Royal Caribbean cancels Bermuda homeport cruises
Royal Caribbean has cancelled plans to homeport its Vision of the Seas ship in Bermuda for seven-night cruises to the Bahamas.
But Lawrence Scott, the transport minister, said it was hoped that the cruise company would be able to resume normal scheduled service by mid-August.
Royal Caribbean International said on its website it had cancelled its scheduled June to August 29 sailings from Bermuda because of US travellers’ preference to depart from ports “closer to home”.
In the past week the Centres for Disease Control has relaxed some Covid-19 safety regulations for cruise ships, increasing the possibility that travellers could start a cruise from US ports.
RCL added: “However, in anticipation for our US return to service and following overwhelming feedback from our guests, the summer season in Bermuda will be cancelled.”
The news was picked up by travel websites, including Cruisecritic.com.
RCL said in a more detailed statement to booking agents: “While the past few weeks have certainly been tumultuous, we remain encouraged and excited about our progressive return to sailing.
“Recent conversations have led to promising movement for the cruise ship industry and are the necessary stepping stones to get Royal Caribbean back to what we do best – delivering the most memorable vacation experiences to both you and your clients.
“As a result of these developments the likelihood of cruises setting sail from the US this summer is greater each day, and with that, US travellers are increasingly showing a preference to more access to ports of departure.
“Regrettably, the decision has been made to cancel Vision of the Seas summer season from Bermuda.
“While we are no longer homeporting from Bermuda, we still look forward to visiting the beautiful island nation with several ships across the Royal Caribbean fleet as we have for many years.
“We continue to work in close partnership with the Ministry of Transport and the Bermuda Tourism Authority towards our common goal of reviving local tourism as part of our larger return to service scope.
“We understand that this news may be disappointing to your impacted clients.”
The cruise line added: “As we get back to cruising, our close partnership with the Ministry of Tourism and the Bermuda Tourism Authority is still focused on working towards the common goal of getting the community back on its feet by helping revive local tourism.“
RCL announced in March that Vision of the Seas would homeport in Bermuda from June 26 for 12 trips to a private island in the Bahamas.
It started to offer return flights from the US to Bermuda for as little as $99 return the next month a bid to attract passengers to the homeporting voyages.
Mr Scott told MPs in March that homeporting was a way to boost Bermuda’s tourism industry while ships were unable to sail out of the United States because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said three ships could homeport and it was estimated the scheme could put more than $40 million into the economy and create up to 60 part-time jobs.
Mr Scott said yesterday the US Centres for Disease Control had announced cruise ships would “soon be able to resume sailing in US jurisdictional waters, under a conditional sail order, providing each ship meets certain CDC Covid-19 regulations and recommended operational protocols”.
He said the restart would depend on the cruise lines' ability to get ships ready for service and their compliance with the CDC’s guidance.
Mr Scott said cruise lines in the US were focused on the safe resumption of traditional sailings from US ports “on or around July or August”.
He added: “Already this news has influenced passengers' decisions on homeporting from Bermuda on the Royal Caribbean Group’s Vision of the Seas.
“For this reason, I confirm that the specific homeporting itinerary for the Vision of the Seas has been replaced with the hope that Royal Caribbean will be able to meet the CDC conditional sail order protocols and commence regular contract calls to Bermuda as soon as mid-August.”
Mr Scott said this year’s cruise ship schedule “remains fluid” and at present showed 21 calls for Royal Caribbean ships between August 13 and November.
He added: “We are committed to working through the details of the Covid-19 protocols to meet our Ministry of Health’s travellers immunisation and pretest and on-arrival test requirements for passengers and crew on-board traditional call ships.
Mr Scott thanked everyone involved in the homeporting drive.
He said the Viking Cruises ship Orion was on track to arrive in Bermuda today to ready its crew and the vessel for cruises starting June 15 with eight calls.
No response to requests for comment from David Burt, the premier and tourism minister was received by press time last night.
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