What are the new Government rules for cruises as lockdown is lifted?
Cruise holidays have suffered at the hands of the Covid pandemic but today the future is brighter as lockdown restrictions in England are lifted.
Cruises around the UK started up again back in May but were subject to a swathe of restrictions.
Today marks a big leap forward for the travel sector as a number of Covid restrictions are lifted.
UK rules for cruises have now been updated as July 19 marks 'freedom day.'
This is what you need to know about the latest cruising guidelines.
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The Department for Transport (DfT) today updated its guidance on domestic cruise travel during the coronavirus outbreak.
A major change is the lifting of social distancing rules.
"Under step four of the roadmap, social distancing rules (two metres or one metre with additional mitigations) are lifted," detailed the Government.
"Social distancing will only be required in limited circumstances such as at ports of entry for passengers between disembarkation and border control in order to manage the risk of variants of concern being transmitted between individuals."
Earlier this month, it was announced domestic cruise operators with a passenger COVID-19 vaccination policy in place could operate at 50 percent capacity.
Current DfT rules now explain the importance of a vaccine policy for cruise lines.
"Domestic cruise operators will have a COVID-19 vaccination policy for passengers and crew," states the guidance.
- READ MORE: Guide to major cruise lines' vaccine policies -
"A person is considered fully vaccinated when they have completed a full course of immunisation through the UK vaccination programme, more than 14 days before joining the cruise."
It added: "Cruise operators are encouraged to publish their passenger and crew vaccination policies."
A CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) spokesperson said: “UK cruise guests have already safely enjoyed a number of domestic sailings round Britain this summer. This successful domestic restart has been enabled by the wellbeing protocols that have been introduced across the cruise industry.
"While we will continue to assess our industry protocols, we believe that a cautious approach is appropriate as part of a gradual, phased resumption."
The Government has also published advice on booking a domestic cruise, with four major tips.
Firstly, you should "check that the cruise activity is permitted in the UK nations you plan to visit."
Secondly, "ensure that you understand the relevant public health and pre-travel information about mitigating the risk of COVID-19 that your travel agent or cruise operator provides at the time of booking."
Thirdly, "get travel insurance, and make sure you are content with the level of cover it provides. If you already have travel insurance check it is valid and provides appropriate cover."
- READ MORE: Guide to buying travel insurance right now -
Lastly, "familiarise yourself with the UK Chamber of Shipping COVID-19 guidance for passengers."
The Government points out you "must not travel if you have been advised that you must self-isolate by the NHS test and trace service."
Anyone who is experiencing Covid symptoms or sharing a household or support bubble with somebody who has experienced COVID-19 symptoms in the last 14 days should also not travel.
So what does the relaxation of lockdown mean for cruise lines?
Peter Deer, Managing Director at Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, said of freedom day today: “While restrictions ashore are used to help shape the restrictions for cruise, they are not mirrored exactly. The guidelines that cover cruise are specific to the industry and are agreed by the Government in line with our industry body CLIA, with input from ourselves as cruise lines.
“As a result, any relaxation in restrictions ashore does not automatically mean the same relaxation for cruise ships. We will continue to work closely with the Government and CLIA to ensure a safe return to sailing.”
A spokesperson for Cunard and P&O Cruises said: "We continue to develop our health and wellbeing protocols in line with the preferences of our guests and guidance from global medical and public health experts as well as UK Government agencies.
"From July 25, 2021 face masks will only be required when moving around communal areas and within the theatre, there will be no restrictions on dining party size and social distancing will reduce to one metre."
As for international cruises, the Government still continues to warn against them, despite the easing of travel restrictions.
"The Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advises against international sea-going cruise travel based on the latest public health medical advice," the authority detailed.
The Global Travel Taskforce's latest report (published in April) recommended international cruises be restarted "alongside the wider restart of international travel, in line with the country 'traffic light' system."
- READ MORE: Latest traffic light system rules revealed -
It continued: "This will be subject to continued satisfactory evidence from domestic restart as well as successful cruise operations elsewhere in the world. This will be considered at each of the Checkpoint reviews.
"This is also subject to the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the UK government and industry covering the cost and liabilities of repatriation."
However, it would seem the Government is yet to update its travel advice regarding cruises abroad.
A CLIA spokesperson said on this: "As the effectiveness of our protocols has become apparent following domestic cruises, we now look forward to the UK Government revisiting its advice on international cruise.”
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