International cruise ban to lift this month - when will cruising return to normal?
International cruises are set to return in August, according to industry experts, with the ban on foreign sailings lifting at the end of July.
International cruise holidays have been banned for English travellers throughout the Covid pandemic.
Domestic cruises resumed in May but the UK has been waiting for the Government to lift the veto on international sailings.
However, there is now finally light at the end of the tunnel. A committee chaired by aviation minister Robert Courts is set to decide on how to move forwards with travel today, Nick Stace, chief executive of Saga Travel, told Travel Weekly.
The cruise boss is therefore confident the guidance against international cruises will be lifted from July 31 when the next travel "checkpoint" is due to take place.
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Stace told World of Cruising: “The cruise industry has been working closely with the Government on the resumption of cruising. We are hopeful the decision in the coming days around the resumption of international cruising will be a positive one.
“At Saga, we’ve worked extremely hard to ensure we create the safest environment possible for our guests and crew. We’ve introduced a range of measures including the requirement that all our guests have both vaccines in advance of travel."
- READ MORE: Major cruise lines' vaccine policies explained -
He added: "The health and wellbeing of our guests and crew is our primary concern and we wouldn’t operate if we didn’t think it was absolutely safe to do so.”
Nevertheless, Saga is playing it safe and returning to international waters in September, as is TUI.
Managing Director of Cruise TUI UK & I, Chris Hackney, said: “Following the successful start of our first ever domestic sailings we are delighted to announce our plans to restart our international cruising programme, with five new itineraries for our customers to enjoy."
He went on: "These itineraries sail to some of the most beautiful Mediterranean spots. Greece and Spain have long been popular destinations for our customers, so we’re excited to be able to offer them new one-country itineraries.
“The safety and well-being of both our crew and guests remain our priority which is why our vaccination and testing protocols will remain in place.”
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."
Much travel has opened back up following July 19th's 'Freedom Day'. For instance, double jabbed travellers no longer have to quarantine when returning from amber list countries giving hope for the return of international sailings, but light is yet to be shed on cruises.
Industry body CLIA told World of Cruising: "We are keen to see a safe and successful return to international cruise, as we have seen domestically over the summer, and continue to work collaboratively across the sector and with Government on the next steps for the UK cruise industry."
For now, the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) "advises against international sea-going cruise travel based on the latest public health medical advice," the authority details online.
World of Cruising has contacted the Department of Transport for comment.
- READ MORE: Start dates for all major cruise lines in 2021 and 2022 -
When will cruises return to normal?
Stuart Milan, Channel Director at Riviera Travel, hopes December 2021 cruises might be a safe bet.
"In terms of no restrictions, no face masks and so on, I think that's probably going to be December festive cruising, if not, probably Spring 2022," he told World of Cruising in an exclusive interview.
- READ MORE: Major cruise lines' face mask requirements explained -
However, he warned that there are many influencing factors that could impact this.
"Depending on what the destination country's restrictions are, there could be some social distancing, there could be mask-wearing, and then obviously there are the testing regimes that are dependent on where you're travelling to," Milan explained.
"So much of [the return to normality] is dependent on the destination countries and how well they're tackling [Covid]."
Meanwhile, Paul Melinis, Managing Director of luxury river cruise line APT, hopes early 2022 will herald a return to relative normality.
"We hope that we'll see a return to normality in early 2022, but this will also be driven by unrestricted movement across borders," he said. "We are having to adapt to living with COVID-19 in every aspect of our life and, certainly, travel is no different.
"At the heart of a return to a 'normal' cruising experience for our guests will be the rigorous training of our teams, ensuring that they can take care of all our customers' health and safety requirements in a seamless and discreet way.
"By ensuring the highest level of hygiene processes behind the scenes, we can deliver an 'as normal as possible' experience in all customer-facing elements. That means our guests can relax completely, knowing that every detail is taken care of, enjoy a much needed and well-deserved holiday of a lifetime, and put the events of the last year behind them as much as possible."
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