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Could cruise ships become hotels?

Monday, March 22nd, 2021 4:15pm

By Ed Oldfield, local democracy reporter

'Pop up' idea for busy summer season

The operators of cruise liners anchored off the South Devon coast are to be asked to consider turning them into ‘pop-up’ hotels.

The idea has been put forward by Torbay Council leader Steve Darling who said it would be a good opportunity to use the huge ships which have become a feature of the bay during the last year.

He has asked council officers to get in touch with the cruise ship operators to investigate whether a scheme could be developed to use the on-board accommodation for visitors to the area.

The council is also asking the companies to consider regular calls at Tor Bay when their scheduled sailings return after the pandemic, which led to world-wide cancellations of cruises.

Cllr Darling said using the capacity of the ships for local tourists would provide extra spaces during what is expected to be a busy summer season.

Foreign holidays appear to be less likely this year, due to the presence of variants of covid-19 on the continent, which is in turn expected to lead to a big rise in UK holidays when coronavirus restrictions are lifted.

The Liberal Democrat council leader said: “It is becoming fairly obvious that the chances of people going abroad on holiday are vanishing. There is a conversation to be had with the cruise lines that have their boats off our coast.

“Torbay is due to be packed with visitors, and we have potentially got ‘pop-up’ accommodation with good quality hotels off our coastline. I have asked officers to find out how the council could facilitate this, how people could get on and off the boats in an appropriate manner.

“The longer term aim is to get cruise liners to design some of their routes using South Devon when the world returns to normal. Staff on the ships are feeding back positive messages about the offer in South Devon, and this gives opportunities to build stronger links with the cruise line industry.”

Ships from several cruise lines have found shelter on England’s south coast during the pandemic. The cruise companies have chosen the sheltered bays off the Devon coast to keep their ships safely anchored with reduced crews while they wait for coronavirus restrictions to be lifted.

On Monday 22 March, the cruise liners Zaandam and Marella Explorer were anchored in Tor Bay, and the Arcadia, Ventura, Queen Victoria and Queen Mary were in Babbacome Bay, between Torquay and Teignmouth.

The ships have become a familiar part of the local landscape, and some have played a part in local events, sounding their horns for Remembrance Sunday and New Year’s Eve. 

Local youngsters made cards for the crews on board at Christmas and well-wishers collected gifts to be taken on board. A Facebook group called Ships in Torbay and Lyme Bay sharing pictures and news of the liners has more than 13,000 members.

On Sunday, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told the BBC that booking a trip abroad would be “premature.” That followed a scientist on a government advisory body saying that overseas summer holidays were “extremely unlikely” because of the risk of travellers bringing variants of the covid-19 virus to the UK. 

The earliest date people in England can holiday abroad is Monday 17 May, according to the government plan for easing restrictions. The 'stay at home' rule is due to end next Monday [29 March], but holidays within the UK will not be allowed until Monday 12 April at the earliest. 

The changes will only happen if the government is satisfied its four tests are being met – that the vaccine programme is going to plan, deaths and hospital admissions are reducing, infection rates do not risk a surge in admissions, and new variants do not change the risk of lifting restrictions.

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