MSC Virtuosa has been barred from making its first stop on its UK domestic sailing which departed from Liverpool earlier this week. Passengers were due to disembark in Greenock in Inverclyde, Scotland, however, the Scottish government has banned the cruise ship from docking.
The ship was initially planned to dock at Greenock on Wednesday 9 June at approximately 9:30am and depart the port again at 8:00pm.
According to the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA), Scottish passengers were due to join the cruise in Greenock and an anticipated third of the current passengers were expected to go ashore for excursions on Wednesday.
However, the Scottish government have been firm in saying this stop can not go ahead.
According to the government, Scotland is not to allow domestic cruises until the entire country has reached “level one” under Sturgeon’s roadmap out of lockdown.
The government said it based the decision on risks “between both cruises and the wider travel context”.
Virtuosa can typically carry as many as 6,000 passengers onboard.
Currently, there are more than 900 passengers onboard due to Covid-safe capacity restrictions.
The ship is also set to stop at ports in Belfast, Southampton and the Isle of Portland.
On the return journey, a second stop at Greenock was anticipated.
Following the Scottish government’s ruling, The SPAA confirmed the Greenock stop has been axed.
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.”
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An MSC Cruises spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “In light of recent information received, we are now awaiting further clarification from the relevant authorities in Scotland about the situation for cruising which regrettably means that we have had to cancel our proposed visit to Greenock today.
“We hope that our calls to Scotland with our special cruises can commence soon considering how much we were looking forward to welcoming our Scottish guests onboard MSC Virtuosa and how we are aware of the important and widespread contribution that the cruise industry makes to Scotland.”
Travel agents across Scotland have been informed that as well as cancelling tomorrow’s embarkation at Greenock, that departures on 16 and 23 June have also been cancelled.
The SPAA understands that 75 percent of those on board or who were due to board have been double vaccinated and have been triple-tested in line with MSC’s Covid rules.
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 SPAA said: “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 indication that cruises may only restart when all of Scotland is in Level one.
“Inverclyde itself is currently in Level one.”
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.”
Passengers booked to embark on future MSC Cruises at Greenock may face being transported by road to Liverpool to be permitted to join the vessel.
This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Travel Feed