Bahamas Changes Stance on Cruise Ship Passengers

It was only a year ago that officials in the Bahamas were complaining about the lack of money spent on the islands by cruise ship passengers.

Now, however, those same officials are hopeful that when cruising returns, those ships will be making a return to ports like Nassau a priority.

ships docked in Nassau
Before the shutdown, it wasn’t unusual to see numerous ships docked in Nassau at once.

“They Will Want To Go to Their Private Islands”

Dionisio D’Aguilar, the Bahamian minister of tourism and aviation, told Tribune Business that he intended to “encourage” cruise lines to come back to the Bahamas once cruising resumes. “Obviously, when they start cruising again, they will not want to come to the population centers,” he said. “They will want to go to their private islands, because they can control the environment.”

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He went on to say that as minister of tourism, he would “encourage [the cruise lines] to come to the population centers, because that’s where they will make the most economic impact.”

This is a major turnaround for D’Aguilar, who has spent the past several years complaining that cruise line guests don’t spend enough money.

Three years ago, he complained to the same newspaper about what he called an imbalance in the relationship between cruise lines and the Bahamas. “You’re not going to come to this destination and be greedy and get it all for yourself,” he said at the time.

READ MORE: The Bahamas Wants More Money From Cruise Passengers 

Why Short Cruises Could Prove to Be A Win/Win

Now, D’Aguilar is hoping that the relatively short distance between popular cruise starting spot Florida and the Bahamas will play in their favor.

“At the onset, [the cruise lines] will want to check their protocols and see how they work,” he explained. “We’re wonderfully positioned for the rebound of the cruise industry, because we’re so close and they can do short cruises.”

Breakaway off Great Stirrup Cay
Private islands like Norwegian Cruise Line’s Great Stirrup Cay could prove a bit of a threat to traditional ports such as Nassau.

“The shorter you make the cruise,” he theorized, “the less the risk. You can do a three-day cruise involving Nassau and your private island.”

Some — including, on occasion, D’Aguilar himself — have expressed fears that private islands such as Great Stirrup Cay and Perfect Day CocoCay siphon off money that guests might otherwise spend in Nassau or Freeport. But D’Aguilar now says his government will not allow that to happen.

“[We] recognize population centers are where the most economic impact is to be had,” he told the paper, “so if the cruise companies come to the Bahamas, they are going to be nudged by whatever means are necessary to visit” these hard-hit areas.

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