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Capacity and Gathering Restrictions set for U.K. Domestic Cruises

UK limits capacity and gatherings on domestic cruises
Designed to carry over 6,000 passengers MSC Virtuosa will be limited to 1,000 passengers on its cruises in May (MSC Cruises)

Published Apr 23, 2021 3:37 PM by The Maritime Executive

As the U.K. prepares to resume cruises, the Department of Transportation released the first of a series of rules that will govern the operation of the domestic cruises. The new announcement details capacity limits for passengers and limits onboard gatherings similar to the restriction currently in force in Great Britain. Health Authorities may also add further restrictions on the cruise operations before the first ships depart mid-next month.

Previously, the U.K. announced that it anticipated that domestic cruises would be permitted to resume starting May 17 as part of the efforts to roll back restrictions. The major cruise lines based in Britain as well as international firms quickly announced plans for summer cruise programs. Some firms, including MSC Cruises and Viking, plan to start operations within days of the government’s May 17 target date, while the majority of the firms announced summer restart dates.

According to the announcement from the Department of Transportation, they are still targeting May 17 as the next phase in the reopening strategy. Domestic cruises for UK residents will be permitted in this phase subject to restrictions. Domestic cruises are defined as departing from and return to U.K. ports. They may operate beyond U.K. waters, but are currently restricted to U.K. port calls, and may only carry residents from the U.K., Ireland, and areas including Jersey, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man.

The primary restrictions announced by the Department of Transportation limit operations to a maximum of 50 percent of a ship’s passenger capacity with a maximum of 1,000 passengers. Under the restrictions, Viking’s Viking Venus, which has a passenger capacity of 930, will initially be limited to 465 passengers. It will be more dramatic for the MSC Virtuosa, which was designed to carry a maximum of 6,334 passengers, which will be limited to 1,000 passengers.

Following the onshore Covid security guidance, gathers for passengers aboard the cruise ships will be limited to groups of six or less people indoors, and not more than two households can gather indoors. This is regardless of if their reservation was made as a single group.

Based on the current timeline supplied by the government, the goal is to move to the next phase of reopening not before June 21. In the fourth step of the strategy, the Department of Transportation anticipated that the legal limits on social contact, including the capacity limits for domestic cruises, will be lifted. 

The public is also being told that they can not travel if they are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms, self-isolating due to exposure to COVID-19, or sharing a household or “support bubble” with somebody who has experienced COVID-19 symptoms in the last 14 days.

The U.K. also continues to restrict all international vacations including cruises. No timeline has been set for when international trips and cruises might be permitted.