UK cruise industry takes a break amid coronavirus concerns

The UK cruise industry has shut down operations as travel restrictions due to coronavirus/COVID-19 are in place around the world, including advice against all non-essential travel from the UK government for 30 days from March 17.

According to a report in The Telegraph, the first ever move to shut down the global cruise industry follows advice from both the UK and US governments that those aged 70 and over, and those with pre-existing health conditions, should avoid cruise holidays.

Andy Harmer, UK and Ireland director of Cruise Lines International Association (Clia), said: ‘As we face the prospect of new restrictions impacting our daily lives, we are all being tested, and I’m proud that our cruising community has been stepping up to the challenge. I know that everyone is working around the clock to adapt to the new landscape we find ourselves in, and are making every effort to keep customers informed with updated information, even as developments are seeming to occur so rapidly. Our customers should feel assured that our industry remains focused on their safety, health and well-being.’

Viking was the first cruise operator to announce on March 11 that it was suspending its river and ocean cruises for a temporary period. Operations are suspended for both Viking River Cruises and Viking Ocean Cruises between March 12 and April 30. Viking is offering pre-booked customers within this period the choice of a future cruise voucher valued at 125% of all monies paid to Viking or a refund. Guests will have 24 months to use their future cruise voucher to make a new reservation on any river, ocean or expedition cruise.

Most of the major cruise lines have made similar announcements, with cruise season now delayed until mid to late April. Cunard is suspending new cruises on its ships until April 11. Both Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria will return to Southampton and Queen Elizabeth’s itineraries are under review, the report said, adding that guests are being contacted regarding their voyage and options.

Marella Cruises, a British cruise line operated by TUI UK, offering cruise holidays around Europe, the Caribbean, and Asia – has a restart date of March 28, while TUI has postponed the launch of its new river cruises.

Virgin Voyages – Sir Richard Branson’s brand new cruise line – has postponed a showcase tour planned for its first ship, Scarlet Lady and the maiden voyage. The inaugural season will start on July 15 and the maiden voyage will take place on August 7. Customers will receive a 200 per cent future voyage credit, and will also receive up to USD500 in on board credit if they rebook before June 30. It will also be possible to get a 100 per cent refund of the voyage fare for an impacted sailing, plus a 25 per cent future voyage credit. The line plans to launch another three ships after Scarlet Lady, the report said.

Blue Islands revises schedule to retain essential lifeline routes amid COVID-19

Blue Islands, a privately owned Channel Islands based regional airline, has implemented a revised timetable, effective from Tuesday March 17 until Sunday April 12 to ensure the maintenance of critical lifeline routes for essential travel.

The move as comes after announcements by the States of Guernsey and the Government of Jersey advising islanders to consider avoiding all non-essential travel to and from the islands, to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 outbreak.

The island communities rely on the services of Blue Islands for essential travel for medical purposes. In order to sustain these vital links, Blue Islands will operate morning and evening inter-island services between Guernsey and Jersey, as well as twice daily Guernsey to Southampton and Jersey to Southampton services plus a daily service to Bristol. The full revised schedule is available at https://bit.ly/3b2VU34 .

Neil Garwood, Managing Director of Southampton Airport said, ‘Maintaining connectivity to the Channel Islands from Southampton is of paramount importance to us. My team is fully committed to working with Blue Islands to keep this service going and effectively managing the impact of Covid-19.’

Customers who have booked on a service that is not operational while the revised schedule is active will be automatically moved to the nearest available flight and/or an alternative airport. They will receive an email notification advising of this change.

For better flexibility, passengers booked for travel up to and including 12 April may change their flight to another date and route without any change of fees, though subject to fare difference as applicable. Flight bookings and email updates is available at www.blueislands.com.

‘The health and safety of our passengers and crew is always our highest priority. Blue Islands is responding quickly to this situation and our team is working hard to meet our customers’ needs,’ the airline said, seeking the support and patience of customers to tide over through the crisis period.