THE cruise ship was due to dock in Greenock but hundreds of British passengers, including Scots, have been informed that they won’t be permitted to set foot on Scottish soil.
The domestic seven-night cruise on board the MSC Virtuosa, which departed from Liverpool earlier this week was due to dock at Greenock on Wednesday, June 9 at approximately 09:30 and depart the port again at 20:00.
The cruise is then due to drop anchor at Belfast, Southampton, and Isle of Portland before returning to Greenock and with a final stop at Liverpool the following day.
The SPAA has seen a copy of an email sent to current passengers onboard the MSC Virtuosa by the cruise operator which states: “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.”
The SPAA understands that 75% of those on board and due to board have been double vaccinated and have been triple-tested.
The whole crew has been vaccinated and tested and MSC Cruises has robust protocols in place which include only accepting UK residents who must follow their stringent COVID 19 screenings, tests, and temperature checks.
Joanne Dooey, president of The Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA), the professional body for travel agents and the travel sector in Scotland says: “We’re now facing the situation where Scottish passengers who joined the cruise in Liverpool are barred from setting foot in their own country.
“The SPAA has been asking for clarity on the situation for this particular cruise ship since last week, and all we have received so far is an indicated that cruises may only restart when all of Scotland is in Level one.
“Inverclyde itself is currently in Level 1.”
Jacqueline Dobson, President of Barrhead Travel, says, “The news today is yet another hammer-blow for the Scottish travel industry, Scottish holidaymakers and for regional tourism partners who were looking forward to welcoming UK guests ashore for excursions.
“Cruises from Greenock have been on-sale for months, yet despite urgent calls from the industry, the Scottish Government has provided less than 36 hours’ notice that these sailings cannot go ahead.
“Meaningful engagement with the Scottish travel industry is of paramount importance and we must see this take place over the coming weeks. It is unsustainable for the Scottish Government to continue to make announcements without constructive consultation with key industry partners when these decisions have such a profound impact on business.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We fully understand 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 24 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.
“This decision has been informed by the combination of risks that exists between both cruises and the wider travel context, including the current trajectory of Covid infections and the unknowns around the new Delta variant, in addition to the potential for high risk of uncontained rapid transmission on the cruise.
“Affected passengers should contact the operator for further information regarding their trip.”