May 31 ------ Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line announced plans to resume operations that could potentially make it the first ocean-going cruise line to resume service after the global suspension of cruise operations in March 2020. The operator of short cruises between the Port of Palm Beach, Florida and Grand Bahama Island plans to resume cruises on July 25, just one day after the expected expiration of the Centers for Disease Controls’ current “no sail order.” Bahamas Paradise’s first cruise ship, the Grand Celebration will resume the line's two-night cruises with many new restrictions designs to address travelers’ concerns and the anticipated CDC regulations to ensure the health and safety of the passengers and crew. The ship will be capacity controlled reducing total capacity by 40 percent -- to approximately 900 passengers maximum -- by limiting the number of available staterooms and excluding two passenger stateroom decks from bookings.
The news of the planned resumption of services came as the Bahamas government announced plans to resume commercial travel in and out of The Bahamas by July 1. The nation’s tourism minister, however, has warned that despite the advantages the Bahamas has to offer being near to the U.S. and its relatively low levels of the virus on the islands, that they are expecting a slow buildup for tourism. For its part, Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line also expects a scaled resumption. Its second ship, the Grand Classica, is scheduled to resume sailing on October 3. At that time, the cruise line also plans to resume its sail and stay program with the resorts on Grand Bahama Island, before then offering only round-trip cruises to the U.S.
Changes, similar to what are being instituted by many businesses, will also be visible to passengers starting during the embarkation process. Passengers will be required to maintain social distances, undergo mandatory temperature checks, and answer health questionnaires. Staff with be wearing masks and behind plexiglass barriers, while the areas in the terminal will be frequently sanitized and all passenger luggage will be disinfected prior to onboard delivery. Aboard the ship, the cruise line plans to implement a fresh air ventilation system as well as extensive and frequent regimes of sanitizing. Medical facilities on the ship will be upgrading, including isolation areas, and there will be an increased number of self-service hand sanitizer stations for the passengers use. In the foodservice areas, all food and beverage will be served by crew members wearing face masks, hats, aprons, and gloves, with tables placed six feet apart and self-service buffet stations suspended. Onshore in Grand Bahama, the cruise line will limit shore excursion buses to 50 percent of capacity. Tour operators will also be trained using guidelines from the World Health Organization.
Crew members working aboard the ship will also experience a number of significant changes ranging from twice-daily temperature checks to the required use of face masks. Housekeeping and food and beverage crew will also be required to wear disposable gloves. The crew will use social distancing practices and each crew member will be assigned to a single-occupancy cabin. “When we return, our onboard experience may look a little different to our guests,” said Oneil Khosa, CEO of Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line. “The wellness of our passengers and crew members remains our top priority, and as such, passengers can expect enhanced sanitization procedures from embarkation to disembarkation so that they can enjoy a relaxing, safe, stress-free getaway.”
While Bahamas Paradise only offers short, get-away cruises, many in the cruise industry view the planned resumption of its cruises as a first step toward rebuilding the global cruise industry. It will also provide an important trial scenario to see how passengers react to the changes dictated by the public health crisis. The resumption of cruising, however, is still dependent on the CDC providing more definitive guidelines to the cruise industry or letting the no sail order lapse in late July. When the CDC issued the order, it said it was requiring the cruise lines to establish new protocols and procedures and the order would remain in place until the CDC director believed the health crisis had subsided.