International cruises have been given the go-ahead by the Government for the first time in more than a year as part of a major reopening of Britain’s borders.
Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, announced on Wednesday that curbs on international cruises will be lifted from Monday so that holidaymakers can visit foreign destinations but under the terms of the current traffic lights system for travel.
It means that fully jabbed cruise travellers will be able to dock at amber countries without having to quarantine on their return.
Only domestic cruises around the UK coast have been permitted since May 17 this year.
It follows the effective shutdown of the industry in March last year after a series of incidents in which the Foreign Office was forced to repatriate some 19,000 Britons quarantined on 60 cruise ships hit by Covid-19 outbreaks around the world.
In one of the most serious incidents, about a fifth of the passengers on board the British-registered Diamond Princess caught Covid during a cruise in east Asia, with the ship being quarantined by the Japanese government. Fourteen people died.
The re-start follows an agreement between the Government and cruise operators that they will take the lead in repatriating passengers – and reimburse the Foreign Office for any costs that it might incur in any such operation.
Cruise liners have also introduced new Covid-secure measures to protect passengers, including some companies that are offering trips for only fully vaccinated travellers.
Others such as Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line has reduced the capacity on its ships by 40 per cent to enable it to maintain social distancing.
Costa Cruises is requiring passengers to wear masks in all indoor spaces and in outdoor spaces where social distancing is not possible.
Travellers and crew will have to take daily temperature checks, while staff must pass three negative Covid PCR tests before joining the vessel.
CroisiEurope has halted buffet service lunch and dinner and replaced it with two sittings featuring menu-driven options. Masks, hand sanitizer and gloves will be available upon request.
The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) estimated the continued shutdown of the industry has been costing 2,500 jobs a day, with a worldwide loss of £36 billion and 334,000 jobs since last March.
Andy Harmer, CLIA managing director for the UK and Ireland, said: “The decision to allow the restart of international cruises is very good news for the industry. The success of this summer’s round-Britain cruises has led the way.
“The cruise industry has worked intensively during the past 18 months in collaboration with the Government, health authorities, ports, and other industry bodies to develop enhanced protocols that protect guests, crew, and the destinations we visit.
“The industry looks forward to welcoming guests back onboard to visit international destinations.”
The restart has been made possible by the Foreign Office removing its advice against cruise ship travel. But it has issued a detailed checklist of advice for potential passengers.
This includes warnings that healthcare facilities may be limited on board, that people should be prepared for the risk of having to quarantine on board and may have to pay for medical bills if they get ill.
Advice for passengers in the checklist also includes being told that they may be asked to disembark the cruise ship and return to the UK at their own cost if they fail to follow operator protocols, including during official excursions.