Passengers on a cruise ship sailing from Liverpool banned from Scotland due to Covid-19 restrictions

Passengers on the MSC Virtuosa cruise ship told they can't disembark in Scotland Credit: MSC Cruises

Hundreds of passengers on a cruise ship have spent an extra night in port after they were told they cannot disembark at an expected stop off in Scotland.

The MSC Virtuosa was meant to have Liverpool on Tuesday 8 June, and was due to dock at Greenock on Wednesday at about 9.30am, before later departing at 8pm.

But instead it spent a night in the docks after Scottish authorities refused to let passengers into the country.

Other stop offs on the seven-night cruise include Belfast, Southampton and the Isle of Portland before it was set to return to Greenock and with a final stop at Liverpool the following day.

The Scottish Passenger Agents' Association (SPAA), the professional body for travel agents and the sector in Scotland, has seen a copy of an email sent to current passengers by the cruise operator.

It says: "Due to the latest Scottish Government Covid-19 restrictions and regulations... we are sorry to inform you that the port call of Greenock has been cancelled.

"No guests are allowed to embark or disembark... This decision has been made by the Scottish Government and is out of our control."

MSC Cruises stipulates that those who are unvaccinated or have only received one jab have to take a lateral flow or PCR test within 72 hours of the ship's departure, with proof of a negative test needed to board the ship.

Michele Lister, who works for Glasgow-based Glen Travel, is one of those who boarded the ship in Liverpool, and has expressed her disappointment at not being allowed in to Greenock.

"There's about half a dozen people that I'm aware of on board that are Scottish and they want to show off to the English customers what Scotland's all about and they want to spend the money in the area as well, which is badly needed."

Joanne Dooey, the SPPA president, said: "We're now facing the situation where Scottish passengers who joined the cruise in Liverpool are barred from setting foot in their own country."

An MSC spokeswoman said the company had now cancelled the visit to Greenock and was "awaiting further clarification" from Scottish authorities.

She added: "We hope that our calls to Scotland with our special cruises can commence soon considering how much we were looking forward to welcoming our Scottish guests onboard MSC Virtuosa and how we are aware of the important and widespread contribution that the cruise industry makes to Scotland."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "We fully understand the impact of the current restrictions on domestic cruises.

"This decision has been informed by the combination of risks that exists between both cruises and the wider travel context, including the current trajectory of Covid infections and the unknowns around the new Delta variant, in addition to the potential for high risk of uncontained rapid transmission on the cruise."

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