P&O to offer 'cruises to nowhere' for vaccinated passengers

Ships will not stop at any ports because of coronavirus restrictions

Grand-class P&O Cruise Ship leaves Southampton on April 21, 2020 in Southampton, England. The British government has extended the lockdown restrictions first introduced on March 23 that are meant to slow the spread of COVID-19. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)
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P&O Cruises will offer “cruises to nowhere” this summer, but only for UK residents who are inoculated against Covid-19.

The cruise operator, grounded for more than a year, plans to return to sea by offering passengers short trips around the British coast.

All passengers will have to prove they have received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine before being allowed to board.

Because coronavirus restrictions prevent ships from calling at most ports, passengers will stay on the vessel, with the usual onboard dining and entertainment programme going ahead as normal.

We've got enhanced cleaning measures, social distancing, and there will be mask-wearing in certain areas

The Britannia will cruise from Southampton along the south coast of England for three or four days, and the Iona will travel up to Scotland from Southampton for seven-day trips.

The voyage on June 27 will be the first time one of P&O’s ships has set sail from Southampton in 16 months.

Carnival group, which owns the cruise line, is yet to confirm the proof of vaccination it will require.

Passengers will also have to have travel insurance that "must include medical and repatriation cover" and medical expenses for Covid-19 infection.

Guests and crew will be expected to respect social distancing rules and wear masks when appropriate.

There will also be an enhanced cleaning schedule, while buffet food will be served by staff.

Should anyone test positive on board, they will be isolated and quarantined.

Simon Palethorpe, president of Carnival UK, said the company would wait for the government’s review of international travel, due on April 12, before deciding what proof of vaccination to require of passengers.

He was confident the new safety measures would prevent outbreaks of coronavirus on board.

"We've got a series of protocols, of which vaccination is one, to keep our guests safe and well," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

“We’ve got enhanced cleaning measures, social distancing, and there will be mask-wearing in certain areas of the ship. Before everyone gets on board they will be tested and our crew will be tested on multiple occasions.”

Paul Ludlow, president of P&O cruises, said he was hopeful long-haul trips will return by "the late part of the summer and into the autumn”.

“We very much see the return to service in a number of stages,” he told Sky News.

The company’s plans could come under criticism from climate change groups over the potential environmental footprint.

In October, Singapore Airlines was forced to scrap its “flights to nowhere” after a backlash from environmental campaigners who said that the scheme encouraged unnecessary carbon-intensive travel.

In the UK, cruises are traditionally popular with older people, who have been prioritised for vaccines.

The UK government has advised people to avoid all cruises since July 9, 2020, because of the spread of Covid-19.

In the early stages of the pandemic, an outbreak occurred on the UK-registered Diamond Princess cruise ship, forcing passengers to be locked in their rooms as a quarantine measure.

The cruise ended in Yokohama, Japan, with 712 of the 3,711 passengers on board infected with coronavirus.