Cruise operator P&O is to restart domestic holidays this summer, but only for UK residents who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
After its fleet has been grounded for over a year, P&O is dipping its toes back in the water by offering passengers short sailings on two of its ships around the UK coastline. Coronavirus restrictions mean the ships will not call at any ports, although there will be the usual onboard dining and entertainment programme.
Two vessels, the Britannia and the Iona, will take passengers on voyages of between three and seven nights around the UK, departing from Southampton between late June and September.
The first UK voyage on 27 June will mark the first time one of P&O’s ships has set sail from Southampton in 16 months.
The cruise line, which is owned by the Carnival group, said all passengers would have to have received their second dose of an approved coronavirus vaccination at least seven days before setting sail.
Passengers will have to provide proof of vaccinations and the dates they were administered before boarding. Those who fail to provide evidence will not be allowed to board the ship.
The company has yet to confirm what evidence it will accept as proof of vaccination.
The cruise operator said there would be enhanced sanitation measures on board, appropriate social distancing and the wearing of masks in certain areas of the ship, while the crew will undergo quarantine beforehand and regular testing while on board.
The pandemic brought most international cruises to a halt in early 2020, following several outbreaks of coronavirus on board several cruise ships. P&O repeatedly put its voyages “on pause” during 2020, while in May its owner Carnival cut hundreds of jobs in the UK.
P&O Cruises said the progress of the UK’s vaccination programme, combined with ongoing uncertainty about international travel, had prompted it to offer trips around the UK for the first time.
“We have every hope that our guests will be able to enjoy a holiday this summer. After the stresses and challenges of the past year everyone certainly deserves a treat,” said Paul Ludlow, the president of P&O Cruises.
“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 UK”.
The company insisted that the unreliable British summer should not pose problems, promising to consult the weather forecast before each cruise and take its ships “where it is warm and sunny”.