British government releases guidelines for resuming international UK cruises

Cruise lines operating from British ports may soon be able to offer international UK cruises after the government’s Travel Taskforce released a report outlining the means by which cruises to foreign ports can be re-introduced.

The UK government had previously indicated that domestic cruises would be allowed to resume from May, leading to an unprecedented rush by cruise line’s to roll out cruises from Britain.

international UK cruises to resume

Southampton will have at least eight cruise lines home-porting during the coming 2021 season

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Now, it has announced that a new traffic light system will be introduced that will enable travel abroad, and the Travel Taskforce has indicated that this same system can be used by cruise lines so that they can offer international UK cruises.

The measures being taken by the UK government stand in stark contrast to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US, which has refused since March last year to consider a resumption of cruises from US ports.

The lack of guidance from the CDC has led to frustration in the cruise industry, while Florida has even filed a lawsuit against the federal government to try to force it to allow cruises to resume.

In the UK, however, the government has insisted that it is committed to supporting the cruise sector in making a comeback, using analytic data and a risk-based approach.

“In February, the Prime Minister asked me to develop the framework for a safe and sustainable return to non-essential international travel when the time is right,” said Grant Shapps MP Secretary of State for Transport.

“This report, produced by the Global Travel Taskforce, which brings together the UK government and industry, sets out how we can achieve that goal,” he added.

Cruise lines plan to use the UK’s spectacular coastline to make up for the lack of port calls on shorter voyages.

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The Task Force will follow the cruise line’s ability to mitigate the risk of passengers contracting or spreading COVID-19 after domestic cruises resume this summer, and will use this data to decide on the re-introduction of international UK cruises, with itineraries visiting foreign ports.

“The first GTT report recognised the significant progress made by the cruise sector over the last year to develop COVID-19 operating procedures. The Department for Transport subsequently published a phased risk-based approach to restarting the cruise sector. Since then, much has changed, including our knowledge, understanding and response to mitigating risks of the virus. The UK government has confirmed that domestic cruises will restart in England no earlier than 17 May.”

Report of the Global Travel Taskforce: The Safe Return of International Travel

The UK’s Traffic Light System

The UK government’s traffic light system will identify if a destination is safe to visit and will then provide guidance on anti-COVID-19 measures that will apply to travelers returning from, or arriving from, those destinations.

Unlike the CDC’s guidance on airlines and trains versus cruises (wherein vaccinated Americans were allowed to fly or travel by train but not cruise ship), the UK’s traffic light system will apply to all travel industries.

The UK will classify countries as green, amber, or red, as reported by Cruise Hive.

Green: arrivals will need to take a pre-departure test as well as a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test on or before day 2 of their arrival back in the UK – but will not need to quarantine on return (unless they receive a positive result) or take any additional tests, halving the cost of tests on their return from holiday.

Amber: arrivals will need to quarantine for a period of 10 days and take a pre-departure test, and a PCR test on day 2 and day 8 with the option for Test to Release on day 5 to end self-isolation early.

Red: arrivals will be subject to restrictions currently in place for ‘red list’ countries, which include a 10-day stay in a managed quarantine hotel, pre-departure testing and PCR testing on day 2 and 8.

The Department of Transport also says travelers should purchase quarantine packages before traveling if returning from a country that is on the red list. Those traveling to counties on the amber or green list will need to book test packages from an approved list.

Further guidance on which countries will be on the various lists will be released in May. Only green countries will be feasible destinations for international UK cruises due to the limitations any quarantine mandates would impose on passengers.

While Italy and Germany were the first countries to allow the resumption of cruises, they were forced to suspend those permissions shortly after when new waves of the virus (unrelated the resumption of cruises) prompted national lockdowns.

The UK will be the first country to fully reopen its cruise sector, after studying data from the Canary Islands, Singapore and Europe where cruises have been allowed to resume safely thanks to anti-COVID-19 measures in place.

The British government’s move to resume domestic cruises, and possibly international UK cruises in the near future, will provide the global cruise industry with even further evidence of the success of its vaccines mandates, coupled with stringent measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

The Department of Transport has been engaging with all the travel industry sectors, including Carnival, MSC, Viking Cruises, Ports, and Cruise Lines International Association in coming up with the new guidelines for the resumption of international UK cruises.

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