Americans will soon be able to sail the oceans again, on a luxury ship in the Bahamas.
On July 3, Crystal Serenity will begin the first of 16 week-long cruises from Nassau starting on Saturdays – and vaccinated Britons will be welcome too.
The ship will carry no more than 900 passengers on the voyages, which will also offer an alternative seven-day itinerary beginning on Sundays from the island of Bimini.
Everyone on board will need to be fully vaccinated two weeks before sailing and also pass Covid tests before arrival and on embarkation.
The news was announced last night, a year to the day that Covid was declared a pandemic and Viking became the first cruise line to cancel sailings.
Both itineraries will stop at Harbour Island, Great Exuma, San Salvador and Long Island, the CEO of Crystal Cruises, Jack Anderson, announced. “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,” he added.
The cruises have been made possible because they fall outside the remit of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which requires lines sailing from US ports to complete a series of test voyages before taking on paying passengers.
Because of this, major operators such as Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and Carnival have cancelled sailings until at least the end of May – and the first test cruises have yet to be announced. Two other lines have shown interest in basing ships in Nassau, the Bahamas tourism minister, Dionisio D’Aguilar, said.
By starting on July 3, the Crystal Cruises sailings could even precede round-Britain trips being considered by P&O Cruises, Princess and Cunard. Details have yet to be announced but the lines have warned they might not be able to start for “several weeks” after May 17, when domestic travel could be allowed.
America’s coasts and rivers could also start opening up this weekend. American Cruise Lines has confirmed that its 100-passenger ship Independence is due to sail tomorrow from Amelia Island in Florida to Charleston, South Carolina. It is able to avoid the CDC rules because they only apply to ships carrying more than 250 people.
On Monday, US paddlewheel cruises could restart when the American Duchess belonging to the American Queen Steamboat Company begins sailing on the Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee rivers.
Vaccinated Britons hoping to join the Crystal Serenity cruises could be allowed to travel abroad from May 17, depending on the outcome of the Global Travel Taskforce chaired by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, which is due to report on April 12.
The US is yet to lift its ban on arrivals from the UK and cruising abroad remains against Foreign Office advice.