Cruise companies have worked in collaboration to develop protocols for the safe return of the sector and are applying a mindset that there is “no competition when it comes to health”, industry leaders have said.

Speakers on a Future of Travel Week webcast said individual lines were working on measures as they gradually resumed sailing but were also working in partnership to rebuild trust in the wider industry.

Ben Bouldin, vice-president EMEA of Royal Caribbean, said the resumption of international cruising would “not be like switching on a lightbulb” and compared the return to a dimmer switch with lines gradually reintroducing sailings.

Arguing that there was no room for “false starts” he added that lines needed to implement health and safety improvements but also had to deliver “a vacation experience that is better than it was before”.

Ellen Bettridge, chief executive of Uniworld, said the river cruise line was introducing new micro-chemical sprays and investigating ways of socially distancing onboard.

But she added: “The message we are getting across is ‘how do you book with safety, how do you book with confidence, how do you book feeling good about the decision you are making for your holiday?’.

“We want that holiday to be a holiday, it can’t be that you go out and everyone’s far from everyone else, you aren’t laughing and you aren’t meeting new friends.”

Bettridge said Uniworld was hoping to resume sailings in some destinations such as Egypt from November, and said it was key to communicate with passengers so they were aware that itineraries could change as situations in destinations evolved.

Lucia Rowe, managing director of A-Rosa said the line’s experience of resuming sailings in some European destinations had demonstrated the ability to adjust itineraries as required and the importance of ensuring passengers were fully aware of how the experience could differ from pre-Covid sailings.

Andy Harmer, director of Clia UK & Ireland, said the return of river cruise lines and ocean lines such as MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises reflected the sector’s ability to evolve.

He said: “People shouldn’t be surprised about what the cruise industry has been up to. We have always been collaborative but we have also always invested and been innovative in everything we do and we’ve put the wellness of our guests at the heart of that.

“That investment and the way [lines] have been reimagining cruise holidays has been really important throughout, including during this time.”