Despite posting possible sailing dates, cruise lines are still unsure of a concrete date to begin sailing once again, as they continue to negotiate with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on requirements to guard against the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar said yesterday, adding that Nassau Cruise Port Limited is projecting cruise arrivals into Nassau to decline by over 60 percent in 2020.
D’Aguilar, who made the comments during his contribution to the 2020/2021 budget debate, said this uncertainty does not bode well for businesses in the downtown area that depend on millions of cruise passengers for their livelihood.
D’Aguilar said a recent conversation with Carnival Corporation President and Chief Executive Officer Arnold Donald revealed that the cruise industry is still in limbo as a result of COVID-19.
“He indicated that the cruise industry has not yet set a date for its reopening as it is still in negotiations with the CDC in the United States,” said D’Aguilar.
“They are all trying to work out the necessary health protocols that must be in place before, during and after a cruise.
“The dates that seem to have some traction for an opening of the cruise industry are, at the earliest, sometime in late August or early September and at the latest, late November, early December. Very fluffy, Mr. Speaker, very vague but we have to wait until the cruise companies and the CDC work it out, which, of course, is not good news for all those businesses, especially in the downtown area, that rely on the cruise industry for their bread and butter.”
D’Aguilar said last year, 5.4 million visitors came to The Bahamas by cruise before the industry came to a stop this year because of COVID-19.
Despite the ambiguity surrounding cruise sailings, D’Aguilar said there is optimism that the cruise industry will rebound.
“They have proven time and time again just how resilient they are and the data reveals that most persons who booked a cruise have not canceled, but simply rescheduled to another date when this coronavirus pandemic is less of an issue,” he said.
“Naturally, the cruise industry regards The Bahamas as a critical destination for the restart of their businesses. We are so close to the three busiest cruise ports in the world… Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Canaveral… and a natural first stop and in some instances, a natural only stop for those wishing to venture back onto a cruise ship.”
Disney announced that it would extend sailing suspensions for its Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy sailings through July 27, 2020.
According to Disney’s website, a three-night cruise is scheduled to visit Nassau and the cruise line’s private island, Castaway Cay, departing from Port Canaveral, Florida, on July 31.
Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited (RCCL) announced late last month that it extended its sailing suspension to August, one month ahead of Carnival Cruise Line (CCL).