Cruise Lines in Talks to Restart Ship Visits to Grand Cayman

Is cruising closer to returning to the Cayman Islands? Recent talks have been promising about how to bring ships back to this popular port.

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Government officials from Cayman Islands and top officials from different cruise lines are happy to be working together to create a collaborative plan to bring cruises back to the popular Caribbean port. Various issues still need to be resolved, but cruising is closer than ever to returning to Grand Cayman.

Officials Meet in Grand Cayman

As reported by the Cayman Compass, representatives from different cruise lines and the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association met with Grand Cayman officials on February 2, 2022, for a series of discussions about returning cruising to the islands.

In addition to Tourism Minister Kenneth Bryan and Governor of the Cayman Islands Martyn Roper, representatives from Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Disney, Celebrity and Holland America cruise lines were present.

A variety of topics were discussed, including health and safety protocols, cruise passenger testing requirements, itinerary considerations, revenue for local tour operators, improved tour offerings, and even jobs for Caymanians onboard visiting ships.

“The cruise industry has to respect what the Cayman Islands wants in terms of the cruise industry product,” Michele Paige, president of the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) said. “So, it’s a respect back-and-forth, and that’s where we are right now, is discussing that respect.”

Paige described the meeting as “very rewarding,” saying that the cruise industry was looking forward to “renewing one of the best relationships we’ve ever had in the world, with the Cayman Islands.”

Passenger Testing Possibilities

At the top of the concerns discussed were measures to ensure the health and safety of Cayman Islands residents. Different testing options have been considered, including the possibility of lateral flow COVID-19 tests for all cruise passengers before disembarking at the port.

Cruise lines have strongly resisted this option, however, as it is impractical to test thousands of passengers prior to a port of call. This would be particularly challenging because Grand Cayman is a tender port, so passengers must also ferry ashore on smaller boats. The manpower necessary to facilitate testing at the port would be tremendous, and the time required to do so would severely curtail guests’ experience at Grand Cayman.

Visiting Grand Cayman First

Another option to ease health and safety concerns is for cruise lines to schedule calls in the Cayman Islands as the first stop on ships’ itineraries. This would minimize the possibility of disease transmission from prior ports of call.

Cruise Ships at Grand Cayman
Photo Credit: Angela N Perryman / Shutterstock.com

Each cruise line has to consider their own schedules and the financial implications of rearranging itineraries to accommodate this request. This is being investigated, but because of the distance to Grand Cayman from U.S. cruise ports, it may not be entirely practical. The idea has not been dismissed, however, and is part of the ongoing negotiations to return cruising to Grand Cayman.

Improving Tour Revenue

In the interests of local tour operators, guides, and other Caymanian businesses, government leaders are also investigating ways for more revenue to be generated by cruise ship guests. This is not about simply increasing prices on existing tours to improve profit margins, however, but about providing elevated, exclusive experiences that can command higher prices.

Read More: Things to Do in Grand Cayman During a Cruise

As an example, Paige mentioned options such as short flights to sister islands for more exclusive tours, deeper interactions with local residents, or finer local cuisine options.

“The Cayman Islands has always delivered a phenomenal experience,” Paige said in praise of the islands’ offerings. “You’ve always been at the highlight of every single cruise passenger’s experience. So, it is only fitting to make sure that we elevate the product and elevate the expenditure that the passengers and crew spend in the Cayman Islands, that it is going to be a very rewarding time for all Caymanians.”

Grand Cayman Cruise Ship
Photo Credit: eric laudonien / Shutterstock.com

Jobs for Caymanians Onboard

Briefly mentioned was the possibility of jobs for local Cayman Islands residents onboard visiting ships. While details of these possibilities were not revealed, cruise ships often invite local performers onboard to provide exclusive shows to cruise passengers. Musicians, dancers, comedians, artists, and other performers could all be featured as on-board entertainment while ships visit the Cayman Islands.

Guest speakers, educational lecturers, and shopping guides could also make presentations aboard visiting ships.

When Will Cruises Resume to Grand Cayman?

While these discussions are a very positive step toward reopening the Cayman Islands for cruise travelers, it is also important to note that no reopening date has yet been set.

In fact, on January 25, the government extended the ban on cruise travel until at least February 28, 2022. That ban can be extended even further at the government’s discretion.

There have been no cruise ships visiting the island nation since the industry-wide shutdown began in March 2020. Holland America’s Nieuw Statendam had been scheduled as the first ship to visit Grand Cayman on December 28, 2021, but that visit was canceled at the last minute, as the nation changed testing protocols in response to the emergence of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

Holland America Line Cruise Ship
Photo Credit: Ian Dewar Photography / Shutterstock

While these recent talks are promising and both the government of the Cayman Islands and the leaders of cruise lines are willing to negotiate, there are still troubling concerns that need to be addressed.

Of particular interest is the growing capacity of cruise ships, which can bring 5,000 or more passengers to visit the port in a single visit – dramatic numbers that can stress fragile ecosystems.

Cayman Islands officials are also concerned about on board facilities of larger, newer ships, which are often designed to keep passengers on the ship in port unless they are enjoying a tour. This limits the benefit passengers may have for local retailers and tour operators who may not be directly promoted by the cruise ship.

Fortunately, both sides continue to be willing to discuss these issues, and bit by bit, cruising is closer to making a return to this fabulous port, one that is a favorite among cruise travelers.

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