The recent meeting of Port St. Maarten with several cruise lines (see related story) indicates that the ships may start returning in numbers as early as the end of June, in addition to the weekly homeporting by Celebrity Millennium during the summer that begins this Saturday. It seems the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will now allow cruises of longer than seven days to homeport in US territory.
The latter is based on crew and passengers being fully vaccinated. The latest CDC guidelines permit them to explore destinations at their own discretion but in keeping with the country’s COVID-19 protocols, translating to local economic activity.
That has created a potential issue, however, as the coronavirus-related rules even for vaccinated persons still vary too much within the region, so there is a need for them to be simplified and made more similar. This could be something the governments of the respective islands might work on together.
With all occupants vaccinated, CDC has approved reduced social distancing and not wearing of face masks onboard. Vessels will consequently be able to use their full complement of cabins and amenities again.
There is a problem in Florida, where Governor Ron DeSantis said he will block cruise lines operating there to require passengers to be vaccinated, because it clashes with a recent law passed in the state legislature and promoted by him that bars businesses from asking for proof of vaccination. As the latter is not compulsory, this is considered an infringement on individual rights.
But a cruise ship is no ordinary business, and it is also about safeguarding other people’s health. Perhaps separate cruises could be held for those who would rather do frequent testing while on a vacation than get injected, but from a logistical, practical and cost-effective approach, it simply makes perfect sense to have everyone on the ship vaccinated.
These and other topics are bound to come up during a “Return to Sail Summit” in Miami on June 22, but by then any obstacles should have been removed. For St. Maarten as premier destination, reaching a high vaccination rate and herd immunity obviously remains essential.