No less than 520 cruise ship visits are scheduled until the end of the year at Nassau’s Prince George Wharf. This averages out to more than three cruise ships visiting the popular Bahamas port every day until the end of the year.
Although cruise ships are sailing with much lower occupancy rates than before March of 2020, Nassau’s cruise port General Manager Michael Maura is confident the port can welcome 1 million to 1.7 million visitors this year alone.
Traffic Significantly Increasing in Coming Months
As we’ve seen in recent weeks, the cruise industry is ramping up ships at a significant speed. Carnival Corporation announced it would be operational with 75% of its fleet by year’s end only yesterday.
According to Michael Maura, as reported by Tribune Business, cruise lines are becoming more and more confident in operating vessels under the current health requirements, and occupancy levels will be going up steadily to reach 100% before 2022, up from 30-70% most cruise ships are sailing with now.
The Bahamas have always been a popular destination for cruise ships, within easy reach from Florida’s major cruise hubs. Even if ships arrive in the Bahamas with only 30% occupancy, the cruise port will be able to welcome 500,000 visitors, making it the largest homeport and port of call outside the United States. With occupancy rates that approach 100%, this number could grow to 1.7 million visitors.
Nassau’s cruise port General Manager Michael Maura: “If the 520 vessels kept occupancy at 30 percent, we would receive just over 500,000 passengers, but if they averaged 60 percent through the year-end we would welcome one million passengers over the remaining five months of 2021.”
Bahamas Vitally Important to Cruise Industry
The Bahamas has been instrumental in restarting the cruise industry. As the home of many of the cruise line’s private islands, the archipelago plays a vital role in test voyages each ship sailing without a vaccine mandate has to go through. The islands also feature as homeport for Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas and Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Serenity.
Other cruise lines have already started operations in the Bahamas as well. Carnival Corporation ships are already visiting the islands, while they will soon be joined by Norwegian Cruise Line, Disney, and MSC which completed its first test sailing to the Bahamas this week.
Maura said: “We’re talking to these cruise lines every day. Today, when we spoke to Disney, they said they will start their cruises to The Bahamas during the first week of August. We will also have MSC ramping up, we’ll have Carnival starting up. On August 6 we expect Carnival’s new ship, the Mardi Gras, which they have highlighted as a business first because it is a liquefied natural gas (LNG) cruise ship. Royal is continuing to pile the ships on us. Norwegian Cruise Line will not start as fast as the other lines, but we expect to see them around October this year.”
While the increase in ships traffic is hopeful for the tourism industry on the islands, the danger of increases in cases in the Bahamas is something the islanders are acutely aware of.
Also Read: IDEAL Things to Do in Nassau, Bahamas
Nonetheless, the Government has not required cruise ship passengers to purchase and be approved for a health travel visa. This was done as the cruise lines already require guests to be either fully vaccinated or show proof of a negative PCR test before sailing.
Maura also said, “The Government, in my view, has not waived the health requirements whether you are fully vaccinated or have to take a PCR test. The Government has said that provided the cruise lines agree to underwrite 100 percent of the health issues on the ship, purchasing the health visa does not make sense as you are paying for insurance on top of what the cruise lines are doing at the same time.”
As it stands, the Bahamas is actively pushing for more ships to visit Nassau, mainly to recover from the absence of cruise ships for more than one year. With more than a million cruise ship passengers, the islands could be well underway to achieve just that.