A cruise company is offering a week-long break to the Inner Hebrides this summer for UK passengers who have had the Covid vaccines.
A series of trips being advertised by P&O Cruises includes a maiden season voyage to Iona in August on a new ship named after the island.
The ‘Ultimate Escape UK holidays’ will depart from Southampton between June and September, sailing around the UK coast.
The company said that, given the advanced progress of the UK vaccination programme, and the strong preference of customers, sailings on Iona and sister ship Britannia will be for UK-resident Covid-19 vaccinated guests only.
This means passengers can join the cruise a minimum of seven days after receiving the second dose of the currently approved Covid vaccines, with proof of vaccination and the dates the jabs were given required to be shown at the terminal prior to boarding.
All other P&O Cruises holidays currently on sale do not require guests to be vaccinated.
All guests and crew will be required to follow enhanced health measures, including sanitation measures, social distancing and the wearing of masks in certain areas of the ship. Travel insurance will also be mandatory.
Crew will also undergo a strict testing and quarantine regime as well as regular testing during their time on board.
The 345-metre long Iona, which has 17 guest decks, on-board gin distillery and capacity for 5,200 passengers, is the first British cruise ship to be powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG).
The seven–night island sailing from August 7 will see the ship anchor off Iona with cruise passengers enjoying on board gourmet dining, cocktails, shopping, spas and shows, with prices starting at £1,199 per person. The cruises go on sale on Monday March 22.
P&O Cruises president Paul Ludlow said: “Given recent announcements we have every hope that our guests will be able to enjoy a holiday this summer.
“After the stresses and challenges of the past year everyone certainly deserves a treat and this series of cruises will provide memorable and much needed UK getaways.
“Whilst there is still uncertainty about holidays abroad this summer, we are delighted to be able to offer our guests the ultimate escape here in the UK with the reassurance that we will take care of everything.”
He added; “As we have spent the majority of the last year at home, to be able to have a restorative and relaxing break, sit on deck with a sea view in the summer sunshine and then enjoy an indulgent dinner and show – it’s certainly what we all need this year and we cannot wait to have our guests back on board.”
The cruise industry has suffered billions of pounds of losses since the Covid pandemic started. In the early days of the pandemic many cruise ships suffered on board outbreaks affecting passengers and crews.
Calum Ross, a director with Argyll and the Isles Tourism Co-operative, said: “Any sign that shows that we are returning to the tourism economy re-opening has to be welcomed.
“It’s a big thing that an organisation like P&O thinks things are positive enough that it wants to promote a new cruise with a new boat. It’s a good sign that the wider industry is recovering.”
Mr Ross said he is not aware of any current proposal to provide a certificate to prove people have received the vaccine or are Covid-free. But he said: “The fact P&O is showing sensitivity to potential local concerns is also a good thing.
“We want all visitors to adhere to whatever restrictions are still in place at the time and let’s hope that by August they are minimal.”