If You're Unvaccinated, You'll Be Turned Away From Here Starting Next Month
A new mandate is forcing some people to change their travel plans.
As the Delta variant continues to take hold in the U.S., unvaccinated people are seeing their day-to-day life affected more than others. Due to the heightened risk of infection, more institutions and companies are requiring individuals to show proof of vaccination. In some major cities, like New York, New Orleans, and San Francisco, vaccine mandates are being put in place for indoor spaces like restaurants and event venues. And now, if you're not vaccinated, your travel plans could be upended too.
The Bahamas Customs and Excise Department released an emergency order on Aug. 19, requiring all cruise passengers to be fully vaccinated against COVID in order to enter any Bahamas' ports. The order, which was signed by Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis, goes into effect on Sept. 3 and will be in place through at least Nov. 1.
According to the order, all passengers must be fully vaccinated prior to a cruise ship's departure, but exceptions will be made for passengers younger than 12 or those who can't be vaccinated for medical reasons. In order to dock, a ship's captain must submit a crew and passenger manifest disclosing everyone's vaccination status.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the Bahamas currently has high levels of COVID transmission. The country has reported more than 700 new cases this past week and has only vaccinated about 12 percent of its population, per data from Johns Hopkins University.
"Unvaccinated travelers should avoid nonessential travel to the Bahamas," the CDC says. "Because of the current situation in the Bahamas, all travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants."
Many major cruise lines have already announced changes to their own requirements to adhere to the Bahamas' new order. MSC Cruises says that unvaccinated guests will be unable to sail from Sept. 3 through Oct. 31. Passengers who have already bought tickets for cruises during this time and are now ineligible to sail can get a full refund, per Travel Weekly.
Royal Caribbean had previously been requiring proof of vaccination for all U.S. cruises, except for those departing from the state of Florida due to an executive order from Gov. Ron DeSantis banning vaccine mandates. But as a result of the new order from the Bahamas and a recent court win against DeSantis' ban by Norwegian Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean says it will now be requiring proof of vaccination for Florida-based cruises on Sept. 1.
The U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) also recently passed a similar law to that of the Bahamas, according to Royal Caribbean, which played a part in the cruise line's decision to require vaccination for passengers leaving from Florida as well. On Aug. 2, Royal Caribbean said the USVI government had informed the cruise line that it will not allow cruise ships with unvaccinated passengers to dock at its ports.
"This is a requirement of The Bahamas and St. Thomas governments for a cruise ship to enter their waters, and is currently planned to remain in effect until November 1, 2021, at which point the policy may be updated," Royal Caribbean now states on its website. "We remain in contact with local governments in the ports we visit and will update the policy if advised."