Today the U.K. government issued advice against cruise ship travel.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) originally issued guidance last March advising those U.K. nationals who are over-70 years of age and those with underlying medical health conditions, such as chronic diseases and diabetes, against taking cruises. A FCO spokeperson state in March:

“Our first priority is the safety of British nationals. The nature and design of cruise ships – where passengers are contained and the virus can spread faster – makes them a particularly risky environment for vulnerable people. We’ve already seen the impact a coronavirus outbreak can have on board a cruise ship and we have changed this advice with the safety of British nationals in mind.”

The U.K. government updated its advice today, saying that “the Foreign & Commonwealth Office advises against cruise ship travel at this time. This is due to the ongoing pandemic and is based on medical advice from Public Health England. The government will continue to review its cruise ship travel advice based on the latest medical advice.”

You can read the FCO’s advice here.

Cruises from the U.K. have been halted since March. Travel Weekly reported that Hurtiguten recently announced plans to operate cruises from U.K. ports starting in September.

The announcement surprised and angered many travel agents and cruise fans.

Jane Archer, a U.K. travel journalist and super cruise fan, went so far as to claim that the cruise industry has “moved heaven and earth to make sure its ships are safe.” The fact of the matter is that few cruise lines have even announced their new COVID-19 precautions at this point. More startling, there are still crew members on cruise ships at sea and on ships in ports in the U.K.  who the cruise lines have not even repatriated home at this late date, nearly four months after cruising was suspended. Some crew members are still testing positive for COIVD-19 on ships. Others are tested positive when they finally repatriated home.   

The Guardian reported last month that the U.K.’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) detained four ships operated by the U.K.’s Cruise and Maritime Voyages (photo right) moored in the U.K. after inspectors found expired and invalid seafarers employment agreements, late wage payments and crew members who had been on board for over 12 months, in breach of the Maritime Labour Convention. The crew members had to organize a hunger strike to bring attention to their mistreatment.

The U.K. cruise ban comes shortly after the EU just announced “interim advice for restarting cruise ship operations after lifting restrictive measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic” dated June 30th.  These new guidelines are arguably a good first start but they clearly do not adequately protect the public’s health and safety in many respects. The EU advice fails to even require social distancing as recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A number of readers reacting to this news are predicting the end of cruising for the foreeable future, perhaps until 2022 or until there is a vaccine. Here are some comments from the Travel Weekly article:

  • Maybe just maybe the FCO have been listening to my views – cruising is out until 2022 at the earliest. Health before wealth. On a liner of say 3-5000 passengers it just takes one person to be diagnosed and the ship is closed by EVERY port. This government is doing a marvellous job – well done.
  • The Virus is not now under control. The U.K. will experience a similar spike to the U.S. (where the lockdown was lifted prematurely). Even places such as Hong Kong and Australia, known for robustly controlling the virus, are seeing spikes. Parts of Melbourne are back under lockdown.
  • The complexity and variability of the restrictions is a disaster for the sector. Combined with the lack of financial support the travel industry as we know it is history.
  • This will be in place until a vaccine is found. No question.
  • Well I think we can all forget cruising in 2020. It would just be impossible in the present environment. It makes no difference on the size of the ship. Countries at the moment dont want cruise ships. Simple. Travel is coming back, cruising is the not for the near future.

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Photo credits: Cruise and Maritime Voyages