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The comeback of cruising in the Caribbean is finally at hand — at least in a small way.
Small-ship specialist SeaDream Yacht Club on Tuesday became the first cruise company in the world to definitively say it will resume cruises in the Caribbean in the coming weeks.
During a Zoom call with travel media, travel agents and top SeaDream customers, SeaDream vice president for itineraries and destinations Emilio Freeman said the 112-passenger SeaDream I would begin a series of 22 voyages out of Barbados to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada, on 7 November — just over seven weeks from now.
The six- to eight-night trips will come after a 21-night repositioning cruise for the vessel from Norway to the Caribbean that will start 15 October in Oslo and end 5 November in Barbados.
While a number of other cruise lines still have November sailings in the Caribbean on their schedules, none of them have confirmed the trips will operate.
All the world’s major cruise lines have cancelled Caribbean sailings in September and October, and many industry watchers expect most lines to soon cancel Caribbean sailings in November, too.
The Caribbean cruise cancellations have come amidst a “no-sail” order for cruise ships that operate in U.S. waters from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that’s been in effect for months. Most cruises to the Caribbean depart out of a U.S. port or include at least one U.S. port call, making them subject to the CDC order.
The CDC’s no-sail order currently is set to expire on 30 September, but many industry watchers expect it to be extended.
The November sailings SeaDream announced on Tuesday would not be covered by an extended no-sail order because the itineraries do not venture into U.S. waters. SeaDream Yacht Club’s small vessels also are below the size threshold included in the CDC order. The order only applies to ships that carry more than 250 passengers and crew.
The hub that SeaDream is using for its trips, Barbados, is mostly used for departures by smaller vessels — at least among lines that cater to North Americans. It also is a hub for bigger ships operated by U.K.-based P&O Cruises.
SeaDream Yacht Club was one of the first cruise operators to resume sailings over the summer with a series of seven-night trips along the coast of Norway.
The company, which operates just two yacht-like, 112-passengers vessels, is one of the world’s smallest cruise lines. It caters to an international crowd including Americans.
SeaDream’s senior vice president for hotel operations, Sudesh Kishore, said during the conference call on Tuesday the line would operate in the Caribbean with a new array of health and safety measures including the requirement that all passengers be tested for COVID-19 multiple times before boarding.
Kishore said passengers would be required to take a COVID-19 test just before flying to Barbados, and travellers from certain countries would be tested again when they landed at the airport in Barbados. They all would then be tested one more time as they arrived at the pier to board SeaDream I.
Kishore said the company had acquired three Abbott ID Now coronavirus testing machines that each could process four tests an hour. Passengers will be asked to arrive at the pier on a staggered basis to allow for every passenger to be tested before departure. Passengers who test positive will not be allowed to board.
The extensive testing will result in a “bubble” of COVID-19 negativity on the ship, SeaDream’s Freeman suggested. Also adding to the bubble: During island stops, passengers won’t be allowed to wander around on their own.
“We’ve been talking to the governments of both St. Vincent and the Grenadines, as well as Grenada, and they will allow us to come ashore, but in a more organized fashion, and to pre-designated places”, he said.
Such measures are similar to those being implemented by two other lines that recently resumed limited sailings in the Mediterranean: MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises.
Kishore said the ship also would impose a social distancing requirement and take passenger temperatures daily. But passengers will not have to wear masks on board.
Cruising has resumed in a very limited way in Europe and a handful of other regions in recent months. But so far, there have been no sailings in North America.
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Cruise ship, Caribbean, SeaDream Yacht Club, Cruise line, SeaDream I
World news – CA – It’s official: Cruising will resume in the Caribbean in just 7 weeks