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‘Certainty may tempt holidaymakers to domestic cruises’

The offer of certainty may tempt some holidaymakers confused over international travel restrictions since the government’s green list announcement last week to take a domestic cruise, say Clia leaders.

Cruises in UK waters were given the green light to resume from May 17 in March, and 18 ships are due to operate domestic sailings this summer.

In contrast, the international destinations on the government’s green list were only published on Friday with just 12 destinations, including many small islands and British Overseas Territories making up the initial list, which will be reviewed in what the transport secretary dubbed a “fast-developing situation”.

Tony Roberts, vice president of UK and Europe at Princess Cruises, and chairman of Clia UK & Ireland, said: “The challenge with the green list is not just the number of destinations that appear on it, but it’s just the ongoing uncertainty.

“There is definitely it’s appealing for customers to look at something and have some certainty after such a long period of uncertainty. And I think that’s what’s challenging with [international] travel.”

Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, he said it was “really important” for lines that international cruising resumes, and that the sector will be “keenly watching the traffic light process and the green lists”.

“In the meantime we’re very pleased that we’re able to operate these UK cruises and we think they’re going to be very appealing to guests. It’s a fantastic opportunity for travel agents.”

Roberts reported “a busy weekend” following the green list announcement on Friday, with “a bit of pick-up” in bookings.

But he said “the dust needs to settle a little bit”, adding: “I think people [will] reflect on the news that they’ve gotten and see how things pan out.”

Andy Harmer, director of Clia UK & Ireland, said the flexibility of cruise had helped it adapt to the travel restrictions resulting from the pandemic, including moving ships to the UK to cater for demand – with 18 ships due to sail in domestic waters this summer.

He said Clia is “continuing to work with the government”, both the Department for Transport and Foreign Office, on a phased return of international cruise

“Similarly [to moving ships to the UK], when [lines] put ships anywhere else in the world it will reflect an international audience and be based on the best research they’ve done as to the people that they can attract to those ships.

“So whilst currently the green list is very restricted, there are constant reviews as to what that green list looks like.”

He added that, as part of the Save Future Travel Coalition, Clia was supporting calls for greater clarity on traffic light decisions.

“We’ll see new markets and new ships operating soon,” he said, saying “daily conversations” were ongoing with government about the restart of international sailings.

Harmer added: ”We’ve seen the restart of cruising being done in a safe way.”

Roberts praised the “positive step” for a return to cruising in the US, and “progress being made”.

“We’re still seeking a bit of clarity around the news that came out last week [that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said could restart in mid-July with 95% of passengers vaccinated],” he said.

“In the US they’re also seeing some very strong vaccination rates and rollouts.

“From a cruise industry perspective, this very much is around a phased return. And we’re going to see that all around the world as travel internationally starts to return.

“We’ll continue to work on that.

“It’s hugely positive that in the next week, even if it’s domestically, only at the moment that cruise ships will be leaving with guests on.”

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