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Two cruise lines pull Bermuda stops over Covid testing rules

Celebrity Edge is one of several ships from the cruise line company that has pulled the plug on Bermuda transatlantic calls this autumn over Covid testing requirements (Photograph from web)

A string of cruise ship visits to Bermuda during October and November have been pulled because of the island’s Covid-19 testing requirements.

Celebrity Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line have pulled five stops – four by Celebrity and one by NCL.

Three other scheduled calls on the island were said to be unofficially called off, but the cruise lines in question could not be confirmed.

The industry’s impatience with Bermuda’s testing protocol for Covid-19 was acknowledged in May by Lawrence Scott, the transport minister, who said tourism needed to be balanced with protecting the island’s residents.

After queries on the cancellations were lodged with the ministries of transport and health, a government spokeswoman responded that questions should be directed to the shipping agency that handles cruise calls.

An official notice of the cancellation, confirmed by an industry source familiar with the procedure, states that owing to “Bermuda’s current testing requirements, the cruise lines have decided to cancel the following upcoming (transatlantic/repositioning) call to Bermuda”.

The source said the ships’ itineraries clashed with Bermuda’s Covid-19 protocols for cruise ships, which have come under criticism.

“It means that cruise ships crossing the Atlantic have to take a second test during the journey to come to Bermuda,” the source added.

“They do not want to do that. Cruise lines have been butting heads with the Ministry of Health all year because of it.”

The island’s Travel Authorisation Form, expected to remain in force until the spring, comes with a $40 fee.

The cancellations:

• The Celebrity Beyond, scheduled for October 22

• The Celebrity Silhouette, for October 30-31

• The Celebrity Edge, for November 4

• Norwegian Cruise Line Sun, for November 5

• The Celebrity Reflection, for November 10

Figures were not immediately available for the passenger capacities of the vessels.

But companies including Celebrity eased 50 per cent passenger restrictions early in the summer as restrictions were relaxed by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the current cruise shipping schedule, the Beyond has a top passenger capacity of 3,937; the Silhouette 2,768; the Edge 2,918 and the Reflection 3,046.

The NCL Sun has a listed capacity of 1,936 passengers.

Cruising rebounded this year after the pandemic, but despite rising numbers of visitors by sea the island’s restrictions against Covid-19 have been received poorly by the industry.

Competitor jurisdictions such as the Bahamas have dropped restrictions, prompting increasing criticism by the Opposition of Bermuda’s protocols against the virus.

Even though the restrictions were substantially eased last month, unvaccinated visitors are still required to get tested within two days of coming ashore.

The requirement means a test for cruise travellers who have not received the jab to disembark in Bermuda.

The industry source contacted yesterday by The Royal Gazette said the last relaxation of rules was not enough to appease the industry.

The cancellations, with others hinted to follow, hit Bermuda during the so-called shoulder season in which the Bermuda Tourism Authority has tried to draw visitors, particularly from the US East Coast.

The Gazette filed queries with the BTA along with the ministries of health and tourism on the impact of the lost cruise calls, and whether talks with cruise representatives were in the works.

A health ministry spokeswoman responded: “This is a query for Meyer Agencies Ltd, the ship’s agent.”

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Published September 14, 2022 at 4:18 pm (Updated September 14, 2022 at 4:18 pm)

Two cruise lines pull Bermuda stops over Covid testing rules

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