Scotland’s decision to ban cruise ships until COVID restrictions are lifted has put a major dent in MSC Virtuosa’s itinerary. The ban was announced less than 36 hours before the ship was meant to dock in Greenock today.
Instead, the ship spent an extra day in Liverpool and has cancelled its stop in Greenock.
In a statement, MSC Cruises said: “In light of recent information received, we are now awaiting further clarification from the relevant authorities in Scotland about the situation for cruising which regrettably means that we have had to cancel our proposed visit to Greenock…
“We hope that our calls to Scotland with our special cruises can commence soon considering how much we were looking forward to welcoming our Scottish guests onboard MSC Virtuosa and how we are aware of the important and widespread contribution that the cruise industry makes to Scotland.”
The 330m-long Virtuosa would have been the largest cruise ship to ever visit Greenock, which is the port for day trips to Glasgow.
The ship is scheduled to berth in Greenock 10 more times over the summer but visits scheduled for 16 June and on 23 June have been cancelled too.
A “Ludicrous” Decision
Speaking to the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme, Scottish Passenger Agents Association (SPAA) president Joanne Dooey said the ban was “ludicrous,” especially as people can travel in and out of Scotland by car or train without any checks.
She said: “We had the Northern Belle in last week to Edinburgh from Manchester which had lots of tourists on it with no testing at all.
“What’s the difference between a cruise ship coming in and football taking place in Glasgow with no testing being put in place?
“And when are we ever going to have confidence in the vaccination progress? We are going to have to live with new variants coming in and we have to get on with our lives.”
MSC Virtuosa is carrying around 900 passengers, all of whom have been vaccinated, as are all the crew.
The Scottish government said it fully understood “the impact of the current restrictions on domestic cruises.”
It added: “We explained our concerns about the transmission risks posed by cruise vessels in an update to industry on the 24 May and confirmed that we would clarify the position in June.
“Following extensive engagement with stakeholders, we have now confirmed that domestic cruises can restart when all of Scotland reaches level one and we have made industry, including the operator, aware of this.”
“This decision has been informed by the combination of risks that exists between both cruises and the wider travel context, including the current trajectory of Covid infections and the unknowns around the new Delta variant, in addition to the potential for high risk of uncontained rapid transmission on the cruise.”