Tourism officials say govt confident in its decision due to vaccination/testing requirements
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar announced on Saturday that the government has “loosened its restrictions” for some cruise ship passengers by not requiring a health travel visa to enter the country.
His comments came as Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Serenity luxury ship embarked on a seven-day excursion of the islands of The Bahamas.
D’Aguilar told reporters: “Cruises that initiate out of Florida, the government has loosened its restrictions somewhat.
“All of those passengers that commence or embark in Florida, they will not require a health visa.”
He said the decision was made following hours of consultation with health officials.
“The cruise companies must guarantee that anybody who presents with symptoms or tests positive is immediately disembarked and returned to the United States via medical evacuation,” D’Aguilar said.
According to the minister, knowing that passengers must be fully vaccinated or must have received a negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test on the day they embark gives the government confident in their decision.
He noted, however, the process is different for homeporting passengers, and said the government must differentiate between cruises.
“Homeporting, which [Crystal Cruises] is a component of, and all of their passengers are flying into The Bahamas and spending some time here, so they are observing all of our travel health visa protocols,” D’Aguilar said.
Crystal Cruises, following Royal Caribbean, became the second cruise line to announce a homeporting arrangement with The Bahamas, sailing an all-Bahamas cruise.
The ship will sail to Harbor Island, Exuma, Long Island and San Salvador.
Director General of Tourism Joy Jibrilu underscored D’Aguilar’s point, noting that for cruise ship passengers embarking from Florida, The Bahamas will only be a stop in their itinerary where they will only spend a few hours.
She said: “it is different from homeporting, where the requirement is that everyone must fulfill the government of The Bahamas’ health protocols.”
As it stands, to enter The Bahamas or travel inter-island, a non-vaccinated person must obtain a negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test within five days of travel as well as a health visa, and must take a follow-up rapid antigen test on day five of travel.
Fully vaccinated travelers, who have received all required doses, are exempted from the RT-PCR test requirement but are still required to obtain a health visa.
Written by Eyewitness News Intern Devonté Hanna