There are encouraging signs in the Caribbean that some destinations may soon start opening up to cruise ships, possibly providing the US cruise market with a way to emulate the limited resumption of cruises that has taken place in Europe.
The Federation of St Kitts and Nevis this week became the first cruise destination in the Caribbean to announce that it will soon open up to international tourism, including cruise ships, leading at least one cruise line to immediately confirm it will call in 2021.
In a statement, Lindsay Grant, the Federation’s Minister of Tourism, said that the islands were currently providing thousands of stakeholders in the tourism sector with training on the prevention of the spread of coronavirus so that reopening could be done safelty.
“The St Kitts Tourism Authority, the Nevis Tourism Authority, and the Ministry of Tourism, in conjunction with the ministries of health and civil aviation, is conducting […] training exercises for over 5,000 tourism industry stakeholders, including hotels at no cost to them,” said Grant.
St. Kitts & Nevis did well countering the spread of the virus. It has no active cases and the nation has recorded zero COVID-19 related deaths over the course of the pandemic so far. It will be looking to keep it that way, with strict measures in place for disembarking passengers.
This will likely include measures such as those implemented in Europe for the resumption of cruises there, including rapid COVID testing, temperature checks, social distancing, and limited interaction with the public on organized tours.
While St Kitts has indicated it will reopen in October, a date that aligns with the CDC’s no-sail order for US cruises, there’s growing expectations that the order may be extended as coronavirus continues to spread unabated in the United States.
Already, several major cruise lines reliant on the US market have begun cancelling cruises into December, 2020 and even 2021.
However, Fred Olsen Cruise Lines immediately confirmed that it will be calling at the islands in 2021, with Graham saying it was indication of how popular the islands were for cruise passengers (more than one million visited in 2018 and 2019).
“This is a clear indication that our island’s attractions, tours and services offer significant appeal to cruise visitors,” Grant said.
“Now, more than ever, as we get ready to reopen tourism, it is critical that we continue to work together to maintain our physical product standards and to ensure health and safety protocols are adhered to by all tourism stakeholders, to provide a premier guest experience,” Grant added.
If the CDC allows cruise ships to begin sailing from US ports with stringent health and safety protocols in place, such as those in Europe, the reopening of St Kitts would give cruise lines with private island destinations an alternative port of call on limited Caribbean itineraries, providing at least a way forward from the current full lockdown of all operations.
However, with the vast majority of private cruise islands located in the Bahamas, and St Kitts a full two days sailing to the east of the Caribbean, what the US cruise market really needs is for the Bahamas and other nearby Caribbean destinations to reopen.
While The Bahamas has reopened to international tourism under strict conditions, it remains closed to cruise ships. Cruise industry officials in the country have indicated that it will be late in 2020 before cruise ships might be allowed back.