Cruise specialists have welcomed news that domestic itineraries are in line to resume alongside domestic tourism and indoor hospitality from May 17.
The news emerged after maritime minister Robert Courts addressed the All Party Parliamentary Maritime and Ports Group (APPMPG) on Monday evening and was subsequently confirmed by the Department for Transport.
Clia UK and Ireland director Andy Harmer said: “We strongly welcome the announcement that cruise will be included alongside the restart of other domestic tourism in the UK.
“The industry has been working with the government over the last year on health protocols which put the safety of our passengers and crew first. Many of these protocols have already been tested successfully where cruise has been able to operate elsewhere in Europe.
“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.”
Lines that have recently unveiled domestic sailings including P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises and Hurtigruten also reacted positively.
P&O Cruises president Paul Ludlow said: “We are delighted that the government has acknowledged that UK domestic cruise holidays can begin from May 17.
“Whilst it will take some weeks for us to restart our operations, we are very much lookng forward to welcoming guests on board this summer for our series of ‘Ultimate Escape’ staycations – UK coastal cruises. Details of these, with ships, dates and itineraries, will be announced later this month.”
Anthony Daniels, general manager UK and EMEA, Hurtigruten, said: “We welcome the news today from the Department of Transport that domestic cruises are able to operate from the May 17. It’s another positive step forward for the cruise industry and for travel agents.
“Hurtigruten offers a series of exciting expedition cruises in British waters in summer 2021. We are finalising operational details, and will provide further information in due course. We look forward to welcoming guests onboard once it is safe to do so.”
Tony Roberts, vice-president Princess Cruises UK & Europe, said: “Today’s announcement is very welcome news. As we continue to prepare our ships for return to service in line with the government’s travel guidance, we look forward to the restart of our UK cruises aboard Sky Princess and Regal Princess from late summer.”
He added: “Further details on our UK coastal cruises will be announced later this month.”
Peter Deer, managing director, Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, said: “This is very positive news for our industry and it is good to have more certainty about when our ships can resume sailing again.
“Over the past year, we have been working very closely with the government and Clia to ensure that when the time is right for us to return to cruising we will be ready to do so.
“In light of the latest guidance, we are working hard on what a return to cruising will look like for us at Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, and we will share this with our guests as soon as we can.”
Nick Stace, chief executive of Saga Travel, said: “This is an important milestone in the resumption of cruise operations, albeit with some restrictions at first. We are working around the clock to get ready for resumption and to fulfil the pent-up demand we know is there for cruising.”
Specialist cruise agents also welcomed the news.
Simone Clark, senior vice-president global supply for Iglu.com, said: “It is extremely positive news that the “no cruise” ban will hopefully be lifted in May, with cruise being treated alongside the rest of tourism and being able to open up alongside hotels and leisure facilities.
“It will give consumers huge confidence, especially with the added protocols that will be in place. We are looking forward to the cruise lines releasing their itinerary information so we can start selling them.”
Phil Nuttall, chief executive of the Travel Village Group, said: “This confirmation is marvellous news and will help us finally move ahead with a degree of certainty. It has been an incredibly difficult period for the travel trade with such a lack of clarity, so the feeling today is really one of relief.”
James Cole, managing director of Panache Cruises, said: “It’s great to hear that domestic cruising is officially restarting. It’s the news we have all been waiting for and the commencement of the re-phased start of cruising.
“We are now eagerly awaiting the green light on international cruising, which is the announcement we really would like to hear.”
Phil Evans, owner of Cruise Nation, said: “It’s the first real positive for the UK cruise industry in many months, a credit to the huge amount of work that has been done by the cruise lines and Clia.
“As a business we will continue to stay true to our tour operating business model but will of course cross promote UK domestic sailings for those who wish to stay closer to home while we await the wider list of cruise destinations being opened up to UK guests.”
Evans added: “Hopefully today’s news gives consumers confidence there is a pathway to the return of cruising in the UK and that travelling abroad to meet ships in the summer months is a real possibility.”
Sarah Wikevand, managing director of ROL Cruise, said: “It is great news, this is a positive step in the right direction for the return of passengers cruising international shores once again.
“Speaking to many of our loyal customers throughout the pandemic, we are certain that demand will be high when the cruise lines’ plans are announced. I am sure this will be welcomed by agents across the board.”