P&O's IONA

Aussie lines say “What about us” as UK sets date to resume local itineraries

Britain is set to lead the charge for cruise in Europe, with British MP and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Aviation and Maritime, Robert Courts announcing that domestic cruises will start on May 17 in England at least.

According to The Independent newspaper, Mr Courts told MPs that the government is “working with the home nations to get UK-wide domestic cruising up and running.”  But it has been decided that English only voyages between ports can begin on May 17.

It’s a major move on a continent that has seen fits and starts, with Italy resuming, stopping and starting again as COVID-19 waxed and waned.

It comes at a time when Australian cruise lines are reportedly becoming increasingly restive.

Despite promising talks, the state and federal governments have still to decide on the model put to them by Cruise Lines International Association Australasia (CLIA), where tested and quarantined crew would sail ships within state waters and carry passengers only from that state.

The small ship adventure seçtor is is also desperately seeking permission to sail a Kimberley season in the next few weeks, and remains optimistic.

This week sees the anniversary of the Ruby Princess’s sailing, which ended in 900 passengers becoming infected with COVID-19 and 28 deaths.

But cruise lines feel, with the vaccine now being administered a few cases in Australia, it is time to restart one of the country’s favourite vacations. CLIA is calling on members to lobby their MPs.

According to a report in The Australian newspaper, unnamed sources this week maintained it was “inexcusable” that the government was still refusing to exempt foreign-flagged vessels “desperately needed so that tens of thousands of jobs in the sector could be saved”.

“This is driven by completely groundless fears about foreign crews bringing infection in. It’s ridiculous, most of them will have been at sea for three weeks getting here, then another two weeks quarantine when they arrive. How many thousands more people have to lose their jobs while the government prevaricates?”

The government has said it is working closely with the cruise industry “to develop a framework for the staged resumption of cruise ships in a manner that is proportionate to the public health risk.”

Back in Britain,  The Independent said Mr Courts’ domestic move would help the cruise industry restore confidence and demonstrate the robustness of their protocols for passengers and crew.

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and P&O’s president Paul Ludlow were reportedly “delighted”.

“We are delighted that the government has acknowledged that UK domestic cruise holidays can begin from May 17,” Mr Ludlow said, according to the cruise line’s Facebook post.

“Whilst it will take some weeks after this date for us to restart our operations, we are very much looking forward to welcoming guests onboard this summer for our series of Ultimate Escape staycations – UK coastal cruises. Details of these, with ships, dates and itineraries will be announced later this month,” he added

Andy Harmer, director of cruise association CLIA UK & Ireland, told  Daily Telegraph Travel that the industry is preparing for a ‘phased restart’ of holidays:

“We strongly welcome the announcement that cruise will be included alongside the restart of other domestic tourism in the UK. The industry has been working with the government over the last year on health protocols which put the safety of our passengers and crew first. Many of these protocols have already been tested successfully where cruise has been able to operate elsewhere in Europe.

“The industry has long planned a phased restart for cruise, with domestic cruises representing the first stage of this plan. We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with the Government, including through the Global Travel Taskforce in order to ensure the safe restart of international cruise in time for the summer season.”

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