British holidaymakers planning a trip overseas are facing more rules than ever before.
The unprecedented blanket quarantine that was enforced for arrivals to the UK on June 8 was usurped by travel corridors on June 29. Now a weekly Government update that leaves tourists on tenterhooks each Thursday evening – will they need to rush back from abroad or self-isolate on their return? – has created fresh uncertainty.
Britons who wish to take a cruise overseas may think it is all but impossible at the moment – especially should you wish to secure insurance for the trip. However, while the options are limited and restrictions complex, it can be done.
To start, most major ocean cruise lines have put sailings on hold, some into 2021. Plus, in the early months of the pandemic, Covid outbreaks on cruise ships stoked controversy. Even as the industry has worked tirelessly to put health and safety protocols in place, positive cases on the first operator to restart cruises led to further cancellations.
However, smaller lines, and larger operators in select countries, have resumed – or are soon to resume – some sailings. MSC Cruises, for example, is running voyages again, but Britons are not permitted.
European river cruises – smaller vessels with fewer passengers – are a different matter, with some operators having restarted trips.
For the purposes of securing travel insurance, at least when sailing in countries that are still quarantine-free, it is ocean cruises that are the real bugbear.
What is the Foreign Office advice on cruise travel?
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is advising against cruise ship travel.
The definition given is fairly broad. However, Telegraph Travel clarified that it does not include river cruises. Small ship cruises in Britain with more than one household also appear to be exempt. Indeed, The Majestic Line, a small, Scottish operator, is set to be the first to resume cruises in the UK.
The advice states: “Cruise ship travel means staying overnight for at least 1 night on a sea-going cruise ship with people from multiple households.
“Our advice against cruises applies to international travel on a ship that is exclusively for pleasure or recreation, providing overnight accommodation and other leisure facilities such as entertainment venues or swimming pools.”
It is commonly thought that you cannot secure travel insurance when travelling against FCO advice. However, as Telegraph Travel has previously outlined, it is possible to visit countries not included on the quarantine-free list with select providers. The same is true for travel on ocean-going cruise ships.
Which providers offer cover?
Staysure has introduced policies for those who choose to travel to European countries against FCO advice. Small ship cruise operators Seafarer Cruises and partner Variety Cruises are including Staysure’s Covid-19 insurance for passengers on its island-hopping voyages.
“Staysure’s European FCO Advice Extension applies equally to cruises as it does to land travel,” said a Staysure spokesperson. Telegraph Travel found the following: a policy for a two-week Mediterranean cruise (small ship voyages are the only type currently available to UK traveller) for two people aged 55 including FCO extension would cost £52.28 and covers medical and repatriation not related to Covid. Such a policy would also cover travel delays, loss of baggage, money or passports.
Insurance for a cruise holiday can also be sourced through Campbell Irvine. A spokesperson said: “Campbell Irvine can provide single trip holiday travel insurance cover for UK residents (74 years or under at date of departure) travelling on ocean cruises (departing within 12 months from date of policy purchase) under our specialist policy underwritten by Lloyds of London.”
The company said it had issued a small number of such policies for cruise holidays departing in 2020. The current premium to cover a week ocean cruise for a couple in their 50s in Europe only (not including North Africa) would be £60 per couple inclusive of tax. However, this specialist policy excludes claims arising from Covid. It covers cruise cancellations but not, as is the typical situation at the moment, those cancellations due to coronavirus.
Battleface will also cover trips that are taken against FCO advice, such as an ocean cruise. A spokesperson emphasises that Battleface does not offer cruise specific insurance. However, a couple in their 50s who wanted to take out insurance, for example, for a week’s trip to Croatia (currently on the Government’s quarantine list), which could include a cruise within the country it quoted £51. This would cover: medical expenses; repatriation; baggage loss or delay; emergency medical evacuation; money and passport loss, the recovery of mortal remains and trip cancellation (although, vitally, not cancellations incurred due to Covid-19.
Do small ship operators fall under the FCO advisory?
Seafarer Cruises argues that they do not. Simos Bakas, sales manager at the company, told Telegraph Travel: “The FCO only advises against cruising based on the definition of a cruise which ‘applies to international travel on a ship that is exclusively for pleasure or recreation, providing overnight accommodation and other leisure facilities such as entertainment venues or swimming pools’.
“Our small ships, better defined as ‘yachts’, naturally provide overnight accommodation but do not offer entertainment venues nor swimming pools and our guests swim in the sea. Furthermore, at the moment, we are not offering international travel as our yachts only sail within national waters such as Greece. On our Jewels of the Cyclades itinerary. which is operating now, our capacity has been reduced
from 49 guests to 31.”
Telegraph Travel contacted the FCO for comment.