UK ocean cruise leaders have reacted positively to news that domestic sailings could restart as early as mid-May.
Aviation and maritime minister Robert Courts told the All Party Parliamentary Maritime and Ports Group on Monday (8 March) that government was working on "a pathway to the domestic cruise market reopening” from 17 May.
A Department for Transport spokesperson later told TTG the restart of domestic cruises in England “will be aligned with the wider 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 17 May,” they said, adding: “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 news was greeted warmly by those in the ocean cruise sector – which has been dormant for almost a year due to the pandemic and government restrictions.
Clia UK and Ireland director Andy Harmer said the association “strongly welcomed” the announcement and that Clia would continue working with government on “health protocols which put the safety of our passengers and crew first”.
“Many of these protocols have already been tested successfully where cruise has been able to operate elsewhere in Europe,” said Harmer.
“The industry has long planned a phased restart for cruise, with domestic cruises representing the first stage of this plan. We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with the government, including through the Global Travel Taskforce in order to ensure the safe restart of international cruise in time for the summer season.”
The news offers several lines, which have recently announced UK-based programmes this summer, confidence and the ability to plan operations.
P&O Cruises president Paul Ludlow said his line was “delighted”.
“Whilst it will take some weeks after this date for us to restart our operations. We are very much looking forward to welcoming guests onboard this summer for our series of Ultimate Escape staycations.”
Tony Roberts, Princess Cruises vice-president UK and Europe, tweeted that the announcement was “very welcome news”.
“As we continue to prepare our ships for return to service in line with the government’s travel guidance, we look forward to the restart of our UK cruises aboard Sky Princess and Regal Princess from late summer,” he said.
“We cannot wait to welcome UK guests onboard these fantastic MedallionClass-enabled ships for a short summer break. Further details on our UK coastal cruises will be announced later this month.”
Hurtigruten’s UK and EMEA general manager Anthony Daniels called the government update “another positive step forward for the cruise industry and for travel agents”.
“We are finalising operational details [for summer 2021] and will provide further information in due course. We look forward to welcoming guests onboard once it is safe to do so,” added Daniels.
Nick Stace, chief executive of Saga Travel, said the news heralded "an important milestone" for the industry’s restart.
“We are working around the clock to get ready for resumption and to fulfil the pent up demand we know is there for cruising.”