Cruise lines have sprung into action since the UK’s roadmap to recovery was revealed, adapting summer 2021 programmes to offer domestic cruises.

Why sell it

With the UK’s Covid-19 vaccination programme well underway and the roadmap to recovery set out by Boris Johnson opening up domestic tourism from May 17, things are finally starting to look up for British holidaymakers and travel agents.

Richard Courts, the UK’s Minister for Aviation & Maritime, has tentatively given the go-ahead for domestic cruises to restart from the same date, a move welcomed by CLIA UK & Ireland and the UK’s Chamber of Shipping. In response, cruise lines have been quick to unveil British Isles programmes to entice cruisers this summer. 

Princess Cruises unveiled a comprehensive domestic cruise programme featuring 22 departures from Southampton on Regal and Sky Princess, but strictly for COVID-19 vaccinated UK residents. 

Tony Roberts, Princess Cruises UK & Europe VP, says: “While international travel remains uncertain, these new cruises mean that UK residents can take a well-deserved holiday around the UK. 

“We are also delighted that our new cruises will offer the choice between scenic voyages and port-of-call itineraries where guests can visit the historic UK cities of Liverpool, Belfast and Glasgow.” 

It also presents agents with an opportunity to entice non-cruisers who perhaps want to “still feel as if they were overseas”. 

Then there’s clients who might want to dip their toe into the cruising world with a UK sailing the perfect way to convince them to give it a try. If they like it, agents may have a repeat cruiser for life!

What to sell

With miles of scenic coastline, chocolate box villages and historic ports, a British Isles cruise offers a bucket list-worthy holiday and the chance for Brits to get back on some of their favourite cruise lines.  

A boon for travel agents is the sheer scope of domestic cruises available — both this year and next. From short cruises on the Jurassic Coast to port-intensive sailings, every type of cruiser is covered. 

There are caveats, though, with some lines only offering scenic cruises with no port stops. Among those lines planning on it being several months before international cruises can resume is Cunard, which has pivoted with domestic sailings by repositioning the Queen Elizabeth from the Med to the UK. 

Simon Palethorpe, Cunard President, says: “With the UK Government confirming that domestic travel is likely to happen we are introducing a series of exciting, shorter-duration trips for Brits looking for the perfect staycation in Cunard luxury. These will be sailings from Southampton, for UK residents, around the UK and will make the very most of the summer sunshine.”

Who to sell to

The good news for agents is that cruise lines have opened up sailings with departures around England and Scotland. 

Age will play a factor, with several lines requiring all passengers to be vaccinated against Covid-19 – effectively ruling out any under 18s and adults who’ve not yet received both doses of the vaccine. 

Families excited to get back on the ocean waves can opt for a sailing on MSC Cruises’ Magnifica, which will not require passengers to be vaccinated, on a short-break or week-long cruise around the British Isles, from May 20, 2021. 

One of the biggest surprises is that P&O Cruises is mandating vaccinations, with family-friendly ships Britannia and Iona essentially open to adults only this summer.

Sailings include Iona’s new seven-night maiden voyage to the ship’s namesake Scottish island, from £1,199pp, departing Southampton in August. 

Dedicated 50-plus cruise line Saga will also mandate vaccinations, though sailings fall later in the year, including the five-night Celtic Escape voyage from Southampton, departing in September, from £1,124pp. 

Upmarket line Viking – offering some of the earliest post-lockdown sailings for UK residents – won’t require passengers to be vaccinated. New ship Viking Venus will sail three voyages, ex-Portsmouth, following the ship’s christening in May. 

What's new

A wealth of new ships – from Saga’s boutique-style Spirit of Adventure to P&O Cruises’ megaship Iona and Tradewind Voyages’ tall ship Golden Horizon – means there’s a vessel for every taste.

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ new ships are among those offering domestic cruises this summer, including two July departures: the eight-night Lochs & Legends of Scotland cruise on Borealis, departing Liverpool, from £1,399pp, and the meatier 13-night Scenic Islands of the British Isles on Bolette from Dover, from £2,499pp.

Riviera Travel’s new MS Seaventure will suit holidaymakers looking for a small-ship experience. Carrying just 170 passengers and with a 2:1 guest-to-crew ratio, the intimate vessel will sail an eight-day Scottish Highlands cruise, departing Edinburgh and Glasgow in July, from £1,999pp. 

Covid-safe cruising

Cruise lines are going to great lengths, including working with public health experts, scientists and Government agencies, to ensure ships are safe when passengers return this summer.

Passengers and crew can expect to follow enhanced health and safety protocols that include testing, wearing a face mask in public areas, social distancing, reduced capacity and regular hand sanitising.

Among the lines to insist guests take a Covid-19 test before boarding is MSC Cruises. Antonio Paradiso, the line’s Managing Director UK & Ireland, says: “It’s time for UK holidaymakers to get back onboard and enjoy a well-deserved break from what has been a very challenging 12 months for everyone in so many ways. 

“We will welcome both vaccinated and non-vaccinated guests. All guests will be tested prior to embarkation, while non-vaccinated guests will also be required to show proof of negative test.” 

Book it with...

Book it with... Fred. Olsen

Bolette’s five-night T217 ‘Touring Scenic Orkneys & Shetlands’ cruise is priced from £799pp and includes £100pp of ship credit. The cruise departs from Dover on August 24, 2021.