The Bahamas is drawing up plans to remove the strict requirements for cruise passengers and bring these to the same level as airline passengers visiting the islands.
This is what Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investments, and Aviation Chester Cooper said earlier this week, saying the rules will be changed after extensive discussions with the cruise industry.
The Bahamas to Open Up for Cruise Ships
After several weeks of discussions, the moment seems to have come where the Bahamas will implement the same requirements for cruise ship passengers as it has for airline passengers.
This means that guests who have been fully vaccinated do not need to be tested, and guests that have not been fully vaccinated will need to show a negative test result of a test taken no more than 72 hours before departure.
This requirement will be the same for guests embarking at cruise ports such as Nassau and for private islands such as Perfect Day at CocoCay or Princess Cays.
Minister of Tourism Chester Cooper said to Nassau Guardian: “What’s going to happen is the same requirements for air arrivals are going to now apply to cruise arrivals. Before, what you had were some additional requirements in terms of testing. Now it’s the same 72 hours for unvaccinated people and no test for vaccinated people.”
After extensive talks between the Bahamian government and the cruise industry, the new requirements have been decided on. They were set in motion after the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) dropped its voluntary program for cruise ships.
What date the Minister has in mind to bring the new rules into effect is unclear, but it seems logical this would be in the first week of September, when most cruise lines will be removing vaccination requirements.
Minister Cooper continued: “This is what the cruise lines wanted. CDC has dropped its monitoring requirements for cruise lines and therefore, we’re moving in line with the international standards. Many of the cruise lines have already established protocols along the lines of what we are doing… in other words, they have established it for other destinations and they asked us to reconsider what we were doing.”
The only requirement that stands as before is that the Bahamas will continue to require cruise ships to sail with at least 95% of the crew fully vaccinated.
Strong Links between Cruise Industry and the Bahamas
The fact that one of the most important destinations for the cruise industry still had some of the strictest requirements in the Caribbean was a significant factor in the cruise lines’ inability to move to less strict onboard requirements sooner.
The Bahamas still have reservations about loosening the rules governing the entry of cruise passengers. Still, the choice was made to ease restrictions because of the industry’s importance to the islands. A choice based on financials more than health care.
“We think that this is good for the cruise industry and we’ve always supported the cruise industry,” Cooper said. “This is a very competitive business, where many of our competing destinations have no requirements whatsoever.”
And indeed, now that St Kitts dropped the requirements, quickly followed by the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas did need to take action. Of course, it would be doubtful the cruise lines would be excluding Bahamian ports from itineraries.
Yet, it would undoubtedly affect the number of guests sailing on cruises to the Bahamas versus other Caribbean destinations. And that would have been a severe financial hit for an industry trying to recover from the pandemic.