At the behest of cruise lines, the government plans to change COVID-19 arrival protocols for cruise passengers, especially given that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has dropped its cruise line monitoring program, and given that some other competing cruise destinations have dropped their protocols altogether, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investments and Aviation Chester Cooper told Guardian Business yesterday.
Cooper said The Bahamas plans to align its cruise arrival protocols with air arrival protocols.
The Bahamas’ protocol for cruise passengers disembarking in Nassau or a private island was that they had to be fully vaccinated.
This paper revealed last week that cruise companies held a meeting with government officials and cruise line stakeholders hoping to have the arrival protocols changed, especially given that the CDC released the cruise ship companies from its monitoring program and they themselves began to loosen their testing and vaccination requirements.
Cooper said the government will now ensure arrival protocols for cruise lines are the same as for air passengers. He said the only difference is that The Bahamas still requires 95 percent of cruise lines’ crew members to be vaccinated.
“What we are doing is harmonizing the entry protocols for air and cruise,” said Cooper.
“So, in effect, 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. 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.”
Cooper explained that while the government still has concerns about the low level of vaccinations in the country, it considers this move to lessen the restrictions for cruise passengers important for the industry.
“We think that this is good for the cruise industry and we’ve always supported the cruise industry,” he said.
“This is a very competitive business, where many of our competing destinations have no requirements whatsoever.”
He added that The Bahamas will also still require cruise Iines to report their onboard COVID-19 monitoring and surveillance.
Carnival Cruise Line revealed on its website last Friday that it will change its protocols beginning September 6, dropping testing for vaccinated guests on sailing less than 16 days and allowing unvaccinated passengers to only show a negative test at embarkation.
The cruise line revealed last week in a statement that its bookings through the end of 2022 are “very solid”, after announcing that it had revised its pre-cruise vaccination and testing requirements.