Local Tour Operator, Travel Solutions, has blasted the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) decision to harden its advice on cruise holidays, now advising against all cruise ship travel “at this time”.
In a statement, the FCO said: “The Foreign & Commonwealth Office advises against cruise ship travel at this time. This is due to the ongoing pandemic and is based on medical advice from Public Health England.
“The government will continue to review its cruise ship travel advice based on the latest medical advice.
“If you have future cruise travel plans, you should speak to your travel operator, or the travel company you booked with, for further advice.
The initial advisory in March only urged over-70s or anyone with underlying health conditions not to take a cruise, however that advice has been upgraded to a blanket ban on all age groups cruising.
Peter McMinn, Managing Director of Travel Solutions said: “It’s too easy for faceless civil servants to issue blanket bans which have major financial effects on an industry struggling to get back on its feet.
“The very least we would hope is that the FCO are engaging with the cruise companies to discover the systems being out in place to ensure passenger safety once the ships return to service so that they can review this decision soon.”
In a statement, CLIA said: “We have noted the advisory issued today. The health and safety of guests and crew is an absolute priority for our member lines.
“Since the voluntary suspension of operations, we have been working collaboratively with the Government on the road map to resumption involving a ‘door to door’ strategy – from the time of booking through to the passengers’ return home – with enhanced health protocols. We look forward to completing this planning exercise with Government and for the advice to be updated.”
Peter Deer, Managing Director at Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, said: “We are very clear on our position that we will not resume sailing until it is safe for us to do so. We chose to voluntarily pause our operations back in March as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and since then have been working tirelessly to prepare our ships, crew and staff for what a return to the water will involve.
“We have been working very closely with the other UK cruise lines and CLIA to consider what the future of cruising will look like, including our procedures for embarkation, onboard and ashore. This has included regular calls with the UK Shipping Minister, Kelly Tolhurst, and the Department for Transport, as well as Public Health England, working together to consider what needs to be done before we can resume sailing.
“We have also conducted our own research to understand what our guests would like to see happening whilst they are on their holidays with us.
“When we return to cruising, it will be better, safer and stronger than ever, and we will not do so until we and our guests are confident that it is safe, and that the world is ready to welcome us again.”
A spokesman for Norwegian Cruise Line said: “Despite today’s news, we remain optimistic and hope to relaunch cruise operations in the near future.”