British cruise line P&O Cruises has announced it is to offer “cruises to nowhere” for vaccinated British travelers this summer.
The voyages will depart in late June from the southern England port of Southampton and navigate the U.K. coast.
There will be no stop offs. Instead, guests will only be able to admire the rugged beauty of the country’s islands and coastline from the ship. Exact routes will be determined by conditions at sea.
“We really will look at the weather forecast each cruise and aim to take our ships where it is warm and sunny,” said P&O Cruises president Paul Ludlow in a statement.
P&O, owned by cruising giant Carnival, is following in the footsteps of U.K. cruise line Saga and America’s Crystal Cruises in requiring passengers be vaccinated before they board.
Royal Caribbean is also planning a vaccinated-passengers-only cruise for its new ship Odyssey of the Seas, departing from Israel in May to sail to the Greek islands and Cyprus.
Virgin Voyages, Richard Branson’s yet-to-be-inaugurated cruise line, has announced that its voyages will only accommodate vaccinated passengers and crew.
Norwegian Cruise Line, meanwhile, has stipulated that all crew members will need to be vaccinated on future voyages.
The P&O voyages will take place initially on the company’s Britannia cruise ship, which usually accommodates over 3,647 guests. It’s new Iona vessel, which has space for 5,200 guests and which has yet to be inaugurated, will set sail bound for Scotland in August. Passengers must have had both vaccinations and will require travel insurance.
Crew will not be required to be vaccinated, but will undergo what P&O calls “a strict testing and quarantine regime” as well as be subject to regular testing while on board.
P&O has also confirmed there will be other additional safety measures on the voyages for passengers and crew, including “appropriate social distancing and the wearing of masks in certain areas of the ship.”
As for how passengers will prove that they’ve been vaccinated, P&O tells CNN Travel this will be confirmed in due course. The cruise line thinks it’s likely they’ll be a form of evidence issued by the summer months in the U.K., as the country starts to reopen in the wake of the vaccine roll out.
Future of cruising
Other British cruise lines are also planning scenic summer sailings, including Viking Cruises at the end of May and Fred Olsen Cruise Lines commencing from July.
“Viking will not require vaccinations for these three domestic U.K. sailings. However, Viking’s medical team will continue to monitor vaccination rates and adjust our protocol and policies as needed to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our guests and crew,” said a Viking spokesperson.
Viking will operate three scenic sailings departing from Portsmouth.
While some of Fred Olsen’s sailings will be “to nowhere” others will include domestic stop offs.
Fred Olsen Cruise Lines has not stipulated that these voyages will be for vaccinated passengers only, but has said the vaccine is “part of a multi-layered approach” to kickstarting the cruise industry.
“By the time we resume sailing in July, we know that a large proportion of U.K. adults will have received their vaccinations,” said Peter Deer, Managing Director at Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines in a statement.
Deer said the cruise line would wait for the U.K.’s Global Travel Taskforce to issue its scheduled report on the recommencement of international travel before making further decisions. This report is due to be issued on April 12.
Vaccines and on board safety measures
Cruise Lines International Assocation, which represents 95% of ocean-going cruise liners including those under the Carnival umbrella, believes “vaccinations should co-exist with testing regimes and other protocols and be considered as a progressive enhancement to responsible travel.”
“No single measure alone is effective, and a multi-layered approach is the right one to mitigate risk,” CLIA spokesperson Julie Green recently told CNN Travel.
Meanwhile Dr William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert at Vanderbilt University, told CNN he sees vaccinations as the key to unlocking the cruise industry’s stalemate.
“The answer is, the more we get the passengers and the crew vaccinated, the safety will increase and the risk will decrease,” Schaffner said.
Schaffner also championed good hand hygiene and reduced on-board capacity as steps to work in tandem with vaccines.
“The imposition, if you will, of a vaccination requirement, having that documented, and testing everybody who gets on board, would very substantially reduce the risk and would contribute in a very important way to the rejuvenation of the cruising industry.”