(12:38 p.m. EDT) Crystal Cruises has notified passengers booked on Crystal Serenity’s all-Bahamas cruises that beginning with the August 7. 2021 sailing, the ship will now visit Miami as both a port of call and embarkation point.
The line said the ship would no longer sail with 100 percent of guests vaccinated, as previously announced, in order to comply with Florida regulations that bar business from requiring vaccine passports.
The move is still subject to Bahamas government approval. But it led to hundreds of comments on the Cruise Critic message boards, with some booked passengers accusing the luxury line of misrepresenting sailings with its new protocols.
“This is not the cruise I was sold,” writes MomC, who said she would cancel her upcoming sailing. “I am furious and this changed my opinion of the cruise line.”
Crystal Cruises launched the close-to-home Bahamas sailings on July 3. Guests had the option of embarking Crystal Serenity in either Nassau or Bimini, with the itinerary including an overnight in Bimini and port calls on Great Exuma, San Salvador and Long Island, Bahamas.
The new itinerary drops the Bimini overnight and adds Miami as both port and embarkation point.
“This update to the itinerary will allow travelers to enjoy a U.S. city departure affording ample flight options as well as another port of call for guests sailing on this unique itinerary,” the line said in a statement. “The seven-night round-trip Luxury Bahamas Escapes have been extended to early November and now include three ports of embarkation: Nassau on Saturdays, Bimini on Sundays, and Miami on Mondays.’
Crystal Serenity's first call in Miami is scheduled for August 9.
Crystal said all guests age 12 and older are required to be fully vaccinated on all its ships, but added on its website, “Due to Florida state law, the company will adjust its vaccination policy for the Miami port of embarkation and will highly recommend, but not require, that all guests be fully vaccinated.” Here’s a link to the new regulations).
In a letter to booked passengers, Crystal said it would continue to comply with all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention health and safety protocols as specified in the Conditional Sail Order, and would welcome “a capacity-controlled number of unvaccinated guests on board” with specific protocols in place for those passengers.
Crystal is not promising to deliver the same experience to unvaccinated guests. On its website, the line says, “On Crystal Serenity, certain public rooms will not be available to unvaccinated guests including Umi Uma, Prego, Churrascaria, Marketplace, Avenue Saloon, Pulse Nightclub, Stardust Supper Club, Silk Bar, Connoisseur Club, Crystal Life Spa and Crystal Life Fitness. Unvaccinated guests will dine in an assigned (socially distanced) dining area.”
Crystal further said that unvaccinated passengers “will also be excluded from certain onboard events -- those in Captain’s Quarters, the Captain’s Welcome Party and Crystal Society gatherings” and that “Dancing and other close contact with guests outside one’s travel party is not allowed. Elevators may only be used with one’s travel party.”
Unvaccinated passengers will be required to wear masks in all public areas except when eating and drinking.
To emphasize its new restrictions, Crystal will identify unvaccinated passengers with a red bracelet, while vaccinated ones will get a green bracelet.
Those who are not vaccinated may not be allowed on shore in some ports in the Bahamas, the line added. Unvaccinated passengers will also have to undergo pre-cruise PCR testing for COVID-19 and show proof of a negative result at check-in. Crystal will also perform additional testing at the pier.
Anyone age 12 and up without a vaccine will also be required to show proof of travel insurance for medical expenses and evacuation.
The line also updated its previous 100 percent vaccination policy on its new expedition ship, Crystal Endeavor, to allow unvaccinated kids under age 12 onboard.
The line said sailings on Crystal River Cruises and Crystal Symphony’s New York and Boston sailings to Bermuda will continue to have a 100 percent vaccination requirement for all guests and crew.
On the Cruise Critic message boards, those who had already paid in full for Bahamas cruises that were previously advertised as fully vaccinated said the line should allow refunds based on its vaccine policy change.
“I’m sure there are going to be a lot of very unhappy people," writes smlnd. "Everyone booked The Bahamas cruises because the feeling of safety for a fully vaccinated ship. This is so much more than just an island port change. They should be offering 100 percent refunds for such a drastic change.”
“I intentionally chose this cruise because all of the passengers were required to be vaccinated," writes seacruise9. "I am…disappointed about the decision to allow unvaccinated passengers on this cruise.”
Some Cruise Critic members who had booked expensive air connections to the Bahamas were unhappy to learn they could have embarked their ship in Miami.
Cruise Critic will update this article with more information as it becomes available.