The implementation of new testing requirements for debarking cruise ship passengers is having a significant effect on the tourism industry in Puerto Rico. According to local news outlets, at least 11 calls from cruise lines sailing under the Royal Caribbean Group and Azamara Cruises have been cancelled.
The calls account for a revenue stream of at least 5.5 million dollars which has gone up in smoke for local residents; however, this number could climb to as much as $12 million or more as more cruise lines look at their options.
Multiple Cruise Lines to Avoid Puerto Rico
It is starting to look as if more and more cruise lines are choosing to avoid sailing to Puerto Rico, at least in the near future. According to local news, several cruise lines have now decided to skip San Juan in their itineraries. These include Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, and Azamara Cruises.
The reason is that the local department of Health introduced a new requirement for all cruise ship visitors on December 26. The new protocols state that all guests must pass a COVID-19 test taken no more than 48 hours before arrival in the port. This makes it near impossible for any cruise line to comply.
Guests are required to test 48 hours before embarking on any cruise ship in the United States, the logistics to enable testing of thousands of people in the terminal or on board the ships would need some time to organize. Several locals have protested the measures from the government in Puerto Rico, which will have a considerable impact on the economy.
The Puerto Rico Shipping Association: “The cruise industry has made a monumental effort to prevent COVID-19 infections aboard its ships by making adjustments and outline strategies to keep the industry running. All cruise lines sailing from the United States are obliged to submit to strict controls and rules such as complete vaccination at least 14 days before boarding and negative COVID tests within 72 hours before the journey.”
“Cases identified on board cruises are intended to track and curb infections on board, not to alarm citizens as it has been happening. The main focus has always been to monitor and detect cases in order to respond to spread on board. There is no need to reach the point of hysteria and fear of COVID variants.”
This week there are visits scheduled for Celebrity Edge, Odyssey Of The Seas, Celebrity Reflection, Celebrity Millennium, Regent Seven Seas Splendor, and Carnival Magic. Whether these ship visits will happen depends on whether the cruise lines can provide enough testing for guests onboard. In January 2022, 49 visits to San Juan are scheduled from all major cruise lines.
Cruise Hive has reached out to Royal Caribbean and will update this post once a response with further details is received.
While the requirements from the Department of Health in Puerto Rico are a loss for the cruise industry, at least they will be able to spend the day at sea or find an alternative port of call that will accept the ships. The same does not count for the thousands of residents involved in the tourism trade in one way or another.
Juan Fernández, a local business owner, stated to Telemundo: “We were beginning to see the light and a good sign in the recovery of the cruise sector in the country after more than 20 months of absence of this. There is no doubt that we were beginning to feel the increase in sales, not only for merchants in Old San Juan, but also for tour operators, transporters, artisans, travel agents, museums, hotels, in short, the entire component of products and services. The government’s wrong, arbitrary and unilateral decisions are unjust and inappropriate.”
Also Read: Ideal Hotels Near San Juan Cruise Port
Puerto Rico stands to lose millions of dollars through cruise ship cancellations. The 11 calls from Azamara, Royal Caribbean, and Celebrity Cruises alone account for a massive $5.5 million in lost revenue, a number that could go up to $12 million, or much more, if the restrictions remain in place through January.
The question is what agreements between the cruise lines and the local government mean. The restrictions do not mean that no cruise ships can visit Puerto Rico. However, whether cruise lines and guests are willing to put up with various destinations instating random, arbitrary rules, which go against those same agreements, remains to be seen.