Major cruises will resume this week with the maiden voyage of a vessel around the coast of the UK.
MSC cruise line’s Virtuosa will leave Southampton on Thursday for a four-night cruise, followed by three and four-night mini-cruises.
From June 12, the 19-deck ship will start to operate longer seven-night sailings through to mid-September, offering guests additional embarkation ports in Liverpool and Greenock as well as calls at Portland in Dorset and Belfast in Northern Ireland.
Antonio Paradiso, managing director of MSC Cruises UK & Ireland, said: “MSC Virtuosa is the latest, most-innovative and environmentally advanced to join the MSC Cruises fleet and we couldn’t be more delighted to offer UK holidaymakers and their families the chance to discover her world class facilities.
“We have all been waiting for something exciting to look forward to and this ship has lots of new features for our guests to experience including new speciality restaurants and a brand-new immersive entertainment lounge with a humanoid robotic bartender and much more.”
MSC Virtuosa’s homeport for the summer will be ABP Southampton, with whom MSC Cruises recently announced a long-term partnership.
Andy Harmer, director of the Cruise Lines International Association, told the PA news agency that the cruise industry was one of the first to suspend operations because of the pandemic over a year ago.
“The industry has been working with governments and public health officials and we have created a set of UK protocols for the resumption of sailing.”
Mr Harmer said the industry is worth £10 billion to the UK economy every year and supports 88,000 jobs, adding that 18 ships are due to sail in domestic waters this summer.