Foreign Office tells ALL tourists not to go on cruises due to coronavirus risk, after previously urging over-70s to avoid them
- Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) urges against travel on cruise ships
- Government previously urged over-70s to avoid cruise ships due to coronavirus
- The FCO says new position comes following advice from Public Health England
- Consumer groups has warned decision will lead companies to cancel sailings
Britons have today been urged to avoid travelling on cruise ships due to coronavirus, despite blanket advice against all non-essential foreign travel being lifted.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has today issued a statement advising holidaymakers against embarking on cruise ships, over fears of the spread of Covid-19.
The government had previously urged over-70s today avoid sailings.
It also comes as the government’s the blanket advice against all non-essential foreign travel was lifted for dozens of destinations on Saturday.
The FCO say the new position comes following advice from Public Health England.
It has promised to ‘continue to review’ its position and insisted it ‘continues to support the Department for Transport’s work with industry for the resumption of international cruise travel’.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has today issued a statement advising people against embarking on cruise ships, over fears of the spread of Covid-19. Pictured: The world’s largest cruise ship, Symphony of the Seas, in Malaga Spain, 2018
The travel advice means many holidaymakers with future bookings risk having their trips cancelled.
Rory Boland, editor of consumer magazine Which? Travel, said: ‘The FCO’s advice against cruise ship travel will lead to most upcoming cruises being cancelled or postponed.
‘Most cruise holiday customers should be legally entitled to a cash refund within 14 days under the package travel regulations, but as we’ve seen across the travel industry recently, operators facing a surge in refund claims are often taking longer to return customers’ money to them.
‘If refunds will be delayed, cruise companies must urgently let customers know and give a clear timetable for when money will be returned.
‘The FCO should also extend its warning to include a definitive date, to give operators and customers clarity over when it will be safe to rebook.’
In March, the FCO advised Britons aged 70 and over, and those with some underlying health conditions, to avoid cruise ships.
The UK’s biggest cruise line, P&O Cruises, has suspended all sailings until mid-October.
Meanwhile a spokesperson for Norwegian Cruise Line, the third biggest cruise line in the world, which regularly sails from Southampton, said: ‘Our first priority remains the safety, security and well-being of our guests, team members and all those in the communities we visit.
‘As such, we are actively working to enhance our already stringent health and safety protocols and continue to consult with global public health authorities including The World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to take action as necessary.
‘In addition, this week, we announced the “Healthy Sail Panel,” which consists of experts who are collaborating to develop recommendations that will help us safely resume operations.
‘Despite today’s news, we remain optimistic and hope to relaunch cruise operations in the near future. We look forward to welcoming our guests aboard again soon.’
What does the FCO’s advice mean for cruise ship passengers?
The Foreign Office have issued a warning against all cruise ship travel based on medical advice from Public Health England.
In the early stages of the pandemic, the ban only applied to holidaymakers over the age of 70.
This was then replaced by a blanket embargo on ‘all but essential’ global travel, but by this point cruise operators had cancelled all sailings anyway.
Now, despite flights resuming with the relaxing of travel restrictions, officials have declared an indefinite warning against all cruise holidays,.
Why have they done this?
Experts fear cruises are simply too risky at this stage.
There are two reasons for this: the first is because of the health risks of cramming an average of 3,000 people, many of them elderly, on board a liner where social distancing is hard to maintain.
The second reason is diplomatic. The Department for Transport’s (DfT) travel corridor scheme is based on the assumption that most will travel between the UK and one other country.
Cruise ships, by contrast, stop at multiple locations and often berth in small villages or towns where the arrival of thousands of foreigners would pose a significant risk to local communities.
What are the risks?
Cruise ships have for years been described as ‘floating petri dishes’ for viruses.
This is due to the close proximity of passengers and crew, as well as the high proportion of elderly people who tend to go on cruise holidays and are more vulnerable to illness.
One study last month into the coronavirus outbreak on the Diamond Princes said communal facilities such as dining halls, pools and spas also contributed to the risk of infection.
What if I have booked a cruise holiday this year?
There is uncertainty over whether sailings for this autumn are likely to go ahead and you should contact your cruise operator or travel company for guidance.
If your trip is cancelled, you will be legally entitled to a cash refund within 14 days under the package travel regulations – although this may take longer due to the volume of claims.
Customers are advised to avoid accepting credit note vouchers towards a future trip because these come with little consumer protection.
You may also be offered a replacement sailing in 2021, when cruise operators hope to resume operations – although this is not guaranteed because the advice against all cruises is indefinite.