Cruises at sea, including around the British Isles, could soon be a feasible option for UK holidaymakers after the minister for maritime said the Government’s new travel task force was looking into the issue.
Earlier today Robert Courts told a virtual cruise forum organised by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) – the cruise industry’s largest trade body – that the restart of UK cruise operations is being considered.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) continues to advise against all sea-going cruise ship travel, although river cruises are exempt.
Mr Courts said he was “acutely aware” that the cruise industry had been hit harder than most by the impact of Covid-19, and acknowledged that a “tremendous amount had been achieved” by the sector during the seven month shutdown.
“I can confirm that the cruise restart will be considered as part of the [Global Travel] Taskforce and my officials, and I will continue to support the case for a safe resumption as soon as it is safe to do so.”
When asked why cruises had been given the green light in other parts of Europe but not in the UK, Courts replied that each country had “different circumstances.” He insisted that his team were working “every day and every night” ahead of the Global Travel Taskforce’s report to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, which is expected at the beginning of November.
Earlier in the forum the chairman of Carnival UK, David Dingle, called on the UK government to lift the current advice against ocean cruising and let the cruise industry show that it is safe.
Dingle said: “[Cruise] is the only means of transport which is covered by a Foreign Office travel advisory – we’re being treated as a destination. But if you treat [cruising] as a destination, give us a travel corridor. If you’re treating us as a means of transport, treat us like any other means of transport. There are some very powerful arguments here.
“Because of the bubble that a cruise ship provides, and the fact that it is so highly regulated in every possible way, frankly, at the moment, it’s the safest form of travel you would have. We just want to get on and be able to demonstrate that. […] Intrinsically, we firmly believe that the cruise industry can manage Covid.”
Dingle added: “We’re bringing all the appropriate pressure that we can, working very, very hard among politicians, within parliament, within government to persuade the Foreign Office that now is the time to get moving and to get this advisory lifted.”
The UK cruise industry, which supports more than 88,000 jobs and generates £10 billion for the national economy annually, has been on a voluntary hiatus since March as a result of coronavirus pandemic.
Referring to the creation of a framework for the resumption of cruising by CLIAand the Chamber of Shipping, a spokesperson for CLIA told The Telegraph: “As an industry, we want to continue the collaborative approach which led to the framework guidance.
“We have worked incredibly hard to agree to this framework, and we are now asking that the FCDO updates its travel advice to remove the specific advice against cruises, bringing us into line with the rest of the transport industry, so that customers can book with confidence again; and cruises can resume at the right time and with enhanced protocols designed to protect the health and well-being of guests, crew and the communities visited.”