A surprise decision has been released from the Cayman Islands government this week as it approved a visit from the first cruise ship in more than twenty months. The Seattle-based Holland America Line received permission despite that the government had made clear earlier it could be several months before a cruise ship would return to the Cayman Islands.
Under the government’s guidelines, the return of cruising to the Cayman Islands had been scheduled under phase 6 of a reopening plan. Currently, the islands are under phase 4.
Nieuw Statendam is First Cruise Ship to Return to the Cayman Islands
Although cruise ships are not a part of the Cayman Islands government’s border reopening plan, Seattle-based Holland America Line received permission from local officials to call at George Town on December 28, 2021. The cruise line and the local government agreed on terms and conditions designed to minimize the risk of local transmission of COVID-19.
Under these protocols, George Town in Grand Cayman must be the first port of call for Nieuw Statendam on that cruise. The number of passengers on board the vessel cannot exceed 60% of the vessel’s capacity, or 1,600 passengers. Grand Cayman will be the first call on a seven-day cruise to the Western Caribbean, departing Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on December 26.
Furthermore, as is the standard onboard ships, all guests and crew onboard must have a final dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days before the beginning of the cruise. Guests should also have a negative viral COVID-19 test (PCR or antigen) taken within two days of their embarkation, and if guests or crew are unwell in any way or form, they will not be allowed ashore.
“Grand Cayman will be the first port of call for the Holland America Nieuw Statendam, and the capacity will be limited to 1,600 passengers. Guests and crew aboard the ship will be subjected to exactly the same requirements as stayover visitors, such as a pre-arrival testing,” Tourism Minister Kenneth Bryan said in the statement.
When guests go ashore, they must abide by the local standards, which require everyone to wear a mask and keep to 6 feet of social distancing.
The Cayman Islands Is One of the Last Caribbean Islands to Reopen Borders
The Cayman Islands have had its borders closed for tourists since March 16, 2020. Only last week, on November 20, did the country open up again for tourists to start returning in more significant numbers. Some tourists had been allowed in earlier under strict protocols.
The reopening is part of a 6-phase plan the Cayman Government introduced starting June 20, which moved to phase 4 on November 20. Further steps are Phase 5, when unvaccinated children under age 12 will be allowed to travel with vaccinated adult tourists.
However, according to government websites, cruise tourism remains prohibited. During the final phase, assessment determines when and how to proceed with further relaxation of restrictions, including cruise tourism. Minister Bryan said discussions on the broader return of cruise tourism are continuing:
“This has been an ongoing conversation with the cruise industry about what conditions are required to make this a safe experience for everyone involved and how to make that feasible. We thank Holland America for being an excellent partner and leading the way for this new era of cruise travel in the Cayman Islands for the foreseeable future. My people can be assured that my approach and negotiation strategy is for quality first,”
Recently the Cayman Government has started making inroads to recover an ailing tourism industry. Although the cruise industry does have significant opposition from a segment of the local population, the economic impact of cruise ships remains significant to the country. For now, Only Nieuw Statendam is scheduled for a visit; as soon as more vessels follow, you’ll read it here on Cruise Hive.