Cruises have started to set sail from the United States once again, including cruises conducted by Disney Cruise Line.
We’ve taken a look at COVID-19 testing requirements, and other updates about the cruising industry. But today we spotted an update that may mark a major change for some cruise lines and their operations.
Earlier today, the Bahamas Customs and Excise Department posted a document showing an Emergency Order that was recently signed by the Prime Minister of the Bahamas. The Order is referred to as Emergency Powers (Covid 19 Pandemic)(Management and Recovery)(No. 2)(Amendment)(No. 8) Order, 2021.
In it, it specifies that there will be an amendment made to the principal Order. The amendment, notes that effective September 3rd, 2021, any cruise ship which is “on a passenger voyage” will NOT be allowed to enter a port in The Bahamas (including a private stop — which we understand would include private islands) unless certain requirements are met.
The order specifies the following 3 requirements:
- The Captain or Master of the cruise ship has to transmit a “crew and passenger manifest” to the Port Medical Officer in the Bahamas that shows the vaccination status of each person on board prior to arriving at the port;
- All passengers on the cruise ship who are 12 years old or older must be fully vaccinated before they embarked on the ship at the start of the trip; and
- The health protocols that had previously been submitted by the cruise line to the Competent Authority and approved by the Competent Authority, must be complied with.
There are certain exceptions in terms of that vaccination requirement for those ages 12 and up on the ship. Specifically, the order notes that the vaccination requirement will not apply to the crew, contractors, and non-revenue passengers on the cruise ship. Any agreements/protocols that were already in place between the Government of the Bahamas and the cruise line will remain in effect.
Also, a cruise ship that is attempting to call at a port in an emergency or other similar circumstance may not need to meet this requirement, and there is an exception for unvaccinated passengers who are not eligible to get the vaccine due to medical contraindications.
All of these rules in the emergency order regarding COVID-19 vaccination are set to become effective on September 3rd and last through November 1st, 2021.
It appears this order could have some large impacts on cruise lines that were previously sailing to The Bahamas with customers who were not fully vaccinated. There are also concerns that this new executive order will conflict directly with the laws in the State of Florida that ban Florida businesses from requiring customers to show proof of vaccination.
Earlier this year, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order banning vaccine passports in the State. This then became permanent law in Florida due to a bill passed by the Florida House and Senate, and signed by the Governor. Under this law, businesses in Florida are not allowed to require their customers to show proof that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to serve them.
A federal judge has ruled in one case that Norwegian Cruise Line will be allowed to require guests to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination for cruises leaving from Florida. The judge issued the preliminary injunction in that case despite Florida’s law regarding vaccine passports. A spokesperson for Florida Governor DeSantis has indicated, however, that the state will appeal the Judge’s ruling.
We’ll continue to keep an eye out for more news on this situation. Be sure to check back with us for more updates.