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Cruises cancelled as red list changes and new travel rules launch - latest cruise advice

Author: Harriet Mallinson

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Cruise holidays have started to be cancelled as lines respond to the latest red list changes. This is the latest travel advice.

Red list countries grew in number today as Nigeria was added to the 'no-go' list following concerns over the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

It joins a swathe of other African nations - South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, Namibia, Mozambique, Malawi, Angola and Zambia.

The red list additions came as the UK Government clamped down on Covid testing and new travel rules came into force.

This is what you need to know about the new requirements and the effect on cruises.

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What are the new travel rules?

The government requires all travellers entering the UK to present evidence of a negative Covid result before their departure, from 4am on Tuesday, December 7.

"Anyone wishing to travel to the UK from countries and territories not on the red list must show proof of a negative PCR or lateral flow (LFD) pre-departure test, taken no earlier than 48 hours before departure. This applies to vaccinated passengers and children aged 12 and above," stated the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

"Airlines will be required to check for pre-departure tests alongside a completed passenger locator form, and passengers will not be allowed to board a flight without providing evidence of a negative test result."

- READ MORE: Entry, vaccine & testing requirements for holiday destinations -

The rules don't stop there. Jet-setters returning to England also need to take a day two PCR test regardless of their vaccination status.

The tests can be taken on or before day two or even at the airport on arrival and you'll need to quarantine until you receive the result.

If the PCR is negative and you are fully vaccinated you can leave isolation. If the test is positive you must isolate for 10 days.

The rules have not changed for unvaccinated jet-setters. If travelling unjabbed, you must take a COVID-19 test in the three days before you travel to England. You will also need to book and pay for day two and day eight COVID-19 PCR tests – to be taken after arrival in England.

Everyone, regardless of vaccine status, must complete a passenger locator form in the 48 hours before they arrive in England.

Travellers returning to England now need to take a day two PCR test regardless of their vaccination status. Credit: Shutterstock

The new rules will likely prove a blow to those with holidays booked in the coming months - hitting festive cruises and winter sun sailings.

The travel industry has spoken up about the fresh restrictions and the negative impact they will have on the sector.

An ABTA spokesperson said: “The re-introduction of pre-departure tests will be a huge blow to travellers and an already devastated travel industry, which has been the hardest hit sector throughout the crisis and which is now fast approaching the key booking season for next summer. While we have always been clear that public health must be the priority at this time, the Government must now step up to save jobs and businesses.

- READ MORE: What to expect from cruises and travel in 2022 -

"The industry needs financial support, which recognises these measures will significantly weaken demand and the Chancellor must now consider the reintroduction of furlough for travel industry to avoid further job losses.

"Travellers must also be supported with measures taken to offset the cost of these additional tests by reducing the cost of PCR testing - including a price cap and the removal of VAT.

"It’s vitally important this decision is reversed as quickly as possible, in line with scientific and medical advice, as it is simply not possible for the travel industry to recover properly while this huge barrier to consumer confidence is in place.“

The new rules will likely prove a blow to those with holidays booked in the coming months. Credit: Shutterstock

Are cruise holidays affected by the changes?

Cruise lines have responded in varying ways to the latest red list changes. Some have axed cruises while others are unaffected.

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) is one brand that has cancelled cruises in the wake of the Africa restrictions.

Norwegian Jade sailings scheduled to depart from or disembark in South Africa until late January have been scrapped.

An NCL spokesperson told World of Cruising today: “We continue to closely monitor the evolving global public health environment and are ready to adapt as needed.

- READ MORE: Red list countries return as South Africa & more added to 'no-go' list -

"Given the recent concerns surrounding the Omicron variant, we have made the decision to cancel the five voyages on Norwegian Jade scheduled to depart from or disembark in South Africa beginning December 3, 2021, through and including January 26, 2022. All affected guests and travel partners will be contacted directly...We will share additional information as appropriate."

Azamara is still monitoring the situation and will inform customers of any changes.

An Azamara spokeswoman told World of Cruising: “We’re reviewing the announcement made today regarding the new travel limits to South Africa. Once final decisions are made, we will contact booked guests immediately.”

However, AmaWaterway's Africa season has already finished for the winter and isn't operating over this period. Operations are due to resume in March "so it is much too soon to comment on any change that may or may not affect country entry requirements related to Covid-19," a spokesman said.

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Are river cruise lines affected?

River cruises have been hit by the closures of Christmas markets across Europe and the lockdown of various key holiday destinations.

Austria, Slovakia and the Netherlands are currently in lockdown to halt escalating Covid rates.

- READ MORE: Christmas market river cruises cancelled as Europe locks down -

The news has badly impacted Danube cruises, with many cruise lines cancelling Christmas sailings.

Scenic Group has nixed all 2021 European river cruises, Crystal has cancelled select cruises onboard Crystal Ravel, Viking River Cruises will continue to operate but without stopping in Austria, both Tauck and Avalon Waterways have scrapped all Danube cruises, and Uniworld has cut three Danube itineraries.

Rhine cruises are largely not affected but holidaymakers should check with their cruise line for the latest updates.

River cruises have been hit in recent days by the closures of Christmas markets across Europe. Credit: Shutterstock

Do cruise lines cover Covid tests?

Some cruises lines do provide free tests to customers while others offer paid-for testing onboard. These may not count as a Day 2 test, however.

Riviera Travel and NCL are among the lines covering the cost of tests. NCL states: "COVID-19 antigen or PCR tests prior to disembarkation will be administered onboard and paid for by the Cruise Line for those guests who require a test to return home. If a PCR test is required for any travel home, the cruise line will administer and pay for a PCR test, only for those guests whose home country specifically requires a PCR test."

- READ MORE: Which cruise lines require a Covid vaccine? -

Princess Cruises offers included tests if guests need to take a test onboard or in order to be able to fly back to their home country at the end of their cruise, however, they do not provide day two tests. The same applies to Viking which offers "a complimentary service at the end of a guest’s itinerary," but these will not function as day 2 tests.

Other lines, such as Crystal Cruises and MSC Cruises, do not offer free tests but they can be bought onboard. MSC details: "MSC Cruises has organised the possibility for its guests to purchase and perform a molecular test (i.e. RT-PCR) or an antigen test during their cruise." PCR tests cost €80 (£68).

Marella Cruises does not offer free day 2 PCR tests but does have a package available with Chronomics which includes pre-boarding antigen and the day two test. P&O also doesn't include free testing.

It is worth verifying with your cruise line what testing options they have before you travel.

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