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UK Will Permit Domestic Cruises to Resume as Early as May 17

UK to permit domestic cruises to start
Southampton is expected to be the first port for the resumption of cruising (ABP)

Published Mar 9, 2021 2:19 PM by The Maritime Executive

The UK has become the latest nation to announce that it will permit the resumption of domestic cruises. The global cruise industry was quick to hail the government’s decision saying it was an important step toward resuming life after the worst of the pandemic and several cruise lines confirmed plans to begin offering trips.

In a parliamentary committee meeting on March 8, Minister for Aviation and Maritime Robert Courts confirmed that the cruise industry would be included as part of the resumption of domestic tourism and indoor hospitality. The minister said the earliest date for the resumption would be May 17 and it is believed that there will continue to be limitations and health protocols. No target date, however, was set for the resumption of international travel.

The announcement followed after Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the success of the UK’s vaccination program and efforts to contain the virus. The PM spoke of a roadmap for reopening but said that all of the efforts would continue to be dictated by the data. 

Cruises are expected to commence first between the English ports. The minister said that they were also working with the home nations, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, to support a resumption of cruising and tourism. The goal is to have UK-wide cruising and tourism restored possibly by the summer of 2021.

The UK will be following a similar model to other countries including Italy, Germany, Japan, Taiwan, and Singapore, all of which have previously permitted large cruise ships to resume service offering domestic cruises mostly for residents or limited international segments. The UK cruises, the government said, would provide the industry an opportunity to demonstrate its health and safety protocols and begin to re-establish the business.

The cruise industry trade group Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and the Chamber of Shipping issued a joint statement saying, “We strongly welcome the announcement that cruise will be included alongside the restart of other domestic tourism in the UK... The industry has long planned a phased restart for cruise, with domestic cruises representing the first stage of this plan. We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with the Government, including through the Global Travel Taskforce in order to ensure the safe restart of international cruise in time for the summer season.”

Carnival Corporation’s P&O Cruises had previously announced that it was planning to start a program of short cruises from Southampton. The company said it would offer short sea holidays as a way to provide travel experiences for UK consumers and following last night’s government announcement quickly Tweeted, "We are delighted that the Government has acknowledged that UK domestic cruise holidays can begin from May 17.” P&O reconfirmed its plans to offer short cruises and said details would be provided later in the month.

Princess Cruises, a US-based brand also part of Carnival Corporation, had also announced that it would launch a limited program of short cruises from Southampton on two of its cruise ships this summer. The line also highlighted the government announcement and confirmed that it would begin cruising later in the summer offering cruises limited to UK residents. Separately, in the US, Princess Cruises announced that it would be extending its pause of cruise vacations sailing the Caribbean, California Coast, Mexico, and Mediterranean through June 30, 2021.

Other UK-based and international cruise lines are also expected to announce programs for the UK market. Among them is Royal Caribbean International, which is sailing from Singapore. Today they announced they were extending their cancelations until the end of May, except for the cruises from Singapore, a planned new program sailing from Israel, and cruises from China targeted to begin sailing at the end of April. 

The UK's decision is being called a major step for the cruise industry as UK travelers historically were among the top five source markets for the cruise industry.