After careful consideration and reviews of health and safety protocols, the Cayman Islands has decided to cancel the forthcoming visit of Holland America’s Nieuw Statendam cruise ship, which had been scheduled to visit Grand Cayman on December 28, 2021.
This port of call visit had been planned as a test of the popular Caribbean island’s new visitor COVID-19 testing protocols, as was to be the first cruise ship to return to the island since the industry restart.
Cayman Islands Changes Traveler Protocols
According to the Caymanian Times, the canceled visit is due to the inability to accommodate new health and safety protocols for all guests arriving to the Cayman Islands to have a negative COVID-19 test one day prior to disembarkation.
The Cayman Islands Ministry of Tourism and Transport had collaborated with representatives from Holland America and its parent company, Carnival Corporation, to ensure that passenger capacity was reduced to a maximum of 1,600 of the ship’s double-occupancy capacity of 2,666, and that Grand Cayman was the first port of call on the ship’s itinerary.
These measures were intended to minimize the risk of introducing more cases of this highly transmissible disease into the Cayman Islands. Additionally, all passengers and crew disembarking in Grand Cayman had to be fully vaccinated.
On December 17, 2021, however, the Cayman Islands changed its pre-arrival testing protocols. Previously, travelers had to demonstrate a negative test result within 72 hours of their arrival into the country, but now the requirement has been tightened to producing a negative test result within 24 hours. This change was implemented in response to the rapid spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant.
Nieuw Statendam Visit to Grand Cayman Canceled
Because of the tightened policy, it is no longer possible for cruise ships such as Nieuw Statendam to meet these protocols, and its December 28 visit has been canceled.
“The Cayman Islands Government does not take this decision lightly and the inconvenience to all concerned, including the cruise line, cruise businesses and passengers is regretted,” said Acting Minister for Tourism Dwayne Seymour. “While uncertainties persist regarding the spread of the virus, adopting a cautious approach is the right thing to do.”
Nieuw Statendam is currently sailing a 7-night Caribbean New Year itinerary. The ship departed Fort Lauderdale on December 26, and was scheduled to be the first cruise ship to return to Grand Cayman since the cruise industry shutdown began in March 2020. Since the industry restarted several months ago, no cruise ships have yet visited what has been one of the most popular ports of call in the Caribbean.
The ship’s planned visit to Grand Cayman has been a controversial decision from the start with many of the island’s residents against the visit, despite the benefits of restarting cruise tourism to the island.
“The cancellation of this single cruise ship call will ensure that the Cayman Islands is better able to protect our people and we look forward to welcoming cruise tourism business in 2022 when it is safer to do so,” said Seymour.
To date, the Cayman Islands has recorded more than 8,300 cases of COVID-19, though the country’s population is just under 67,000 residents. In recent weeks as the Omicron variant has become widespread, the country’s COVID-19 cases have risen, as have its deaths attributed to the virus.
More Port of Call Cancelations
This news comes as more and more cruise ships are being denied entry to different ports of call due to positive COVID-19 cases. Holland America Line’s Koningsdam was refused entry to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, on December 23, while Royal Caribbean’s Odyssey of the Seas cancelled two ports of call – Curacao and Aruba – last week, and Carnival Freedom was denied its scheduled calls at Bonaire and Aruba, also last week.
While all these cancellations are troubling for eager travelers, it is best for passengers to remain flexible with their plans and expectations for cruise itineraries for the foreseeable future.
Different ports of call must make what adjustments they feel are best to safeguard their populations, and cruise lines are doing all they can to work with port authorities as well as to keep guests informed of last-minute itinerary changes.