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Cruise specialists welcome US reopening opportunities

Cruise agents have hailed the decision by the US to lift its ban on UK and EU arrivals from November, with one stating that it was the difference between a good winter and a bad one.

White House Covid-19 coordinator Jeff Zients confirmed the move on Monday, the day before prime minister Boris Johnson had planned to raise the subject with US president Joe Biden.

Fully-jabbed passengers will need to demonstrate proof of vaccination and present a negative Covid-19 test result taking three days prior to departure.

Former president Donald Trump introduced the ban 18 months ago, meaning that people without US citizenship, green cards or specific exemptions were not allowed into the country if they had been to the UK or Ireland.

The reopening should allow sales of US cruise departures as long as vaccination policies recognise UK-administered jabs including the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Cruise trade body Clia estimated that international cruise visitors in the US spend $4.5 billion annually on hotel stays, transportation, retail and other businesses, supporting nearly 60,000 American jobs.

“The cruise industry is an important driver of international visits to the US, prompting approximately 2.5 million international visitors to travel to the US to embark on a cruise in 2019, representing nearly 18% of all US cruise embarkations,” the association said.

“Our members look forward to welcoming international travellers, including from the United Kingdom and the European Union, back to the United States while continuing to prioritise public health.”

Cruise 365 director Anthony Blackmore said: “I think it will mean that we’ll have a good winter. It will not be a record-breaking winter but it will keep us ticking along.

“People want to travel long-haul again – that is key. People desperately want to go back to the States and go on longer Caribbean cruises.”

Blackmore added that Monday’s decision was a “fabulous” one for the UK travel industry.

Panache Cruises managing director James Cole said the decision provided “further momentum” for the cruise industry.

He added: “This news not only opens up US stays, pre- and post- cruise and sailings from the US, but also, significantly increases access to the Caribbean and other destinations as many ships leave from US waters and many flights transit through the US.”

Cole suggested that other countries may follow America’s lead. He said: “This positive news from a world superpower may also lead to other countries following suit and more of the world opening up over the coming weeks and months as we continue to return to a level of normality.”

Cruise.co.uk chief executive Chris Gardner agreed with Cole that it was another piece of good news for the industry following last week’s announcement that the traffic light system was to be scrapped.

He said: “We’re looking forward to more simplified travel from the States. It will give certainty to those wanting to book from November.

“It’s not make or break for us. It’s just another piece of good news that helps rebuild confidence. Business has been quite buoyant, but I think most customers thought it was going to be lifted sooner.”

Rupert Thomson, managing director of Light Blue Travel, UK representative of the American Queen Steamboat Company, said: “It’s been a tough 20 months being unable to fulfil any of our US cruise bookings. Hopefully we can salvage something for the last two months of 2021.

“We expect to see a surge in long-haul luxury holiday bookings for 2022 and 2023, including special cruises with upgrades, as people make up for the lost holiday years.”

Paramount Cruises’ Marco Macchieraldo said scrapping the US ban on Britons was “key” for agencies that were focused on long-haul business.

He said: “Opening up the USA will be key for companies, driving enquiries and revenue in the coming months especially for businesses like ourselves that are more long-haul specialists.

“Come November our short-haul options are limited. By then most cruise lines have pivoted towards the Caribbean sailing from Florida. There are a few options from Barbados, for example Royal Caribbean’s sailings on Grandeur have sold really well.”

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