P&O Cruises has cancelled all sailings until early next year, the line’s president Paul Ludlow confirmed today.
Caribbean cruises are on hold until the end of January 2021 and all cruises to and from Southampton are cancelled until the end of February 2021 – world cruises on Arcadia and Aurora had previously been cancelled until the end of Spring 2021.
“With evolving restrictions on travel from the UK, unfortunately it is necessary to cancel these itineraries,” said Mr Ludlow.
He added: “These further cancellations vary according to ship as well as complexity and length of itineraries, advice and guidance regarding ports of call and current air availability for fly/cruises.
“We are continuing to monitor the overall situation closely and will certainly reintroduce cruises should the opportunity arise and it is feasible to do so.”
P&O customers booked onto a cancelled cruise will be notified and will receive 125 per cent credit for a future cruise or can opt for a full refund by filling out an online form on the cruise line's website.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office continues to advise against cruise ship travel, which, its says, means “staying overnight for at least 1 night on a sea-going cruise ship with people from multiple households” and applies to “international travel on a ship that is exclusively for pleasure or recreation, providing overnight accommodation and other leisure facilities.”
P&O Cruises, which is part of the Carnival Corporation, follows fellow UK-based cruise line Cunard, which has extended its pause in operations until at least March 2021.
In August, Simon Palethorpe, president of Cunard, said the decision had been made in light of the latest Covid-19 travel restrictions: “After very careful consideration, we simply do not feel it would be sensible to start sailing again with our current schedule.”
Cruise lines, including P&O, have been working on stringent onboard health and safety protocols to help restart operations, following a global halt to cruises in March.
Mr Ludlow said that P&O is working with several of the “most brilliant minds in science as well as government at the highest level” on the approved and enhanced health protocols, which will be in place once the company resumes sailing.
A small number of ocean-going cruises have cautiously resumed sailings in Europe this summer with safety protocols in place, including MSC Cruises, Costa Cruises and Aida.
Passengers are subject to a Covid-19 swab test before boarding MSC Cruises flagship, MSC Grandiosa, which resumed in the Mediterranean on August 16, for example. Those who test positive or show symptoms are unable to board.
However, major operators have been effectively banned from cruising around American waters until at least the end of October by an extended no-sail order from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Hurtigruten cruise line was the first to restart ocean-going cruises in mid-June; it emphasised reduced passenger capacity, social distancing and stringent rules on hygiene.
However, dozens of passengers and crew tested positive in a Covid-19 outbreak on a Hurtigruten ship in July, prompting a police investigation.
The Norwegian line has now called off remaining cruises this year, including its expedition cruises and planned UK sailings, although its services along the Norwegian coast continue.
“Our goal is to resume operations in January 2021,” the company said in a statement.