P&O to launch UK ‘voyages to nowhere’ this summer, require all passengers be vaccinated

Mar 17, 2021

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information.

We’ve had flights to nowhere — and now it’s time for voyages to nowhere.

P&O Cruises has announced that sea-starved passengers will be able to board two of its ships for a series of trips — with no ports of call.

The captains will merely try and set sail for sunny climes, instead.

The first departure will be from Southampton on 27 June on P&O’s ship Britannia and passengers can choose from a three- or four-night sailing — prices including accommodation and all meals start at £449.

If you’re after something longer, P&O’s new vessel Iona will be offering week-long cruises from 7 August from the Scottish island of the same name, according to the Independent. Prices start from £1,199 and tickets go on sale from 22 March.

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“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 U.K. with the reassurance that we will take care of everything,” Paul Ludlow, president of P&O Cruises, said.

“Also, we really will look at the weather forecast each cruise and aim to take our ships where it is warm and sunny.”

P&O Cruises vessel Britannia on Southampton Water Underway from her berth. (Photo by Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

However, the cruise company has also made clear that all passengers must have had both their jabs before embarking — plus a seven-day wait.

To prove you have been vaccinated a “letter from your GP will suffice,” Ludlow confirmed to BBC Breakfast.

Passengers, including children, who haven’t been vaccinated will be denied boarding, and adequate insurance must be proved, too.

Meanwhile, those hoping to enjoy a bit of domestic cruising in the U.K. before that may be able to do so.

The maritime minister has told MPs that ​cruises in U.K. waters may return on 17 May, the same date that hotels and hostels may be able to reopen and some international travel may begin again.

Related: What does the roadmap out of lockdown mean for travel?

Last week, Robert Courts appeared at a virtual meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Maritime and Group (APPMPG) and confirmed that the government is working to get domestic cruising — between U.K. ports only — running again and it is likely to be on the first day that travel restrictions begin to lift.

After the meeting, a Department for Transport spokesman said: “We are committed to restarting cruise travel when it is safe to do so, and we are working closely with the sector to prepare for a safe and successful restart. The restart of domestic cruises in England will be aligned with the wider resumption of the domestic tourism and indoor hospitality sectors.”

According to the Independent, crew members will be tested and have to quarantine for two weeks before passengers are allowed to board.

In keeping with the “domestic cruising only” rules, Princess Cruises announced recently it was cancelling all of its sailings out of the U.K. to destinations like the Mediterranean, Norway, Scandinavia and Iceland until 25 September.

Instead, the 14-ship brand hopes to offer a series of new, shorter cruises out of the U.K. for the summer season that’ll revolve around close-to-home ports. Unlike the typical Princess itinerary out of the U.K., the new sailings only will be open to U.K. residents.

The Regal Princess had been scheduled to sail voyages to the Canary Islands and other destinations out of the U.K. this summer. (Photo courtesy of Princess Cruises)

The last-minute itinerary changes for the summer come amidst an ongoing COVID-related lockdown in the U.K. and restrictions on travel to the U.K. by those coming from abroad.

Related: When will cruising resume? A top executive is watching this one number

The changes at Princess affect three of the line’s 14 vessels: Regal Princess, Sky Princess and Island Princess. All three of the ships had been scheduled to sail out of Southampton over the summer. Only Regal Princess and Sky Princess will operate the new, shorter summer cruises out of Southampton that Princess plans, the line said. Princess didn’t say what its plans were for Island Princess.

The Princess sailings out of the U.K. that has been cancelled included 12-night voyages to the Canary Islands and 12-night sailings to the Baltics.

“We share in our guests’ disappointment over these cancelled voyages, and we appreciate the continued understanding and cooperation from our loyal guests and travel advisors,” Princess president Jan Swartz said in a statement accompanying the line’s announcement. “As we prepare our ships for a return to service, we remain in close contact with the U.K. Government to monitor the latest travel guidance for international guests.”

Lines that still have longer distance sailings from the U.K. on their schedules for the summer include Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and MSC Cruises.

Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas is currently scheduled to sail a mix of seven- to 14-night voyages out of Southampton to such destinations as the Norwegian fjords and the Mediterranean.

Celebrity’s Celebrity Silhouette also is scheduled to sail a mix of seven- to 14-night voyages out of Southampton to such destinations as the Baltics, the Norwegian fjords, and Iceland and Greenland.

MSC Cruises’ MSC Magnifica is scheduled to sail mostly seven-night trips to the Norwegian fjords as well as some longer sailings to the Baltics.

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Featured photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images.

Additional reporting by Hayley Coyle.

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