A 1350-guest cruise ship due to depart from Rosyth on a scenic tour of the Norwegian fjords has been cancelled because the Scottish Government has yet to confirm plans for the return of international travel.
After more than a year of no sailing, the Balmoral was scheduled to take passengers on the five-night trip at the end of July, but it had to be called off amid the uncertainty.
Operator Fred Olsen said the crew and support team had been working hard towards the return to service, but that a date for the restart of cruising from Scotland had yet to be agreed by the Scottish Government.
The Scottish travel taskforce met on Tuesday afternoon but industry representatives said there was no confirmation of plans for the tourism industry but that a final sign-off by ministers was expected next week – after the election.
‘It can’t be on any four-nations basis, it has got to be on the right four-nations basis. I will not go along with something… if it is something I don’t think is in the interests of Scotland.’First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
Edinburgh Airport warned that if Scotland was to lag behind the rest of the UK and Europe then there would be significant job losses across the country as a result.
Passengers who had booked the Norwegian Fjords cruise on the Balmoral received emails from Fred Olsen apologising for the cancellation.
It read: “It takes months of meticulous planning and organising for us to successfully bring each ship back into service and I am afraid to say, with such uncertainty, we have no choice but to take the difficult and deeply disappointing decision to cancel our summer departures from Rosyth this year.
“I am sincerely sorry to be the bearer of this bad news as I am sure you were looking forward to joining Balmoral for closer-to-home cruises this summer.”
‘We will continue with our restart plans… with a view to bringing Balmoral back into service a little later than originally planned.’Peter Deer, Fred Olsen managing director
Peter Deer, the cruise operator’s managing director, said they had a programme detailing the phased return to sailing with dates starting in England on July 5, followed by the Balmoral’s departure from Rosyth on July 28.
He told STV News: “However, with the Scottish Government yet to confirm their plans for the resumption of travel it is still unclear whether it will be possible to operate our sailings from Rosyth.
“We know that the excitement in the build up to a holiday is a big part of the experience, and we want our guests to be able to look forward to their cruises with us with peace of mind.
“As a result, we will continue with our restart plans for new ships Borealis and Bolette, with a view to bringing Balmoral back into service a little later than originally planned, once we have more clarity on the ‘green list’ countries and where we will be able to sail from and to.”
The UK Government announced that non-essential trips abroad from England will get the go-ahead from May 17, but there has been no indication the same will apply in Scotland where a ban remains in place due to Covid-19.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps announced the 12 countries and territories on the green list of the traffic light system on Friday evening
Those travelling to green list countries will not need to isolate on their return but are expected to have to be tested before and after the trip.
Travellers from England can visit Portugal, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Singapore, Brunei, Iceland, Gibraltar, the Falkland Islands, the Faroe Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands and St Helena, Tristan de Cunha, Ascension Island.
Turkey, Nepal and the Maldives were added to the red list of countries meaning, from next Wednesday, those returning from there will have to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days at the cost of £1,750.
The Scottish Government’s position on international travel is expected to considered at the next review of coronavirus restrictions and announced next Tuesday.
During a debate between party leaders on the BBC this week, Nicola Sturgeon said she would prefer a UK-wide approach to the easing of travel restrictions but said they would not be relaxed if it was not in Scotland’s interests.
She said: “It can’t be on any four-nations basis, it has got to be on the right four-nations basis.
“I will not go along with something… if it is something I don’t think is in the interests of Scotland.”