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Royal Caribbean cruises scrapped because of strict Island Covid-19 rules

Safety a priority: Minister of Transport, Lawrence Scott (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

Royal Caribbean International scrapped plans to send cruise ships to Bermuda this summer because of the Government’s insistence that all passengers had to be vaccinated, it was revealed yesterday.

Lawrence Scott, the transport minister, said that other destinations only required a proportion of passengers to be vaccinated, which made them more attractive to cruise lines.

But Mr Scott defended the hard line on vaccinations and insisted that public safety could not be compromised.

Mr Scott highlighted that the CDC regulations were less strict than Bermuda’s regulations

He said: “That contradicts our current health policies of fully vaccinated cruises for Bermuda and that is where – although they’re running within the guidelines of the CDC – they’re outside our health guidelines.

“So for us, we can’t allow them to operate like that. When it comes to health and the safety of the country and the health risk we’re not willing to compromise on that.”

RCI’s Freedom of the Seas and Enchantment of the Seas were scheduled to make 21 visits each to Bermuda from July to October.

But RCI confirmed last week that the itinerary had been cancelled.

Mr Scott added: “When the CDC said ‘hey, you can start sailing out of US waters’, RCI had to make a decision between focusing on home porting in Bermuda or getting their core market back up and running.

“They made the decision to get their core market back up and running, which we can understand because Bermuda still benefits by having the traditional cruises coming in.

“They then went on to look into the CDC guidelines and they realised that they could adjust their business model to run vaccinated cruises but not totally vaccinated cruises – while abiding by the CDC guidelines.”

The RCI announcement came after the US Centres for Disease Control confirmed that ships could sail out of US ports with some restrictions – and that not all passengers had to be vaccinated.

Freedom of the Seas has now been rerouted and will spend the summer sailing to the Bahamas.

The company had earlier planned to have a third vessel home port in Bermuda.

But another cruise ship home porting in Bermuda will set sail on its first voyage of the summer today.

Viking Orion, which will operate at 50 per cent capacity, will spend five days at sea before a return to the island.

A total of seven more voyages are planned over the summer.

Mr Scott said he was satisfied that the vessel would stick to the island’s safety regulations.

He added: “I haven’t been directly involved in vaccinations – however, I have seen the overarching policies and guidelines that Viking are abiding by and they have my full support with their health policies.

“I say that because they have the most sophisticated and thorough internal testing and monitoring system that I’ve seen on any cruise ship.

“They have invested heavily – they actually have a laboratory on board.

“They have the UV lights in their filtration system. They have the robots that go around at night cleaning the common areas.”

Mr Scott said: “And if that wasn’t enough, they also have customers being saliva tested every day.

“They even go so far to say for their outbreak policy, if three people out of 900 test positive, they will consider that an outbreak and they go into their outbreak protocols – that means the ship stays at sea.

“That thoroughness, that dedication to the health and safety of their customers gives me peace and helps me sleep at night.

“They’re going to start off with 50 per cent 60, so every sailing they’ll have more passengers on board, which is the new standard for the industry.”

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Published June 15, 2021 at 1:31 pm (Updated June 15, 2021 at 1:31 pm)

Royal Caribbean cruises scrapped because of strict Island Covid-19 rules

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