After a break of 14-months, Cruising has made a comeback in the United Kingdom.
The government continued on track with the scheduled return of domestic travel for residents, which was coordinated with the country's efforts to reduce COVID-19 regulations.
MSC Cruise became the first major cruise line to resume operations as well as the cruise industry. The return of cruising was formally commenced by MSC's largest cruise ship, which set sail from Southampton on a four-night voyage that included a stop in Portsmouth. The MSC Virtuosa, which has a gross tonnage of 181,541, was built in France and delivered to the cruise line in February, but she is only now marketing her first commercial voyage. The ship's passenger capacity is 6,334 people; however, during the initial phase of reinstitution of cruise from the United Kingdom, strict restrictions will limit the ship's capacity to only 1,000 passengers.
MSC is required to limit passengers on its trips in the United Kingdom to British residents, but its other ships operating from Italy and Germany can welcome passengers from most European nations. MSC does not require all passengers to be COVID-19 vaccinated, unlike many other cruise lines that aim to resume operations this summer. In August 2020, MSC resumed limited cruise lines which are aiming to ramp up operations, recently adding a second ship to its Mediterranean operations and announcing plans for more ships and voyages from Germany.
On 7-day cruises, passengers are tested for the virus before embarkation and again mid-week. In May, MSC launched a fleet-wide crew vaccination program, claiming that "many of MSC Virtuosa’s 1,150 crew have received COVID-19 vaccines."
The Viking Venus which is a smaller, luxury cruise ship of Viking is launching a program of cruises from the United Kingdom, after being christened onboard. However, the ship will reposition to the Mediterranean for the next month.
As the major British cruise companies and several international companies intend to resume sailing in June, the cruise business is likely to boom. P&O Cruises and Cunard Line are set to relaunch their major cruise ships, and Princess Cruises, a Carnival Corporation subsidiary, will join them later this summer.
Cruises are also being resumed by Olsen and Saga. Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean Worldwide, and Disney will be among the international companies, while Virgin Journeys expects to launch its first commercial voyage this summer.
The cruise lines are hoping that as the summer cruise season progresses, the travel restrictions will be eased, even more, allowing them to add more port calls. Despite the limits and fierce competition, many cruise lines reported high sales, with many itineraries completely sold out.