UK cruise sector reopens as first ship boards passengers since pandemic started

The British cruise market has official opened with the departure from Portsmouth of SeaDream Yacht Club’s mini cruise ship SeaDream 1.

SeaDream 1 set sail from Portsmouth carrying just 19 passengers on a trans-Atlantic voyage to the Caribbean, where she will spend the winter season.

SeaDream Yacht Club specialises in small-ship cruising, SeaDream II (pictured) is a sister ship to SeaDream I.

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The departure makes Portsmouth International Port the first in the UK to be used as a turnaround port by a cruise line since the coronavirus pandemic brought the entire industry to a standstill.

Sea Dream 1 departed Monday, operating with a significantly reduced capacity to ensure social distancing onboard. The ship can carry 110 passengers, but is less than 20% occupied.

Social distancing and mandatory COVID-19 testing are some of the health and safety protocols implemented by the cruise line to prevent coronavirus being brought onboard.

All the passengers had to test negative for the coronavirus no more than 72 hours in advance, as well as immediately before boarding.

Extensive cleaning and sanitation regimes are in force on the vessel, as well as in the Portsmouth cruise terminal.

In a statement, the port operators said they were ready to welcome additional cruise ships, having already implemented anti-COVID-19 measures for ferries, which began running again several months ago.

SeaDream I departs Portsmouth bound for the Caribbean.

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“We’re experienced at managing passengers in a COVID secure way, with ferry sailings taking place regularly since July following strict protocols,” said Ian Diaper, Head of Operations at Portsmouth International Port.

“This had given us insight for what’s required and we’re ready to help the industry recover when cruise returns to its full capacity,” he added.

“It’s testament to everyone’s hard work that SeaDream Yacht Club was confident to use Portsmouth as the first UK port to manage a turnaround call since sailings were suspended,” Ian Diaper, Head of Operations at Portsmouth International Port.

In addition to welcoming the first cruise since the start of the pandemic, Portsmouth has also become the first UK port to install a thermal imaging camera. The port received DNV-GL’s independent verification for its coronavirus prevention measures.

All crew members aboard SeaDream 1 have also completed the WHO’s Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) for COVID-19 course, as well as Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 Contact Tracing course.

After SeaDream 1 arrives in Bridgetown, capital of Barbados, on November 5, the yacht will commence a winter season of 7-day roundtrip cruises from and to the city – calling at Bequia, St. Vincent, the Grenadines, and Grenada.

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