A group of travel and maritime bodies have sent a joint letter to the Scottish Government seeking guidance after its “disappointing and puzzling” decision to ban cruise ship calls until the whole country’s Covid restrictions status has been reduced to level one.
The move comes a week after the MSC Virtuosa, on a UK-only cruise with nearly 1,000 passengers aboard, all from the UK, was prevented from coming to the Inverclyde port for a day-long stop-off.
Other cruise lines such as Viking also resumed UK cruises last month.
The letter has been signed by leaders of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), marketing body Cruise Scotland the UK Chamber of Shipping, the Scottish Passenger Agents Association, which represents travel agents, Barrhead Travel Group and Cruise Britain.
They said nearly 900 cruise ships visited Scotland in 2019, generating more than £100,000 for the economy.
They wrote: "We are calling on the [Scottish] Government to clarify what more needs to be done to enable cruise passengers – many of whom
are from Scotland – to visit our shores and allow Scotland to be part of the British staycation summer.
“The Scottish Government’s decision to ban cruise ships carrying only British passengers from entering ports, even to allow Scottish passengers to embark, until the country is at level one is both disappointing and puzzling.
“It is disappointing because the cruise sector is a major contributor to the Scottish economy, providing essential revenue for our beleaguered hospitality industry, including travel agents, restaurants, bars, tour operators, tourist attractions and hotels, many of which are small businesses.
"It is puzzling because cruises have safely restarted around Britain.
“Stringent health protocols, put in place to protect local communities at cruise destinations, passengers, and crew, go beyond any other travel sector operating today.
"Scottish ports have been working closely with cruise lines for several months and have developed onshore protocols to safely manage ship arrivals.
“These are cruises carrying only UK residents travelling only between UK ports.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We fully understand the impact of the current restrictions on domestic cruises and the wider travel industry.
“We explained our concerns about the transmission risks posed by cruise vessels in an update to industry on the May 24 and we were clear that we would confirm our 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 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 prevalence 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 and the potential for the virus to spread at multiple port stops.
“These are only some of the risks, and although some of them could be mitigated through good protocols, it is the accumulation of all of the risks involved which has led to this decision.
“We are aware of concerns raised by the industry relating to this decision.
"The minister for business, trade, tourism and enterprise [Ivan McKee] will meet with sector representatives on Friday, including CLIA, to hear these concerns.”