The so-called Freedom Day may have arrived in England today – but cruise lines have reacted with caution when asked when Covid restrictions will be relaxed on UK sailings.
On land, face masks will no longer be required by law, the limit on the number of people who can meet indoors has been lifted and theatre shows can reopen at full capacity.
As the measures came into force, the Department for Transport updated its advice on domestic cruises to say: ‘Social distancing rules (2 metres or 1 metre with additional mitigations) are lifted. 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.’
However, the Foreign Office continues to advise against international cruises.
The cruise industry body CLIA 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.
‘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.’
Covid restrictions on cruise lines have included a 50 per cent cap on passenger numbers, masks required except when sitting eating and drinking, social distancing and guests only allowed to go ashore on official excursions.
This is how the various lines reacted when approached for comment:
P&O Cruises and Cunard
A statement 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.’
A spokesperson added that there would be no change to the rule requiring a seven-day gap between any UK getaway cruises, including back-to-back bookings.
The sister line to P&O Cruises and Cunard said: ‘We aren’t currently sailing with guests so there are no immediate changes. We will continue to follow the Framework Agreement approved by the UK Government to enable the restart of cruise.’
In updated advice, Saga Cruises says it will still require guests to wear a medical-grade face mask in all public areas except while eating, drinking, using the gym, taking part in a fitness class or when in their cabin or outside spaces.
Passengers will also still only be allowed on shore on organised excursions. Saga says: ‘You will not be able to debark the ship for individual exploration.’
It adds: ‘Whilst social distancing measures have now been changed by the government, we will continue to require that no more than six people dine together and buffets will continue to be assisted.’
In answer to the question: ‘Will the same measures be in place for future cruises?’, Saga Cruises replies: ‘We will continue to monitor government guidelines and will re-issue this advice for each cruise departure to inform guests of the relevant measures for their cruise.’
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‘Keeping our guests and crew safe remains our top priority and whilst the laws in the UK are changing, cruise ships are following advice from the UK Chamber of Shipping alongside guidance from other authorities that regulate the cruise industry. Therefore, mask-wearing and social distancing rules will remain in place onboard and we’ll look to adapt rules as the cruise guidelines evolve.’
Managing director Peter Deer said: ‘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.’
Royal Caribbean and Celebrity
A spokesperson repeated the CLIA statement and added: ‘We are aligned with CLIA regarding the approach to our domestic sailings.’
Other companies are also yet to respond. This story will be updated when they do.