When will Cruise Tourism return to Belize?

by Carolee Chanona

Before COVID-19, Belize welcomed approximately 333 cruise calls annually. Additionally, disembarkation rates were 80 percent for passengers and 15 percent for crew members. The tour purchasing rate for disembarked passengers was 60 percent, which compares favourably with the Caribbean average of 35 percent. Due to the pandemic, global cruise tourism came to a halt; Belize has undoubtedly felt the economic ripples accordingly. While it remains unclear when cruise tourism will return to Belizean shores, here’s what we know about changes to operations.

Belize’s original cruise port, Fort Street Tourism Village Cruise Port, is a tender port– approximately 15 minutes from ship to shore. Meanwhile, the newly opened docking port in southern Stann Creek District, the Harvest Caye Cruise Port,  currently caters only for Norwegian Cruise Line passengers.

Changes to the Cruise Industry

tourist village fort street

The Fort Street Tourism Village Cruise Port in Belize City.

In the beginning, at least, many cruise ships are likely to operate at reduced capacity; that is, to meet regulations and allow for physical distancing between guests and staff. Much like airlines, national parks, restaurants and other places, cruise lines could place a cap on the number of guests it allows on a ship at a given time to reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 transmission, according to Travel Pulse: The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently has a “no sail” order in place until July 24 for any ship carrying more than 250 passengers and many major cruise lines don’t plan to resume operations until later this summer. For now, August 1 would be the soonest cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean return to the sea. Meanwhile, others have targeted for Fall 2020 or waiting until 2021.

Resuming Operations is Uncertain

Though August 1 was previously announced by Carnival, hopeful passengers are still on standby to book their next cruise.

“I wish I could give you a date (for a resumption of cruising), but we can’t, because it’s a regulatory matter,” says Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald. “I learned a long time ago not to try to forecast regulatory dates.”

The CDC has issued a no-sail order for cruise ships operating in U.S. waters that will expire on July 24, but is expected to be extended. Meanwhile, authorities in many other countries from Canada to Australia have put cruise tourism on hold for the time being. Additionally, capacity restrictions, deep cleaning, social distancing and other preventive measures are just a few actions expected.

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