Sailing into Portsmouth this week, SeaDream Yacht Club’s vessel, SeaDream 1, arrived to pick up passengers en route to the Caribbean.
Following the outbreak of Covid-19, this was the first time a cruise ship had entered the UK since coronavirus lockdown restrictions were introduced.
Portsmouth might not have a particularly rich history when it comes to cruise liners – but steps taken by the city’s port could lead to a future influx of tourism.
Since the onset of the pandemic the port has implemented enhanced protocols, this includes a reconfigured terminal layout to maximise social distancing, and a temperature camera to check passengers, staff and crew.
Operations followed the government's recent Cruise Framework Agreement and everything was overseen by port health and Portsmouth International Port staff. No passengers left the ship, and 19 guests went on board.
Ian Diaper, the port’s head of operations said: ‘It’s testament to everyone’s hard work that SeaDream Yacht Club was confident to use Portsmouth as the first UK port to manage a turnaround call since sailings were suspended.
‘It was great to see a cruise ship in the port once more and pleased to see operations go to plan.
‘We’re experienced at managing passengers in a Covid-secure way, with ferry sailings taking place regularly since July following strict protocols.
‘This had given us insight for what’s required and we’re ready to help the industry recover when cruise returns to its full capacity.’
SeaDream 1 had previously called at Oslo and Rotterdam, en route to the UK, part of a 21-day trip to Bridgetown, Barbados.
Liz Sharples, a senior teaching fellow at the University of Portsmouth, has a background in cruise and travel tourism, and is currently researching the communication strategies used by cruise operators.
She believes that SeaDream 1 coming to Portsmouth, rather than somewhere like Southampton, bodes well for the city’s future.
‘In the years to come, Portsmouth could well become the flagship city of the cruising revival,’ she said.
‘Having an operator come here and see everything Portsmouth International Port has done is amazing – and if SeaDream tell other operators then it could really snowball from there.
‘The key in the future is getting people to stay in Portsmouth the night before or after their cruise, because that will mean even more money coming into the city.’
Councillor Steve Pitt, Portsmouth City Council’s cabinet member for culture, leisure and economic development, is optimistic that more cruises will indeed follow suit.
He said: ‘It’s important that, as a city, we acknowledge cruises becoming a larger part of the port’s operation.
‘That income from the port helps to fund local services and so is heavily linked to us supporting the community.
‘Seeing more cruise ships like this come in would be greatly welcomed by all of us.’