In light of the recent issues that arose due to Omicron, one cruise port that seeks to solve the current situation is St. Maarten. The Dutch Caribbean Island says it’s actively working with cruise partners to carry out a working formula and to support the cruise industry.
Omicron is causing significant issues for the cruise industry. At the same time, the announcement from the CDC to raise the travel health notice for cruises to level four has surprised many cruise lines and cruise destinations, including St. Maarten, in the eastern Caribbean.
With the cruise lines showing low infection numbers onboard, and cases proving to be minor or asymptomatic, the CDC’s decision can only be seen as perplexing. All this despite the extreme measures cruise lines have already taken to combat and control any positive cases onboard ships.
So far, making an organized plan to keep the cruise industry running while dealing with the Omicron variant seems difficult. In recent days, multiple destinations and governments have started to implement their own rules, but despite this, cruising is still set to continue.
PSG Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Alexander Gumbs says, “As a cruise port and destination, we have been following developments closely, and now we see the CDC has escalated the situation advising travelers not to take a cruise. The situation is now very fluid as regional destinations have random heightened public health protocols, and this is making confirmed cruise itineraries very difficult to plan by the cruise companies.”
A solution could be on the way, as St. Maarten works with the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) to form a new cruise committee that would chart the way ahead and stop random implementations of requirements to dock:
“You also have some destinations delayed in making decisions whether a cruise ship should dock, and the worst is to have a ship come into port and after docking, is informed that passengers and crew have been denied disembarkation. This reflects very negatively on the cruise destination,”
The first meeting took place on December 30; more than 100 executives, Port directors, and Government officials attended an emergency meeting summoned by the FCCA and backed by Cruise Lines International (CLIA). For St. Maarten, this is particularly important. For the first three months of the new year, the island is expected to welcome approximately half a million cruise passengers.
Although the words from the port CEO sound hopeful, there could very well be some obstacles in the way. The island is still looking at its health protocols and how to make tourism viable:
Minister of TEATT Hon. Roger Lawrence said on Thursday: “We have established a local cruise work group and are closely working with cruise industry partners to carry out a working formula that we can incorporate to navigate through these new challenges in a manner that will safeguard public health safety and our continued economic recovery.”
Recently, Carnival Cruise Line sent out a letter to guests booked on at least one upcoming voyage that St. Maarten was being replaced with an alternative port due to new requirements implemented by the authorities. However, since then, it has been confirmed that the islands are not implementing new requirements and continue to welcome cruise ships and work with cruise lines.
Whether St. Maarten and the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) will form an agreement that will satisfy the cruise lines, major cruise ports of call and local governments remains to be seen. The fact is that the agreement needs to be in place soon if the Caribbean wants to avoid thousands of people losing their livelihoods again.