Skip to content

Royal Caribbean will launch cruises from Barbados for the first time

Jan. 13, 2021
6 min read
Royal Caribbean will launch cruises from Barbados for the first time
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Is Royal Caribbean trying to break free from U.S. government oversight of its cruises to the Caribbean?

That'd be one way to read the Miami-based cruise giant's announcement Wednesday that it soon would launch its first-ever sailings to the Caribbean out of Bridgetown, Barbados.

Unlike Caribbean sailings out of such traditional Royal Caribbean hubs as PortMiami and Port Canaveral in Florida, Caribbean cruises out of Barbados are not subject to U.S. regulation, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) current, coronavirus-related ban on cruises.

Only cruises that touch U.S. waters are subject to such regulation.

For more cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPG's new cruise newsletter

Still, Royal Caribbean on Wednesday told TPG the CDC ban on cruising from U.S. ports had nothing to do with its decision to begin running some of its Caribbean cruises out of Barbados.

When asked if the CDC's current rules were a factor in the decision to move a ship to Barbados, a spokeswoman gave a straightforward, one-word answer: "No."

The CDC has blocked Royal Caribbean and all other lines that operate ships that carry more than 250 people from operating cruises out of U.S. ports since March.

Related: The best credit cards for booking cruises

Sign up for our daily newsletter
Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)

In a statement accompanying the line's announcement on Wednesday, Royal Caribbean president and CEO Michael Bayley said the deployment was about offering its customers a new range of itineraries that it hadn't offered before.

"Sailing from the heart of the Windward Islands unlocks new memorable vacations to share with family and friends in breathtaking places, such as Grenada, St. Lucia and now St. Vincent, Trinidad and Tobago,” Bayley said. “The pink-sand beaches and unexpected adventures across Barbados also make it an ideal destination for our guests to experience even more of the Caribbean charm and culture before or after their cruise.”

Related: Here's when lines say they hope to resume sailings

The new sailings out of Barbados will take place on Royal Caribbean's 2,446-passenger Grandeur of the Seas, and start on Dec. 5.

The line plans three distinct itineraries out of Barbados, all departing on Sundays:

  • A seven-night "Southern Caribbean Explorer" itinerary with stops at Scarborough, Tobago; Port of Spain, Trinidad; St. George’s, Grenada; Kingstown, St. Vincent; Roseau, Dominica; and Castries, St. Lucia.
  • A seven-night "Southern Caribbean Adventure" itinerary with stops at St. George’s, Grenada; Kralendijk, Bonaire; Oranjestad, Aruba; Willemstad, Curaçao; and Port of Spain, Trinidad.
  • A 14-night "Ultimate Caribbean" itinerary with stops at St. George’s, Grenada; Kingstown, St. Vincent; Kralendijk, Bonaire; Oranjestad, Aruba (for an overnight); Willemstad, Curaçao; Port of Spain, Trinidad; Cartagena, Colombia; Colon, Panama; and Puerto Limon, Costa Rica.

The stops in Tobago, Trinidad and St. Vincent are firsts for the line.

Until the cruise industry began halting operations last March due to the escalating coronavirus pandemic, the ship that's heading to Barbados -- Grandeur of the Seas -- was based in Baltimore, Maryland.

Royal Caribbean — and the rest of the cruise industry — is grappling with a road map for a return to cruising in U.S. waters issued by the CDC that lays out a long period of testing and approvals before cruising can resume.

Related: The ultimate guide to Royal Caribbean

Issued in October as a “framework for conditional sailing” order, the road map includes a testing period for new anti-coronavirus protocols on ships that has yet to begin and may not begin for some time. After that, cruise operators can apply for what the CDC is calling a Conditional Sailing Certificate in a process that could take an additional 60 days.

Assuming the CDC sticks to the guidelines it has laid out in the order, it could be many months before cruising is allowed out of U.S. ports.

Barbados traditionally has served as a home port for very small vessels such as those operated by small-ship lines SeaDream Yacht Club and Star Clippers. But it does draw a few bigger ships that use it both as a home port and as a transit port.

Royal Caribbean ships have visited Barbados in the past in the midst of a cruise, but have never been based in the country.

As a foreign country not subject to the jurisdiction of the CDC, Barbados can host cruise ships wanting to restart operations this year even if the CDC maintains its ban on sailings.

Indeed, in November, Barbados welcomed the first cruise ship to attempt to restart operations in the Caribbean since the cruising shutdown began in March -- a 112-passenger SeaDream Yacht Club vessel called SeaDream 1. But the sailing, notably, did not go well. It ended with a COVID-19 outbreak and passengers quarantined in their cabins. The line subsequently canceled all remaining cruises for the winter season

Royal Caribbean is the world's biggest cruise line by passenger capacity, and it accounts for nearly 20% of all cruises taken worldwide. It often serves as a bellwether for the industry.

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

Featured image by Juan Manuel Garcia
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 10X points
10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

80,000 bonus points
Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$550

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more