Video report from ITV News Meridian's Richard Slee
Cruise ship passengers are being welcomed back on board for the first time today since the industry was shut down during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The MSC Virtuosa will set sail tonight from Southampton. She arrived in the port last week and is scheduled to operate a series of short ‘staycation cruises’ in UK waters during the summer. In fact, today’s three day cruise will only venture as far as Portland in Dorset and back.
Cruise ship numbers will be limited to one thousand passengers with strict hygiene measures it place, industry bosses say getting passengers back on board at all is a significant step forward.
Southampton normally welcomes around 2 million passengers each year to the port, generating around £2 million for the economy on each visit, supporting thousands of jobs through hotel bookings and in the supply chain. But in recent months many ships have been anchored off the south coast, waiting for the Covid storm to blow over.
The director of the Port of Southampton Alastair Welch described it as a ‘really exciting day’ that has been ‘a long time coming’.