Passengers on international sailings will be safer on cruise ships than anywhere else, according to leading figures in the sector.
They told a Travel Weekly webcast that the body of evidence developed since cruising restarted in other markets, as well as domestically in the UK, can prove the high levels of security.
Speaking shortly after the government announced the lifting of its ban on international cruises, Edwina Lonsdale, owner and managing director of Mundy Cruising, said explaining the safety of cruising to clients will be key.
“It’s all about customer confidence. They’re going to be safer there than anywhere else they choose to go,” she said.
She explained that some customers had already been on international cruises – which was against the advice of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).
“They’re just over the moon to be back in effectively a normal environment, but where they feel completely safe,” she said.
Her comments echoed those of Richard Fain, chairman and chief executive of Royal Caribbean Group, who spoke in Athens on Wednesday (July 28) about cruise ships being safer than land-based alternatives.
The FCDO has lifted its advice against international cruises but still warns on its website: “Although operators have taken steps to improve infection control, cruise ships continue to experience Covid-19 outbreaks, affecting passengers and seafarers. The confined setting on board and combination of multiple households enables Covid-19 to spread faster than it is able to elsewhere.”
Ben Bouldin, vice-president of Europe, Middle East and Africa for Royal Caribbean and the new chair of cruise body Clia UK & Ireland, told the webcast that the sector will continue to provide evidence to government officials and Public Health England to show how cruising is “incredibly safe”.
“We have proven that, despite rising cases here in the UK – and quite dramatic rises in cases with the delta variant – that we’ve continued to run our programme effectively,” he said.
“There will always be cases because I think we are going to have to live with this – various variants of Covid-19 – for many years to come.
“By continuing to be diligent, by continuing to provide the data to the level we are, and by continuing to work with the transport department, we will continue to find that we win friends.
“I would argue very clearly that you can go on a cruise holiday far more safely than you’ll be able to go to a football match.
“That’s the sort of challenge society now has: as you start to reopen other parts of society up, they have to now step up to the standards the cruise industry has, because we have laid down a marker for others to hit and follow.
“If they can surpass where we’ve got to, the country is going to be in a phenomenal place.”
Andy Harmer, managing director of Clia UK and Ireland, said the ban was only lifted once the safety protocols had been approved by the relevant bodies – Public Health England, the Department for Transport, the FCDO and other government departments.
“The domestic restart was about that reassurance, that we can sail safely and securely and happily with our ships,” he said.
“We needed to demonstrate that, even with the backdrop of rising infections, that we could operate safely. We did that.
“We also brought in the fact that international cruising has resumed and is continuing to do so safely in other parts of the world.
“We’re not racing to restart when the time wasn’t right. We were ready to restart when when they were reassured that we could do that properly.”