South Florida-to-Bahamas cruises to resume earlier than expected

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Minister of Tourism and Aviation, the Hon. Dionisio D’Aguilar, told House Members that he was “delighted to report” that cruises from South Florida to The Bahamas will resume, in many instances, far earlier than anticipated. This includes cruises from the Port of Miami, the cruise capital of the world. Minister D’Aguilar was making his contribution to the 2021/2022 National Budget Debate in the House of Assembly.

“As you know, Mr. Speaker, the American Center for Disease Control or CDC, has prevented cruises from restarting for some time and, given the CDC’s seemingly disinterest in helping the cruise industry to get back on track, cruise industry executives were telling me a couple of months back that, ‘don’t expect cruises, starting from the United States, to resume until September, possibly November or even just before Christmas.’ “Well, Mr. Speaker, Royal Caribbean has announced that six of its award winning ships will begin sailing from major U.S. cruise ports in Florida and Texas in July and August.”

Minister D’Aguilar said the cruise line’s “comeback” will kick off on July 2 in Miami with the Freedom of the Seas embarking on a special Fourth of July weekend sailing to Perfect Day at Coco Cay in The Bahamas. “By the end of August, 12 Royal Caribbean ships will be cruising once again across The Bahamas, Caribbean, Alaska and Europe. In the coming weeks, the cruise line will announce plans to reintroduce its full fleet around the globe by year’s end.”

Minister D’Aguilar said Carnival Cruise Line has announced a similar ‘return to service’ schedule. “And so, Mr. Speaker, I can confidently announce that the road to resumption of cruises in our region is underway, in fact, it is imminently about to happen so Bay Street and other companies and individuals involved in making a living from cruise passengers can begin, finally, to get ready to restart their livelihoods.” Mr. D’Aguilar told House Members that, in 2019, a record-breaking 5.4 million cruise passengers visited The Bahamas contributing almost $100 million to the Treasury in Head Tax, while pumping almost $400 million directly into the hands of everyday Bahamians, small and medium-sized businesses, and other businesses.

“With the cruise business just starting to get going again, I want to remind everyone just how economically impactful cruise passengers were for Bahamians since this $400 million in spend typically does not pass through some middleman but, passes directly from the visitor to the Bahamian with an immediate ability to spend, as cash, with no monies owed!,” Minister
D’Aguilar said.

Minister D’Aguilar said the news comes amidst the backdrop of the “tremendous work underway at the Nassau Cruise Port.” Located at the Prince George Dock, the Cruise Port is undergoing a much-needed expansion and upgrade with $250 million planned to be spent “to bring about this incredible transformation.” New and expanded berths are currently under construction; an iconic arrivals hall will be built next, followed by a Junkanoo Museum, a Coral Reef attraction and an amphitheatre – all to be used to promote Bahamian culture and emphasize the importance of the environment to the almost 4 million visitors expected to utilize the beautiful new Nassau Cruise Port once it is completed in 2022.

Mr. D’Aguilar said: “This Nassau Cruise Port Project will not cost the Bahamian taxpayer a dime since private sector money will be used to finance its construction and operation. Only Bahamian citizens will be allowed to own and operate stores/stalls, restaurants and other businesses in the Nassau Port area, not to mention the vastly improved working conditions for taxis, tour buses and other excursion operators.” The Tourism and Aviation Minister said the fees earned by the government from the Port will increase from approximately $2 million each year to approximately $6 million each year since the government will now receive the VAT on the passenger facility charge paid by each visitor to the Port.

“So, we getting a new and expanded port, it won’t cost the Treasury a dime, the Port will be exclusively available to Bahamian small and medium- sized entrepreneurs, ground transportation and excursion operators will benefit from better working conditions, the port will be managed, as it is right now, by an all-Bahamian team.

“I am extremely optimistic about the redevelopment of the Cruise Port of Nassau and I am convinced it will be a huge success for The Bahamas, ultimately bringing more passengers to Nassau and thereby, positively impacting the lives and livelihoods of scores of Bahamians at-large,” Mr. D’Aguilar added.

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