Missing cruising? Things to consider when planning a cruise

Experienced cruise ship travellers are already booking their post-lockdown journeys for next year and well beyond.


Are you a cruise-loving traveller stuck on land? If you’re desperately missing your sea legs, don’t despair as savvy cruise-goers are using this ‘land-locked’ time to plan and book their much-anticipated return to cruising in 2021 and beyond.

The most brilliant early birds are playing it smart and booking their seat for a cruise in 2021, 2022 or even 2023. 

Book now for next year – or the year after

Those in the cruising know, experts and cruisers alike, are used to booking cruises years in advance. 

In any normal year, cruise lines usually open bookings for cruises as long as two years in advance. For example, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) already opened their 2022 and 2023 itineraries to provide guests with as much freedom and choice to plan their next cruise holiday. 

There are significant perks to booking early. First, cruises often throw in extra perks such as onboard credit or dining and beverage packages to entice travellers to book early.

Second, the sooner you book the more choice you’ll have when it comes to your cabin. If you want the best cabin you should book in advance as they are usually sold out months, even years, in advance.  

Lockdowns create pent-up demand for cruising

Months of lockdown have resulted in pent-up demand for travelling, including cruising. 

Cruise lines have come out with a host of value-for-money special offers to make early booking even more attractive for travellers.

Many cruise lines have also extended booking conditions to give travellers peace of mind about booking now for 2021 and beyond.

By booking far ahead, you will be able to save up, have something to look forward to, and snag the best choice of cabins and specials. 

If you were unable to cruise this year, don’t dry-dock your cruising dreams. You can choose from a range of deals and destinations, and customise as you see fit. 

barcelona spain
Mediterranean cruises, including those that call at Barcelona, Spain, never disappoint. Image: Supplied

Top cruise destinations set to make waves 

If you are not sure what destination you would like to see within the next year or two, here are some ideas:

Keep it close(ish) to home

Cruisegoers will be delighted to learn that a brand-new local cruise experience awaits them at the end of 2021. Norwegian Jade will make her South African debut from December 2021 until January 2022, making NCL history as the first ship in its fleet to offer round-trip cruises from Cape Town.

Norwegian Jade will embark on a 12-day Extraordinary Journey, visiting Lüderitz, Walvis Bay and Durban, with overnight calls in Cape Town and Richard’s Bay.

“2020 saw the first NCL sailings to South Africa,” said NCL’s Nick Wilkinson, regional vice-president of business development for the Middle East and Africa. 

“Pre-pandemic, the global demand to explore the Indian Ocean and the shores of South Africa was incredibly strong.

 “The South African cruise itinerary is designed to appeal to both local and international guests,” Wilkinson added.

“South Africans, in particular, appreciate our Freestyle Cruising concept – offering unrivalled freedom, flexibility and the greatest choice on board – such as 21 dining options, solo-traveller staterooms and no fixed dinner times, seating orders or dress codes.”

Western Mediterranean

The vibrant Mediterranean cultures of Spain, France and Italy are revealed on Western Mediterranean voyages and are one of the most sought-after destinations for sun-loving South Africans. 

“Even while South Africa was in lockdown, we have received inquiries and even forward-bookings for cruises to South Africans’ favourite cruising destinations – the Western Med and the Baltic,” Wilkinson said. 

tallinn estonia
Tallinn is Estonia’s capital on the Baltic Sea. Image: Supplied

Beautiful Baltic

Trade the sunshine for the cosy landscapes of the Baltic, another favourite for South Africans looking for a ‘true’ Northern Hemisphere winter experience.

Visit Estonia, Russia, Finland or Sweden, and experience old-world charm in the most hassle-free way possible. 

Greenland is an unusual and exciting cruising destination. This is Nuuk, the country’s capital. Image: Unsplash

Off-the-beaten-track Greenland

Cold climate and off-the-beaten-track destinations have become more popular than ever in recent years. For travellers seeking endless horizons, fresh air and staggering natural beauty, Greenland is just the ticket.

Take in Iceland and Greenland, the fjords, dogsledding or spotting polar bears and whales on a round-trip cruise from trendy Reykjavik.

These cruise trends may help you decide on a particular type of cruise or destination to best suit your wishlist. 

Multigenerational cruising 

Take family bonding up a notch and enjoy true quality time together.

Multigenerational travel has been a massive trend in recent years. Cruising is the ideal holiday for the entire family, granny and grandpa included. 

You’ll unpack only once (a relief for any parent) and are guaranteed to find a cruise with activities that appeal to every member of your family or group. 

While we can’t promise there won’t be any toddler tantrums, a cruise is one of the easiest, most hassle-free family holidays on the market.

Solo cruising

The cruise industry has realised in recent years the benefits of appealing to the solo traveller.

South African travel experts have seen a rise in solo cruise requests in recent years. 

While single supplements often apply, cruise lines might reduce or even waive surcharges on specific departures. Many cruise lines have stepped up their game to meet the niche needs of this type of traveller. NCL was the first cruise company to introduce studio cabins designed for solo travellers without any single supplements. 

Solo cabins also feature on other cruise lines such as Cunard, Holland America, Costa Cruises, MSC Cruises and Royal Caribbean. U by Uniworld and G Adventures allow solo travellers to request a roommate at no extra cost.

With travellers desperate to see new shores and experience the freedom of travel, now is the perfect time to plan your 2021 cruising holiday. Image: Adobe Stock

Now is the time to book your cruise

Even with some of the 2021 cruises sold out, you can go ahead and book for 2022 and 2023, customising and using your cruise credits from 2020. 

While COVID-19 has put a pause on cruising, for now, it does not mean you have to put a stop to your dreams of travelling the world. The value-for-money nature and appeal of cruising persist.

With travellers desperate to see new shores and experience the freedom of travel, now is the perfect time to plan your 2021 cruising holiday.

What will the new cruise experience look like?

  • Stringent sanitation and disinfection guidelines and regulations. 
  • Increased space in restaurants and staggered dining and theatre showtimes. 
  • Expanded onboard medical centres, with more doctors and nurses and isolation areas. 
  • Balcony cabins may become even more sought after as cruisegoers opt for the fresh air and increased space of a private balcony. 
  • Rerouted itineraries. Port intensive itineraries may spend more days at sea, depending on how many countries’ borders open. 
  • Upgraded air-filtration systems.

NCL has implemented their sail safe programme on their vessels, including all-new air filtration, enhanced screening, sanitation measures, medical resources and responsible social distancing amongst other measures.