UK cruises cancelled after coronavirus outbreak on Norwegian ship

Disappointment as cruise line Hurtigruten drops voyages around Britain planned for next month
Disappointment as cruise line Hurtigruten drops voyages around Britain planned for next month

Round-Britain cruises planned for September have been scrapped by Hurtigruten after at least 40 of the line's passengers and crew tested positive for coronavirus.

The Norwegian line has updated its information on cancelled cruises to include four British Isles itineraries on MS Roald Amundsen. It would not comment on the September plans when approached by Telegraph Travel.

Hurtigruten had been the first operator in the world to restart ocean cruises since the pandemic led to an industry-wide pause in sailing.

It is more bad news for Britons eager to get back on a ship on the same day that another line, MSC Cruises, unveiled plans to welcome European travellers back on board in the Mediterranean – but those from Britain and Ireland are excluded. 

Cruise writer Dave Monk told The Telegraph that it "really is a tough day for British cruise lovers"

"This will be a great disappointment as the round-Britain cruises were the first opportunity after the pandemic lockdown for Britons to enjoy a holiday at sea around their own coasts," he sid. "Hurtigruten had been trying hard to persuade the government to allow this exception to the general advice against taking international ocean cruises."

Almost 400 passengers from two cruises on MS Roald Amundsen in late July will now need to go into quarantine. 

Four crew members were hospitalised on Friday after showing signs of the virus, with the diagnosis later confirmed. More than 170 people had been on the second voyage and disembarked in Tromsø.

It seemed likely that the round-Britain cruises would be cancelled when earlier it was announced that all sailings on MS Roald Amundsen, MS Fridtjof Nansen and MS Spitsbergen had been cancelled until further notice.

And Daniel Skjeldam, chief executive of Hurtigruten, said that the line would only resume the affected voyages when it was “absolutely confident, we can carry out our operations in line with all requirements from the authorities and with the even stricter requirements we have set for ourselves.”

“This is a serious situation for everyone who is affected. We have not been good enough and we have made mistakes. On behalf of everyone at Hurtigruten, I am sorry for what has happened.”

There was a ripple of excitement through the cruise world when the operator became the first line to announce cruises around the UK since coronavirus forced the industry to pause all operations in March.

Anthony Daniels, UK general manager for Hurtigruten, had promised to “take guests to lesser-visited parts of the British Isles, and take them up close to nature, and conservation projects”.

Even before this new flare-up of coronavirus it was unclear if they would be going ahead, as the Foreign Office last month updated its guidance to advise against sea-going cruise ship travel at this time – and despite an apparent loophole on domestic cruises, the Department for Transport confirmed round-Britain sailings would contravene advice at present.

But despite this Hurtigruten previously said they were “encouraged by the news coming from the UK government”

Two other lines have reported incidences of coronavirus over the weekend. Paul Gauguin Cruises' namesake ship, carrying almost 350 passengers and crew, had to turn back on a South Pacific voyage after one passenger was diagnosed with Covid-19. The ship is now docked in Tahiti, with passengers ordered to stay in their cabins.

Costa Cruises reported three members of crew are suffering from the virus, although the line is not currently sailing passengers. 

Many river cruise lines have started operations again in Europe, with river voyages exempt from the Foreign Office advice. There have been no outbreaks of coronavirus on the river vessels.