Bound as we usually are by what happens on the other side of the Atlantic, we had barely dared to hope for a UK policy in such contrast to the position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US, which, having created an onerous and exacting framework to which the cruise industry responded with can-do positivity, has still failed to engage on next steps.
As CLIA said following the announcement, "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." And there's the reason for optimism. The programme of UK departures will increase experience and expertise, enabling cruise lines to share case studies and strategies with other ports and countries the world over as they open up to cruise ships.
In the early days of the pandemic, when pundits were speculating on the future of cruise, the accepted wisdom was that existing cruisers would be clamouring to return, but that elusive 'new to cruise' group would be hard to find. In fact, UK residents (and in particular families) responding to the government's widespread 'no overseas travel' leaks by searching for domestic breaks, will realise the cost of a week at Center Parcs, and turn to the option of a fantastic resort at sea as a great value alternative. Each cruise line's policy on vaccination will be key (they vary from 'must be vaccinated' to 'no children' to 'no proof of vaccination required') but at the moment the best options for family travel look like Disney, MSC, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity.
Some cruise lines have taken the decision to kick off their seasons with UK 'cruises to nowhere', including scenic cruising along the coastline, and relaxing days enjoying the resort facilities of the ship. For those who prefer never to get off anyway, and we know there are plenty, this will be a particularly appealing option, and we have no doubt that onboard programmes will be filled out and upgraded to ensure you never have a dull moment. You can consider P&O, Cunard, Fred. Olsen, Vigin Voyages or Princess. Ports of call have been added later in the season.
If you love the idea of exploring on your own doorstep, but only if you really can explore, there are a number of options to consider.
We are still waiting for Scotland's plans to become clear, but we are optimistic that cruises on Hebridean Princess, or indeed the little Majestic Line vessels, will be an appealing option for those who love the rugged off-the-beaten-track beauty of the Western Isles.
Viking's cruises were released to past passengers and immediately sold out (more cruises have been added as we go to press), but if this is the right size of ship for you, consider Saga's boutique ship options on the new Spirit of Discovery and Spirit of Adventure, British cruise ships sailing to British ports. And don't forget, the Saga offering includes travel right from your front door, not to mention Saga's own Covid insurance.
Last but not least, Tradewind Voyages' new sailing ship Golden Horizon is going to capture everyone's attention, with a series of shorter cruises around the UK this summer.