A great beginning of the week in the UK. Robert Courts, the UK Maritime Minister, announced to several members of Parliament that cruises would be able to resume, at least domestically, on May 17, 2021.
The announcement comes after the UK government has started to relax measures nationwide, following a roadmap that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has laid out for the country. Although the pandemic has plagued the UK for many months, a successful vaccine rollout has laid the foundation for a speedy return to the ‘new normal.’
Help The Cruise Industry Restore Confidence
Robert Courts, the Minister for Aviation, Maritime & Security, appeared at a virtual meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Maritime and Group (APPMPG). He told members of Parliament the government is working with England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales to get UK-wide domestic cruises up and running.
This means that voyages between, or from and to, UK ports will likely return on the earliest possible date, which is May 17, according to the Prime Ministers’ roadmap.
The cruise industry will celebrate this news. The cruise lines, CLIA (cruise lines international associated UK & Ireland), and the UK chamber of commerce have been working hard in preparing robust protocols for guests and crew members. The signal the UK government sends with this will be something the cruise industry worldwide will be looking at.
A spokesperson for the government said the following:
“We are committed to restarting cruise travel when it is safe to do so, and we are working closely with the sector to prepare for a safe and successful restart.
“The restart of domestic cruises in England will be aligned with the broader resumption of the domestic tourism and indoor hospitality sectors.
“As set out in the prime minister’s roadmap, the earliest possible date for this step is May 17.”
What Are The Next Steps For The Cruise Lines?
The plans from the government are not unexpected. Although the exact date was not entirely clear, several cruise lines have already started preparations for sailings. These include P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises, while Royal Caribbean could be eying the UK as a next step after it announced the Odyssey of the Seas to sail in Israel.
P&O Cruises president, Paul Ludlow released the following message following the news:
“We are delighted that the Government has acknowledged that UK domestic cruise holidays can begin from May 17. Whilst it will take some weeks after this date for us to restart our operations we are very much looking forward to welcoming guests on board this summer for our series of Ultimate Escape staycations – UK coastal cruises. Details of these, with ships, dates and itineraries will be announced later this month.”
Other cruise lines like SAGA cruises have announced they will be sailing only with 100% vaccinated guests. However, they have not announced whether they will be sailing earlier than their announced dates from August 2021.
The line postponed cruises even further only last week. Cunard has no cruises scheduled for May; the cruise line does have voyages scheduled around the British Isles and Transatlantic Voyages to New York from June onwards.
Before the cruise lines are allowed to sail, they will need to comply with several stringent measures that the government has imposed. According to the current framework, joining crew members will need to pass a PCR test and comply with a two-week quarantine onboard, while guests will have to comply with social distancing and mask-wearing onboard.
Will We See International Travel Next?
The opening of the domestic cruise industry is a step towards the opening of international travel. The UK has recently instated the new Global Travel Taskforce to plan to restart international travel safely and sustainably.
Several government departments, travel agencies, key industry players from the aviation, maritime, cruise, international rail, and tourism sectors met to discuss the task force’s work and how international travel can be re-opened safely.
Also Read: When Will Cruises Resume in 2021?
While the UK was long seen as lagging in the fight against COVID and the restart of cruising, it seems the country will now be taking a leading role. And so it should as the second-largest cruise market in the world.
Main Photo Credit: Anita van den Broek / Shutterstock