P&O Cruises will be offering journeys to Britons around the UK coast this summer, but only for those who have received their coronavirus vaccinations.
“Given the advanced progress of the UK vaccination programme, and strong expressed preference on the part of our guests for this limited series of UK coastal cruises, these sailings on Britannia and Iona will be for UK resident COVID-19 vaccinated guests only,” the company, owned by Carnival (CCL.L), said in a statement.
Cruises will depart from Southampton between June and September. There will be a series of three and four night breaks on its Britannia ship this summer, with prices starting from £449 ($624) per head, and week-long cruises on a new ship called Iona. Those will start at £1,199 per person.
"For these cruises, the definition of 'vaccinated' is a minimum of seven days following the second dose of the currently approved COVID-19 vaccines being administered," it added.
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On top of that, all guests and crew will be required to follow “enhanced” health and wellbeing measures.
The company said these were developed with guidance from its global medical and public health experts and scientists and in close coordination with UK government agencies.
These protocols include enhanced sanitation measures, social distancing and the wearing of masks in certain areas of the ship.
Carnival shares fell 2% in mid-afternoon trade in London.
The crew will also undergo a testing and quarantine regime as well as regular testing while on on board.
Travel insurance will be mandatory for all guests. It must include medical and repatriation cover of £2m minimum that includes medical expenses related to COVID-19.
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P&O President Paul Ludlow said: "As we have spent the majority of the last year at home, to be able to have a restorative and relaxing break, sit on deck with a sea view in the summer sunshine and then enjoy an indulgent dinner and show – it's certainly what we all need this year and we cannot wait to have our guests back on board."
The cruises go on sale on Monday March 22, 2021.
Proof of vaccination and the dates given will be required, and approved forms of evidence will be confirmed closer to time of departure.
This documentation will be required to be shown at the terminal prior to boarding.
All guests of all ages must meet the requirements of the vaccination policy, the company said, and added that all other P&O Cruises holidays currently on sale do not require guests to be vaccinated.
For those who are unsure about when they will be comfortable with traveling or when they will be vaccinated, bookings may be changed as many times as they like, free of charge up to 30 days before the holiday departs.
Earlier this month, UK maritime minister Robert Courts said domestic cruises in Britain could restart from 17 May.
Courts told MPs that the government was working with the home nations to get UK-wide domestic cruising up and running.
He said the move would help the cruise sector restore confidence and demonstrate the robustness of their new COVID protocols for passengers and crew.
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The date is the earliest in which foreign and domestic holidays can resume under prime minister Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of the country’s third national lockdown.
Johnson said a government taskforce will produce a report by 12 April which will recommend how international trips can resume for people in England. This could lead to foreign holidays being allowed by 17 May.
The news had buoyed travel stocks at the time, as the industry saw a bump in demand.
The cruise sector was hit by bad news very early on when the pandemic began. According to a report in the Washington Post in April 2020, "a review of cruise line statements, government announcements and media reports found that the coronavirus infected passengers and crew on at least 55 ships that sailed in the waters off nearly every continent, about a fifth of the total global fleet."
"The industry’s decision to keep sailing for weeks after the coronavirus was first detected in early February on a cruise ship off the coast of Japan, despite the efforts by top U.S. health officials to curtail voyages, was among a number of decisions that health experts and passengers say contributed to the mounting toll," it had noted at the time.
The travel sector in general, hit badly by the pandemic, is working hard to get up and running in time for summer with COVID-19 protocols in place. British Airways (IAG.L) recently said it will introduce digital global vaccine passports in time for the planned reopening of international travel.
Meanwhile, the UK is on track to give half of all adults a first dose of the coronavirus vaccine by the end of the week.
The latest figures show 24,453,221 people had received a first dose as of Sunday. Last week, 2,075,966 first doses were issued, with 512,108 on Saturday alone.
The pace of the vaccine rollout is expected to pick up considerably in the coming days because of increased supplies of the jab.
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