Note: Since first publishing this article, Royal Caribbean has also announced cruises from Bermuda for summer 2021. We’ve provided details below.
While most American passengers await the return of cruising from the United States, there is a way you can cruise this summer from North America, without going too far.
Royal Caribbean announced that it will begin sailing from Nassau in June.
“This summer, travelers can trade in virtual travel experiences for their long-awaited vacations and cruise in The Bahamas and Mexico with Royal Caribbean International,” said a press release. “The global cruise line has announced a summer lineup of 7-night cruises on board Adventure of the Seas, setting sail this June from new homeport Nassau, The Bahamas.”
According to the cruise line, trips begin on June 12 and are available for booking starting March 24. Cruises from Nassau only run through August at this time.
The trips will sail to Royal Caribbean’s private island, CocoCay, spending two consecutive days there. As well, there will be stops at Grand Bahama Island and Cozumel, Mexico.
While Royal Caribbean often calls on Nassau as a port of call, it is a different experience to have it be a homeport.
Of course, Nassau is close to the United States but sailing from The Bahamas does create some challenges. Specifically, American passengers wanting to get back to sailing will have to take the extra step of arranging transportation to Nassau.
A search of flights between both Fort Lauderdale and Miami to Nassau shows airfare prices of around $260 roundtrip in June when these cruises start. In other words, a couple traveling from the United States for this cruise would see around $500 extra added to the price of their vacation.
In addition, The Bahamas requires most visitors to take a COVID-19 test no more than five days before arrival and apply for a Bahamas Travel Health Visa.
There is also one more requirement from Royal Caribbean to set sail — adult guests must be vaccinated.
Update: In addition to cruises from Nassau, the cruise line has also announced cruises aboard Vision of the Seas from Bermuda. These 7-day cruises will depart starting June 26, with bookings available starting March 29. Adults guests and crew aboard these Bermuda sailings will all require vaccination. In addition, the Bermuda government requires COVID testing and travel authorization when coming to the island.
Royal Caribbean Requiring Vaccinations
As we’ve explained before, it’s our belief that vaccines will eventually be required to sail on a cruise from the United States.
While there has yet to be a fleetwide requirement announced, for these special trips from The Bahamas, Royal Caribbean has said that passengers 18 years and older must be vaccinated. Those under 18 can board with negative test results. The ship’s crew will also be vaccinated.
“The vaccines are clearly a game changer for all of us, and with the number of vaccinations and their impact growing rapidly, we believe starting with cruises for vaccinated adult guests and crew is the right choice,” said Michael Bayley, CEO of Royal Caribbean International. “As we move forward, we expect this requirement and other measures will inevitably evolve over time.”
In addition to these cruises, Royal Caribbean has also announced that cruises from Israel aboard Odyssey of the Seas will be “fully vaccinated” when they begin in May.
While requiring a vaccine may be controversial (about 30% of American adults say they won’t get the shot), it is by far the biggest step to ensure safe cruising.
Combined with testing before boarding, the requirement should provide some peace of mind for passengers looking to enjoy a vacation. That said, not everyone on the ship will be vaccinated, and even if they were, it’s no guarantee that the virus can’t make its way on board.
What About Cruises From the United States?
Sailing from The Bahamas and Bermuda appears to be a short-term workaround while cruises are still paused in the United States. As mentioned, trips are only departing through August.
Obviously the logistics of starting a cruise in Nassau or Bermuda make it more difficult for American passengers to sail. At this time there is still no word on when cruises from the United States will begin again. Cruise line executives have sounded optimistic as the number of cases falls and the number of vaccinated adults continues to climb. Trips are currently scheduled to begin in June or July from the United States, depending on the cruise line.
In our opinion, these cruises from The Bahamas may serve two purposes.
First, they can get the cruise line sailing again close to the United States, opening up sailing to those who can’t wait to board until trips sail from the U.S. again.
Second, it’s possible that these cruises will give health authorities a closer look at how the cruise line can sail safely, providing confidence that cruises can once again sail and the worst of the pandemic is behind us.
If you want to sail aboard Adventure of the Seas from Nassau, bookings open March 24. Trips aboard Vision of the Seas from Bermuda are open for booking on March 29.