Update: the ban was overturned hours after this article, though I don’t claim the two are linked! – DM
My long-awaited cruise on Riviera Travel ship Seaventure around Scotland has been cancelled – because the Holyrood government won’t allow ships to dock.
I was due to board the 158-passenger ship in Greenock, near Glasgow, on July 26 and sail to Leith, Edinburgh, via Oban, the Isle of Lewis, Kirkwall, Invergordon and Aberdeen. The cruise would include visits to Balmoral Castle and the ancient Ring of Brodgar, as well as a scenic drive around Loch Ness.
But after Nicola Sturgeon’s ministers refused to allow cruise ships to dock in Scotland, all the cruise lines’ plans were thrown into doubt. My voyage – and the rest of the sold-out season that Riviera had planned – was cancelled, a bitter blow to the company and its crew.
Other lines have had to cancel or amend itineraries because of the ban. Even Hebridean Princess was forced to head south to avoid the restrictions.
Mrs Sturgeon will announce today whether Scotland’s Covid restrictions can be eased in the coming weeks.
While I understand the need for caution, the decision to ban cruises such as mine does seem a complete over-reaction. I would bet most, if not all, of the guests will have been fully vaccinated. Guided tours would have been fully compliant with Covid measures.
The same number of people could arrive in Scotland by train, coach or individual cars and be completely free to go anywhere. Why pick on cruise ships where passengers have to prove they’re either vaccinated or not positive for Covid?
Scotland, England and Wales share the same island’s coastline, so why have different rules?
The greatest shame for me is not seeing the sublime beauty of the Scottish sea, sky and landscape. Though it can rain fiercely, the views afterwards are worth every drop. The brooding mountains, verdant glens, plunging waterfalls and expansive lochs are unlike any other part of the UK. It’s a country steeped in history and bloodshed, with now picturesque fortresses that once housed murderous clan chiefs, and wind-blown battlefields where hundreds were slaughtered, as well as the peaceful sweeping valleys and babbling brooks.
This is why my one cruise last summer was on The Majestic Line, driving up to Oban via the Lake District and Loch Lomond before heading round the island of Mull with visits to Fingal’s Cave and Iona.
Please, Nicola Sturgeon, open up your country again soon to cruise visitors. Don’t keep Scotland a secret to yourselves, it deserves to be shared in a way that’s safe for both visitors and the Scots.