The UK’s aviation and maritime minister, Robert Courts, has given the cruise sector renewed hope of being able to operate domestic cruises from 17 May.
Courts joined a session with the All Party Parliamentary Maritime and Ports Group (APPMPG) on Monday (8 March), during which the APPMPG reports he set out "a pathway to the domestic cruise market reopening on 17 May".
Following the meeting, the APPMPG tweeted: Maritime minister Robert Courts announces the reopening of the domestic cruise market in England on 17 May at tonight’s APPMPG meeting."
The group said Courts talked through repatriation procedures and risk mitigations and how they would interplay with Covid protocols and the UK’s vaccination programme.
It added in a second tweet: "A great APPMPG session with Robert Courts who delivered some much appreciated news. A pathway to the domestic cruise market reopening on 17 May."
According to the government’s roadmap to reopen the economy and society, 17 May is the earliest date earmarked for a resumption of international travel.
A Department for Transport spokesperson told The Independent: "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 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."
TTG has approached the DfT for further comment.
Various government ministers have said vaccine certification will play a role in reopening the UK’s hospitality and leisure sectors, with Michael Gove leading this review; it is unclear at this stage to what extent this could facilitate a resumption of domestic cruising.
However, prime minister Boris Johnson on Monday (8 March) told a government coronavirus briefing that vaccine certification would be a feature of people’s lives in future.
Several cruise lines have, in recent weeks, adapted their plans to restart operations by shifting their focus to UK domestic sailings.
P&O Cruises has replaced its ex-UK summer schedule with a range of short and week-long UK "staycation" cruises, pulling its published programme for Arcadia, Aurora, Azura and Ventura through to the end of August, and those for Britannia and upcoming new ship Iona until the end of September.
Princess Cruises, meanwhile, will offer a series of short UK sailings this summer after cancelling Sky Princess, Regal Princess and Island Princess’s scheduled itineraries through to 25 September. Regal and Sky will both offer short breaks and week-long cruise holidays from Southampton later in the summer.