International cruise ban to be lifted

A ban on international cruises that has been in place since last July is to be lifted from England from August 2, the transport secretary has confirmed.

Grant Shapps made the announcement on Twitter, alongside confirmation of the easing of quarantine restrictions for fully-vaccinated travellers from the EU and US.

The FCDO has advised against international cruises for many passengers since March last year, and for all customers since July 2020. Cruises were allowed to resume in domestic waters from May this year.

A statement from the Department for Transport confirmed: “Following the close monitoring of epidemiological evidence, gained through the restart of the domestic cruise industry earlier this year, the UK government has also confirmed the go ahead for international cruise sailings to restart from England in line with Public Health England guidance.

“International cruise travel advice will be amended to encourage travellers to understand the risks associated with cruise travel and take personal responsibility for their own safety abroad.”

It added: “To further support the safe restart of international cruise travel, the Government and cruise industry have signed a breakthrough Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to help the industry build back from Covid-19 while protecting British nationals from future pandemic-related disruption.”

The FCDO advice was subsequently updated, with the removal of advice against cruising and a range of advice on considerations for customers.

Cruise industry sources this week said they believed a relaxation of the ban on international cruising was imminent. This followed comments last week from Saga Travel chief executive Nick Stace, who told Travel Weekly he was confident restrictions would be eased as the industry had met criteria set by the government.

Speaking after the news was confirmed on Wednesday, Clia UK & Ireland director Andy Harmer said: “The decision to allow the restart of international cruise is very good news for the industry. The success of this summer’s round-Britain cruises has led the way.

“The cruise industry has worked intensively during the last 18 months in collaboration with the government, health authorities, ports, and other industry bodies to develop enhanced protocols that protect guests, crew, and the destinations we visit.

“The industry looks forward to welcoming guests back onboard to visit international destinations.”

Simon Palethorpe, president of P&O Cruises and Cunard parent Carnival UK, said: “We are delighted that the work done by the cruise industry over the past 18 months has been recognised and we are now able to resume international cruising.

“While our guests are so pleased to be back on board for the current series of UK coastal cruises there is certainly demand to travel abroad with us, knowing they have the reassurance of our health protocols.

“It has been an exceptionally difficult and challenging time for the global cruise industry but this news marks the beginning of a new start and one which will be welcomed by our crew, our guests and the UK economy.”

Speaking on board Silver Moon in Athens, Peter Shanks, Silversea’s managing director, UK & Ireland, said: “I am delighted to see the news and it’s another positive step. It has never been a race. It was about getting it right. Silversea is back with three ships and more are on their way. [The announcement] is terrific news for the industry and travel agents. My first thought was with them.

“2022 is remarkably strong. Throughout the Foreign Office advice has held up 2021 but now passengers can cruise with confidence. They’ve got choice with the ships around the UK and now in the Mediterranean.”

P&O Cruises president Paul Ludlow said: “In Hampshire we have 150 suppliers and in Dorset we have another 30. I think it’s fair to say a lot of people have missed the cruise industry.”

Speaking last week, Saga Travel chief Stace said he was confident restrictions would ease from the end of July, but said his own line was targeting a September restart for international sailings to allow “flex in the timeline”.

Reacting to Wednesday’s news, he said: “We are pleased that the government has confirmed that restrictions will lift on international cruising. The entire cruise industry has been working closely with government to reach this point and it is a huge boost to receive the news that we will once again be able to welcome guests on non-domestic voyages.

“Ensuring the safety of our guests and crew is our number one priority and we’ve worked tirelessly to create the safest possible environment on-board our ships. Our customers have been eagerly awaiting certainty from government so they can plan their cruises beyond UK shores and today’s news will give them the clarity they need to do that.”

Several other UK lines have also revealed plans to resume international sailings from the autumn, with Marella Cruises announcing a restart from September 3 and P&O Cruises and Cunard targeting September and November respectively.

Peter Deer, managing director at Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, said: “After a successful summer of UK sailing, this is a big milestone for our industry.

“We will continue to work closely with the government and our industry body Clia, as well as our partners in the destinations that we visit, as we resume our operations outside of the UK.”

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