MSC Cruises’ ‘MSC Virtuosa’ has become the first cruise ship to be banned from berthing at Greenock, Scotland, on the back of the Scottish Government’s closure of its ports to cruise ships.
The Government has decreed that cruise calls can only restart when restrictions across the whole of the country reach level one.
‘MSC Virtuosa’ (pictured) left Southampton for a seven-night UK cruise on 5th June, with calls at Portland, Liverpool, Greenock and Belfast planned.
MSC operates a ‘hop on hop off’ type service whereby passengers can embark and disembark at most ports of call.
The 6,000 pax capacity vessel was believed to be carrying just under 900 people. It was claimed that all of the passengers on board were UK residents, most were fully vaccinated, and all recently tested negative for COVID.
MSC advised passengers by email saying; “Due to the latest Scottish government COVID-19 restrictions and regulations… we are sorry to inform you that the port call of Greenock has been cancelled.
“No guests are allowed to embark or disembark… This decision has been made by the Scottish Government and is out of our control,” it said, according to sources talking with the UK’s BBC.
In a statement, the Scottish Government said it fully understood the impact of the current restrictions on domestic cruises.
“We explained our concerns about the transmission risks posed by cruise vessels in an update to industry on the 24th May and confirmed that we would clarify the position in June.
“Following extensive engagement with stakeholders, we have now confirmed that domestic cruises can restart when all of Scotland reaches level one and we have made industry, including the operator, aware of this,” the statement said.
It was also thought that Fred.Olsen had cancelled its cruise programme out of Rosyth.
Several other cruise ship operators have advertised UK round trips calling at Scottish ports, including the Orkney and Shetland Islands, in the coming months.
Elsewhere, the Australian Government has extended the period that allows restrictions to be placed on overseas flights and cruise ships.
Australian Health Minister, Greg Hunt, last week confirmed that the ‘human biosecurity emergency period’ declared under the Biosecurity Act 2015, which has been in place since 17th March, 2020 and was previously due to end on 17th June, 2021, will be extended to 17th September, 2021.
The measures undertaken include:
– mandatory pre-departure testing and mask wearing for international flights
– restrictions on the entry of cruise vessels within Australian territory
– restrictions on outbound international travel for Australians.
Exceptions will continue to be made for country-specific ‘travel bubbles’ such as the one already in place with New Zealand, the Government said.
The Pacific Islands, Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan have also been earmarked for future bubbles but progress on those front continues to falter due to ongoing outbreaks, especially those driven by the more contagious Alpha and Delta variants of COVID-19, local media said.