Cruise specialist agents have branded the FCO’s blanket ban on cruise as “redundant”, but admit it is a disappointing blow for the sector.

The FCO today updated its advice to advise “against cruise ship travel at this time”.

Cruises from the UK have been halted since March, with many brands pausing operations through to the autumn.

Cruise agents said they were “frustrated” and “disappointed” by the update from the FCO, but also stressed that the advice was in many ways redundant because there are no major cruise brands sailing imminently. They called on the FCO to issue clarity on its advice and to announce a date when a review of the advice would be held.

Edwina Lonsdale, owner of Mundy Cruising, said: “Given that no cruises are currently operating which UK residents can book, the advice is redundant.

“We know that the extraordinary work currently being undertaken collaboratively by the cruise lines and Clia, in consultation with experts in public health, disease control and logistics, not to mention all the other stakeholders in cruise operations, will ensure that in the near future cruising will be deemed to be one of the safest holiday choices available. Our clients also have that confidence.”

Iglu’s Simone Clark said: “It’s disappointing but I’m not shocked by the announcement. “We’ve had processes in place to help our clients over the past four months and this will remain the case. We don’t have any imminent departures as our clients either postponed until next year or are sitting on an FCC (future cruise credit) to wait and see when they might be able to sail.

“We’ve been busy reassuring our clients and we will continue to do so – it’s a very fluid situation and we will help our guests with their future cruise plans.

“Clia is working with the DFT and I’m confident in their ability to lobby.”

Clark said she’d seen examples of some of the new health and safety measures and protocols cruise lines were looking to introduce and said lines were working hard to ensure the onboard experience provided a “very safe environment”.

She said today’s announcement hadn’t come as a shock because she’d thought it was “odd” that the cruise sector hadn’t been mentioned in last week’s FCO announcement around the countries deemed safe to travel to.

Phil Evans, owner of Cruise Nation, described the news as “frustrating” given that the market had seen positive signs of recovery in recent weeks.

“The update from the FCO is lacking in information and we need clarity on it. We also need for a date when we can expect the next update on this. The last cruise update from the FCO was four months ago, and there’s been nothing in between that and this latest, so we need to know that we won’t be keep waiting for another four months.

“It’s frustrating because the market is coming back very positively and we’ve had a good couple of weeks, minus the blip caused by the negative TV show that last week.”

James Cole, founder and managing director of newly launched Panache Cruises, agreed the advice was “not surprising”.

He added: “I don’t think it will come as a shock to any of the cruise lines, who are currently working hard to establish new standards of health and safety for cruising in the post-covid world.

“Since our launch on Monday we have been encouraged by the number of bookings and enquiries we’ve had for 2021 cruises, proving that people can’t wait to get cruising again.

“It will take time for sure for cruise lines to take to the seas but when the time does come, I have no doubt that the industry will be totally transformed for the new world of cruising we will find ourselves in.”

Which? Travel editor Rory Boland said: “The FCO’s advice against cruise ship travel will lead to most upcoming cruises being cancelled or postponed.

“Most cruise holiday customers should be legally entitled to a cash refund within 14 days under the package travel regulations, but as we’ve seen across the travel industry recently, operators facing a surge in refund claims are often taking longer to return customers’ money to them.

“If refunds will be delayed, cruise companies must urgently let customers know and give a clear timetable for when money will be returned.

“The FCO should also extend its warning to include a definitive date, to give operators and customers clarity over when it will be safe to rebook.”