhône in my sights; and not just for highlights, including the Camargue, Ardèche Gorge and Van Gogh’s inspirational Arles. River cruises are generally relaxing affairs, but with the calorific evidence of lockdown comfortably settled around my waist, I’m keen to do one of the new active sailings with cycling, canoeing and hiking. And after all that exercise? Well, I can’t wait to sit on deck and watch the sunset, with a glass of Côtes du Rhône rosé.
Avalon Waterways is offering a seven-night Active & Discovery on the Rhône cruise, from Port-Saint-Louis to Lyon on Avalon Poetry II, from £2,360pp, excluding flights. Departs July 6 2021 (0330 058 8243; avaloncruises.co.uk)