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FCO advises against cruise ship holidays, invalidating your travel insurance

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The Foreign & Commonwealth Office issued a surprise warning against cruise holidays today, advising against trips.

You can read the advisory notice here.

There isn’t much to it.  This is the entire text:

“The Foreign & Commonwealth Office advises against cruise ship travel at this time. This is due to the ongoing pandemic and is based on medical advice from Public Health England.

The government will continue to review its cruise ship travel advice based on the latest medical advice.  If you have future cruise travel plans, you should speak to your travel operator, or the travel company you booked with, for further advice.  The Foreign & Commonwealth Office continues to support the Department for Transport’s work with industry for the resumption of international cruise travel.”

(The reasons for mentioning this is that many cruise travellers are keen collectors of frequent flyer miles.  Miles are one of the few ways of obtaining the cheap one-way flights required to join and leave cruises which are not circular.)

Allue of the Seas cruise ship

It isn’t clear why the guidance has been published at this stage in the coronavirus pandemic or what the advice from Public Health England was.  The FCO had said in March that anyone over 70 or with underlying health conditions should avoid cruises, but this new guidance covers all UK residents, all destinations and all ship types.

The guidance is likely to have a devastating impact on what is left of the UK cruising industry, since the existance of such FCO warnings will usually invalidate any travel insurance you hold.  The industry was slowly starting to return to life, starting with some European river cruise operators.

A statement from Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said:

“The FCO’s advice against cruise ship travel will lead to most upcoming cruises being cancelled or postponed.  Most cruise holiday customers should be legally entitled to a cash refund within 14 days under the package travel regulations, but as we’ve seen across the travel industry recently, operators facing a surge in refund claims are often taking longer to return customers’ money to them. If refunds will be delayed, cruise companies must urgently let customers know and give a clear timetable for when money will be returned.  The FCO should also extend its warning to include a definitive date, to give operators and customers clarity over when it will be safe to rebook.”

Comments (35)

  • Mikeact says:

    I guess I could opt in to the cruise company’s own insurance option…

  • Andrew says:

    I see what you’re getting at with one-way flights but open-jaw bookings are an answer for many of those, don’t forget!

    • Bagoly says:

      But are Open Jaw flight typically affordable if not using miles?

      • the_real_a says:

        As always it depends, but I have found open jaw tickets that are priced the same or less than a regular return. Some airlines are better at segment pricing than others. Expedia multi-stop pricing can often net a very decent price.

      • Nick_C says:

        The cruise lines, and the specialist travel agencies that they own, can sell you an “inclusive tour” air fare. These are often, but not always, cheaper than anything you can find independently. The choice of airlines can be interesting. One package I booked used BA to get me to Miami but United to get me back from Puerto Rico.

        For one way flights to the US, I’ve used Aer Lingus. On one occasion, I got a one way ticket on BA to Florida but sold by Expedia as an Iberia ticket. It was about a quarter of the price of buying the flight directly from BA.

    • Paul74 says:

      Took the Soton to NYC crossing in 2018. As Rob has suggested, the one way flight back (booked with a Lloyds Avios voucher, so I booked Club World for the Prem Econ Avios) was a good use of points. Cunard did offer not-extortionate-but-not-cheap homebound flights as add ons but they were in economy.

  • Mike P says:

    That’s not going to do Carnival’s share price any good when the markets open again tomorrow.

    • Another Mike P says:

      I’m a Carnival shareholder. Bought in the day before Diamond Princess. I’ve pretty much written them off. 66% down from where I got in.

      I’m also a pretty regular cruiser on Cunard – usually a couple of trips a year (it’s how I get away from the world). Had 2 trips cancelled (a Norway one and a trip to Alaska) due to Covid.

      I like travelling by cruise ship, but I’m very reluctant to book anything right now.

    • Nick_C says:

      CCL is traded in London and NY so the markets have just closed. Down 5pc, which is back to where they were two days ago. It’s a huge company with over 100 ships operated by 9 brands worldwide. Its a setback, but not a major one.

      Is an odd decision though. I would feel safer taking a cruise from the UK than a long haul flight to stay in a hotel / resort.

      • fivebobbill says:

        Quote – “Is an odd decision though. I would feel safer taking a cruise from the UK than a long haul flight to stay in a hotel / resort”

        No disrespect Nick, I assume you’ve been on quite a few flights, but have you ever actually been on a cruise ship?
        Safer? 🙈🙈🙈

        • Nick_C says:

          Off the top of my head, I’ve done about 20 cruises on at least 15 different ships. A cruise ship is a floating resort hotel. With proper covid secure measures in place, I don’t consider a cruise ship to be any more dangerous than a conventional hotel.

          What makes a cruise from the UK safer, IMO, is the ability to drive to the port instead of flying.

          Advising against cruises while encouraging people to stay in hotels and visit restaurants doesn’t make sense to me. I would be interested to hear the scientific advice leading to this decision.

          • BS says:

            I imagine it is related to getting stuck on a plague ship and not being allowed to dock anywhere. Whereas with hotels etc. you will still have access to hospitals in case of problems

          • abc says:

            On a cruiseship there is much less space than in a resort hotel. To operate either of them safely you would need to implement appropriate measures, in particular social distancing. In a hotel that can be realistically implemented with a reduction in capacity of various amenities, etc. which should be okay has people of course will have the option to spend time outside the hotel as well. On a cruise ship, where space is extermely limited to allow distancing in the public areas you’d either have to reduce the capacity of the ship dramatically – which certainly would make the cruise unprofitable – or people will have to spend most of their day in their cabins. Also, if the cruise stops at spaces where tenders need to be used, it would take hours to disembark everyone as you can’t cram people in them.

          • Yorkieflyer says:

            Introduce a couple of infected passengers or crew, light the touch paper and watch. Curious how you are do against air travel yet cannot accept the madness of 3000 plus people in close proximity away from health care and possibly then stranded onboard for an indeterminate time

  • WaynedP says:

    Booked our November cruise last year before Covid, so can I assume that my (uninterrupted) travel insurance policy still covers me, i.e. Is not invalidated by subsequent FCO travel advisory ?

    Due to fly London to Venice to embark early November and cruise Adriatic & Greek islands for 7 nights and can’t wait to cruise again and support MSC, so will definitely go if possible, and hoping this trip won’t be shelved like all the others this year 😔

    • david says:

      You will be covered as per original terms. If in Nov this FCO warning still stands, then you would get money back but not, if the cruise goes ahead and you decide to board.

  • abc says:

    It is a bit weird that this advise is issued now? You could make the case that it wasn’t needed while the advice was against any foreign travel anyway, but then they should have issued it once they changed their general advice and not two weeks later. Did they just forget about cruises when making the change? And also why do they not exclude European river cruises? (Other European countries do, as these have to implement appropriate safety measures.) Or did they just forget this now and will make the change in a couple of weeks?

  • Spursdebs says:

    My cruise is booked for January 2022 … I’m hoping some sort of normality, common sense, covid precautions are in place by then. Do the BA flights to Buenos Aries not have a 1st class cabin,Or am I just not seeing it? Planning on using my 241 that’s why BA and they are direct flight, but open to suggestions on other flights.

    • Yorkieflyer says:

      Our flights last Christmas were on an old 777-200 in CW, second class only I’m afraid 😟

      • Spursdebs says:

        I thought as much …unfortunately.

        • DB2020 says:

          They have been using a B787-8 on this route for a few months now and I understand that it will not change in the foreseeable future. This particular type of aircraft does not have a First cabin.

    • Lady London says:

      Disappointing news for you @SpursDebs.
      Does IB have nicer aircraft departing from Madrid? its not expensive to overnight at MAD if that would work.

      • Spursdebs says:

        I’ll look into it … but think we will just get on with it use 241 book BA and be thankful it’s not 14 hours in economy. Not that I’d be going if it was lol
        A lot could change before then anyway.

  • Jill (Kinkell) says:

    I spent months researching and planning our South American trip round Peru and Galapagos in Oct/Nov. Booked a year in advance! Secured 241 to MIA and onward with AA.
    Due to pay final substantial amount at end of July. We’re not going! Even if all restrictions were lifted, can’t see us enjoying the trip…just too uncertain. Anyway, at the moment who’d want to go to the States even if we were let in. and who knows when FCO cruise advice will change. ( they might have given a review date). We’ve been on a couple of great cruises and an extremely pleasant European river cruise and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Looks like seeing which lines will survive.

    • memesweeper says:

      Sad news Jill.

    • Spursdebs says:

      I sympathise my Japanese cruise was cancelled in April, then the replacement Norwegian cruise was cancelled. Now just hoping that 2022 will be ok!
      But you have got me thinking of maybe flying into USA or somewhere and then on to Buenos Aires.
      I’m not keen on a 14 hour flight as it is.
      Something to research for later.

      • Nick_C says:

        BA fly directly to S America if schedules return to normal. Buenos Aires – Valparaiso is a popular cruise itinerary, and the transfer between Santiago and Valparaiso is about 90 minutes.

  • Jody says:

    It is strange they’ve said this when all the big cruise companies have currently paused their operations until Oct/Nov anyway, and are constantly reassessing.

    We’ve already had 3 cruise holidays cancelled this year, and our remaining one is due to happen in December. If this one is cancelled we’ll just re-book for the same time next year.