(7 p.m. GMT) -- Cruise lines have confirmed that the earliest possible restart date for sailings from England will be "eight to 12 weeks" from May 17.
Large cruise lines will need that length of time to get their ships ready for service -- meaning the first sailings from English ports will be late summer at best, Cruise Lines International Association UK chairman Tony Roberts confirmed.
The news comes just days after the government gave the green light for a restart of cruising from May 17.
Speaking at a CLIA press briefing called after Tuesday's announcement, Roberts said that lines would each have their own timelines after that date.
"Individual lines will make their own decision on this, and some may have chosen to place a bet, so to speak, and start the process before then," said Roberts, who is also vice president of Princess Cruises.
Photo Tour of Regal Princess
Carnival Corporation Introduces the Ocean Medallion at CES
Gavin Macleod - Capt. Stubing On "The Love Boat" -- Cruise Critic Interview (2013)
Our Favorite Things Aboard Viking Venus
Freedom Of The Seas Resumes Sailing With New Rules
Regent Seven Seas Splendor Returns to the Seas
Alaska 2021: Inside Passage Businesses Talk About A Devastating Season Without Cruise Tourists
Silversea's New S.A.L.T. Program
Wonder of the Seas Construction Update: Sea Trials
Scarlet Lady Video Ship Review (2021)
"It's difficult to speak on behalf of other lines, but from our perspective, we're expecting not to be ready to sail till several weeks after the 17th May."
His words echo those of P&O Cruises and Cunard, the latter of which stated it would be several months before it restarted.
Roberts also confirmed that the health and safety protocols put in place by the lines will likely stay -- despite the rapid vaccination rollout in the UK -- certainly for the first cruises.
"We're incredibly encouraged by the vaccination news: It's giving people confidence about taking these holidays. But right now we are continuing with that multilayered approach," he said.
"And we will continue to be very careful about that approach -- what we want to do is to ensure this is successful and we return with longevity rather than we rush it and get something wrong along the way," he added.
He also emphasised the restart would be phased and gradual and was unable to give a date for international cruises to resume.
Brian Salerno, Senior Vice President, CLIA Global Maritime Policy, reiterated Roberts' words:
"We foresee that the protocols will remain in place for some time, even though we welcome the vaccinations being rolled out.
"Realistically it's going to take some time before the population is widely vaccinated, and it's still somewhat of a question about availability in many places.
He said initially many sailings would have a mix of those who have been vaccinated and those who had not, so keeping protocols in place would be necessary.
"We're in no rush to modify the protocols that have been put in place, they are needed right now for us to resume," he said.
Salerno added that while the UK, as well as governments in Europe, have been talking actively about getting the cruise industry back in business, cruise lines in the US are in a holding pattern, unable to even resume test cruises without CDC guidance.
"The government in the UK and in Europe has been a little more willing to engage with industry in finding a path to resumption," Salerno said.
"The CDC has been less enthusiastic about doing that, however."
He hoped this might change at the end of May, when most of the adult population in the US is expected to get vaccinated.
"It could be used as a fresh opportunity to engage with CDC. I think in many ways the Conditional Sailing Order reflected thinking from six months ago, and it could stand to be updated and reflective of the new situation," he said.