Crystal to Launch First North American Large Ship Cruises Since COVID
Crystal Cruises announced definitive plans to resume service on the first of its large, ocean-going cruise ships which may also become the first large cruise ship to return to service in North America since the pandemic caused the cruise industry to suspend operations in March 2020. The luxury cruise brand, which is owned by Genting Hong Kong, will operate a summer cruise program within the Bahamas.
In partnership with the Bahamas, Crystal plans to begin sailing on July 3, 2021, with weekly cruises aboard the Crystal Serenity. Passengers will be able to board the ship either in Nassau or the following day from Bimini. The current plan calls for the cruise ship to visit four Bahamas destinations, including Harbour Island, Great Exuma, San Salvador Island, and Long Island. The cruise line, however, noted that these ports of call are subject to final confirmation and may also vary according to the captain’s discretion due to weather or other conditions.
“Like our guests, we have been eagerly looking forward to the day we can welcome them back on board, and we’re thrilled that this day will come in The Bahamas,” said Jack Anderson, Crystal’s interim president and CEO. “The new Bahamas Escapes cruises will allow travelers to enjoy luxury cruising now, as well as bring much-needed benefits to the local workforce, airlines, restaurants, retailers, and hotels for pre- and post-cruise stays. The launch of these cruises will also drive economic growth to The Bahamas, which, like other destinations around the world, has been negatively affected by the global pandemic.”
At a press event held with The Bahamas’ Minister of Tourism and Aviation, Crystal highlighted the advantages of the cruise program. “The all-Bahamas itineraries allow us to sail without risk of border closures, and our North American guests to sail as close to home as possible,” said Anderson. Registered in the Bahamas, the 68,870 gross ton Crystal Serenity will be sailing in home waters, outside the jurisdiction of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accordingly, the cruise line can proceed with its plans through agreements with the Bahamas without waiting for additional guidance from the CDC or meet the requirements for trial cruises, which have been delaying other cruise lines serving the North American market.
“The Bahamas is ready and delighted to welcome cruise visitors back to the islands and to partner with Crystal Cruises in the effort to restore and help re-activate our tourism industry and protect jobs and businesses,” said the Honorable Dionisio D’Aguilar, Minister of Tourism & Aviation for The Commonwealth of The Bahamas. To further support the Bahamas’ tourism industry, Crystal will also be offering passengers pre- and post-cruise hotel programs in Nassau and Bimini seeking to encourage extended stays on the islands.
Crystal had previously announced that passengers will be required to be fully inoculated with a COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days before boarding any Crystal ship. The company also highlighted that it would be drawing from the experience of its sister cruise line Dream Cruises, also owned by Genting, which is operating large cruise ships sailing around Taiwan and ocean cruises from Singapore. Crystal’s health protocols also require negative COVID-19 tests for both guests and crew, reduced capacity on the ship, social distancing, and there is a mask policy.
Bahamas travel regulations will require travelers arriving in the Bahamas to test negative for the virus no more than five days before arriving and to obtain a Bahamas health visa. The Bahamas is also hopeful that most of its residents will be vaccinated before the cruise program begins this summer.