Several Caribbean ports are increasingly concerned about the spread of Omicron and its effect on the cruise industry and the economic recovery that has been taking shape in the last few months.
St. Maarten is one of those ports which have now expressed its concern. After several Dutch Caribbean ports refused entry to cruise ships due to ongoing infections onboard, St. Maarten looks at different options, stating a cruise vacation is still one of the safest options out there.
The Impact of Omicron is a Concern for St Maarten
With multiple Caribbean islands still feeling the effects of low to no tourism over the last two years, the island of St. Maarten in the eastern Caribbean is raising concerns over the spread of Omicron.
Port St. Maarten Group (PSG) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Alexander Gumbs said he is concerned with the potential impact the variant could have on the islands. It is one of the busiest cruise ports in the Caribbean.
“Some cruise lines already cancelled and or altered cruises in Europe due to the protocol changes which unfortunately may spill over to the Caribbean. There’s unfortunately the possibility of some voyages in the region being cancelled due to the aforementioned circumstances which would be a snag to our recovery. Any public health protocol changes in other Caribbean destinations and/or surge in Omicron that fall within our cruise ship itinerary would have a negative impact for the destination and the region as whole.”
This week, MSC Cruises cancelled several voyages in Northern Europe as European countries introduced strict measures and lockdowns. Similar tactics have not been noted yet in the Caribbean basin; however, several Dutch Caribbean islands have turned away ships with relatively low numbers of COVID on board.
For St. Maarten, the solution doesn’t lie in closing down the islands again; here, the officials look at vaccinations and boosters as the way to combat Omicron.
Cruises are Still the Safest Vacation Option
The cruise industry has introduced some of the strictest health and safety measures in the tourism industry in the last year. Not only are vaccinations and testing mandatory, strict health and safety measures onboard, and air filtration and treatment are also in place. The question is now whether these measures will prove sufficient.
PSG CEO Gumbs: “The industry in general has increased their protocols levels in terms of testing, mask usage and social distancing. It’s our hope that this doesn’t affect the upcoming booking cycles and or current sailings to destination St. Maarten. Cruises are still one of the safest vacation options and passengers are taking advantage of the great prices and service being offered.”
Keeping the island open will depend on the spread of Omicron. According to PSG CEO Humbs, the options available are still vaccinations and booster shots:
“With the booster vaccine now available, I call on the vaccinated to make sure they get their booster as according to CPS, the booster remains the best protection against the new variant and is more effective than two doses alone,”
The fears for the Caribbean islands are not unfounded. Omicron has already been identified in 89 countries and spreads significantly faster than the Delta variant. St. Maarten sees up to six cruise ships a day visiting the island bringing in thousands of guests. Despite the strict measures cruise lines have implemented, the risks of speeding up the spread of Omicron are ever-present.
St. Maarten has been an essential factor in the restart of cruising in the Caribbean. The island was one of the first to welcome back cruise ships in June 2021 when Celebrity Millennium operated cruises from the port. The island recently reported record numbers of ships calling each day, while MSC Seaview has been calling St. Maarten home since December 5.