Cruise tourism will not be returning to the Cayman Islands until next year.

Acting Port Authority Director Joseph Woods confirmed that the Cayman Islands government was extending its ban on cruise ships until 31 Dec.

Woods issued a notice of the government’s decision to the islands’ cruise industry partners, informing them of the new date “so that they could plan according”.

“I sent it to the major cruise lines, the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association, local shipping agents and tender operators,” he told the Cayman Compass in a telephone interview Thursday evening.

Acting Port Director Joseph Woods. Photo: Reshma Ragoonath

In his brief notice, Woods said, “After careful consideration, the Cayman Islands Government has taken the decision that in the current global environment with respect to the coronavirus pandemic, it cannot allow the resumption of cruise tourism in the Cayman Islands for the immediate future.”

He added that Cayman would remain closed for cruise tourism until the end of the year.

The Cayman Islands government stopped allowing cruise ships to dock here on 16 March.

Cayman has not had a new positive COVID-19 case since 13 July, and on Wednesday the Pan-American Health Organization moved its transmission level rating for the country from ‘sporadic’ to ‘no cases’.

Premier Alden McLaughlin welcomed the PAHO status change, saying, “I am gratified that Cayman has now been declared COVID-19-free by PAHO, one of a very few countries in the world to have achieved that status. This is testament to the careful thought, expert advice and effective execution of the Government’s strategy, coupled with the cooperation of the general public.”

The cruise industry has been struggling in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, after several ships reported an outbreak of the virus on board.

In Cayman, the first recorded case of coronavirus involved an Italian passenger from the Costa Luminosa cruise ship who came ashore for medical treatment after he suffered a heart attack. He was later diagnosed with COVID-19 and died at Health City Cayman Islands.

The decision to shut out cruise ships until year’s end follows a Cabinet decision last Friday to extend Cayman’s border closures until 1 Oct.

Government said that decision was taken after “having continually monitored the rate of infection in other countries, particularly in the United States where the pandemic is still widespread”.

Last month, a phased reopening of borders was announced and it included requiring travellers who have tested negative for COVID-19 three days prior to arriving on island to wear a BioButton monitoring device and self-isolate for five days, or, if they choose not to wear the device, quarantine at a government-managed facility for 14 days, officials said in a press release.

The Compass has reached out to Tourism Minister and Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell for comment on this latest development and is awaiting a response.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently imposed a ban at American ports, blocking cruise ships from docking.

Recently, Royal Caribbean Group posted second-quarter losses of US$1.6 billion and Carnival Corporation reported an adjusted net loss of US$2.4 billion for the same period.

However, despite that outlook, industry leaders, in a recent interview with the Compass, appeared optimistic about the future of cruise tourism.

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