MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica — With the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) giving the greenlight earlier this month for cruise ships with fully vaccinated passengers to start sailing again from American ports, local stakeholders are bracing for what could be an earlier than expected return of cruise visitors to the island.
Guidelines issued by the CDC allows ships to skip the simulated voyages, which were part of the entity’s conditional sailing order (CSO) for cruises to resume, if they have at least 95 per cent of passengers and 98 per cent of crew fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to boarding.
The move has essentially cleared the way for cruise lines to go back to their regular itineraries, which includes the popular Caribbean region.
“This is very encouraging news,” Chukka Caribbean Adventures Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Marc Melville told JIS News.
“No sector has been hit as hard as the cruise industry, and it has been a year of crippling losses for many stakeholders,” he noted.
Melville, whose company is one of the largest attractions in the Caribbean, employing more than 800 people (pre-COVID) locally and 1,000 more in locations across the Caribbean, says that having the ships back will be a major relief for all stakeholders, especially craft traders, transportation operators, attraction owners, duty-free merchants and souvenir shop owners.
“Everybody benefits when the ships are here,” he points out. “It has really been hard on everybody since the closure of our seaports over a year ago — a very, very rough road,” he stressed.
For his part, Senior Director of the Royal Shop chain of duty-free stores, Ravi Daswani said that the loss of the ships from the island’s shores over the past year has had a major impact on small businesses and displaced many workers.
“When the cruise sector came to a screeching halt over a year ago, many workers had to be sent home also. It wasn’t easy for cruise ship-reliant businesses to survive,” he said.
The story is also the same for Garfield Dussard of Garfield’s Diving, who has had to close his operations in Ocho Rios, Falmouth and Montego Bay.
“I can’t wait to see the return of the cruise ships. I think I speak for all stakeholders in saying that news of their imminent return is music to the ears of the entire sector,” he said.
Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Norwegian cruise lines have indicated that they will offer trips from Seattle to Alaska for their inaugural cruises.
Royal Caribbean will start sailing on July 19 and Carnival’s Holland American Line on July 24, while Norwegian Cruise Line will begin week-long voyages starting August 6.
Cruise operations were suspended on March 14, 2020 when the CDC issued a “no sail order” to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. Several ships had already had major outbreaks.
Some vessels resumed operations in Europe and elsewhere last year, but the ban remained in place in the US.
Data from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica show that cruise tourism has seen an almost 300 per cent increase in earnings over the last 10 years.
In 2008, the sector earned $7.5 billion and in 2017 cruise saw earnings of $22.6 billion.
Data from the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) indicate that cruise passengers accounted for more than 1.5 million of the approximately 4.3 million tourists who visited the island in 2019.
Jamaicans can achieve anything we put our minds to. Wi likkle but tallawah! Congratulations to Jamaican ultrarunner Varden Morris who won the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee (GVRAT) in a record-breaking performance.
Varden Morris, 50, who lives in Calagary, Alberta and is from Jamaica, completed the 1,000K distance (a little more than 621 miles) in 9 days and 23 hours, averaging more than 100K a day.
Morris ran around his neighborhood in Calgary, with a routine of running for six hours and resting for five. For fuel, he focused on solid foods like boiled eggs with veggies, Jamaican sweet potato pudding, toto, and fruit, such as grapes, bananas, oranges, and watermelon.
Source: Jamaica Observer