Cruise lines face regulation not just from the country where their ships sail from, but also from the countries where they make port stops. That has led to a challenging array of covid protocols based on which ports of call a ship visits.
That makes communication with passengers a challenge. In the early days of Royal Caribbean International (RCL) – Get Royal Caribbean Group Report, Carnival Cruise Lines (CCL) – Get Carnival Corporation Report, Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCLH) – Get Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. Report, and other cruise lines returning from their pandemic shutdown rules were constantly shifting. Mask requirements when onboard kept shifting and vaccination rules took a while to settle down.
That was made more complicated by the fact that many of the countries the cruise lines visited had varying rules. Some ports required families with unvaccinated kids to only take cruise line sponsored excursions while others had mask rules that were more strict than the ones on the ship. In addition, some ports required an actual health visa for anyone hoping to get off.
Adding the requirement created an added level of confusion for passengers. There was one set of rules and protocols to get on the ship and another (maybe more than one other) set for certain ports. In some cases, this involved filing paperwork before leaving home and there was often an added cost.
Now, one frequent cruise destination has dropped a key covid rule.
Bahamas Ends a Key Covid Rule
In the early days of the pandemic, Royal Caribbean used Nassau, Bahamas as the home port for Adventure of the Seas. That allowed people from the United States to fly to the island nation and board the ship for a sailing similar to the ones that usually left from Florida home ports.
Taking that trip required not just producing a negative covid test but also applying for a Bahamas health visa. The health visa was not a requirement once ships started sailing from the U.S. again for people planning to get off for a port day in the Bahamas. Pre-visit covid testing was still required, but as long as cruise ship passengers were vaccinated, they did not need the health visa.
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Now, the Bahamas has dropped the health visa requirement completely and it’s eliminating testing requirements for vaccinated travelers.
“The Bahamas is adapting to the continued evolution of this pandemic. We want to streamline the entry process for travelers as much as possible, all the while ensuring we are protecting public health,” Deputy Prime Minister Chester Cooper said Travel Weekly reported.
All passengers on cruise ships 12-and-over must still be vaccinated but this does appear to be a first step toward loosening the rules and perhaps eventually dropping the vaccine requirement.
The Bahamas Still Requires Vaccination Proof
Florida law does not allow businesses to require proof of vaccination for customers. Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Norwegian get around that rule by essentially requiring that passengers provide provide proof of vaccination due to the various ports (most notably the Bahamas having a vaccination requirement in place).
That’s sort of a workaround to appease Florida Governor Ron DeSantis who has taken a far-right anti-vaccine stance, but generally seems happy making his political point even if he doesn’t exactly get his way.
If the Bahamas take the next logical step and drops its vaccine requirement (something it has not suggested is coming any time soon) then the cruise lines would likely have to follow.
For now, the move the Bahamas made has little impact on the cruise industry aside from being a general signal that things are moving closer to normal. If, however the island nation takes the next step, that likely means the cruise lines would have to follow unless a change was made to Florida law (which seems highly unlikely).
For now, the Bahamas and other cruise stops with vaccine requirements continue to give the cruise lines the cover they need to avoid a political fight they very much want to avoid.