A government minister has raised hopes that domestic cruise sailings could restart on 17 May.
Maritime minister Robert Courts announced the news at an All Party Parliamentary Maritime and Group (APPMPG) meeting on 8 March.
In a tweet, the APPMPG said: “**NEWS** Maritime Minister robertcourts announces the reopening of the domestic #cruise market in England on 17 May at tonight’s @APPMPG meeting.”
It added: “From repatriation procedures and risk mitigations to CV-19 protocols and the domestic vaccination programme, a great @APPMPG session w/ @robertcourts who delivered some much appreciated news. A pathway to the domestic cruise market re-opening on 17 May.”
Courts also told MPs that the government is working with the home nations to facilitate the return of UK-wide domestic cruising.
A Department for Transport spokesperson told The Independent: “We are committed to restarting cruise travel when it is safe to do so, and we are working closely with the sector to prepare for a safe and successful restart.
“The restart of domestic cruises in England will be aligned with the wider resumption of the domestic tourism and indoor hospitality sectors. As set out in the prime minister’s roadmap, the earliest possible date for this step is 17 May.”
Industry ‘welcomes’ news
In recent weeks, cruise lines have altered their schedules to prepare for shorter UK sailings later this summer.
Princess Cruises said it was “clear that holidays in the UK will be the first to restart before the gradual return of international travel”, while P&O Cruises has confirmed a range of sailings that will depart Southampton and sail around UK coastal waters.
CLIA and the UK Chamber of Shipping said in a joint statement: “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.”
P&O Cruises president Paul Ludlow added: “We are delighted that the government has acknowledged that UK domestic cruise holidays can begin from May 17.
“While it will take some weeks after this date for us to restart our operations, we are very much looking 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.”
Hurtigruten UK and EMEA general manager Anthony Daniels said: “We welcome the news today from the Department of Transport that domestic cruises are able to operate from the 17 May. 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, with great opportunities for guests to join one of our small ships in Dover. The size of our ships, and our style of cruising, allows us to flex and adapt our programme, but without compromise to bring adventure to our guests.
“We are finalising operational details, and will provide further information in due course. We look forward to welcoming guests on board once it is safe to do so.”
Saga Travel CEO Nick Stace said: “We welcome the news that the government will allow domestic cruising to return from the 17 May.
“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.”