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P&O Cruises Further Extends Suspension of Global Cruise Operations Until April 2021
P&O Cruises Still Confident of March 2021 Restart Date; Forward Bookings Strong
P&O Cruises' Iona ready to leave the shipyard for sea trials (Photo: David Hecker von Aschwege).

P&O Cruises Still Confident of March 2021 Restart Date; Forward Bookings Strong

P&O Cruises Still Confident of March 2021 Restart Date; Forward Bookings Strong
P&O Cruises' Iona ready to leave the shipyard for sea trials (Photo: David Hecker von Aschwege).

November 03, 2020

Adam Coulter
UK Managing Editor
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(5:05 p.m. GMT) -- P&O Cruises is still confident it will restart cruising in March next year -- despite no change in Foreign Office guidelines which currently advises against all ocean cruise travel.

Speaking at a press briefing today, P&O Cruises President Paul Ludlow said, "I don't think it's impossible," but said the line need to wait and see what happens in terms of the UK lockdown over the next four weeks.

And when asked when the line might communicate that extension -- if there is one -- he confirmed "by the end of this year."

"Our restart is somewhat informed by what is happening in the country at large, and it's a sad thing but on Thursday of this week we are about to enter a four-week lockdown," Ludlow said.

"From the UK government's perspective they do need to consider that macro environment when working with cruise operators in and out of the UK in terms of the advice they give us.

"Do I think that March is still realistic? I don't think it's impossible. I think we're going to see what happens over the next few weeks, and if we have to decide to move that further out, then guests will be the first to know.

"At the moment we don't have to take that decision, so we are just looking to see what happens within the UK."

P&O Cruises has suspended all cruise operations until January 2021 and all cruises from and to Southampton are cancelled through February.

Ludlow also confirmed the line was "in regular contact with the government" and that dialogue "remains very positive," but was unable to give any indication when the ban might be lifted.

"The dialogue continues. I'm pleased with how the conversations between us and the UK government is progressing.

"We are working collaboratively via CLIA across the operating lines to come up with a set of protocols that work globally."

Ludlow said he firmly believed cruising could resume with a vaccine for COVID, but testing would be key to its restart and success.

He added demand for cruises was still high, despite uncertainty and that pre-registration for summer 2022 bookings which only went on sale this morning was "as high as previous years".

Ludlow also revealed that in keeping with MSC Cruises and Costa, both of which only allow passengers off the ship on ship-organised shore excursions, P&O would be doing the same, and would be introducing a wider and much more reasonably-priced range of excursions.

The line finally took ownership of newest and biggest ship Iona last month, but will not bring it to the UK until next year when there may still be a launch ceremony, but only "if it's appropriate".

Industry body Cruise Lines International Association has been lobbying the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to lift its blanket advice against all ocean cruising (it did, in fact, succeed in getting the FCDO to differentiate between river and ocean cruising), but to no avail.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has lifted its No-Sail Order for ships calling in at U.S. ports, theoretically allowing lines to restart cruising this month.

However, the new guidelines put in place by the CDC means cruise lines have extended their pause until through December 31, 2020.

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