But over the North Sea in Norway, SeaDream's owners were cooking up other plans, starting preparations for a summer of Norway cruises aimed at residents of Norway and Denmark only (rather similar to what is planned for this summer in the UK).
The aim was to keep the crew occupied. "We know them personally", Andreas Brynestad told me. "Their wellbeing is important to us". The statement rings true to those of us who know and love the SeaDream product. Every luxury operator will rightly tell you it's all about the crew. But on SeaDream there is a family feel it would be hard to replicate. Crew members exude a relaxed laid-back style that belies the hard work that is actually going on behind the scenes, resulting in a flawless al fresco yacht style experience.
Ultimately the Norway programme was a sell-out: they were blessed with fine weather, low infection rates ashore (and no outbreaks on board), and a very supportive government. Past passengers flocked to book, and brought their friends and family: a SeaDream cruise became the 'must have' ticket of the season.
Nine months on and the company is planning once again for restart "when the time is right" using the learnings of the last year. Andreas highlights that for a successful restart "everyone has to do the right thing", from company, to crew, to guests: the whole thing is a collaborative effort. He explains that alongside the vaccines, testing is key, reiterating the layered approach championed across the industry. After an abortive attempt to operate out of Barbados during the winter, Andreas is confident about a programme in the Mediterranean this summer, but reminds us it is all dependent on local conditions.
Meanwhile, SeaDream have invested in US$150,000 machines to clean the little ships "to the level of an operating theatre", whilst replacing and updating onboard functions such as the air conditioning systems.
Andreas exudes warm positivity, speaking with delight about the "amazing support" they are getting from ports, local operators and tourist boards, not to mention the guests. "Everyone has the same objective. We are all dependent on each other to be able to operate safely and happily."
Talking about the future, Andreas is pleased that SeaDream fits the zeitgeist - a small and spacious yacht is desirable to travellers as well as being a welcome visitor at tiny islands and remote harbours, environmentally sound, and unobtrusive. There are no worries about overtourism, with just a handful of easy going guests. A couple of years ago, the company had expansion plans, to the extent of placing an order for a new yacht. Although that didn't work out, Andreas confirms this is still on the cards, as part of their ambition to develop eco-friendly tourism off the beaten track and around the world.
For the time being, the staple Caribbean and Mediterranean itineraries are being snapped up. Particularly appealing to UK guests are the Barbados departures, with easy flights to join the ship before a leisurely exploration of the Grenadines. My favourite port of call on these itineraries is Iles des Saintes, where the ship anchors in a pretty bay surrounded by emerald islands soaring from the sea.
Andreas pinpoints Icaria in the eastern Aegean (named after Icarus in Greek mythology), as his favourite 'secret port', for its lush green hikes, gorgeous beaches, ancient ruins and pretty villages.