A spring restart for the UK cruise industry “seems promising”, according to MSC Cruises UK and Ireland boss Antonio Paradiso.
The sector he said was “taking a step in the right direction every day”, adding how he hoped current Foreign Office (FCDO) advice against ocean cruising would be “lifted or reviewed” in January.
“Realistically speaking I think April sounds safe [for restarting],” he told TTG.
“We can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The waiting game is frustrating, but we’re doing our homework and this extra time in the second lockdown has given us more time to enhance our protocols and be ready for future challenges.”
The conclusion of a report by the Global Travel Taskforce is that a phased approach to resuming sailing should be implemented “as soon as it is safe to do so”, although it gives no guidance on timelines.
Clia and the UK Chamber of Shipping have called for a firm timeline from the government.
Meanwhile, MSC’s UK restart plans were buoyed with the announcement of a fifth cruise terminal being built in Southampton – from which MSC Magnifica will be based next summer.
“Magnifica will be sailing in May. We have plenty of time to be ready and we’re ready to replicate what we have been doing in Italy in Southampton,” said Paradiso.
MSC restarted operations in the Mediterranean back in August.
“MSC Grandiosa has since carried out 14 successful cruises and safely hosted more than 30,000 customers. We have learned a lot, we have gained much experience and knowledge about this invisible enemy [Covid-19],” said Paradiso.
“I like to think that March/April should be the date the UK cruise industry resumes from UK shores – it seems quite promising at the moment.
“Don’t get me wrong I don’t think we’re going to go back to the golden age overnight, it will take time, but our booking trends at the moment are just getting better and better week after week.”
Paradiso said he believed the cruise industry would “come back even stronger than before” having “learnt a lot from this crisis”.
Predicting how when the industry may recover back to pre-Covid operating schedules and capacity levels, he said he saw “things improving significantly from June 2021 onwards”.
“I believe the first part of next year is going to be transitional period where we’ll need to adapt but I’m confident in saying from around May/June 2021 things should get better.
“Ideally we should reach a scenario where next winter we should be operating pretty much all of our ships and serving most destinations.
“It will take some time but we will get there and I like to think the golden age of the cruise industry will return by 2022 or 2023. We’re all planning on coming back and coming back stronger.
“I’m under no illusion that we will get back on our feet and be able to cruise again safely – it’s just a matter of time.”