Covid in Scotland: Cruise ship not allowed to dock in Greenock

MSC Virtuosa

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Passengers on a cruise ship touring the UK have been told they will not be allowed to disembark in Scotland.

The MSC Virtuosa’s operator says Scottish government Covid rules block it from entering the port of Greenock.

The government has said domestic cruises can only restart when restrictions in all of Scotland reach level one.

It insisted the decision was based on the risks “between both cruises and the wider travel context”.

The MSC Virtuosa left Liverpool earlier this week with planned stops in Greenock in Inverclyde, as well as Belfast and Southampton.

It can carry more than 6,000 passengers but has just under 900 currently on board to allow for social-distancing measures.

The Scottish Passenger Agents Association (SPAA) has confirmed that Wednesday’s scheduled stop in Greenock has had to be cancelled.

The industry body said the situation meant Scots on board the vessel were effectively “barred from setting foot in their own country”.

‘Closed borders’

The SPAA said everyone on the ship was a UK resident, fully vaccinated, and recently tested negative.

Linda Hill, who owns LAH Travel in West Kilbride, described the decision as “another nail in the coffin for the travel industry”.

She told BBC Scotland’s Drivetime programme: “The cruise industry has obviously been very hard hit over the past 18 months.

“But we had seen a way to start, very safely, some UK cruises with lots of very safe protocols including limited numbers on board.

“This is a brand new cruise ship which was coming to Greenock tomorrow and there was great excitement to see such a fabulous cruise liner in our own waters.

“Sadly, the Scottish government has said passengers cannot embark or disembark at Greenock. The sailing is still going ahead – it’s just missing out Scotland.”

Level one rules

In a statement, 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.”

Affected passengers have been advised contact the operator for further information.

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