Saga has written to all cruise and holiday customers informing them they must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 at least 14 days before travelling on one of the group’s trips.
Despite the UK’s vaccine programme continuing apace, the over-50s specialist has pushed back restart dates for its cruise and holiday operations to May to give customers more time to get vaccinated.
New ship Spirit of Adventure’s inaugural voyage will go ahead as planned on 4 May, while sister ship Spirit of Discovery will re-enter passenger service on 2 June.
Saga’s holiday programme, meanwhile, will restart from 1 May; this include hotel breaks, escorted tours and river cruises.
"The health and safety of our customers has always been our number one priority at Saga, so we have taken the decision to require everyone travelling with us to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19," said a Saga spokesperson.
"Our customers want the reassurance of the vaccine and to know others travelling with them will be vaccinated too.
"To allow our customers time to get vaccinated, we are moving the restart date for our Travel businesses to May.
"Our new vaccination policy will be in addition to the detailed arrangements we have already put in place for when cruises and other holidays restart.”
Passengers booked on May and June cruise departures will be subject to pre-departure Covid testing in the terminal, and full medical screening.
Capacity will be limited to a maximum of 800 customers, boosting the line’s crew to customer ratio; this will allow Saga to bolster its onboard cleaning regimes and to ensure "subtle" social distancing.
Guests living within 250 miles of their port of departure will be privately chauffeured to further reduce the Covid risk.
Saga says it has enhanced its ships’ air conditioning systems, improved and expanded their medical facilities with the addition of a dedicated isolation area, and doubled the size of the onboard medical team.
These measures come in addition to changes made by Saga to achieve Shield+ accreditation from Lloyds’ Register.
Changes to holidays include implementing dedicated Covid protocols throughout the firm’s supplier base; providing additional training for all Saga employees to ensure they are familiar with all agreed Covid protocols; and regularly communicating any destination-specific Covid requirements to guests.