In just a few weeks, Nassau has gone from a place that didn’t particularly interest cruisers to the most sought-after place for those hoping to disembark.
Just two weeks ago, Nassau was essentially trying to fend off criticism that it had little to offer cruise passengers, especially those who have made several stops on the island over the years. Even the Bahamas’ tourism minister, Dionisio D’Aguilar, admitted as much: Too many cruise tourists miss Nassau and see no reason to leave the ship.
D’Aguilar is also willing to blame the cruise lines for some of the discomfort of visitors, accusing them of driving up the prices of excursions, creating a situation where visitors feel they are not getting value for money.
But out of necessity, any animosity between the cruise lines and the Bahamas was set aside so they could form an alliance against a common enemy: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While the CDC does not appear to be a natural enemy of the Bahamas, over which it has no control, the agency’s stubborn refusal to allow ships to leave US ports has had major economic consequences for Caribbean ports. While in the past the islands complained about the few tourists who came on cruises, that money has now completely disappeared, which is a serious blow to the local economy.
Suddenly, cruise passengers who grew up locally and have a T-shirt attitude toward the Bahamas are lining up to get their vaccinations so they can enter the islands and board the ship. Not wanting to wait any longer from the CDC, which is increasingly seen as uncooperative at best and hostile at worst, cruise lines are opting to bypass the agency by leaving Caribbean ports.
Barbados Beach (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)
Why these ports in particular? They’re close enough to popular US ports like Miami and Port Canaveral that one hopes they won’t be perceived as terribly inconvenient, especially for cruisers suffering from – and stop us if you’ve heard this before – an unfulfilled desire to return to the high seas.
It is clear that if the CDC continues to turn a deaf ear to the growing outcry from the cruise industry and its supporters, we will see more ships leaving Caribbean ports. Is that the sound you hear? Nassau smiled all the way to the bench.
READ MORE: Brewing battle between cruise lines and the CDC during the shutdown.
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