Cruise holidays were thrown into chaos this year amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) has advised against cruise ship travel since March. However, the latest DfT report issued little hope that cruising will return anytime soon, in the latest cruise news.
The government has said that while it wants to support the industry and prepare for “a phased risk-based approach resuming cruise operations” – this is by no means an imminent step and “now is not the right time.”
Cruises are still deemed too risky in the current climate.
“The cruise sector, with Government support, has spent the last seven months learning lessons from the pandemic and putting in place new protocols and industry guidance to create a COVID-19 safe environment on board,” stated the DfT report.
It continued: “However, since then there has been a significant rise in COVID-19 cases in the UK and abroad.
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“Against this context, it was rightly considered that now is not the right time to see the resumption of cruise operations from the UK and the FCDO continues to advise against sea-going cruise travel based on the latest medical advice.”
The DfT explained it was vital cruises only restart when it is safe to do so.
However, they recognised the importance of supporting the cruise sector and detailed how cruising could eventually return.
“From a health perspective, it is proposed by PHE [Public Health England] that it may be appropriate to resume cruises when the national alert level is at level 3 and when a move to level 2 is being considered by the Chief Medical Officer,” said the report.
“However, the locations, proportion of the population and associated restrictions on any areas in higher tiers of restrictions would need to be taken into consideration.
“In addition, operators will also need to demonstrate compliance with the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) protocols, including formal commitment to accepting responsibility for repatriation costs and protocols (ahead of phase 3).
The report continued: “FCDO travel advice on cruises is kept under continuous review.
“Transition between each phase would be subject to agreement by DfT, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), DHSC, PHE and FCDO that it is safe to do so, including in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer.
“We will proceed cautiously and if the public health advice does not support restart or moving between stages then we will follow this advice. “
The UK Chamber of Shipping and CLIA issued a joint statement yesterday following the report.
It stated: “Whilst we welcome the publication of today’s report and the Government’s broad commitment to restarting the cruise sector there is still no certainty about when an industry that employs 88,000 people and is worth £10bn a year to the economy can restart.
“The government must now set a timeline to safely start domestic cruises in early 2021, and international cruises to destinations for which travel corridors are open from Spring 2021.
“As the government rightly acknowledges, the industry needs this clarity and confidence to start planning for the operational restart of cruise ships which can take up to three months.
“The Government must also remove the outdated Foreign Office travel advice on international cruising.
“We need to start preparing now for a phased resumption of international cruising over the coming months, in line with the protocols agreed between the industry and government, and help protect the tens of thousands of jobs which rely on a successful UK cruise industry.”
The latest government advice on cruise holidays is as follows: “Cruise ship travel means staying overnight for at least one night on a sea-going cruise ship with people from multiple households.
Our advice against cruises applies to international travel on a ship that is exclusively for pleasure or recreation, providing overnight accommodation and other leisure facilities such as “entertainment venues or swimming pools.
“Our advice does not include ferries or privately-rented boats.”
It added: “If you have future cruise travel plans, contact your cruise line, travel operator, or the travel company you booked with, for further advice.”