I can’t help but feel a tinge of jealousy as I read about Danny Bradley’s cruise around the Caribbean. Dolphin watching in the Dominican Republic, a sun-soaked beach in Jamaica, a day of sun, sea and cocktails as his ship sails from one island to another. And here we all are in lockdown in the UK.
As, indeed, is Danny. But while most of us are mourning holidays cancelled due to Covid-19, he has been livening up his lockdown by living his cruise virtually on social media.
“Loving our balcony with these gorgeous Caribbean Sea vistas,” he writes on his first day at sea on Marella Cruises’ ship Marella Discovery 2. Believe me Danny, so am I! By day four he is off for a bit of culture and beach time on a tour in Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic. I can but dream!
The cruise – his first with Marella – was due to end this week in Jamaica but he loved it so much that plans to stay on for another virtual week as it’s a different itinerary. “Lots of people have had their cruises cancelled and are feeling down in this crisis so this was a fun way to turn it on its head,” he says. Will he ever do a real cruise again? “I will certainly rebook with Marella as soon as I can,” he promises.
Several cruise lines have cottoned on to the fact that (to paraphrase Francis Bacon) if the mountain can’t come to Mohammed, then Mohammed must come to the mountain. So while their ships and their crews stand idly by, waiting for the moment they can start sailing the world again, execs are streaming a taste of life afloat into the homes of would-be passengers.
From practising yoga with Crystal Cruises’ trainers to making Peruvian ceviche and pisco sours with Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, the celebrated Lima-based chef who curates menus for Aqua Expeditions, social media is full of digital offerings that give cruisers a quick fix of their favourite holiday.
They can even set sail with Royal Caribbean International cruise director Abe Hughes. When the company’s real cruises were put on hold, he launched his own ship, Virtual of the Seas, and hosted a Caribbean ‘voyage’ that was so popular he set off on another a few days later and has since also ‘cruised’ to Alaska. Each day he posts a Daily Compass – the name of the cruise line’s newsletter – on Facebook outlining recipes and fun activities for folk to join in with, including quizzes, scavenger hunts, and arts and crafts.
Here’s a snapshot of some of the other at-home cruise activities to do until such times as we can start to get our sea legs for real again.
Viking Cruises’ answer to Covid-19 blues is a TV channel packed with live-streamed lectures, classical music concerts and tours of Oslo’s Munch Museum. Friday is Downton Day, when fans of the TV programme can peek inside Highclere House with Lady Carnarvon; come the weekend, there are yoga and meditation sessions to help the mind. body and soul. Live sessions start at 7pm daily; at other times there are plenty of videos and documentaries hosted by executive vice-president Karine Hagen to explore.
Celebrated British chef Jon Ashton stars in a Sunday cookery show as Crystal Cruises streams the best of its on-board entertainment into guests’ homes. There are celebrity podcasts on Mondays, keep fit workouts on Wednesdays and cocktail recipes to help quench Thirsty Thursdays. Come Fridays, the ships’ entertainment troupe take centre stage. The content is planned to change each week. Crystal’s UK team, The Cruise Portfolio, are sending emails to past customers with suggested movies, afternoon tea recipes and links to Crystal entertainment favourites. My favourite was the Friday quiz (mainly because I got nine out of 10!).
Get packing for an expedition into the unknown – literally. Lindblad is setting sail on a different cruise each week via a Virtual Expedition programme that changes daily and lists live concerts, slideshows, daily activities and an ahhh moment from nature. At 6pm it’s time for the daily recap, which in the virtual world means it’s cocktail time (recipes are provided) but on a real cruise it’s when the expedition team present the highlights of the day and reveal more treats to come.
Silversea – To the curious
Silversea is keeping spirits up – literally – during the lockdown with a series of ‘To the curious’ emails featuring cocktail-making classes with Filipino barman Alex. They’ll be sending out recipes for about six cocktails a week – all of them created for a SALT (Sea and Land Taste) bar launching this year on new cruise ship Silver Moon – along with travel stories and pictures to keep the travel bug alive and well. Already loaded are the Boom Town, Rose City and Roll with the punches recipes. You can sign up for emails on the website.
Dial O for Oprah with Holland America Line, which is emailing a quick cruising fix to loyal fans in the form of chef demos and The Oprah Magazine. Last week it was cooking with chef Ethan Stowell, a member of its Culinary Council, this week O editors pick their favourite new books. Entertainment and destination features are among other ship-board features promised.
Viva Cruises’s river cruise ship tour
A new player on the European river cruise scene, Viva Cruises, was meant to be launching its first owned ship. Viva Tiara in March. While international travel is on hold, the Swiss-owned company has launched a virtual 360 degree tour to showcase the 153-passenger Viva Tiara. For anyone curious about the inside of a river cruise ship, you can take a peek inside the newly refurbished cabins, and tour the lounge, bar, restaurant and wellness areas.