News in the last week that the FCO had lifted its advisory on river cruising was a very welcome U-turn, and a much needed confidence boost for our sector.
The ban placed on river cruising was the kind of decision we have unfortunately come to expect from a government lacking in understanding of the nuances and issues facing our industry during this global pandemic.
The fact that you could stay in large resorts or travel multi-centre but you couldn’t sail down a river on a floating boutique hotel, with all the safety protocols and controls that we have put in place, was nonsensical and damaging.
In fairness, thanks to the efforts and collaboration of Clia, Abta and the collective river cruise brands, the climbdown was swift and common sense has prevailed - and it’s an important milestone on the road to recovery.
River cruise ships are small - Uniworld’s have an average capacity of 130 guests - travelling in close proximity to the shore, with easy access to local healthcare providers at all times.
There is plenty of outdoor space on deck - enough for every guest to easily enjoy their own space - and there are multiple dining venues onboard where we can make advance reservations and guests can eat at their own tables, facilitating physical distancing with comfort and ease.
Similarly, river itineraries offer a huge range outdoor activities such as bike rides, hikes and walking tours to uncrowded villages, vineyards and gardens en route. When in bigger cities we offer exclusive and private experiences such as an after hours visit to St Mark’s Basilica in Venice, just for our group.
We already operated small group tours on shore, so we haven’t needed to significantly change our offering. And of course we have all worked hard to put incredibly robust, enhanced and innovative health and safety protocols in place every step of the way for the wellbeing and reassurance of both guests and staff.