The cruise industry, all at sea without passengers due to the coronavirus pandemic, has finally been given a date to look forward to by the UK Government.
Maritime minister Robert Courts, speaking at a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Maritime and Group (APPMPG), said getting domestic voyages back in operation was being looked at by officials, and assured those present that they should be given the green light from May 17 – the earliest possible dates that sailings between English ports could go ahead, according to Prime Minister Boris Johnson's roadmap out of lockdown.
MP Jackie Doyle-Price, the APPMPG chair, said that "the partial re-opening of the domestic market offers the cruise industry an opportunity to demonstrate that its processes are robust for both passengers and crew to start to rebuild consumer confidence and get people back on board."
The announcement was welcomed across the board by cruise lines. Paul Ludlow, president of P&O Cruises, said he was "delighted", while Anthony Daniels, the UK general manager of Hurtigruten, described the news as "another positive step forward for the cruise industry".
While the news only applies to England, all eyes are on how the devolved administrations will ease their restrictions on sailing.
Telegraph Travel has spoken to a number of cruisers who cannot wait to get back on the water.
‘As soon as we can, we’ll be booking a UK cruise’
Ron and Lorraine Lipscombe, both 66, Devon
We took our first cruise in 2005 and there are many reasons we enjoy them, not least being spoiled rotten. On a typical day, you can eat the best food, have great entertainment, meet and chat to a variety of people, visit somewhere new and look forward to doing something similar the next day, without packing and unpacking. If I had to pick a favourite cruise so far, I would go for our 24-day return trip from Southampton to Canada and New England.
As soon as Princess releases its itineraries, I will be booking a UK cruise. At the moment, for us, being back on board is more important than the cost. After all, we haven’t been on a cruise for over a year. And the vaccine roll out in the UK definitely gives me more confidence to walk up that gangway.
‘Domestic cruising is an opportunity to see many beautiful places’
Marcus Adams, 37, London
I’ve been cruising for 28 years and have been on over 40 cruises. I feel like the potential return of UK cruises is the first sign of light at the end of the tunnel for sailing again. I’ve tried a UK cruise with Princess Cruises before, in 2019. It was a lovely itinerary that visited Cobh, Dublin, Belfast and Liverpool. One UK cruise destination that really stands out for me is the Shetland Isles.
Domestic cruising is an opportunity to see so many beautiful places you wouldn’t necessarily consider visiting in your own back yard. There’s just as many [picturesque] moments to be had in the UK, whether it’s taking in the scenery, learning about the history of the Titanic in Belfast, taking in the cultural and musical influence of Liverpool, being a foodie for a day in Edinburgh, or visiting and learning about all the incredible ancient sites on our doorstep, such as Stonehenge and Giants Causeway. There really is something for everyone.
‘We’re not deterred by negative media coverage of cruises’
Roy and Tina Savage, both in their sixties, West Sussex
We’ve been cruising since 2011 and we’ve been to the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, Norwegian fjords and the Adriatic coast – 12 cruises in all. Since our first cruise we haven’t had a different type of foreign holiday: we enjoy waking up with somewhere new to explore each day. We are looking into a UK cruise this summer and we might try Princess for a change (we usually travel with P&O Cruises), but it depends on price and itineraries.
The negative media coverage of cruises during the pandemic definitely hasn’t put us off cruise holidays: the ships are cleaner and more hygienic than most hotels I’ve stayed in.
‘This is the first time I’ve considered a UK cruise’
Wes Marchant, mid-sixties, Manchester
My wife, Liz, and I did our first cruise 20 years ago. We’ve taken 17 now, mostly in the Med and Caribbean. We hadn’t considered a British Isles cruise before, but now we definitely are.
We’ve sailed Carnival and Celebrity, but there is always time to move on. What I enjoy about cruise holidays includes: waking up with a different view from your balcony every morning; visiting somewhere as a taster to maybe go back for a longer stay; the excellent service and fine dining. I think a UK cruise would be worth the cost.
‘I loved my first British Isles cruise’
Emma Le Teace, 27, West Sussex
It is so exciting to have a plan to get the UK back to cruising. Cruise Lines have been testing their Covid safety measures since the start of the pandemic, and it's about time the UK got back to sea. I am planning on booking a British Isles itinerary when summer cruises with either Princess Cruises or P&O are launched. I did have a 12-night British Isles cruise booked for August 2021, with Princess, but this was cancelled to make way for shorter itineraries. I have transferred my booking to 2022.
I have taken a British Isles cruise before, and loved it. We had glorious sunshine almost every day and visited places that I'd never been to before, including Dublin and Loch Ness. A British Isles cruise is like taking a road trip, but you don't have to worry about driving or parking. At the end of a busy day exploring, you come back to a ship to eat incredible food, watch the included entertainment and sleep in a comfortable bed. It's brilliant.
‘I would like to support the industry’
Eleanor Scriven, 50, Derbyshire
I’ve been taking cruise holidays for 25 years. The accessibility cruises offer is one of the best things about them. We’ve even visited St Kilda on a cruise, which is a bit of a traveller prize destination, being so remote and prone to rough seas. I’d like to support the cruise industry by trying a UK cruise and it should relieve some of the pressure on UK accommodation as many places are getting full over the key summer weeks. Hopefully cruisers would also support local businesses once ashore.
It should allow many more people to get a taste of normality again, although I think Covid secure arrangements would need to be clear and reassuring. I've already done a cruise that touched in places around the UK: Pembrokeshire, Falmouth, Oban, St Kilda, Ullapool, Lerwick and Kirkwall, on the way to Greenland and Iceland. We loved it.