P&O Cruises is offering week-long UK sailings this summer - is it realistic?

Holidays within the UK are not allowed under current lockdown rules (Photo: Shutterstock)

P&O Cruises is offering a series of week-long sailings from the UK this summer, departing from Southampton.

The UK’s largest cruise line has said the sailings will travel around the country’s coastal waters, giving customers the chance to enjoy a short summer break.

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Bookings from late March

The travel firm has said the cruises will go on sale later in March, with full details about prices and sailing dates yet to be confirmed. This will be dependent on the easing of lockdown throughout the year, as travel restrictions are currently still in place across the UK.

P&O Cruises has said that a number of health and safety measures will be in place on board the ships once travel can resume, enabling customers “to enjoy a wonderful holiday this summer”.

Paul Ludlow, P&O Cruises president, said: “While holidays here in the UK will be the first to become a reality we will, of course, gradually see the return of international travel, but first we want guests to be able to enjoy a proper summer holiday at sea with the best in relaxation, entertainment and dining choice.

“These sailings will leave from our home port in Southampton and sail around UK coastal waters enjoying the summer sunshine.

“We hope that the UK ultimate escape staycation option will have wide appeal and we will do our utmost to make it a very special time.

“There really will be something for everyone and the opportunity to spend precious and much-longed for time with family and friends.”

Will holidays be allowed this year?

Under current lockdown rules, you can only travel internationally, or within the UK, where you have a legally permitted reason to do so, such as for work purposes.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set out the roadmap or easing restrictions in England and has targeted 17 May as the earliest possible date for a foreign holiday.

However, it is hoped that self-contained holiday accommodation, such as self-catering lets and camp sites, will be opened on 12 May, followed by hotels on 17 May.

If the easing of measures goes to plan, it means people could be able to enjoy a holiday within the UK this summer, although the dates for lifting restrictions could be subject to change.

Mr Johnson has said that progressing along the ‘roadmap’ will depend on four key tests, including the success of the vaccine rollout, evidence of vaccine efficacy, an assessment of new variants, and keeping infection rates below a level that could put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have not yet announced their travel rules, including whether people living in other parts of the UK will be allowed to visit.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has not yet set out dates for holidays in her lockdown timetable and said that travel restrictions are “essential and are likely to remain so for some time yet”.

Suspended sailings

P&O had previously extended the suspension of its sailings until next month due to the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions.

Mr Ludlow said that once travel restrictions are lifted the firm will begin the “significant logistical task” of restarting international operations.

Customers whose bookings have been affected by the suspension will automatically receive credit for a future sailing worth 125 per cent of the cost of their original trip.

Alternatively, they can also request a cash refund if this is preferred.

Mr Ludlow added: “I really am so sorry for the disappointment these cancellations will cause, but hope that the new UK cruises will enable everyone to enjoy a wonderful holiday this summer.”