(Updated 12:26 p.m. EDT) – All eligible passengers traveling on cruise ships to The Bahamas, including cruise line private islands, must be vaccinated against COVID-19, according to new regulations released by the country yesterday.
The emergency order requires any cruise ship stopping at any port in the country to release a manifest of all passengers and their vaccination status. It also forbids a ship that has passengers older than 12 who are not vaccinated to come to the country.
The rules take effect on September 3, 2021 and are in effect until November 1, 2021.
The order has a few exceptions – if a ship needs to call in The Bahamas because of an emergency situation approved by the archipelago's government or if a passenger cannot get the vaccine because of medical reasons.
The Bahamas is not the only Caribbean country or territory that is becoming more strict with who can visit, as cases of the Delta variant continue to rise in the United States. The U.S. Virgin Islands issued a similar directive early in the month, and Puerto Rico does not allow unvaccinated passengers off the ship during calls.
Some cruise lines already comply with this requirement. Norwegian Cruise Line, for example, carries 100 percent vaccinated passengers and is currently sailing from Florida after winning the legal right to do so. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he will appeal that decision.
The current state law that bans businesses from imposing vaccine mandates for services has forced cruise ships to come up with different ways to limit unvaccinated people on ships to satisfy both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance and calls from customers who would prefer to take a vaccinated cruise.
Pressure from international ports will likely make more lines follow NCL's path. The Bahamas cracking down on unvaccinated cruise travelers is particularly important, as the country has been a linchpin in cruising's 2021 restart.
Several lines, including Royal Caribbean and Crystal, have made Nassau a homeport. The lines have also relied on their popular private islands, such as Royal Caribbean's Perfect Day at CocoCay and Disney's Castaway Cay, for summer and fall 2021 itineraries.
Cruise Critic has reached out to lines sailing from The Bahamas for comment. We'll update this story as information comes in.
Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line
Bahamas Paradise announced on August 30 that all passengers over the age of 12 will now be required to present proof of full COVID-19 vaccination, on a single-series vaccine (Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson) at least 14 days prior to sailing. The new rules will be in effect for all sailings September 3 to October 31, 2021.
Carnival has now mandated that all passeners over the age of 12 sailing from Gulf and Atlantic embarkation ports -- including those in Florida -- present proof of full COVID-19 vaccination for all sailings calling on Bahamian ports of call. This includes voyages scheduled to stop at Half Moon Cay, Holland America Line's private island in the Bahamas, which is regularly also used by Carnival.
The new mandate is effective for all voyages from August 28 through the end of October. Only children under 12 and adults with a confirmed medical condition that prohibits thier vaccination will be allowed onboard wtihout proof of vaccination.
Celebrity Cruises' policy is already in line with The Bahamas requirement.
After initially announcing its plans hadn't changed, Crystal Cruises revealed on August 25 it would mandate all passengers embarking from Miami, Florida be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to comply with new rules imposed by the Government of the Bahamas.
The new policy -- which is effective immediately and until further notice -- applies to all passengers eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Those who are unvaccinated will be unable to sail.
However, Crystal states it "continues to accept a limited number of children 11 and under on Crystal Serenity’s, Crystal Symphony’s and Crystal Endeavor’s sailings out of Miami as well as Crystal Endeavor’s current voyages in Iceland and Europe. Unvaccinated children must show a negative COVID-19 test at boarding and will be subject to certain restrictions onboard and onshore."
Disney Cruise Line
Disney announced August 24 it will require all passengers over the age of 12 to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination on all sailings to the Bahamas, including visits to Castaway Cay. Additionally, those under 12 will need to provide a negative PCR test taken between 5 days and 24 hours prior to boarding, and will need to pass another rapid PCR test pierside. Antigen and home-based tests are not permitted.
The line posted a statement on Facebook:
"For all MSC Meraviglia and MSC Divina Sailings beginning September 3, 2021 through and including sailings of October 31, 2021 departing from PortMiami and PortCanaveral
The Bahamas has just announced new protocols requiring any visitors (12 years and older) to be fully vaccinated. Due to this latest requirement, MSC Cruises will now be requiring all guests 12 years and older to be fully vaccinated on all sailings beginning September 3, 2021 through and including sailings of October 31, 2021 departing from PortMiami and Port Canaveral.
All fully vaccinated guests, 12 years and older, will be asked to present their original CDC vaccination card at the pier upon embarkation. Photocopies or pictures of vaccination cards will not be accepted. Guests will be considered fully vaccinated if they have received their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines (or their single dose, such as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine) at least 14 days prior to the cruise. Currently, the CDC does not recognize any mixed combination of COVID-19 vaccines as fully vaccinated. If you are unable or unwilling to show proof of vaccination, you will be denied boarding.
If you are 12 years and older and currently booked on a MSC Cruises itinerary departing from PortMiami or Port Canaveral beginning September 3, 2021 through and including sailings of October 31, 2021 and you are not fully vaccinated and will not be vaccinated 14 days prior to the cruise, you are eligible for a full refund of any funds currently on your booking."
Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line's policy is already in line with The Bahamas requirement.
"Today, The Bahamas issued a new policy that requires all guests ages 12 and older on a cruise ship to be fully vaccinated for that ship to visit The Bahamas. This is effective starting Sept. 3 and through Nov. 1.
To comply with this requirement, our vaccine policy for guests 12 and older sailing on Royal Caribbean cruises departing from Florida must now match the requirements in place for all sailings departing from other U.S. ports.
The updated policy is as follows: For cruises departing from any U.S. port and visiting The Bahamas on and after Sept. 3, guests who are 12 and older must provide proof of vaccination in order to sail. This also applies to itineraries that include Perfect Day at CocoCay.
Travelers unable to show proof of vaccination will be unable to sail. Those of our guests under 12, who are currently ineligible for the vaccine, can still cruise with us as long as they continue to provide a negative test result at boarding and follow certain health and safety protocols.
Royal Caribbean’s top priority is maintaining everyone’s well-being while complying with federal, state and local laws as we always have. We will continue to evaluate and update our health and safety measures as circumstances evolve."