P&O Plans to Resume British Market with Short Summer Cruises
Following the example of other large cruise lines that have been able to resume limited service by focusing on their domestic markets, Britain’s P&O Cruises plans to launch a limited program of summer cruises. The trips, which will depart from Southampton, England, and cruise UK coastal waters would become the first large cruise ships to return to the UK market.
“Following recent Government announcements and as the vaccine program is rolled out across the globe we can all begin to feel a sense of reassurance and hope that this current lockdown period in the UK will come to an end. Life can, we hope, slowly return to some semblance of our previous normality as hospitality opens up and summer holidays can be booked with confidence,” said P&O Cruises president Paul Ludlow.
Design to provide a summer holiday for UK residents, the program will consist of short cruises limited to UK waters to comply with the UK’s current travel restrictions and health protocols. P&O said that details of the cruise program would be released shortly and the cruises would go on sale later in March.
The current travel restrictions, however, also caused the cruise line to extend the cancelation of its planned cruise programs. Cruises aboard four of the company’s ships, Arcadia, Aurora, Azura, and Ventura, have been canceled until the end of August. Cruises aboard their two newest and largest ships, Britannia and Iona, were canceled until the end of September.
“We remain in very close contact with the UK Government and associated bodies as we monitor the latest situation and guidance on travel. From the moment we see travel restrictions lifting we will begin the significant logistical task to re-start our operations. It will take some time for the first ship to return to service, followed by the phased return of the remaining fleet. We cannot wait to welcome everyone back on board with the protection of effective protocols to safeguard the health and wellbeing of all crew and guests," said Ludlow.
The new program is in keeping with a strategy Carnival Corporation president and CEO Arnold Donald had previously discussed which includes restarting brands that have strong domestic markets and which can operate local cruise programs in those markets. Carnival followed a similar strategy with Costa Cruises starting with cruises around Italy. They are also planning to offer cruises from Germany aboard the AIDA cruise ships.
A similar approach is also being deployed by Royal Caribbean International, which restarted its first ship from Singapore late in 2020. They announced this week plans to homeport a cruise ship sailing from Israel this summer. Genting’s Dream Cruises is also operating large cruise ships from Taiwan and Singapore limited to residents in those areas. Last summer, TUI resumed service with a similar strategy of sea cruises from Germany and several smaller cruise lines including Hapag-Lloyd, Sea Dream Yacht Club, and Ponant also started similar market-specific programs.
In the United States, Customs and Border Patrol’s enforcement actions, however, do not make it possible for the foreign-flag cruise ships to operate cruises to nowhere departing U.S. ports.