Foreign Office advice against international cruising is on track to be lifted at the end of this month, according to the chief executive of Saga Travel.
Speaking at the naming ceremony of new ship Spirit of Adventure in Portsmouth, Nick Stace said the industry had met demands made by government to allow cruising in international waters.
Stace, who has worked closely with Clia in its negotiations with ministers, said he believed those commitments would lead to a positive decision in a key meeting this week.
Stace told Travel Weekly: “Firstly, government wanted a memorandum of understanding signed, that if there is a future pandemic, or this pandemic goes on for some time, that all the repatriation will come at the cost of the cruise sector.
“This is what we did anyway, but they wanted an MOU signed and that happened last week. So that was one of the hurdles.”
He added: “Secondly, government needed a body of evidence that the cruise industry is committed to reporting on cases on board and since May 17 we now have 49,000 passenger journeys recorded.”
Saying that he was confident the guidance would be lifted from July 31, he added: “That decision is due to be taken by a committee chaired by aviation minister Robert Courts 10 days prior to that date, so on July 21, in two days’ time.”
Asked if Saga planned to start sailing internationally as soon as restrictions are lifted, Stace said: “No. We will continue our British Isles cruises for August, but we will start from September.
“We could have gambled, but we wanted to make sure we had a little bit of flex in the timetable in case anything slips a week – there’s history of that.
“One of the reasons that we have been reasonably successful through this pandemic is that we’ve always stayed ahead of the government.”
Stace said the line planned to offer a programme of sailings to the Canary Islands, Italy and the Norwegian Fjords from September onwards.