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Cruise firm hits out at FCO over ‘illogical’ travel advice

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is advising people not to travel on cruise ships due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has advised UK holidaymakers against travelling on cruise ships (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has advised UK holidaymakers against travelling on cruise ships (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has advised UK holidaymakers against travelling on cruise ships (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The decision by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to advise UK holidaymakers against travelling on cruise ships has been branded “illogical” by a travel firm.

Paul Green, of Riviera Travel, told the PA news agency it is “nonsensical” that people should be advised against taking river cruises in countries where travel restrictions have been lifted.

“This is completely illogical when it comes to river cruising within safe countries,” he said.

“Why would you think that sleeping on a river cruise boat was so much more dangerous than sleeping in a decent hotel in France or Germany?

It's very frustrating and actually quite upsetting for customers and also for staff who have put in so much workPaul Green, Riviera Travel

“Our plans for returning were to have lower numbers, tour groups which were half the size as they were before, coaches were going to be a maximum of only half full.

“Everything has been examined and we were confident that we could operate them to the very highest standards and more importantly provide a fantastic holiday experience.”

The firm, based in Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, was due to begin contacting customers in the coming days with the intention of restarting a limited range of sailings next month, but that will not happen unless the FCO exempts river cruises from its advice.

Mr Green added: “It’s very frustrating and actually quite upsetting for customers and also for staff who have put in so much work.”

Simon Palethorpe, president of Carnival UK, the parent company of P&O Cruises and Cunard, said confidence in cruising remains “strong” and the firm is “seeing increasing demand from our guests, who we look forward to welcoming back on board when the time is right”.

P&O Cruises had previously suspended all sailings until mid-October.

Essentially it quashes the whole notion of cruising without any date for reviewDebbie Marshall, Silver Travel Advisor

Debbie Marshall, managing director at Silver Travel Advisor, which provides advice to travellers aged over 50, said: “We don’t really understand why it suddenly happened, why the timing was such that they had to do it then, and what was the real reasoning behind it, because it’s simply an FCO statement without any kind of rationale to back it up.

“Essentially it quashes the whole notion of cruising without any date for review.

“That literally grinds cruise companies to a standstill, particularly the ones who had decided already on dates when they felt that they could start sailing again.

“It’s taken that decision out of their hands, because they now can’t – with any certainty – put those dates in until the FCO advice has changed or has at least got an end date on it.”

Norwegian cruise line Hurtigruten plans to launch sailings around the UK and Ireland from September 2.

Larger firms such as Royal Caribbean International and Carnival plan to resume trips during the same month.

The FCO pledged to “continue to review” its position on cruises, which is “based on medical advice” from Public Health England.

It insisted it “continues to support the Department for Transport’s work with industry for the resumption of international cruise travel”.

The travel advice means many holidaymakers with future bookings risk having their trips cancelled.

In March, the FCO advised Britons aged 70 and over, and those with some underlying health conditions, to avoid cruise ships.

PA