The likelihood of P&O Cruises returning to sailing by March is “not impossible”, according to boss Paul Ludlow.
The line’s president has said a decision on its restart of operations would be “informed by what is happening with the country at large”, speaking on Tuesday (3 November) ahead of England’s second national coronavirus lockdown later this week.
Government was having to consider the national “macro environment” when working with UK cruise operators, he said - P&O’s operations are currently suspended until the end of February 2021.
“Do I think March is still realistic? I don’t think it’s impossible,” Ludlow told media during a briefing for its summer 2022 programme, which went on sale this week.
“We’re going to see what happens over the next few weeks. We could leave it [a decision on further extending the suspension] until the New Year but we have to think of our guests and agent partners.
“From my perspective, if you have to move things further to the right [suspend further] I would want to make that decision this year.
“We are in regular contact directly with government, and via Clia, and the dialogue remains very positive. I’m pleased with how talks are progressing.”
Discussing P&O’s eventual return to operations, Ludlow said Covid testing “will be key” to a successful resumption.
Although he added that he believed cruising could still operate safely without a vaccine with adapted onboard health and safety protocols in place.
He confirmed – as suggested by Clia’s recent pledge – that all P&O vessels would feature testing capabilities onboard.
“The type [of testing] is yet to be defined as the technology is moving so quickly but we are committed to being able to test all of our guests and crew.”
Upon the line’s restart, Ludlow predicted social distancing could be used “really effectively” with ship capacity capped “at about 85%” but said a lower threshold could be put in place.
“It depends upon which ship and where it’s going. The answer to how long we do that [limit capacity] and what level does somewhat depend on our testing capabilities and the prevalence of a vaccine. I think at this stage there are too many unknowns.”