Nassau Cruise Port Limited (NCP) planned its 2020 operations around two quarters devoid of revenue from cruise ships, after The Bahamas shut down to fight the coronavirus (COVID-19). NCP expects muted cruise travel in the fourth quarter of 2020 and into 2021, its Chief Executive Officer Mike Maura told Guardian Business yesterday, commenting on the cruise industry’s announcement Friday that cruise suspensions would now extend into mid-September.
Maura said the cruise industry’s latest announcement reveals the depth to which the sector and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continue to labor over operating protocols for cruise lines while COVID-19 remains active in the U.S. and infections increasing in Florida, the cruise line mecca.
The CDC’s no sail order for cruise lines expires on July 24. The cruise lines voluntarily extended their no sail time frame to September 15.
NCP determined early in the pandemic that cruise tourism would take a while to return.
“As you recall, when we were rolling the dice and throwing darts against the board, we believed that we wouldn’t see cruise travel until the fourth quarter,” said Maura.
“So, here we are and it’s likely we will begin to see the return of cruise tourism some time in the fourth quarter of 2020.
“It is reasonable to assume that when these cruise lines start back up, that they will be extremely conservative in their approach to calls in a destination.”
Maura said it is likely that cruise lines will seek to completely tailor their passengers’ onshore experiences in order to continue to mitigate the possibility that COVID-19 is contracted at ports of call and brought back aboard a cruise vessel.
He said it is likely cruise lines would steer their guests toward activities that provide a degree of isolation.
“It is very likely that we will find ourselves at a place where those first ships will have identified local tours and excursions which have complied with and exceed what the cruise lines were requesting in terms of sanitation, social distancing and tests of personnel,” Maura said.
“At the outset, in this pre-vaccine period, after all of the work the cruise lines have gone through to protect their passengers and crew, it is very unlikely that they would support their cruise passengers independently roaming the streets of New Providence. And so they would be looking for very controlled experiences that don’t have their cruise passengers mingling with other cruise passengers or other tourists or residents that have not gone through a very extensive health screening every day.
“For Nassau, we’ll find that this will be a long and slow road and I don’t think we’ll see much in the way of passenger spend in the local community until there is a vaccine.”
While the continued no-sail posture of cruise lines remains an economic bane for Downtown Nassau, its merchants and tour operators, it provides a unique opportunity for NCP to carry out the beginning of its redevelopment of Nassau’s cruise port safely.
Maura said a missing roof on the old Bahamas Customs warehouse signals the beginning of the complete demolition of the building, which is imminent.
“It now puts us in a position where we can knock the walls down, then move on to the Festival Place building, then on to the Port Department building,” he said.
Maura said NCP has shared its COVID-19 protocols with cruise lines and will be ready for ships to call on Nassau once again.
“We have shared with them our plans,” he said. “What we do know is this will continue to be a dynamic process and one where we have to plan, review, adjust.”
He added that communications between cruise lines and the NCP have been positive and that one cruise line has asked for NCP to share its plan with other Caribbean ports.