Cruise ships with a call to Puerto Rico scheduled will be unlikely to dock in the capital in the next week. The local government implemented strict entry requirements that will be making it near impossible for ships to comply.
The island has implemented a new rule which states that all passengers and crew members who wish to disembark in Puerto Rico must have a negative result of a viral test (molecular or antigen) performed within two days (48 hours) before disembarking in Puerto Rico.
The first ship to be affected has been Symphony of the Seas, which was denied entry this morning, December 27 at no fault to the cruise line.
The Puerto Rico Department of Health (PRDH) sent out a letter on December 26, implementing a near-immediate rule change that states all guests onboard must show a negative test result from a test taken no more than two days before disembarking in Puerto Rico.
The first ship that fell victim to the sudden change in rules in Puerto Rico was the Symphony of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship operated by Royal Caribbean. The vessel was denied entry to the port this morning, December 27. As the government implemented the rules only the day before, there was no time to react. The vessel sailed past Puerto Rico and has since made a course to, possibly, the US Virgin Islands, or its next port of call, St. Maarten.
According to the Department of Health, strict measures were necessary as soon as possible: “Puerto Rico, like the rest of the world, is experiencing an increase in cases due to the introduction of the omicron variant. Currently, Puerto Rico has a 21.7% positivity rate in molecular tests and an incidence of 372 cases per 100.000 inhabitants, which places us at a high level of transmission.“
The island also implemented a rule that states that all passengers or crew members identified as close contacts and passengers and crew members who have tested positive, regardless of their vaccination status, will not be able to disembark in Puerto Rico. The only exception will be if they need medical help that the vessel would not be able to provide.
The rules state the following: “All passengers and crew members who wish to disembark in Puerto Rico must be fully vaccinated with a vaccine approved by the World Health Organization and must have a negative result of a viral test (molecular or antigen) performed within 2 days (48 hours) before disembarking in Puerto Rico.”
Symphony of the Seas recently had 48 confirmed COVID cases on board during a recent cruise in the Caribbean. It comes during a heightened time due to the Omicron variant. The Oasis-class cruise ship is currently sailing an eight-day Caribbean itinerary that departed Miami in Florida on December 23, 2021.
The Call at the cruise line’s own private island at Perfect Day at CocoCay and the call in Nassau, both in the Bahamas went ahead as normal. Many guests will be hoping that the scheduled visit to St. Maarten on December 28 will go ahead as normal.
The new rule change from the Department of Health will bring some significant problems for cruise lines sailing to San Juan. Especially for ships sailing to the islands in the next few days.
They will need to implement ship-wide testing to make a call to San Juan. Something that is not likely to happen, or even possible. Unless cruise lines can find a way around the new protocols, cruising to San Juan could be a long way out. It’s a similar scenario to the Cayman Islands, which recently implemented a 24-hour window for all guests to be tested.
It’s another blow for an industry that has seen multiple cruise ports cancelled in the last weeks. Only recently, Allure of the Seas was denied entry to St. Thomas, St. Kitts, and St. Maarten, having to reroute to a single call in Perfect Day at CocoCay.
The question as well being how guests will react to these recent changes. With multiple ports denying entry to cruise ships, despite vaccination and testing mandates in place before the voyage, a cancellation of a port will not sit well with many guests, especially if the majority of Caribbean ports start following this example.
Other ships that have been affected with recent port of call cancellations include Odyssey of the Seas, which saw 0.78% of the total number of guests and crew positive, and was denied in the Dutch Caribbean.
Holland America’s Koningsdam cancelled a call to Puerto Vallarta after authorities denied passengers permission to disembark. So far, all ships that have seen positive cases onboard have communicated that cases were either asymptomatic or with very light symptoms.