The travel corridors are opening, and for many the bags will already be packed. But can Britons go on a cruise?
The latest advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, updated on July 9, advises against all cruise ship travel, based on medical advice from Public Health England. The Government says it will continue to review the guidance, which does not make going on a cruise illegal but does make it trickier to find insurance.
The news comes despite air travel beginning to open up. From today, British holidaymakers arriving back from 75 destinations will no longer have to self-isolate for 14 days.
However, just over 20 countries are left once you eliminate those with significant restrictions on visitors.
The “air bridges” are now open to travellers from England and Scotland, with the exception of flights to and from Spain, which Holyrood has decided to exclude.
At the same time, cruising is coming back step by step in Europe. Some river lines have already begun operations – and they will be joined on Sunday, July 12, by luxury barge operator European Waterways, and on Monday by France-based CroisiEurope.
Derek Banks, the managing director of European Waterways, said: “We are looking forward to hosting our many repeat clients, as well as welcoming new British travellers. August will see us extending our operation to offering cruises in Scotland and England.”
Norwegian line Hurtigruten has announced it is sailing round-Britain voyages from September, with departures from Portsmouth, Liverpool and Glasgow – though the latest FCO advice has taken some of the sheen off this good news. While other ex-UK cruise lines remain suspended, Saga Cruises MD Nigel Blanks told Telegraph Travel: “We are exploring a number of options for resuming cruising safely, including cruising around Britain with and without ports of call, and we will be contacting guests shortly to update them.”
When government advice changes, here’s where Britons could cruise first.
Ponant intends to sail from Saturday (July 11) on five itineraries from the French coast – the same day that A-Rosa will resume river cruises in the Rhône. CroisiEurope is returning to the Seine on Monday, on the Rhône and the Burgundy Canal from July 16, on the Rhine (from Strasbourg) from July 20, the Loire on July 31 and the Gironde on August 26.
The line’s new ocean ship, Belle des Oceans, will sail to Corsica and back on July 26. A CroisiEurope spokesman said: “If travel restrictions allow, Britons are always welcome. All our sailings are bilingual.” European Waterways will start sailing luxury hotel barges, for between eight and 12 passengers, on Sunday.
River cruises have already started, including four-night voyages on Viva Cruises which are all bilingual German and English. A-Rosa has begun cruises on the Rhine from Cologne and CroisiEurope will start sailing on the Elbe on August 3. Hurtigruten has commenced expedition voyages from Hamburg to Norway, but only for German citizens.
Hapag-Lloyd Cruises is to sail again from the end of this month but only for guests from Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Aida is resuming sailings on August 5 from Hamburg, initially without stopping at other ports.
A-Rosa is already sailing on the Danube, and CroisiEurope intends to join them on July 31.
Greece is preparing to welcome British travellers from Wednesday, July 15 – in time for Variety Cruises to begin sailings on July 24 on the 49-passenger Galileo. However, hopes have been dashed for eager cruisers to join Celestyal Cruises – the Greek line has cancelled its season for this year. Note, cruise ships and ferries coming from other countries are banned from landing in Greek ports.
CroisiEurope is beginning sailings on August 13.
On July 12, the largest hotel barge in the European Waterways fleet, the 20-passenger La Bella Vita, will leave Venice for a cruise along the Po River. But cruisers will have to wait for ocean voyages on MSC Cruises and Costa to restart.
Britons can now fly to Tahiti but have to present a medical certificate and self-isolate for 14 days after arrival, according to the latest Foreign Office advice. The good news is that Paul Gauguin Cruises is restarting international services on July 29 and Britons are welcome. Passenger-cargo vessel Aranui 5 is also aiming to begin cruises for international visitors from August 8.