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Taking the Kids: Are you ready to cruise again?

Eileen Ogintz, Tribune Content Agency on

Ready to get back on a cruise ship?

“We see an incredible demand from our Cruise Critic readers and great interest in returning to sea. Cruise lines have been reporting the same, reports Colleen McDonald, editor-in-chief of CruiseCritic.com that tracks updates on the return to U.S. ports.

For that reason and because cruise ships are operating at reduced capacity, “There aren’t many deals for cruisers sailing from the U.S. this year – at least not at present,” she said.

And if you are thinking about a holiday cruise, or a cruise on the newest Disney ship, book sooner rather than later. Disney has already opened reservations for the much-anticipated Disney Wish, not debuting until June 22, 2022, that touts enhanced children’s programming and dining, including a “Frozen” dinner theater and “Star Wars”-themed lounge for adults.

Many families aren’t waiting to take bucket list trips to places like Antarctica and the Galapagos Islands, either. For Antarctica, check out the new, all-inclusive family-friendly voyage aboard World Navigator, the first expedition ship by Atlas Ocean Voyages. This Antarctica adventure is ideal for kids as young as eight, as well as active seniors. Another plus: chartered Atlas flights that will help prevent layovers and delays. Get ready to kayak past ice floes!

Quasar Expeditions offers specific family cruises on small yachts with special discounts for kids. There are child-friendly menus, guides who make every activity an adventure for all ages and once-in-a-lifetime experiences like swimming with sea turtles, close encounters with blue-footed boobies, snorkeling in crystal-clear waters, stargazing and more. Nearly all adults in the Galapagos have been fully vaccinated.

 

Is it safe? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has lowered its health notice on cruise travel from Level 4, which recommends avoiding all travel, to Level 3, which encourages travelers to get fully vaccinated before traveling. To comply with the CDC’s directives, 95 percent of those on board must be fully vaccinated. However, there have been cases of even fully vaccinated passengers getting COVID, including in late July four vaccinated adults not traveling together and two others not vaccinated in the same traveling party sailing on a Royal Caribbean ship in the Caribbean. The tests came back as part of routine, end-of-cruise testing, done by the cruise line as proof of a negative test is required to return to the United States from abroad.

Public health experts underscore that while those who are fully vaccinated may still become ill, they won’t get very sick—apparently as was the case for the cruise passengers--[ even with the contagious Delta variant now spreading rapidly. They also suggest parents wait until their children are vaccinated before cruising. “In regards to the Delta variant, nothing really has changed regarding travel advice,” said Dr. Gary Kirkilas, a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics. “We, along with the CDC, still advise against nonessential travel for all unvaccinated individuals (both children and adults).”

The hope is that vaccines for younger children will be available sometime this fall.

Celebrity Cruises was the first cruise line to have a ship sail from Florida — at 40 percent capacity and with great fanfare – and she returned without anyone contracting COVID-19. “Everyone was so happy,” said spokesman Susan Lomax.

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