Cruise bosses will be hoping a new “Covid-19 framework for cruise operators” will be enough to convince ministers to lift the Foreign Office’s advice against cruising – although Clia has admitted no restart date is currently in sight.
The new framework was released on Friday (October 2) by the UK Chamber of Shipping, which has worked closely with Clia, Department for Transport, Maritime Coastguard Agency and Public Health England over the last six months to develop the guidance, which is based on framework currently being used by cruise lines in Europe.
Clia chair Tony Roberts told TTG “it was critical [the industry] worked and collaborated with the various government agencies to make sure we had a UK specific document”.
Andy Harmer, Clia UK and Ireland director said the framework was “a really important first step”, which “shows the protocols are working in Europe”.
“We’ve seen that resumption of cruising, albeit phased, in the Mediterranean.”
The document isn’t mandatory for Clia members but instead provides guidance on issues such as social distancing in public areas, capacity limits and how restaurants should be managed. "This is very much a framework document, so this sets out the areas by which the cruise lines will then develop their own policies and procedures," Harmer explained.
Roberts said it would allow “cruise operators and the broader industry to start to prepare returns to service”.
Maritime minister Robert Courts welcomed the launch of the framework, labelling it “an important step forward to allow cruises to prepare to set sail when safe to do so.”
However both Harmer and Roberts acknowledged there was still no indication of when the cruise sector would be allowed to restart.
“It’s really difficult to predict. It’s not an easy question to answer,” Roberts said.
“The government understands the impact it’s having on the whole cruise industry and the broader travel industry in terms of the jobs it supports. But clearly they need to balance that with the current situation and the fact that we’ve seen an increase in infections and additional lockdown measures in wider society.
“It will simply be when the time is right to do so.”
Asked whether the new protocols might put people off cruising, Harmer accepted cruise holidays would “of course look slightly different”.
However Roberts highlighted the positive feedback from guests who enjoyed recent sailings on MSC.
“As more and more cruise lines return to sailing, I think guests will get more and more confident they can still have the amazing holidays that they enjoyed before this pandemic,” he added.
Agents can find out more about the new cruise framework in a special Clia webinar on 6 October, 9-9.45am here.