(11:55 a.m. BST) -- In a move widely welcomed by the cruise industry, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office has revised its blanket advice against all cruising, and exempted river cruises.
In a statement released this morning, the updated FCO guidance defining a cruise now reads:
"Cruise ship travel means staying overnight for at least 1 night on a sea-going cruise ship with people from multiple households."
The advice does not differentiate between types of ocean cruises, and at this time expedition vessels -- which may carry fewer passengers than a river ship -- are still included in the ban.
The move comes a day before the Centers for Disease Controlin the U.S. extended its ban on all cruise ship operations from U.S. ports until the end of September.
A number of German river cruise operators have restarted in Europe in the past month, including A-ROSA, Nicko, Viva Cruises and Croisi Europe. For the most part, these lines have sailed country-intensive itineraries catering for a specific set of passengers. (For example, A-ROSA opened initially to German passengers sailing German itineraries, though that has since expanded.)
Derek Banks, MD, European Waterways, said: "We welcome this clarification of advice from the FCO regarding giving the go-ahead for the river cruise sector and we hope it will encourage our existing and potential new clients in the UK to now start booking our hotel barge cruises this 2020 season and beyond."
“We welcome the news that the FCO advice against river cruising has been lifted and are delighted to have supported the efforts of CLIA and the rest of the industry to bring about this change," said Chris Townson, UK Managing Director of Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection.
"So for us it has never made sense for river to be treated any differently from a hotel resort -- and like our hotel counterparts we have put incredibly robust and enhanced health and safety protocols in place for wellbeing and reassurance of both guests and staff."
Chris Hackney, Mananging Director of Marella Cruises, which was set to launch TUI River Cruises in March but has pushed the launch date back to November, said: "We’re pleased the Government has confirmed that river cruising is excluded from the current travel restrictions. The health and safety of our customers and crew is our primary importance and are working hard on new protocols so we can launch TUI River Cruises later this year."
Jamie Loizou, UK Managing Director for AmaWaterways commented:
"We are delighted that that the FCO have clarified their advice. The river cruise sector has always implemented very robust health and safety procedures, with many lines enhancing these further for the post-COVID era. Our ships are small with large deck areas and always travel close to land.
"Our excursions such as cycle rides, hikes and city tours take place in small groups offering plenty of opportunities for social distancing. I’d like to thank CLIA, ABTA and my fellow river cruise lines for their efforts in lobbying for this change."
Emerald Waterways' Director of Marketing David Winterton said: "We thank CLIA for lobbying the U.K. Government to gain clarification and welcome today’s news.
“As small-ship experts our river ships are like small boutique hotels with less guests (between 84 to 180) than the average resort hotel, who are open and busy welcoming guests.
“We continue to work with CLIA and the European health agencies and can’t wait to welcome guests onboard Emerald Waterways again as soon as possible."
The full FCO statement reads:
"The Foreign & Commonwealth Office advises against cruise ship travel at this time. This is due to the ongoing pandemic and is based on medical advice from Public Health England.
"Cruise ship travel means staying overnight for at least 1 night on a sea-going cruise ship with people from multiple households.
"Our advice against cruises applies to international travel on a ship that is exclusively for pleasure or recreation, providing overnight accommodation and other leisure facilities such as entertainment venues or swimming pools.
"Our advice does not include ferries or privately rented boats.
"The government will continue to review its cruise ship travel advice based on the latest medical advice.
"If you have future cruise travel plans, contact your cruise line, travel operator, or the travel company you booked with, for further advice.
"For information on cruises in UK waters contact the Department for Transport: Maritimeengagement@dft.gov.uk.
"The Foreign & Commonwealth Office continues to support the Department for Transport's work with industry for the resumption of international cruise travel."
The change comes in part thanks to an ongoing dialogue amongst the cruise industry -- including Cruise Lines International Association, the world's largest cruising trade association -- and the various health and governing groups.
"This latest change to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office's advisory regarding cruise ship travel provides a very welcome boost," said Andy Harmer, CLIA UK & Ireland Director, who has been working closely with the FCO to secure the change. "We are seeing a gradual, phased-in approach to resumption of cruise operations across Europe, initially domestic and regional.
"CLIA is continuing its constructive dialogue with the Department for Transport and Public Health England to finalise the road map to resumption of international cruise travel."