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Up and running: 4 cruise lines that are already sailing

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It's been a frustrating summer for UK cruisers.

At the time of writing, the majority of our favourite cruise lines remain on pause, in particular those that are reliant on guests from the US, where the pandemic shows no signs of slowing. On top of that we've had blanket Foreign Office travel advisories against cruising (now partially retracted), and the uncertainty created by confused policies on quarantine, 'travel corridors' and the spectre of local lockdowns.

While we believe that the safe resumption of cruise operations is not something to be rushed, we have been encouraged by the fact that a number of smaller European lines are already sailing again. As you might expect, ships are not straying far from home waters to begin with, and these voyages are mostly aimed at domestic markets rather than international guests. There have also been a few teething problems, attracting negative media coverage at a time when the industry could really do without it. Nevertheless, these first post-Covid voyages will provide valuable insights for the rest of the cruising world.

Hurtigruten became the first ocean cruise line in the world to resume operations with the restoration of their Norwegian Coastal Voyage service on 17th June, and were planning a series of expedition cruises from the UK in September. Unfortunately things didn't go to plan, with a number of crew and guests on board the MS Roald Amundsen testing positive for Covid-19 at the end of July. At the time of writing Hurtigruten have temporarily suspended their expedition programme, though the Coastal Voyage service continues to operate.

Hurtigruten - MS Nordkapp in Hjorundfjord

SeaDream Yacht Club also resumed operations in June, repositioning both ships to their home waters and offering a series of summer voyages along the coast of Norway. It's rare to see SeaDream so far north, but the programme has been a hit with Norwegian guests, and is scheduled to continue through to September.

SeaDream Yacht Club in Norway, Summer 2020

Ponant resumed operations on 11th July with a France-only programme focusing on regions including Brittany and Corsica, initially aimed at the domestic market in France, and they have also recommenced expeditions to Iceland and Svalbard. The pandemic has not hampered Ponant's remarkable expansion plans: in July the company took delivery of Le Jacques Cartier, the sixth and final yacht in their Explorer class, and the new hybrid-powered icebreaker, Le Commandant Charcot, is currently in Saint-Nazaire for final outfitting ahead of her launch next year.

Ponant - Zodiac landing, Omaha Beach

Elsewhere in Europe, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises have been back in action since 31st July, with Hanseatic Inspiration and Europa 2 both sailing round-trips from Hamburg, initially open only to guests from Germany, Austria and Switzerland. A number of river cruise lines focused on domestic European markets have also resumed sailing, including A-Rosa, CroisiEurope and Nicko Cruises.

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises - MS Europa 2

So what of our own home-grown cruise lines here in the UK? All being well, Hebridean Island Cruises are ready to resume operations and are just awaiting final permissions from the Scottish government. Hebridean's small UK-based team have also been working hard to plan itineraries for 2021 and 2022, with the majority of this year's cancelled cruises to be replicated in 2021, including their popular Norway voyages.

Hebridean Princess cruising off the coast of Scotland

Saga are currently due to resume in November, with Spirit of Adventure's inaugural cruise rescheduled for 4th November, and Saga's travel insurance now includes COVID-19 cancellation cover. That question of valid travel insurance remains a sticking point for UK cruisers, with the Foreign Office still advising against ocean cruising outside of UK waters. However, with CLIA and the cruise lines working hard behind the scenes to implement stringent new health and safety protocols, we are hopeful that government restrictions will ease soon.

Tom O'Hara
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Tom is Marketing Manager at Mundy Cruising

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