IN THE LINE OF FIRE: Florida law threatens Caribbean

Florida legislation preventing cruise lines operating in the state from barring non-vaccinated passengers puts Caribbean islands in the “direct line of fire” by threatening the health and wellbeing of millions of residents when cruises to the region resume, says the governor of the US Virgin Islands.

Albert Bryan Jr. is urging Florida governor Ron DeSantis to reconsider the state’s legislation and honour the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines requiring cruise ships operating this summer from US ports to sail with 95% of passengers and crew members vaccinated.

USVI governor Albert Bryan, Jr.

“The bill you signed into law (which goes into effect July 1, 2021) may negatively impact the United States Virgin Islands and other port of call destinations in the Caribbean region,” Bryan said in a communiqué, adding that ensuring the cruise industry reopens with vaccinated passengers is essential to the tourism economies of the US Virgin Islands and the wider Caribbean.

With Florida serving as the nucleus and biggest embarkation point for cruises in the United States that dock in the US Virgin Islands and throughout the Caribbean, the governor warned that “our ports… are in direct line of fire,” noting that while the two hospitals in the US Virgin Islands are equipped to care for the Territory’s residents, they lack the resources to address a potentially larger public health crisis.

“The lack of infrastructure puts us at a disadvantage for any crisis – health or mother nature. This is true of not only the Virgin Islands but most of the countries in the region,” Bryan said, adding, “This is why I implore you to reconsider with a lens to the negative impact that your legislation may have on residents in the Caribbean… Please consider the exemption proposed above so… Caribbean (destinations) can feel safe on arrival and disembarkation of cruise passengers and crew.

“This will be a big win for the people of the Caribbean and the Caribbean expatriates that live in your state. It is my hope that you can assist us in moving in the same direction while respecting regional health liberties,” he affirmed.

Bryan has also shared a communiqué with the leadership of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) inviting support from regional leaders to work with the USVI in finding an agreeable path forward to welcoming cruise ships and their passengers back to the islands in as safe a way as possible.

First published at Travel Industry Today