Jamaica has welcomed the decision by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to lift its no-sail order for cruise ships in U.S. ports as a step in the right direction.
Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett in an interview with the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) News, said while it will take some time for full normality to return to the cruise industry, the move by the CDC is a win for Jamaica and other Caribbean cruise-dependent nations.
He said that countries can now fast-track their preparations to meet all the expected protocols that will be required.
“This is a win for the cruise industry, which has been basically paralyzed since operations ceased back in March amid COVID-19 outbreaks at sea,” Bartlett noted.
“There are, however, strict conditions … that both the cruise lines and their island partners, including Jamaica, will have to follow. Just like how the hotels have had to put in their set of protocols, the cruise sector will have to meet certain requirements to protect passengers and staff and also their destination of travel,” he added.
The Tourism Minister said the CDC has put the onus on cruise companies to prove their COVID protocols are working, with specific testing requirements and trial runs before passengers can return.
In addition, operators will have to enter into written agreements with land-side medical facilities to treat any affected passengers.
Bartlett said cruise shipping is an integral part of the local economy, noting that attractions, craft traders, bus drivers, duty-free merchants, and souvenir shop owners were among some of the hardest hit by the lockdown.
“We are going to have to now enter into a new way of thinking so as to accommodate their re-entry. As I said, it will take some time before we have it all together, but the main thing is hope … and that’s what the CDC has given us in removing its no-sail order for the ships.”
The executive director of the Royal Shop chain of duty-free stores, Ravi Daswani, said the news that the ban on cruising has been lifted is one “that reverberates positively throughout the entire sector.
“We all have been waiting for the sign that this day would come. It has been a long road of pain and suffering. Hopefully, this will materialize soon so we can all start to earn again,” he told JIS News.
Last Friday, the CDC, in addition to lifting its no-sail order, which expired on October 31, also released a list of detailed requirements that could put ships back in operation in the coming months.
The agency’s 40-page directive requires a phased approach to restarting cruises. Companies must first demonstrate that they can successfully protect crew members from COVID-19, then conduct simulated cruises with volunteer passengers, and obtain a “Conditional Sailing Certificate” from the CDC.
Companies with ships in US waters will have to adhere to crew management plans approved by the CDC earlier this year that require them to provide individual cabins for all crew members.
Most cruise companies—Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean Group, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, MSC Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, and Virgin Voyages—have canceled all cruises leaving from U.S. ports until at least December 1.