Bahamas Forces MSC Cruise Ship to Skip Private Port due to COVID Cases

Bahamas turns away MSC cruise ship from private island port
MSC Seashore during an earlier visit to Ocean Cay (MSC Cruises)

Published Dec 31, 2021 5:15 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Bahamas has become the latest destination to turn away a cruise ship due to reports of cases of COVID-19 aboard, but unlike the other ships which were denied port calls in the Caribbean, the Bahamas turned away a cruise ship that was docked at the cruise line’s private port on an uninhabited island. Details of the Bahamas’ decision are unclear, but it could have significant consequences for the cruise industry as the major cruise lines each operate private ports in the Bahamas. The denial came a day before the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raised its alert level on cruising advising travelers to avoid cruises regardless of their vaccination status.

MSC Cruises’ new cruise ship the MSC Seashore arrived at the company’s private island of Ocean Cay in the Bahamas on December 29 with some passengers saying the ship was docked an hour ahead of schedule. Passengers were preparing to disembark for their day on the beach and in the ocean conservation facilities when the captain informed them that the ship would remain at sea for the day.

“Unfortunately, and unlike most ports of call, the government of the Bahamas has decided to force us to cancel our call at Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve today out of an abundance of caution,” wrote Captain Galano, master of the MSC Seashore in a letter distributed to passengers. “Due to the short notice, we will replace it with an additional day at sea. I apologize for any inconvenience this might cause you and thank you for your understanding.”

The captain reported that “a limited number,” of cases of COVID-19 had been identified among the crew, “as well as a handful of guests who tested positive for COVID-19,” during the five-day cruise from Miami. MSC reports that all of its crew is vaccinated and tested every two days for the virus, while passengers age 12 and older are also required to be vaccinated. All passengers ages two years and up have to test negative before boarding the cruise ship.

The majority were reported to be asymptomatic and “feeling well.” All the passengers and crew that tested positive were isolated and being monitored. The captain in his letter also reminded passengers that they are required to be wearing masks indoors and physical distancing. 

The Bahamas was one of the first destinations to reopen to cruise ships with the arrivals in June 2020. The Chief Executive Officer of Nassau Cruise Port Limited, Mike Maura Jr., told the Guardian Business news outlet at the beginning of this week that cruise ships were not being denied and that the health protocols appeared to be working.

It is unclear why the MSC Seashore’s passengers were unable to go ashore on the private island. Only a handful of maintenance workers live on the island and there might be a few Bahamians who work there, but the port is mostly for cruise passengers. MSC invested in the development of the island, which opened in December 2019 as its private destination. On November 18, 2021, MSC held a naming ceremony for the MSC Seashore and dedication event for Ocean Cay MSC Reserve that was attended by officials from the Bahamas.

Other cruise lines appear to be continuing their calls at their private ports in the Bahamas. Royal Caribbean International, Carnival Corporation’s Holland America Line, and Norwegian Cruise Line, all have private ports while other cruise ships stop at Nassau, Freeport and Virgin has a dedicated beach Club on Bimini. AIS data indicates that Royal Caribbean ships and Virgin’s Scarlet Lady were at their private ports in the Bahamas today.