Fancy going on a cruise? “No” is the emphatic answer for most people considering the global pandemic, but for those that enjoy that sort of vacation, hopping from port to port on a luxury liner will soon be possible again.
After more than a year without cruising in the Caribbean, Royal Caribbean returns to the seas in June, to the Bahamas and Mexico on Adventure of the Seas.
The Celebrity Millennium ship will relaunch on June 5 from St Maarten. One itinerary will stop in Aruba, Curacao and Barbados, and another will stop in Tortola, St Lucia and Barbados.
Adventure of the Seas will sail a series of seven-night roundtrip cruises from Nassau starting June 12 through August. The itinerary will stop at Grand Bahama Island and include two days at the cruise line's private island, Perfect Day at CocoCay. Adventure of the Seas has a capacity of 3,835 passengers and 1,185 crew, a total of 5,020.
Cruises are open only to passengers who can show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 and those under 18 who have negative test results. All crew on board will be vaccinated as well.
But the decision to only allow vaccinated customers on board has sparked calls to boycott firms from some, who say the cruise line are 'eroding freedoms'.
Vaccine critic Dr Simone Gold tweeted: “WOW: @RoyalCaribbean cruises is now requiring you to get an experimental vaccine to book a cruise with them. I will be boycotting the company instead. Who else is with me? #BoycottRC”
Jan Nolin said: “@RoyalCaribbean my medical information is none of your business! I won't be patronizing any business that requires my personal health information.”
Another Twitter user, Shelley Orr, added: “Our freedoms are eroding right before our very eyes!!”
Passengers will also have to adhere to the requirements of the country they visit.
Judging from Tripadvisor reviews from when it last sailed, Adventure of the Seas will have no problem finding willing passengers. One woman wrote: “My husband and I decided to take a cruise for our 35-year anniversary and booked on Royal Caribbean's Adventures of the Seas Ship. We thoroughly enjoyed our trip due to the personnel were so kind and helpful as well as caring that it was our anniversary celebration. We could not have asked for a better team to take care of our cabin and our meals.”
Linda O stated in April 2020: “We had 10 cruises booked on this ship but due to the virus we had to get off after 3. We were having a great time the crew was awesome all the specialty restaurants were great. Katy the cruise director was great our suite attendant Lester was great. We really hated getting off as no one was sick on board.”
Cruise executives are relieved too. "We are excited to get back to delivering memorable vacations in the Caribbean, gradually and safely," Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International said. "The vaccines are clearly a game changer for all of us, and with the number of vaccinations and their impact growing rapidly, we believe starting with cruises for vaccinated adult guests and crew is the right choice. As we move forward, we expect this requirement and other measures will inevitably evolve over time.
"The opportunity to homeport in The Bahamas is a testament to the tremendous partners the government and the people of the island nation have been to us for more than 50 years. We are grateful for the confidence that they have in us and our commitment to a healthy and happy return to sailing."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued various versions of no-sail orders that have kept the industry from sailing.
While cruise lines continue to work with the CDC on a return from the US, alternative homeports - like Nassau - are emerging as an effective option for a safe and more immediate return. Luxury cruise line Crystal recently announced it would sail from Nassau and Bimini starting in July.
Royal Caribbean has said it hasn’t yet decided whether additional health and safety measures, like mask-wearing, social distancing and ship-sponsored excursions will be required, but Chief Marketing Officer Jim Berra said those types of actions are "in the consideration set."
Royal Caribbean also unveiled a new summer series of fully vaccinated cruises in the Mediterranean.
Disney Cruise Line also has a new line up of destinations you can visit – but that won’t be until next year. DCL released their summer 2022 itineraries, including voyages to new destinations and favourite ports of call in the Greek Isles, Mediterranean, northern Europe, Alaska and the Caribbean. Disney will sail for the first time from Miami. The inaugural voyage will be on 7 June 2022 on Disney Dream, which used to be based in Port Canaveral.
In addition to visiting Castaway Cay, three- and four-night cruises from Miami will call on Nassau, Bahamas, while five-night cruises include a stop at either Grand Cayman or Cozumel, Mexico. One special five-night sailing features two stops at Castaway Cay, along with a call on Nassau.
Why cruise lines prefer the Bahamas
The regulations that apply to ships are determined by the country where they are registered.
Some countries have stricter regulations, such as the US, which supplies the cruise market with the majority of its customers.
A ship registered in the US is governed by United States maritime law, which specifies the wages that must be paid to crew, the environmental safeguards that apply to waste disposal, the certifications for ships' officers and the right of passengers to take action against the cruise operator in a US court of law, to name just a few of the strictures.
A cruise operator might decide that they would rather operate under a less strict regime, and most do.
This means they register in another country and adopt a flag of convenience, and in the cruise industry the preferred flag is that of the Bahamas. Among other advantages, the Bahamas does not impose any tax on income. Any profit the cruise line makes is untaxed; neither is there any tax on capital gain if a vessel is sold at a profit.