Monday was ‘Freedom Day’ in England, the date on which most COVID-19 restrictions such as mask-wearing, social distancing and capacity limits in public venues were eased or scrapped altogether, but cruise lines are taking a more cautious approach.
Cruise lines that have resumed operations in the UK are less optimistic about easing COVID-19 restrictions than the government, according to a range of comments from cruise lines collected by Dave Monk of the Ship Monk blog, and have instead asked for international itineraries to be resumed.
On Monday, most COVID-19 rules were relaxed or suspended, face masks are no longer required by law, the limit on the number of people who can meet indoors has been lifted and theatre shows can reopen at full capacity.
Many of the rules applying to cruise ships were also eased. “Under step 4 of the roadmap, social distancing rules – two metres or one metre with additional mitigations – are lifted,” the government said in an update.
“Social distancing will only be required in limited circumstances such as at ports of entry for passengers between disembarkation and border control in order to manage the risk of variants of concern being transmitted between individuals,” the new guidance added.
Restrictions on cruise lines currently include a 50% cap on passenger numbers, masks required except when sitting eating and drinking, social distancing and guests only allowed to go ashore on official excursions.
The cruise industry is less keen on the lifting of these restrictions. The CLIA, a trade body that represents more than 90% of all cruise lines, said the COVID-19 protocols currently in place had proven effective at allowing cruises to resume safely in the UK.
“This successful domestic restart has been enabled by the wellbeing protocols that have been introduced across the cruise industry,” said spokesperson for CLIA UK & Ireland.
“While we will continue to assess our industry protocols, we believe that a cautious approach is appropriate as part of a gradual, phased resumption,” it added.
The CLIA also pointed out that the resumption of international itineraries from the UK would be more productive than the easing of restrictions.
In a statement, Celebrity Cruises said that the cruise industry COVID-19 protocols “go further than any other travel sector”, and that it would continue to abide by current rules “in the spirit of collective responsibility.”
These protocols include measures such as requirements for face coverings, social distancing, shore excursions and testing,” the cruise line told Travel Weekly.
“The protocols are in place to protect the health of guests, crew and also the communities in the destinations we visit,” it added, while mirroring the CLIA’s call for global cruises to be allowed once more.
P&O Cruises and Cunard told Ship Monk that the rule requiring a seven-day gap between any UK getaway cruises, including back-to-back bookings would remain in place, but “from July 25, 2021, face masks will only be required when moving around communal areas and within the theatre.”
Furthermore, there will be no restrictions on dining party size and social distancing will reduce to one metre.
Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises and Marella Cruises confirmed there would be no change to their onboard COVID-19 rules.
” While restrictions ashore are used to help shape the restrictions for cruise, they are not mirrored exactly,” explained Peter Deer, Managing Director, Fred Olsen. ” The guidelines that cover cruise are specific to the industry and are agreed by the Government in line with our industry body CLIA, with input from ourselves as cruise lines.”
“As a result, any relaxation in restrictions ashore does not automatically mean the same relaxation for cruise ships,” he added.