It’s official. One of the world’s most exclusive luxury yacht operators is confirming scheduled packages to Barbados starting in November.
In what could be the clearest signal of a vote of confidence in Barbados and its tourism product since COVID-19 ravaged the sector from mid-March, SeaDream Yacht Club, an Oslo, Norway-based luxury mega yacht-company has announced it will operate 22 cruises to select Caribbean islands, launching from Barbados.
The Barbados cruise schedules will continue through to April 2021, and will include stops in Union Island and Bequia in St Vincent, as well as Grenada.
The announcement, made in a webinar with the company’s executives on Monday, confirms earlier reports that the company was mulling a return to the seas, even as its competitors in the luxury market such as Seabourn Cruise Line and Crystal Cruises have cancelled their 2020 cruises.
According to SeaDream president Bob Lepisto, voyages are only being planned on SeaDream I, but the company was prepared to add SeaDream II if the demand is there. Both ships carry 100 passengers, and both are coming off successful summer seasons in Norway. Passengers are primarily multi-millionaires and billionaires.
While admitting that things were still fluid in the industry and company officials were closely monitoring COVID-19 infections, Executive Vice President Andreas Brynestad disclosed he was moving to Barbados for the season to facilitate getting the cruises up and running.
On-line publication CruiseCritic noted that SeaDream has developed enhanced the health and safety protocols for the Caribbean sailings that include mandatory COVID-19 tests in order to board.
Passengers coming from the United States, which is regarded as a high-risk jurisdictions by most countries around the world, will have to take several tests in order to cruise, said Emilio Freeman, VP Destinations. A test will be required at least 72 hours before arriving in Barbados and possibly a second one at the airport.
Sudesh Kishore, senior vice president of hotel operations said the line has purchased an Abbott ID Now rapid testing machine that gives COVID-19 results in 15 minutes. This machine will be at the dock and all passengers will be tested again before embarkation. In addition, embarkations will be staggered between 12 noon and 6 p.m. to eliminate any crowding.
In addition, the company said it acquired thermal scanners that record temperatures, which will be kept in a daily log. Passengers will look into the scanner when they re-embark the ship after being onshore, he said.
Also, a hospital-grade Altapure AP-4 disinfectant fogger that the crew will use to clean the ship before people board and ultraviolet lights will be used for daily cabin sanitation, along with special mats that sanitize shoes will all be employed to reduce chances of any infections on board.
One important development that could be seen as controversial is the decision not to mandate masks on board by passengers.
Even though social distancing will be enforced, masks will not be required.
Kishore said: “We do not want people to wear masks onboard . . . . That’s why we want people to be tested prior to embarkation.”
At the same time, Executive Vice President Andreas Brynestad noted that requirements would be dependent on government regulations in each destination, as well as “guest comfort level and feedback”. “We will have masks for everyone onboard,” he said. “If our guests feel like wearing masks is the right thing to do, we are more than happy to listen.”
Identifying what could be a logistical challenge for guests coming out of the United States, the company said it will encourage them to fly to Barbados the day of embarkation, rather than a day or two in advance, Freeman said.
“That way, the Barbados government will likely classify passengers as ‘in transit’ and able to bypass the island’s current 14-day quarantine for people arriving from the
US. . . .
“Anyone who might be thinking of a stay in Barbados should think about doing it as a post as opposed to a pre.” (IMC1)