The Ministry of Tourism is vying for Cayman to be added as a first port of call as part of efforts to allow cruise ships to safely return to the islands.
One of the hurdles to bringing cruise ships back is the mid-voyage placement of the Cayman Islands on cruise schedules, Tourism Minister Kenneth Bryan explained at a meeting with the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, on Thursday, 29 July.
He said that, on most routes, the cruise ships stop at other destinations before reaching Cayman. That means that even if passengers are vaccinated and have provided negative COVID test results before boarding, they would be mingling with people at destinations such as Jamaica or South American countries before arriving here.
Bryan said that his ministry had suggested to the cruise lines that Cayman could be considered as a first port option, but they responded that this was not possible because of fuelling issues.
“I’m asking my team if there is an incentive that we can offer from a fuelling perspective to get them here first,” the minister said. “If we can get them to Cayman before they go on to another jurisdiction which is a higher risk, then we can solve the concerns about safety.”
Cayman has one of the highest vaccination rates in the Caribbean, and there have been no reports of community transmission of COVID-19 here since last year.
Under Cayman’s phased reopening plan, cruise ships will not be allowed to come here until next year, but Bryan said if the cruise lines could demonstrate that they meet all the safety protocols that the Cayman Islands government require, they may be introduced earlier.
He added that once those safety protocols were met, there would be no need for a phased re-introduction of the ships.
“I don’t think we want to hold back any more customers once we get to that safety zone,” he said. “We want people making money again. Obviously, we don’t want the port congested all at one time and it’d be in a controlled manner. Hypothetically speaking, magically, if things were safe and happy and everything was controlled, we would welcome cruise ships in tomorrow.”
Most of the cruise lines that previously were regular visitors to Cayman now require their adult passengers to be vaccinated. A recent court challenge over such a requirement means that passengers boarding ships in Florida – the main embarkation point for most of the cruises that come to Cayman – cannot legally be required in that state to provide proof that they have been vaccinated.
However, cruise lines with ships leaving from Florida say passengers are being asked to voluntarily show proof of vaccination. Passengers who do not demonstrate that they have received their jabs will be considered to be unvaccinated and will be required to undergo COVID tests while on board and adhere to mask-wearing and social-distancing rules. Also, certain venues on the ship will only be open to vaccinated travellers.
The Cayman Islands stopped allowing cruise ships to dock here on 16 March last year.
Cayman’s 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 on 14 March at Health City Cayman Islands.