These Caribbean islands are on the hit list by CDC. They are strictly on their “Do Not Travel” list. So, if you are wondering, “Are Caribbean cruises safe?” Here's how some cruise lines are navigating through Covid-19’s murky waters.
Every single day, every single person has the same problem! Today it is extremely hard to find the right Caribbean cruise itinerary which does not trespass through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Do Not Travel” list. It is hard to find an itinerary that even fully vaccinated people can enjoy. Over the past few months now, the list of some extremely popular Caribbean cruise ports has been brought forward with the much-dreaded Level 4 designation.
CDC’s four-level system that helps alert travelers to health threats worldwide is also focused on the Caribbean islands. So, are Caribbean cruises safe? Let’s find out.
CDC has ranked various countries and islands on a 4-level scale, wherein countries getting a level 4 health notice are deemed “very high risk” in regards to the spread of Covid-19, with a complimentary “Do Not Travel” recommendation for the US citizens.
The Caribbean islands fall at level 4, including islands like Aruba, the British Virgin Islands, The Bahamas, Curacao, Dominica, Jamaica, Haiti, Puerto Rico, St. Barts, St. Kitts, and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Martin, Martinique, and the US Virgin Islands.
It will be really modest if we say that major cruise lines and all the Caribbean islands share the same interest in navigating the murky waters of Covid-19 together. The American cruise industry, dominated by the easily accessible and affordable Caribbean cruises, is not hampered. People are now concerned and are questioning, “Are Caribbean cruises safe?” or “Are the Caribbean islands safe to travel?”
Cruises do play an integral role in growing any region’s tourism industry. Just a couple of years back, approximately 12 million people managed to visit the Caribbean islands on a cruise ship itself. This doubles the number of people on Caribbean cruises from 6.2 million in 2010.
Despite the rising Covid-19 transmission rates, cruise lines are not keeping the popular Caribbean islands on their itineraries by adapting their cruise protocols. This tweaking helps them stay in line with both the ever-changing restrictions of various regions and in the good books of CDC. Today, both the cruise lines and the Caribbean islands are now working together to develop universal guidelines to regulate travel and tourism to this region.
CDC recommends that everyone working on the cruise ship and the passengers be vaccinated before boarding the ship. Vaccinated passengers can go around without a mask and are free to explore the ports on their own.
Since the past few months, cruise ships have been overwhelmingly loaded with passengers ages 12 and above who are also fully vaccinated. A few cruise lines have requested the passengers to be completely vaccinated before they board the ship, without any exceptions. Other cruise lines allow a few unvaccinated people for certain itineraries but are later subject to certain strict masking restrictions and testing policies in terms of going around and shore excursions. These protocols and guidelines also apply to children below the age of 12.
When CDC usually issues a “Do Not Travel” Health Notice for Caribbean cruises and destinations, we are often left wondering, “Are Caribbean cruises safe?” There’s usually an answer to the same. Cruise lines do have multiple options available to them in such situations.
The first option available to cruise lines is to make substitutions to itineraries. If, for example, Covid-19 cases spike in a country and it shuts down because of cruising, cruise lines will usually find another port. So, if you are wondering, “Are Caribbean cruises safe?” you might visit the Cayman Islands port instead with some cruise line.
Rather than banning cruises outrightly, it is highly likely that countries with Covid-19 spike will end up tightening their regulations. In such cases, cruise lines will adjust their guidelines and protocols to adhere to new rules. For instance, like the Bahamas itineraries were restricted to only fully vaccinated people, and only cruises with fully vaccinated people on them could stop at the ports, cruise lines were compelled to change how passengers will be processed on these sailing routes out of Florida.
This regulation essentially forced several cruise lines, like the Royal Caribbean cruise line, to bring forth their vaccine policy for cruises departing to the Bahamas, in line with their own policy for sailings that depart from other US ports. Travelers who are unable to show any proof of vaccination will not be able to sail on the ships. The only exception to this is children under the age of 12, who are not eligible to be vaccinated. However, children are also required to provide a negative test result upon boarding the cruise. Passengers above the age of 12 do need to furnish proof of being fully vaccinated.
Similarly, the Disney cruise line and Carnival cruises also require passengers above the age of 12 to show proof of vaccination before boarding. The only exception here is for the younger children who need to be tested and adhere to wearing a face mask at all times.
The only cruise line to take a stronger stance than all the major ones is the Norwegian cruise line. The cruise line requires passengers to be fully vaccinated before setting sail from any ports to any destination, regardless of their age. The policy shall hold strong until the end of 2021.
Another way cruise lines are today adapting to the increased transmission risk of Covid-19 is by changing the way they handle their shore excursions in specific port calls. On a recent Viking Ocean Cruise, countries that were at Level 4 were restricted in terms of shore excursions to the very-own ship-sponsored “Bubble Excursion.” In places where the CDC level ratings were below 4, the passengers are allowed to explore the shores and destinations on their own.
Passengers out on a “bubble excursion” will explore the ports as a part of the guided tour with other passengers on the same ship. Passengers looking to explore destinations on their own must still follow the protocols laid out by the specific country. For example, countries can require travelers and visitors to show proof of vaccinations even to dine indoors in a restaurant.
Today, most Caribbean islands are currently at Level 3, with only a few exceptions to be at level 4. Level 3 also means “High risk” of transmission of Covid-19. The Level 3 Caribbean islands include Anguilla, Antigua, Barbados, Bermuda, St. Vincent, Grenadines, Turks, and Caicos. Most Caribbean cruise itineraries also have a port stop in Mexico, which also stands at Level 3.
It is extremely crucial for cruise enthusiasts to understand that protocols can differ from cruise line to cruise line. Every cruise line will have its own set of rules, so as travelers, you need to complete your homework before you book one and only then prepare to voyage out.
So, for people still wondering and in a dilemma, “are Caribbean cruises safe?” Leisure's travel guide’s advice for you cruisers is to be extremely flexible with your plans. You might sign up for a destination or a cruise, and the plans might change at any moment because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Do not be discouraged to cruise or be disheartened when plans do not go your way. Lay low and wait for it to come back to normal, like most of us.