Cruise ships. (RI photo)

After sitting empty for months during the pandemic, cruise ships are filling up with passengers again and Iowans are willing to give another look to setting sail on the open sea or down a scenic river.

Gene LaDoucer  the spokesman for AAA-Iowa, says one in four Iowans are considering a cruise for their next vacation.

“Cruise bookings are up sharply from a year ago,” LaDoucer says. “We’re seeing bookings at AAA Travel double of what we were seeing this time last year and that strength looks to continue through the summer months.”

Satisfaction surveys show people are more pleased with their cruises now than before the pandemic, and LaDoucer says a wealth of new safety precautions are in place. “Cruise ships have enhanced medical facilities on them, so if someone does get sick, they have medical care up immediately available,” LaDoucer says. “They’ve upgraded their ventilation systems. Like many businesses, they have hand washing and sanitization dispensers throughout the cruise ship. They’ve implemented contactless room service.”

Most destinations have loosened travel restrictions and cruise lines are hoping to reach full capacity in the second half of this year. “Ships are being filled quickly and spots on those may become unavailable,” LaDoucer says. “If you’re looking to travel within the next year or two, we recommend that you consider booking earlier, particularly with inflation pressures on fuel prices.”

There’s been a boost in traveler confidence as COVID-19 cases trend lower, he says. Plus, the CDC has lowered its cruise travel warning to a Level 2, the lowest since the agency began tracking coronavirus statistics.