While the Omicron strain is certainly affecting people and businesses worldwide, the effects are not affecting the Nassau Cruise Port as much as would be expected. In fact, the port has been able to increase the number of port calls since the new year.
The Bahamas’ policy to receive cruise ships within boundaries has ensured cruise ship tourism has remained relatively unaffected, with bad weather responsible for more cancellations than Omicron, according to Nassau Cruise Port’s top executive Michael Maura. The popular cruise port expects to see cruise ships dock at least 1,279 times in 2022, exceeding the record-year 2019.
Omicron Not Having Significant Effect On Nassau
The widespread concerns worldwide regarding the rapid increase in Omicron cases, and the subsequent closure to cruise ships we’ve seen in Puerto Rico and the Cayman Islands, doesn’t seem to be affecting Nassau in the Bahamas as much as was expected. That’s what Michael Maura, the Chief Executive for Nassau’s cruise port, said to the Bahamas newspaper tribune242.com:
“We had less than a handful whereby the Ministry of Health and Wellness refused the vessel permission to call. It wasn’t necessarily a Nassau call; it was more likely a Bahamas call, and Nassau was just one of the stops that didn’t happen.”
More calls have been canceled due to recent bad weather episodes that came through the area than calls being canceled because cruise ships exceeded the maximum number of COVID-19 cases onboard.
“It was less than three. The biggest disruption we had the week prior is we had a bad weather day and had three ship-calls canceled because of bad weather. But we’ve also seen a pick-up in additional calls.”
Numbers have been increasing for Nassau, with more port calls happening than had been scheduled. This was mainly due to vessels denied entry elsewhere due to local rules and regulations, which then sailed to Nassau instead. Nassau is now looking to make 2022 a record-breaking year, with more port calls than 2019, when more passengers and ships visited the islands than ever before.
Nassau Looking Forward to Very Strong 2022
As more and more people worldwide take a cruise and feel safe, ships will see higher occupancy rates, and companies will be committing more ships back to operations. This is good news for ports such as Nassau, which rely primarily on income generated by the cruise industry with millions of visitors each year.
Michael Maura: “The cruise lines continue to see robust bookings and we continue to see robust calls. We’re still seeing the numbers, and still seeing the ships. Last Thursday, we had five ships in. Again, our bookings are very solid and the cruise lines have made a major commitment to Nassau.”
For 2022 the port executive expects the number of port calls to exceed 2019, a record-breaking year across the cruise industry. So far, there are 1,279 calls scheduled, a number expected to grow as some Caribbean ports still reject ships, and those ships reschedule calls to include Nassau.
“The cruise lines update bookings daily, and the current bookings we have for 2022 total 1,279 vessel calls. If those ships are at 100 percent occupancy, this equates to 4.1m passengers [for the year]. Our budgeted passenger count is considerably less at 3.3m passengers for 2022, so we have been conservative.”
Will The CDC Affect the Bahamas?
CDC Travel advisories that call for people to stop cruising and the recent changes from the CDC’s Conditional Sail Order will have little effect on Nassau, according to Mr. Maura, who said that cruise ships had gone above and beyond the regulations set out by the CDC.
“I really don’t think it changes much because the industry isn’t relaxing its protocols as a result of the change in the CDC position,” he said. “The cruise industry has exceeded the requirements as mandated by the CDC to ensure its guests and crew members are as safe as possible in this pandemic.
With many saying the pandemic is coming to its end and the disease morphing to a less lethal variant, not only can cruise ports look forward to doing more and better business, cruise passengers can maybe start looking forward to the moment when ships do not need to take the abundance of measures that they are taking now.
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During 2017/2018, more than 3 million guests sailed to the Bahamas. This amounted to $406 million in cruise tourism expenditures in the Bahamas. In 2019 the port of Nassau welcomed 1,189 cruise ships and 3,803,650 passengers. Despite Omicron, Nassau is looking at surpassing these numbers, making clear once again that cruising is back and here to stay.