NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Nassau Cruise Port’s top executive said yesterday that it will likely not be until 2022 that cruise traffic volumes return significantly, noting that this nation must now expand and improve on its own protocols around cruise tourism in light of the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) lifting its “No Sail Order”.
Mike Maura, the cruise port operator/developer’s chief executive, told Eyewitness News: “It’s not going to be until 2022 when we begin to see a significant level of cruise traffic from a ship and passenger perspective.
“I think we will see 2021 as a year of the cruise lines climbing back to the 2019 levels. If cruise ships are sailing to the Bahamas in 2020 over these last few months I’m highly doubtful we are going to see ships with passengers calling any commercial or economic hub, Nassau or Freeport.
“I just don’t see it happening. I don’t think they are going to get through their phasing fast enough.
“You already have some cruise lines publicly canceled all their sailings for 2020. You have other cruise lines said they don’t want to be the first one out.
“Cruise lines are hammering out these protocols but at the same time don’t want to make mistakes.
“This year has been devastating to these cruise lines and they want to make sure every step is in fact on solid ground.”
The CDC this past weekend lifted its ‘No Sail Order’ on cruise lines, ending a more than seven-month ban.
The ‘No Sail Order’ first went into effect on March 14 and was extended on April 15, July 16 and September 30, when it was extended until October 31.
The CDC has established a series of requirements cruise lines will have to undertake to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
The CDC said a careful approach is needed to safely resume cruise ship passenger operations.
The initial phase will consist of testing and additional safeguards for crew members and ensuring cruise lines have adequate health and safety protections for crew.
It noted that subsequent phases will include simulated voyages to test the cruise lines’ ability to mitigate COVID-19 risk, certification for ships that meet specific requirements, and a phased return to passenger cruises in a manner that, the CDC said, would mitigate COVID-19 risk to passengers, crew and US communities.
Maura said: “It’s very good news that the CDC has come out with what the cruise lines will need to do for it to consider approving the resumption of sailing with passengers.
“The CDC remains very cautious about promoting any kind of unnecessary travel. What is important to appreciate in my view is that for the last seven or eight months anyone with any leadership or responsibility has been involved in developing protocols to deal with this pandemic.
“The cruise industry, airline industry, governments and ports have been working on plans and protocols for six to eight months.
“It’s not that this document allows persons to start their process. What the CDC has done is given more definition and clarity to what the protocols need to be.”
He added: “While the CDC is a significant leadership stakeholder within this effort to resume travel, they are not the be all and end all, meaning there are other key stakeholders such as the government across the Caribbean. Where the cruise lines are going, governments have to develop their protocols around cruise tourism. The Bahamas has to expand and improve upon its own protocols in light of what the CDC.”
Maura noted that the port operator has been waiting on the cruise lines to come forward with their specific expectations, plans and protocols.
He said: “We have not received anything in writing. Now that the CDC has said what it has to say, I think the cruise lines are going to be looking to see what governments in this region require. Once they understand what the government and CDC require then they can communicate with ports, so there is more work to be done there.”