After two years, during which no cruise ships visited the Cayman Islands, The Cayman Islands Government has announced that cruise ships will return to the Caribbean island from March 21, 2022.
The island group confirmed it has been busy developing several different procedures the cruise lines will need to follow, which will start with a phased approach, which includes a maximum of 75,000 passengers during the period, and a maximum capacity of 40% per ship, to visit the islands during phase 1.
Cruise Ships Return to the Cayman Islands After 2-Year Hiatus
As of 21st March 2022, cruise ships will be returning to the Cayman Islands pending formal Cabinet approval. This is a significant step forward for the Cayman Islands tourism industry. The return of cruise tourism will follow a phased approach, similar to the one used for reintroducing as recommended by the Ministry of Tourism in a series of different protocols.
Phase 1 is set to continue for four weeks so that safety protocols can be evaluated and any necessary adjustments determined. The number of cruise passengers arriving on cruise ships will be limited to 40% of passenger capacity.
There will also be a maximum of 75,000 passengers during this time frame. If Phase 1 is successful and local Public Health authorities approve, the 40% capacity limit will be lifted.
The Cayman Islands Minister of Tourism, Honorary Kenneth Bryan, said the following:
“The PACT Administration does not take the decision to reintroduce cruise tourism lightly; the fact remains that while the pandemic persists, all travel, whether by air or sea, presents a certain degree of risk. However, as we are seeing with stayover arrivals, our Island’s high vaccination rate, coupled with having the right safety protocols in place, is allowing our tourism industry to recover.”
Besides the 40% capacity limits for cruise ships, the island group will be strictly enforcing the standards set by the CDC and which the cruise lines have indicated to be following. No guests will be allowed off the ships if they are positive or known close contact.
Government Encourages Local Businesses to Prepare
The Cayman Islands will bring cruise lines back to its shores and reinvigorate tourism. To achieve this, tour companies, bars, restaurants, shops, taxi companies and guides will need to prepare for the influx of 75.000 tourists during the first phase. Minister Bryan said the government is giving as much advance notice as possible of the intent to restart cruise tourism on March 21:
“This is to allow cruise operators, businesses and employees enough lead time to prepare. After two years of uncertainty, there is finally light on the horizon, and I encourage businesses to start staffing up and making the necessary preparations to give cruise passengers a great experience when they arrive.”
Despite assurances that the visits will be handled in a manner as safe as possible for the local population, the question remains how many cruise ships will visit. For several months, most cruise ships have been sailing at 60% or more of total capacity.
How Likely is a Return?
While the government now says it will be opening for cruise ships, it seems unlikely cruise companies will be willing to decrease occupancy rates and sacrifice their profits for a port of call. A move that will not sit well with shareholders.
During talks earlier this month between representatives of the cruise industry and the Cayman Islands, Michele Paige, president of the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA), said:
“The cruise industry has to respect what the Cayman Islands wants in terms of the cruise industry product. So, it’s a respect back-and-forth, and that’s where we are right now, is discussing that respect.”
The return of cruising to the Cayman Islands comes after many months of fierce resistance from several local organizations, confusing messages from different government entities, and a failed restart late last year due to the emergence of Omicron. Whether this attempt to bring cruising back to the Cayman Islands will finally be successful remains to be seen.