In a last-minute decision, the Scottish government announced today that it has decided to keep its ports closed to cruise ships for the time being despite progress in controlling COVID-19. The decision came the day before the arrival of the first large ship in the UK’s domestic cruise restart program at Greenock.
Informing the Scottish Parliament of the wider COVID-19 situation in the region, Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon described the overall condition as “still fragile”. During the update, she said that “while all of these signs are very positive, it is necessary to remain cautious”.
Based on the current situation, the Scottish Government has decided that domestic cruises will only be allowed to restart when all of Scotland reaches ‘level one’ on its scale of zero to four. While the county where Greenock Harbor is located is currently at level one, parts of Scotland remain at level two and there are still restrictions on travel within Scotland and across the UK. The government referred to the risks “between the two cruises and the broader travel context,” according to a BBC report.
The government noted that it understood “the impact of the current restrictions on domestic cruises”, but said it had been clear in its policy that it would determine its position on cruises in early June depending on the state. current control efforts. the virus.
The Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association, which represents the Scottish travel industry, has issued a statement condemning the decision and the potential impact Scottish companies have in denying the return of cruises visiting ports or taking on passengers in Scotland. England authorized the resumption of domestic cruises for UK residents under strict restrictions in May, but said the decision would remain with local authorities.
“We are now facing a situation where Scottish passengers who have joined the cruise in Liverpool cannot set foot in their own country,” said Joanne Dooey, President of the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA). “The Scottish government has effectively closed the country’s borders to anything other than road travel. The irony is that any of these passengers can get in a car and drive from Southampton to Inverclyde without testing, border control or vaccination.
The first cruise ship affected is that of MSC Cruises MSC Virtuoso, who is making her first cruise around the British Isles this week after starting short cruises from Southampton. The cruise ship, which has a normal capacity of 6,000 passengers, currently sails with around 900 passengers due to limitations imposed by the UK government. The SPAA said it understands that three-quarters of passengers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, as well as the crew of MSC, and that the cruise line is administering COVID-19 tests for passengers and crew as well as ‘other precautions.
the MSC Virtuoso was in Liverpool today and was due to arrive in Greenock on June 9 for a stopover of around 10 hours. The SPAA reports that around 300 passengers were to disembark for excursions, as well as some passengers who were to disembark and others to embark in Scotland. the MSC Virtuoso operates a 7-day loop cruise between Southampton, Liverpool, Greenock, Belfast and the Isle of Portland.
SPAA reported that MSC sent a message to passengers saying ‘Due to the latest Scottish government restrictions and regulations Covid-19 … we are sorry to inform you that the port call at Greenock has been canceled. No guests are allowed to embark or disembark… This decision was made by the Scottish Government and is beyond our control. Travel agents in Scotland have also been told that departures from Greenock on June 16 and 23 have also been canceled.
An MSC spokesperson confirmed to the BBC that the port stopover had been canceled, but said they hoped cruise stops in Scotland could begin soon. the MSC Virtuoso extended his stay in Liverpool for a second day.
Other cruise lines had also planned to depart from Scotland as part of the summer restart of domestic cruises for UK passengers.