Royal Caribbean expands comeback plans with new sailings out of Bermuda
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The world’s largest cruise line on Tuesday said it would begin seven-night sailings to the Bahamas out of Bermuda’s Royal Naval Dockyard as soon as June 26.
The unusual routing, which the line will offer through August, will be Royal Caribbean’s first foray into out-of-Bermuda cruises in its 52-year history. The trips will take place on one of Royal Caribbean’s smallest vessels, the 2,514-passenger Vision of the Seas.
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Like new voyages out of the Bahamas starting on June 12 that Royal Caribbean announced a few days ago, the Bermuda sailings will not originate in or involve any stops at U.S. ports. This means they will not require the approval of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They only require the approval of officials in Bermuda and the Bahamas, which the line now has.
The CDC has blocked cruise ships that carry more than 250 people from sailing in U.S. waters since March of 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The agency has not yet announced when cruise lines will be able to restart operations in U.S. waters.
The CDC prohibition on cruising in U.S. waters has forced major lines to repeatedly push back their plans for a restart to North American operations over the past year, as the lines typically operate North American sailings out of U.S. ports such as Florida’s PortMiami and Port Canaveral. But in recent days, several lines have begun getting around the prohibition by announcing new cruises in North America out of non-U.S. ports.
Taken together, the announcements mark a significant milestone in the comeback of cruising worldwide after a year-long halt to nearly all cruises due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A very limited amount of cruising has restarted in parts of Europe and Asia in recent months. And several very small cruise vessels that are not regulated by the CDC have restarted operations in recent days on U.S. rivers and intracoastal waterways. But cruising to North America’s most important cruise destinations — the Bahamas and the Caribbean — remains completely shut down.
The Bahamas and Caribbean are the world’s most popular cruise destinations, accounting for the highest percentage of cruises taken by all cruisers worldwide.
The new Bermuda-to-Bahamas itinerary that Royal Caribbean is planning is heavy with time at sea. It features just one-and-a-half days in Bermuda and a day at Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas, Perfect Day at CocoCay.
Royal Caribbean said adults would be required to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 to sail on the voyages. Children under the age of 18 will be able to sail with just proof of a negative COVID-19 test. All crew also will require COVID-19 vaccinations to work on the ship.
The line said such restrictions “may evolve as they are evaluated on an ongoing basis.”
Royal Caribbean also noted that passengers on the voyages would have to meet the travel requirements of Bermuda. This currently includes receiving a negative PCR test result for COVID-19 before traveling, testing upon arrival into the country and filling out appropriate entry forms.
“We are thankful to the government and people of Bermuda for welcoming us to their beautiful island nation with open arms as Vision of the Seas’ new homeport,” Royal Caribbean president and CEO Michael Bayley said in a statement. “This is another step in our safe and measured return to sailing beginning in June.”
In a statement, Bermuda premier David Burt welcomed Royal Caribbean and its newly announced sailings.
“We have safely and responsibly managed the reopening of its tourism economy by air, and we will meet the challenge of doing the same for the cruise industry,” Burt said. “We look forward to homeporting Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas this June as part of the island’s strategic tourism recovery planning which, as always, is guided by science.”
Royal Caribbean said the new Bermuda itineraries would open for bookings on March 29.
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Featured image of Vision of the Seas courtesy of Royal Caribbean
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