Bahamas likely to be first cruise destination to reopen for tourists

The Bahamas may reopen to cruise tourists by July 1st, according to Prime Minister Hubert Minnis, depending on the finalisation of health and safety protocols.

“Our resorts, our airports and our seaports are finalising the health and safety protocols that will be necessary for us to provide for a re-opening,” he said, speaking to the public on Sunday.

Parliament Square, Bahamas

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However, he warned local citizens that they had to play their part. “Our opening,” he said, “will depend on your cooperation” with measures to combat the spread of COVID-19.

The government’s COVID-19 Coordinating Committee is drafting plans to gradually re-open the Bahamian economy in five phases.

The five phases to reopening the economy of The Bahamas

Like other islands in the Caribbean, that rely on tourism for a large part of their revenue, the Bahamas have taken a major economic hit in recent months, with the government deficit widening by 80% during the first quarter of the year and has sent the unemployment rate to 30%.

Carnival Cruise Line is planning to be the first to resume cruise calls to the islands, with limited sailings out of several ports beginning August 1st. Carnival Elation is currently open for bookings for two four-night sailings from Port Canaveral to Nassau and Princess Cays.

Nassau is continuing with its cruise port redevelopment project

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Norwegian Cruise Line will follow, and has a variety of Bahamas-bound sailings from Miami, Port Canaveral and even New York City currently listed as available for booking in August.

Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, was the busiest cruise port in the world outside North America before the pandemic, with more than 4-million cruise tourists annually, injecting several hundred million dollars into the economy.

Cruise tourism provides more than US $3.5-billion to the wider GDP of the Caribbean islands.

Carnival’s Freeport Project

The Tribune Business reports that Carnival’s US $200 million cruise terminal in Freeport is ongoing, but has been temporarily paused. “We continue to work with the Government of The Bahamas on the permitting process,” a spokesperson told the site.

“We have currently paused our global cruise operations, which includes port development activity, for the safety of all of our crew, guests and destination partners,” the spokesperson added.

Carnival Cruise Line, like all other cruise companies, is doing everything possible to curtail expenditures during the global cruise shutdown.

While some cruise destinations around the world have ruled out cruise ship visits entirely until at least the end of next year, others like the Bahamas are planning to reopen soon.

Puerto Vallarta on Mexico’s west coast, will start its reopening process on May 18 as the State of Jalisco enters Phase 0 of its COVID-19 recovery plan, but will remain closed to tourists for at least another few weeks.

“Tourism is a very important industry in our state, and we are looking forward to welcoming back international visitors when the time is right,” said German Ralis, Minister of Tourism of the State of Jalisco.

“However, we remain very cautious with our plans for re-opening Jalisco, including popular tourism destinations like Puerto Vallarta, to ensure that the safest and cleanest conditions await guests upon their return.”

The island of Dominica meanwhile, has indicated that it anticipates a strong 2021 cruise season following the completion of a number of tourism development projects.

A long-awaited cruise village market has been in an advanced stage of planning, and the idea of cruise terminal has been floated.

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