Three cruise lines have announced dates for voyages around the UK this summer which will mark the resumption of cruising since operations were suspended last year. The move follows the Government decision to reopen domestic tourism and indoor hospitality from May 17th, which also includes cruises.
Viking, P&O Cruises and Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines will offer coastal sailings exclusive to UK residents which will sail round-trip from Portsmouth, Southampton, Liverpool and Dover. Cunard is also going to offer special UK sailings and dates will be released later this month.
Viking, which was the first line to halt cruises at the beginning of the pandemic, will lead the return with three seven-night England’s Scenic Shores itineraries departing on May 22nd, May 29th and June 5th. Passengers will be among the first to sail on board Viking’s newest ocean ship, Viking Venus, which will be formally delivered in April and named the following month by broadcaster and journalist Anne Diamond.
Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking, said:
“We welcome the UK Government’s support for the return of safe domestic cruises as an important component in the travel industry’s recovery. In recognition of this support, and to celebrate the fact we have a British godmother, we have chosen to name our new ship, Viking Venus, in the UK on May 17th.
“We are in a position to restart operations quickly and to start sailing again in May because we have kept our ships crewed during warm lay-up throughout the past 12 months. We have been implementing our additional protocols, including daily quick and easy non-invasive saliva PCR tests for our crew, for almost six months now. With our new protocol enhancements in place, we believe there will be no safer way to travel the world than on a Viking voyage and we look forward to welcoming UK guests back on board very soon.”
Pre-registration for the trio of sailings is currently open to Viking past passengers and full details about the cruises, plus reservations for the general public, will be available at a later date.
P&O Cruises is offering a series of short-break sailings on its flagship Britannia and week-long cruises on the line’s new ship Iona, which has yet to embark on its maiden voyage due to the pandemic. The cruises will depart from Southampton with the three, four and six-night breaks on Britannia running from June 27th to September 19th and the seven-night sailings on Iona from August 7th to September 18th. The cruises are available to UK COVID-19 vaccinated residents.
The line’s President, Paul Ludlow, commented:
“Given recent announcements we have every hope that our guests will be able to enjoy a holiday this summer. After the stresses and challenges of the past year everyone certainly deserves a treat and this series of cruises will provide memorable and much needed UK getaways. Whilst there is still uncertainty about holidays abroad this summer, we are delighted to be able to offer our guests the ultimate escape here in the UK with the reassurance that we will take care of everything.
“The start of Iona’s very special maiden season, the new Ultimate Escape series of holidays, includes a memorable seven night maiden voyage sailing around the Scottish islands. Iona will anchor off Iona, the island after which she was named, with a celebratory extended stay until sunset for magical views of the historic shores.”
Fred. Olsen has unveiled a Welcome Back programme of 11 scenic British Isles cruises starting in July and showcasing maiden voyages on its new ships Borealis and Bolette. Borealis will be the first to sail from Liverpool on July 5th on a three-night inaugural sailing and Bolette’s maiden sailing with be a three-night cruise from Dover on August 16th. Other cruises include five-night itineraries around Scotland.
Peter Deer, Managing Director at Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, said:
“We are so excited to be unveiling these new summer cruises today. So often overlooked, our British Isles are home to some of the most wonderful wildlife, and so much spectacular scenery that is best enjoyed from the water. With this selection of shorter sailings, guests can dip their toes back into cruising and enjoy all that they love about being on board with us, before we all begin to venture further afield again.
“This is an incredibly important milestone for our business, and we can’t wait to welcome our guests on board our new-look fleet this summer.”
Cunard is also going to offer a series of UK voyages on Queen Elizabeth with will sail from Southampton on dates yet to be announced.
Cunard president, Simon Palethorpe said:
“With the UK Government confirming that domestic travel is close on the horizon, we are introducing a series of exciting, shorter duration holidays for Brits looking for the perfect staycation in Cunard luxury this summer. These will be sailings from Southampton, for UK residents, around the UK and will make the very most of the summer sunshine.”
The return to domestic cruising has been welcomed by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the world’s largest cruise industry trade association, which has been lobbying for cruising to be included in the resumption of tourism.
Andy Harmer, Director, CLIA UK & Ireland concluded:
“We strongly welcome the announcement that cruise will be included alongside the restart of other domestic tourism in the UK. The industry has been working with the government over the last year on health protocols which put the safety of our passengers and crew first. Many of these protocols have already been tested successfully where cruise has been able to operate elsewhere in Europe. The industry has long planned a phased restart for cruise, with domestic cruises representing the first stage of this plan.”
Known as the ‘River Cruise Queen’, Jeannine Williamson is an award-winning travel writer, cruise expert and our cruise correspondent, who has clocked up thousands of nautical miles.
Photographs courtesy of Viking, P&O Cruises and Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines