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Refused entry of MSC Virtuosa in Scotland ‘disappointing,’ says Cruise Britain’s Stangroom

Credit: MSC Cruises, Blue Harbour CRUISE_MSC_Virtuosa.jpg
Cruise Britain is working to 'facilitate a positive decision' on cruising in Scotland, according to its president James Stangroom
Cruise Britain Chair James Stangroom has spoken out against the Scottish government’s decision to deny MSC Cruises’ MSC Virtuosa entry to Greenock.

‘This is clearly disappointing news, not only for the Scottish cruise industry but the wider UK cruise industry as operators, ports and the supply chain struggle with the overall lack of clarity,’ Stangroom said. 

‘Cruise Britain continues to work with all parties, including the Department for Transport who are pulling data together from the six domestic cruises that have gone ahead so far, to assist in making the case and hopefully facilitate a positive decision in the near future.’

The vessel was due to sail from Liverpool, arriving Greenock June 9 for embarkation of passengers and shore excursions. However, domestic cruising has not yet been approved by the Scottish government, which will review restrictions every three weeks as part of a phased easing of restrictions in tandem with the health alert levels.  The next review is scheduled ahead of the planned easing of restrictions from June 28.

A spokesperson for MSC Cruises said, 'In light of the position advised by the Scottish government, MSC Virtuosa remained overnight in Liverpool and all guests affected by this announcement were contacted directly or through their travel agent. We continue to seek further clarity from the relevant authorities in Scotland about the situation, and will continue to monitor the situation in the hope that our calls to Scotland with our special cruises can commence soon...'

'Our priority continues to be the health and safety of our guests, crew and the communities that we visit,' they added.

Passengers booked to join the vessel from there may now be required to embark in Liverpool. 

Two Greenock departures cancelled 

According to the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA), departures from Greenock on June 16 and 23 are also cancelled. 

Cruising in Scotland postponed 

SPAA president Joanne Dooey said the organisation has been 'asking for clarity on the situation for this particular cruise ship since last week, and all we have received so far is an indication that cruises may only restart when all of Scotland is in Level 1. Inverclyde itself is currently in Level 1.’

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, Dooey emphasised the detrimental impact of travel restrictions on the economy, noting, ‘there have already been lots of lost jobs.’ 

Less than 36 hours’ notice

Jacqueline Dobson, president, Barrhead Travel added, ‘The Scottish government has provided less than 36 hours’ notice that these sailings cannot go ahead. Meaningful engagement with the Scottish travel industry is of paramount importance and we must see this take place over the coming weeks. 

‘It is unsustainable for the Scottish government to continue to make announcements without constructive consultation with key industry partners when these decisions have such a profound impact on business.’

MSC Virtuosa is currently sailing seven-night cruises in the UK for domestic passengers. Belfast, Southampton and the Isle of Portland are also included in its itinerary.