By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT
THE Bahamas will likely say “yes” to Carnival Cruise Lines stopping at its ports if sailing resumes on August 1 as planned, Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar said yesterday.
Carnival Cruise Line announced plans yesterday to resume sailing in three months. These plans come despite the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention saying that cruise ship travel exacerbates the global spread of COVID-19.
“Right now I would say yes,” Mr D’Aguilar said when asked if The Bahamas would allow the cruise ships to dock here. “We don’t know what would happen in Florida in three months. We don’t know what will happen in The Bahamas in three months. We have to play it by ear and as we get closer to the intended date, we will make that call.”
Mr D’Aguilar said while no one can predict what will happen in the future, it is good to set a target date and work towards it.
“We would have to look at conditions on the ground here and also to see where these people would be coming from to see whether it’s a go,” Mr D’Aguilar explained. “We will evaluate that closer to the time, but right now, right here, I would say yes.
“There are two concerns that The Bahamas will have as it relates to foreign visitors returning to the country. The first concern is that foreigners that come here, don’t make us sick. The second concern is that we don’t make the foreign visitors that come here sick. We are working on the proper protocols to prevent all of this.”
At the start of the COVID-19 spread, many cruise lines experienced horrific incidents of being stuck at sea with both sick and healthy passengers and crew on board. Many nations, including The Bahamas, refused to let ships with COVID-19 positive or suspected cases dock and disembark. Most notably, the Diamond Princess had 712 COVID-19 positive passengers and crew on board.
In early March, as ports turned them away and many passengers fell ill, and amid reported pressure from the White House, major cruise liners announced a temporary halt on their operations.
Yesterday, Mr D’Aguilar said he is confident cruise companies will put the necessary measures in place to protect their passengers in light of the bad publicity they received at the height of the crisis.
“If we specifically zero in on the cruise industry, I am sure given the public relations nightmare cruise companies have recently experienced, they will be looking to address two issues,” Mr D’Aguilar continued.
“The first will be that if I am going on that ship, I am not going to get sick. And, the second concern is, God forbid if someone does get sick I don’t get stuck on that boat. There were so many stories and the public relations disaster of the Diamond Princess and all these other ships that were floating around with people who couldn’t get off. The cruise companies are going to have to do a heck of a lot to provide comfort to the traveling public by addressing those two issues.”
Carnival Cruise Line said in a statement that it is “committed to supporting all public health efforts to manage the Covid-19 situation.”
The statement continued: “We are taking a measured approach, focusing our return to service on a select number of homeports where we have more significant operations that are easily accessible by car for the majority of our guests.”
Carnival said on August 1, three of its ships will cruise from Galveston, Texas; three others will sail from Miami and two ships will sail from Port Canaveral, Florida.
All other North American and Australian cruises will be canceled through August 31, Carnival said, and the company will use that time to “engage experts, government officials and stakeholders on additional protocols and procedures.”
Mr D’Aguilar said he suspects travellers will be more interested in short, quick cruises to test out the industry first. The Bahamas, he says lines up with that type of cruise out of Florida and once travellers have a negative COVID-19 test, he is counting on the, “robust team of Vernice Walkine, Mike Maura and Joy Jibrilu to see to it that we will be ready and all will go well.”