The 2021 Travel Resumes Tour 2.0
In spite of the pandemic purgatory of 2020 periodically rearing its ugly head again, cruising has resumed, albeit in a somewhat revamped style. Each month that goes by finds new ships being launched, older vessels being redeployed and destinations opening their doors to those of us eager to jump through the hoops of testing, vaccination and ever changing travel regulations.
In my year end summary of 2020 I wrote that 2021 showed a glimmer of hope and believe me when I say it fulfilled its promise. With reams of the required forms filled out, flimsy dog eared vaccination card in hand and 35 COVID tests under my belt (nose actually), I was determined in 2021 to make up for lost travel time. If you love getting away, I hope that my experiences will stoke the flames of your travel wanderlust.
….and we’re off…
We kicked the year into gear with a spring fling searching for that lost shaker of salt at the recently opened Margaritaville Resort on the Riviera Maya in Mexico. With tequila flowing through my veins and a burrito or two in my belly, I jumped on a cross country flight to Cabo San Lucas for a stay at the trendy The Cape. If 2022 finds you looking for something close to home and spiced with a touch of international flavor, a trip south of the border is an easy choice.
Hangin’ With Saints and Virgins
Wading into the waters of the Caribbean, three trips to the US Virgin Islands required a simple negative COVID test result and filling out a health declaration form that would prompt a semi automated online ‘permission to enter’ response. St.Thomas, St. Croix and St. John are always fun get-aways to America’s Caribbean and the return journeys did not disappoint. If you prefer a little more international culture, a visit to the two nation island of St. Maarten (France and Holland) is a fantastic alternative.
Europe Open For Business
With Greece announcing that they were opening its borders, we ignited our travel engines and jumped at the chance to be among the first guests aboard the Celebrity Apex in June. With a full capacity of over 3,000, this initial cruise had only 320 guests! That privilege has long since left the station but the ship is a beauty regardless of how many are onboard.
Hopping off in Athens, we took a short flight to Dubrovnik to sail the islands of Croatia with Seadream Yacht Club. If you like the intimate feel of smaller ships, it’s hard to beat their all inclusive style of cruising. Disembarkation in Venice was bittersweet but the taste of Italy was never better with a three day food fest in Emilia Romagna. The region’s supercharged wine shared the spotlight with the prosciutto and parmesan of Parma, the balsamic vinegar of Modena and mortadella in Bologna. Foodies will relish every minute spent in this gastronomic region of Italy.
With our beloved Casa Anatra having been off limits for over a year, getting back to the house and our friends in Castilenti was pure joy. If you ever want to retreat into real Italy this is the place.
I can’t explain why I’d never been to Malta but with it now open I found a way to squeeze in three days that won’t be my last. History, weather, food and people make this a great place to experience as a cruise port or as a stand-alone destination.
With a short flight to Budapest we boarded the AmaMagna for a waltz on the Blue Danube. A river cruise is the perfect way to escape crowded cities and travel back country Europe. AmaWaterways offers river voyages on a number of European rivers featuring the all inclusive benefits of river cruising.
A return to Iceland was inevitable when news hit the wire about Crystal Cruises’ foray into expedition cruising. Imagining the brand’s reputation of luxury blended with a circumnavigation of Iceland made it a no brainer. The Crystal Endeavor is currently in Antarctica and may very well be on our radar for a return January adventure.
See You In September
With a brief regroup at home in August, and a bit of laundry we hit the road to Spain in September. Spinning the wheel of travel, Palma de Mallorca came up as a jackpot win with a stay at the luxurious Castell Son Claret hotel, a secluded estate tucked away in the UNESCO protected La Tramuntana Mountains. Combining that with a stay in Barcelona was the perfect prelude to a Mediterranean cruise of nostalgia with our Costa friends aboard the relatively new Costa Smeralda.
A fortunate encore trip back to Athens found its way into the schedule to board the Elysium, a yacht styled cruise by Elixir Boutique Cruises. This is a new venture that explores the less visited bastions of beauty in the Greek islands. We would love to have stayed for another week but we had scheduled a Mexican Riviera cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line celebrating the restart of the Norwegian Bliss. Cruising out of Los Angeles to Puerta Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo has never been better served than with this floating beauty.
Three nights back home to do a wardrobe change and we were off to Dubai. If there is any place to finish out a fabulous year of travel, it is without question this outpost of extravagance. Attending the gala naming ceremony of the MSC Virtuosa followed by a weeklong cruise of the United Arab Emirates sets the stage for the greatest show on earth, EXPO 2020. If you have never attended a Worlds Fair, this may be the best one ever, but it will end on March 31, 2022 so don’t put it off.
Gorging yourself on life needn’t be a cause for guilt. The world is as big as you make it and for me there is always a new world emerging, waiting to be discovered and I’m ready to experience it, see it and live in it. With so many more exciting places that await discovery in 2022 we thank all of you that traveled vicariously along with us and the invitation is always open to do it again. Be sure to sign into porthole.com for digital travel news and follow us on Instagram @lelandandsea. Wishing you all a Happy (and even better) New Year.