British Cruise Passengers – Including Scots – Denied Right To Dock at Scottish Port Tomorrow

British Cruise Passengers – Including Scots – Denied Right To Dock at Scottish Port Tomorrow

With less than 24 hours to go before their cruise ship docks in Greenock, hundreds of British passengers including, Scots, have been informed that they won’t be permitted to set foot on Scottish soil.

The Scottish Government has yet to clarify publicly the position on the MSC Cruises ship, which is currently at sea en route to Greenock for a scheduled stop, despite pressure from the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA). However, 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 9 June 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 that:

“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.”

Travel agents across Scotland have also been informed that as well as cancelling tomorrow’s embarkation at Greenock, that departures on 16 and 23 June have also been cancelled.

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. The SPAA understands that 75% of those on board/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.”

Joanne Dooey continues,

“The Scottish Government has effectively closed the country’s borders to anything other than road travel. The irony is that any of these passengers can get in a car and drive from Southampton to Inverclyde with no testing, border control or vaccinations.

“We’ve been advised that the Scottish Government recognises that this “will be somewhat disheartening to the industry” but this cruise route was a lifeline for Scottish travel agents and their passengers who want a holiday. We, as travel agents,  are utterly devastated. As the door to the only international flight closed this week with Portugal being placed on the Amber list – with no ‘Watch List’ warning as promised by the Government – this cruise series of domestic cruising was one of the only products left for travel agents to sell.

“The Scottish Government is not even paying lip service now to working with the travel sector to save Scottish travel.”

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.