P&O Cruises has released details on a series of ‘Ultimate Escape’ cruises-to-nowhere from Southampton this summer. The line will use its flagship Britannia and its brand-new Iona for the 3 to seven night June to September journeys, which will be restricted to fully vaccinated residents of the UK.
“Given recent announcements we have every hope that our guests will be able to enjoy a holiday this summer,” said P&O Cruises president Paul Ludlow. “After the stresses and challenges of the past year everyone certainly deserves a treat and this series of cruises will provide memorable and much-needed UK getaways.”
Britannia will offer three and four-night breaks and one six-night holiday running from June 27 through September 19. Iona will offer seven-night itineraries running from August 7 to September 18.
All of these are coastal cruises with no port stops, except for the final six-night cruise on Britannia, where a scheduled call at Liverpool will be made and organized shore excursions offered. Britannia’s alternating three and four-night sailings from Southampton will cruise along the coast of South Cornwall, while Iona’s longer seven-night trips will venture along the coastlines of France and the Channel Islands.
Iona‘s maiden season will kick off August 7 with a seven-night voyage sailing around the Scottish islands. The ship will anchor off Iona, the island after which she was named, with an extended stay until sunset for “magical views of the historic shores.”
Without port calls, P&O has some options about routings. The line says its ships will travel “where the sun shines brightest.” According to Ludlow, they mean it: “We really will look at the weather forecast each cruise and aim to take our ships where it is warm and sunny.”
In its website copy announcing the program, P&O says the sailings will offer a welcome respite to what for many has been a year of confinement.
All Guests Will Require Proof Of Full Vaccination
“After months of lockdown life, you’ve earned a trip to a luxury hotel, a soothing spa break, dinner and a show… Luckily with us, you don’t have to choose just one. Everything you’ve missed and more is waiting on board.”
All guests will require proof of full vaccination. For these cruises, the definition of “vaccinated” is a minimum of seven days following the second dose of the currently approved COVID-19 vaccines being administered. Travel insurance will also be mandatory for guests.
While there are no age restrictions on the sailings, many UK residents under 18 will not have been vaccinated, making them ineligible. That fact has spurred some criticism on social media, but P&O says it’s the right move at this time.
Cruisers May Also Require Pre-Embarkation Testing
“Given the advanced progress of the UK vaccination program and strong expressed preference on the part of our guests for this limited series of UK coastal cruises, these sailings on Britannia and Iona will be for UK resident COVID-19 vaccinated guests only,” the line states.
Cruises may also require pre-embarkation passenger testing, despite the vaccine mandate.
“As the vaccine roll out progresses and the government has announced its intended roadmap for the future, the guidance is continually evolving,” P&O says. “Pre-embarkation COVID-19 tests may be required as part of our framework of protocols and will be complimentary.”
In addition, all guests and crew will be required to follow enhanced health and wellbeing measures, including appropriate social distancing and the wearing of masks in certain areas of the ship. Sanitation measures will be enhanced throughout the ships.
Crew members do not have a vaccination requirement at this time, but P&O says they will undergo a strict testing and quarantine regime as well as regular testing during their time on board.