Updated FCO advice clears way for river cruise return

River cruise specialists have welcomed confirmation from the Foreign Office that its advice against cruise travel applies only to “sea-going” ships in international waters.

The Foreign Office updated its advice this morning, a week after it had moved to advice against all forms of cruising. The new advisory paves the way for UK travellers to return to river cruising. It would also appear to exclude cruises in UK waters from the blanket ban, although it says those seeking information on such cruises should contact the Department for Transport.

Jamie Loizou, UK managing director for AmaWaterways, said: “We are delighted that that the FCO have clarified their advice. The river cruise sector has always implemented very robust health and safety procedures, with many lines enhancing these further for the post-Covid era. 

"Our ships are small with large deck areas and always travel close to land. Our excursions such as cycle rides, hikes and city tours take place in small groups offering plenty of opportunities for social distancing. I’d like to thank CLIA, ABTA and my fellow river cruise lines for their efforts in lobbying for this change."

Uniworld's UK managing director Chris Townson said: “River cruise ships are small by comparison with ocean liners, carry far fewer passengers, and are always in close proximity to the shore, and therefore to local healthcare providers.

“For us it has never made sense for river to be treated any differently from a hotel resort – and like our hotel counterparts we have put incredibly robust and enhanced health and safety protocols in place for wellbeing and reassurance of both guests and staff.”

James Cole, managing director of cruise agency Panache Cruises, said: “It’s so pleasing to see that the FCO has changed its advice and river cruising has been given the green light.

“When you combine this with the industry-leading protocols that are being implemented by each of the cruise lines, the low deposit schemes and flexible booking conditions, together with the exceptional deals available to consumers, now is certainly the best time in the history of cruising to book a cruise. But my advice would be not to wait, as prices will increase as bookings gain momentum.”

Andy Harmer, Clia UK & Ireland director, welcomed the news and said talks were ongoing over the resumption of ocean cruising. Harmer said: “This latest change to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s advisory regarding cruise ship travel provides a very welcome boost.

“We are seeing a gradual, phased-in approach to resumption of cruise operations across Europe, initially domestic and regional. Clia is continuing its constructive dialogue with the Department for Transport and Public Health England to finalise the road map to resumption of international cruise travel.”

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