Bahamas Imposing New Restrictions on Cruise Ships Including Stops at Private Islands – Requiring Passengers 12 and Older to be Vaccinated

Today, The Bahamas announced that cruise ships with passengers shall not be permitted to enter a port in The Bahamas, including a private stop, such as Disney’s Castaway Cay, beginning September 3, 2021 until November 1, 2021 unless a number of conditions are met including a requirement for all passengers 12 and over to be vaccinated except for individuals who are ineligible due to medical contraindications.

Specifically the order now reads as follows:

Effective the 3rd day of September, 2021 until the 1st Day of November, 2021, a cruise ship which is on a passenger voyage shall not be permitted to enter a port in The Bahamas (including a private stop) unless –

  • The Captain or Master of the cruise ship transmits a crew and passenger manifest to the Port Medical Officer, which discloses the vaccination status of all persons prior to arriving at the port;
  • all passengers over twelve (12) years old and older were fully vaccinated prior to embarking on the cruise ship at the start of the voyage; and
  • the health protocols, previously submitted by its cruise line to the Competent Authority and approved by the Competent Authority, has been complied with.

With regards to the vaccination requirement, this order shall not apply to –

  • the crew, contractors and any non-revenue passengers of that cruise ship and whatever protocols that were previously agreed to between the Government of The Bahamas and each cruise line in relation to its crew, contractors and non-revenue passenger shall remain in effect;
  • a cruise ship attempting to call at a port in an emergency, or in other exigent circumstances approved by Government of The Bahamas;
  • an unvaccinated passenger who is ineligible for the COVID-19 vaccination due to medical contradictions.
Bahamas Emergency Powers Covid 19 Pandemic Management And Recovery No 2 Amendment No 8 Order 20210819

The full 4-page order can be reviewed here as posted on The Bahamas Customs Department Website.

This is a developing story. It appears based on the wording this will likely impact sailings during the effective dates as ALL guest 12 and over must be vaccinated in order for the ship to dock.

We will continue to dig into this and provide an update as soon as possible. At this time there are not official changes as it pertains to Disney Cruise Line. We contacted Disney Cruise Line for comment, but have not heard back. I suspect they are busy determining their path forward and will provide an update in the near future.

This was first reported by Eyewitness News Bahamas.

72 Replies to “Bahamas Imposing New Restrictions on Cruise Ships Including Stops at Private Islands – Requiring Passengers 12 and Older to be Vaccinated”

  1. CATHY

    Interesting. This will throw a damper on the rules Disney is currently operating under. Curious to see how this pans out.

  2. James Hazy

    Looks like DCL has 2 alternatives- cruise in circles in the Caribbean without docking anywhere or require all passengers 12 years old and older to be vaccinated.

    I vote for door #2.

  3. Ted

    Option 1 is illegal under US law, so #2 it is.

    I’m booked on the dream on Sep 20 and fully 5G compliant, so I personally have no problem with this.

  4. Steven

    Great news in my opinion. I’d love it to transpire that the cruise lines asked the Bahamas government to do this.

  5. Margot

    Ummm – Didn’t Gov. DeSantis ban asking vaccination status? Although I see NCL won an injunction on that a week ago. Anyone know where this stands now and how that would impact ANY cruiseline’s ability to comply with the Bahamian order (if they board in Florida)? How can cruiselines board in Florida anymore if they can’t port anywhere… All the cruiselines just have to pile on against DeSantis on this. Covid doesn’t appear to be going away quietly and who knows how long we will be dealing with it. Years?

  6. Danielle

    Me too 😞 our 9/4 Fantasy sailing was canceled on Monday so we moved to 9/6 Dream. I can’t take two cancellations in one week!

  7. Holly

    NCL has already put guidelines out since they won’t the case. They have said that have said all their guests must be vaccinated and their first cruise has just left from Miami. So the cruise lines could sail from Florida and require it since NCL is.


    hmm since they changed all the 7 day cruises to 4 day with just a castaway stop I think this might be a major issue!!!!

  9. Bonny Ann Pesch

    It’s going to be interesting how this will change the sailings Disney just announced on the Fantasy.

  10. Morgan

    Option #1 isn’t even really an option. Under the PVSA, foreign ships must dock at a foreign port before redocking at a US port. Essentially, Disney can’t legally “cruise in circles.”

  11. Edith Sinclair

    i got an email from NCL yesterday about a Nov cruise from NYC to New Orleans. All passengers must be vaxed – all ages.

  12. S

    I think all the major cruise lines (DCL, NCL, Carnival and Royal C) all have private islands in the Bahamas. I think only NCL was “requiring” vaccines for all on their this will be very interesting to see what happens now. As I see it, the State of Florida has said – you can’t require vaccines or even require mandatory vaccine reporting (only voluntary) but in order to sail from a US port, you have to go to another port – presumably in the Bahamas – which now requires not only everyone over 12 needing to be vaccinated but that to be communicated to the Bahamian Government in advance of arrival. Very fascinating.

    I wonder if DeSantis will have to give now or if he will dig in and try to fight it (not sure how you fight a foreign govt and their rules though). I don’t think that these cruises will all just go to Mexico at this point in time and bypass other closer ports.

    Someone else mentioned that maybe the cruise lines asked the Bahamas to do this and honestly I wouldn’t put that past the cruise lines – get’s them out of the cross hairs of the State of Florida but also gets them the safety that they want – without having to be the bad guy (pretty smart move if you ask me).

    This will definitely force many people to not go on a cruise if there is a vaccine requirement but it may also encourage others who have been hesitant to go on a cruise ship without such a mandate/requirement.

    I guess only time will truly tell what happens.

  13. S

    Royal Caribbean just changed their policy to require vaccinations for all cruisers 12 and up effective Sept 3rd even for all sailings out of Florida. So NCL was already asking and now RCL changed its’ policy. If Carnival also changes policy, wouldn’t DCL have to follow suit?

  14. Dave

    It’s pointless. I don’t get the point since vaccinated people are spreading the virus. So vaccinated people are going to bring it to the islands no matter what. But Im done with cruising likely for good. No way I would go on a cruise ship during a pandemic anyway. The endless list of restrictions are not my idea of a fun vacation, and the value is a total ripoff at this point. But there is absolutely no way in hell I’m taking this vaccine. No way!! And don’t start a debate with me about it. I have my reasons.

  15. jerry292

    I’m lost. Maybe someone can explain this. What are the reasons for these mandates? Does the Bahamas government think vaccinated people don’t spread the virus? If they are worried about the virus spreading to the Bahamas, then they need to mandate tests for everyone not just vaccination. And the kids are going to spread it, right? You are going to let kids on the island and spread it? So I’m lost on what is the point of this order? This just seems very odd to me and doesn’t make sense.

  16. Randy

    We are going on the Disney Dream on Monday with 2 stops at Castaway Cay. Wonder if DCL will change policy now or wait until the Sept 3rd effective date. Sure hope we go to CC, but would rather go on a cruise with 100% vaccinated passengers, so if it gets delayed/changed to that, I am OK with it.

  17. Kay

    I was to leave on Sept 3. Really???? They had to choose that date! This late in the game I don’t think they can get ALL passengers fully vaccinated.

  18. J

    Dave, I understand where you are coming from. Isn’t it interesting that people are being told take this shot or you will lose your job, or you cannot enter certain places (NYC), or you cannot return to college, or now you cannot cruise—-many people seem to be taking this shot for those reasons and not necessarily for their health. Tells you a lot doesn’t it.

  19. Texas mom

    I don’t understand this mentality that if something doesn’t completely stop the virus (vaccine, masks, etc.) it’s worthless. There is no question that those things do significantly mitigate the spread, even if they don’t stop it entirely. Seatbelts don’t always save your life. The chemo doesn’t always work. Nothing is perfect. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take reasonable steps to slow the spread of a deadly virus.

  20. James

    I would watch the news shortly after the vaccine is approved for 5-11, I suspect the Bahamas will admen the order for starting Nov 2 to require 5-11 to be vaccinated as well.

    In September, most school systems have already started back up and the % passengers under 12 is dramatically reduced.

  21. Juliet

    I’m happy that DCL will likely require vaccines for 12 and up. All these people complaining about vaccine requirements. As a nurse, Please get a clue. I guess you’re just done with cruising then? Get your vaccine! (for those complaining that vaccinated people spread this.. here’s the deal.. everyone spreads this. Vaccinated people mostly show no symptoms or little symptoms if they do.. that what the vaccine is supposed to do. If you’re complaining that they give it to non vaccinated people and they die.. yeah, get the vaccine and you wont either. Its as simple as that. Whats the alternative? Everyone gets it and either dies or gets it worse than they would with the vaccine? your logic is so flawed its absurd. Lets all be adults and do what we have to do to move on here or ya know we could get 50 other variants and never cruise again.. hows that?)

  22. Jerry

    I’m guessing it’s mitigation. Vaccinated people can still spread the virus, but what is still being researched is how likely vaccinated people can spread the virus compared to unvaccinated people. Usually, even if a vaccine has low ffectiveness at preventing infection, vaccinated people tend to have less virus in them, even if they’re still infected. And then you have health care requirements — one thing that has been pretty solidly demonstrated is that, if you’re vaccinated, and suffer a breakthrough infection, you’re much less likely to need hospital care.

    So, the ruling is meant to do two things. 1) The government is betting that, if you’re vaccinated, you spread less virus, which makes outbreaks less likely. (The actual difference is still being researched, AFAIK.) 2) If there’s a major outbreak aboard ship or in port after all the precautions, it makes it much less likely that the Bahamian health care system will need to put people into hospital and, especially into the ICU.

    When trying to control a disease like COVID-19, you rely on a defense in depth to keep from overloading your medical system, because no single tactic is 100% effective. The goal is to knock the risk down as low as possible. Social distancing, sterilization of surfaces, masks, vaccines, contact tracing, quarantine, travel restrictions etc. all play a part. So, essentially the Bahamas are adding another layer of defense here.

  23. Dennis C

    Cruise lines can just piggyback on the temporary ruling which favored NCL and which is still in effect. The Bahamas just gave a big boost to the cruise industry to require vaccinations. If they’re back in court they’ll just say, “If we can’t require that passengers provide their vaccination status we can’t sail to our private islands or make other ports of call which will essentially shut us down.

    I suspect that similar mandates will be issued by other countries in the Carribean.

  24. JO

    @Dennis – I think you’re right. They’ll still go but anyone not vaccinated would have to remain on the ship. Am I reading that right?

  25. Christopher Fisher

    I agree Dragynally. At least the Bahamian government is making decisions based on science, health, and safety as opposed to politics driving
    decisions being made here in the U.S..

  26. Ed

    What’s the problem? The Bahamas are told by DCL that you are either vaccinated or indeterminate and the man/woman from The Bahamas government at the bottom of the gangway either lets you off or not. there’s plenty to do on board.

  27. JJ

    Christopher, decisions made on science? What science? Your handpicked scientists? Like Fauci? CDC? Who have all changed their minds a million times during this pandemic? Did you hear the New York Times is reporting those plastic barriers businesses like Disney World spent a fortune on putting up all over the parks are useless and may have made the spread of COVID even worse. Where did Disney follow the science on that? They didn’t. It’s all pandemic theater. What I think is you have a lot of people passing laws and forcing mandates for the sake of doing something. And then that makes people feel better and safer. That’s all this is. This order out of the Bahamas will not stop the spread of COVID on a cruise ship, nor will it do anything meaningful to lift us out of the pandemic of a virus that is likely here forever. This is about the appearance of doing something and making people feel better. And to me personally, that makes me trust the scientists and the governments even less! We haven’t been told the truth since day one. So why should I trust them now?

  28. Groucho

    Wow – fascinating new development; I didn’t see this one coming! The next couple weeks should be very interesting! The cruise lines are in a true catch-22 now. Disney can’t do any of their scheduled sailings from Florida from Sep 3rd on without violating one ruling or another. This is bad news for anti-vaxxers no matter how you slice it. The Bahamas certainly won’t change their stance. Our best hope is the DeSantis finally backs off banning cruise lines from requiring vaccinations; most likely is that the other lines will quickly hop onto Norwegian’s lawsuit. Even if they didn’t originally have the appetite for suing Florida, they have no choice now if they want to be able to sail. This also means potentially looser rules on the ships themselves once they are 100% vaccinated. We’re not sailing until Nov 14th so hopefully they have things ironed out by then! My youngest is 12 and we’re all fully vaxxed, so we’re ready to go!

    As for the “vaccinated people can pass the virus so what’s the point”; that’s the same flawed and incomplete logic as the “Covid is 99% survivable” idea. (Yes, and cutting your hands off and poking your eyes out is 99% survivable too!) The vaccine doesn’t stop the virus, it lets your body fight it much more effectively, So while it may live for a brief time in a vaccinated person, there won’t be as much to spread, the person won’t get nearly as sick, and the virus won’t last nearly as long.

  29. Kevin

    The ship cannot even enter the port if there are unvaccinated passengers on board, so it isn’t as simple as being let off or not.

  30. Taylor

    It’s because vaccinated individuals are significantly less likely to need hospitalization than anyone non-vaccinated. Research also indicates vaccinated individuals still spread the virus significantly less than those who are nonvaccinated. And if you don’t want a debate, don’t post your opinions in a public forum.

  31. Andrew S. (@shoutingboy)

    Once concern I have – there’s only one vaccine authorized in the US for ages 12-18, and that’s Pfizer. It takes five weeks total to get “fully vaccinated” with Pfizer (two weeks after the second shot). This means a teen who decides to get vaccinated now (to comply with the new requirement) won’t be fully vaccinated until September 24. (Adults can choose the Johnson & Johnson, which takes two weeks from the single shot.)

    I can see that for teens who *could’ve* chosen to get vaccinated and didn’t, maybe we just say “sorry, you should’ve planned ahead”. But what if a kid turns twelve next week? Even if they get their first shot on their birthday, they’ll still be out of luck for September cruises.

    I could imagine Disney negotiating with the Bahamas over this. Like, maybe they’ll soften the rule to “If you’re a teen and you’ve had *a* shot, you can’t go to Nassau but you can go to Castaway Cay”? (And the ship is allowed to pull in to port if those teens stay on board?)

    Anyway, I’ll be watching for developments on this. And I bet this pushes Disney along to just requiring vaccines for everyone who’s eligible.

  32. Andrew S. (@shoutingboy)

    “Ummm – Didn’t Gov. DeSantis ban asking vaccination status? Although I see NCL won an injunction on that a week ago. Anyone know where this stands now and how that would impact ANY cruiseline’s ability to comply with the Bahamian order (if they board in Florida)?”

    I think NCL’s injunction only applies to *them*, other cruise lines can’t rely on it. But Disney might be able to use this new Bahamas rule to push for an injunction protecting them, too–they can now show irreparable loss from the rule (since they can’t sail to the Bahamas at all). So they may be able to have the rule suspended until it goes through the courts.

    That may be why we haven’t heard from Disney yet — I bet they’re negotiating with both Bahamas and Florida, and also working out their legal strategy. They’ll want to have their whole plan straight before they say anything.

  33. Walt

    Jerry. You said it perfectly. I wish other people could see it like you and have a happy cruise or not. Sad to say everyone will not be able to meet those requirements, but the majority will. The world we live in has never satisfied everyone 100%, NEVER. So let the minority be happy for the majority that can meet the requirements. After all there will be some things others might not be able to do that you the minority can do only. I have never had everything I wanted in life, but was always happy for others that found joy in the things I wanted to do and could not.

  34. Walt

    Bob I have a disability too. Sorry that I offended you. That was not my intention. Again forgive me and don’t take it personal. Also I am not a nazi. I am more American than you are. Final My disability keeps me from hiking, something I believe in my heart I would enjoy. Sorry.

  35. Ryan

    If The Bahamas says we’re not welcome, why not take the millions of dollars in port fees and go somewhere else? There’s no rule that says DCL can only port in the Bahamas. It is strange to me that asymptotic covid spreading unvaccinated kids under 12 are welcome but over 12 are not. Where’s the science there? Let’s bypass The Bahamas and move on. If they’re fearful of Covid then they can get vaccinated. Anyone who thinks vaccines are not available there is not being honest.

  36. Frodo

    I doubt the Bahamian government would impose this restriction as a favor to cruise lines to try and force Florida’s hand.

    The Bahamas make a lot of money off of cruise ship tourists. As it stands today, only one major cruise line has a policy that would comply. It’s a significant amount of money they will lose if no one can comply.

  37. JO

    @Ryan – exactly. And just wait until all of the booster recommendations become mandates. We’ll be right back where we started, but now even the originally vaccinated people will be shamed by those that got their ‘boosters’ and the cycle begins again. I’m vaccinated and I still think this is all ‘covid theater’. It’s never going to end with the fools we have making decisions.

  38. Brian OKeefe

    You can’t skip the Bahamas. Remember, these ships are not USA flagged. They are Bahamian flagged. They have to stop there, maybe not every cruise but I’m sure they must have some requirement to do so. I believe the reason DCL has fireworks is because they pick them up in the Bahamas and set them off before they port back in the USA as they are illegal in Florida. In short, since they are flagged as Bahamian, they must have rules to follow, including porting there.

  39. Cathy e Ballenger

    ….Oh Boy.. .. We’ve been looking towards our Sept 6th cruise on the Dream, our 6th cruise with Disney, we are determined after all ,we have all been through to have a magical time as always no matter what the little hoops we have to jump through, even if we have to cruise around in circles…… but we would sure miss Castaway Cay… we are both vaccinated but don’t know how they would divide everyone up???? who could and couldn’t disembark??? I hope and pray they don’t cancel our cruise.

  40. CATHY

    @jo I totally agree with you. My husband and I are both vaccinated and contracted covid wearing masks and following all the protocol.The only place we went in the 2 weeks prior to covid was the grocery store and honestly not near any people.This spreads much quicker and you don’t need the proximity. My husband tested positive first and me 3 days later.
    There will be no end to this. They will just keep pumping vaccines into us and the vaccinated will keep getting covid unless they stay in their houses and do nothing and the pharmaceutical companies will keep getting richer.
    I have 6 cruises booked between now and September 2022 and I will not be getting a booster because I don’t think that this will end with one booster and at this point I don’t care if I can’t cruise. I am also opposed to having to prove that I have been vaccinated. I don’t want to go on a cruise and spend a ton of money and have to wear a mask and have limited things to do. Friends of ours have gone already and were very disappointed in the experience. Restaurants, shows, the whole experience very limited. I know this much I will get a ton of money back from Disney. lol

  41. Jo

    Hi Cathy, So sorry you and your husband got covid and thank God you have both recovered. We, too have had so many cruises booked and cancelled. Right now we have three booked and are just waiting to see what if anything changes for the better. As of now, we are thinking how about we take that money and buy an RV. Our State is open and free with beautiful state parks, beaches, and camp grounds. DCL has gotten plenty of our money and we are not sorry for all the great cruises we have been able to enjoy, but we have no desire to be in the position of practically begging any cruise line, restaurant, etc. to please let us give you our money so you can give us a watered down product. Also, sometimes we think there are so many fellow Americans who are struggling to make decisions regarding their jobs, their children’s schools, etc. that even thinking twice about whether or not our cruises will be cancelled is pretty petty on our part. Do enjoy this forum and hearing from all of our fellow travelers and do understand how disappointing it is to have vacation plans that were such a ray of sunshine dashed, so please don’t take this as any kind of criticism to anyone on this thread; just sharing how our family is trying to keep things in perspective.

  42. CATHY

    @Jo. thanks for the well wishes and we too are waiting to see what happens as things seem to be changing all the time. 4 of our cruises are on the Wish and we were really looking forward to those. We are on the maiden voyage and then have a couple that are concierge which means we would lose money if we cancel those unless of course they totally change things up on their end. We live in Florida which I also consider a free state lol and there is lots to explore here. I love cruising and I love that we are only 2 hours from the port so we don’t have to go through the hassle of flying. I am hoping things get better but this has been a long long time now so I do not have my heart set on anything and am prepared to just go with the flow and what we feel when the time comes. I canceled everything we had booked for this year because I just know i would be bored to tears if we are limited on what we can do. My girlfriend said on her cruise there were only a couple restaurants open, only 1 show and 1 movie and very limited kids club with hardly any activities. That sounds like a whole lot of money for very little in return and jumping through hoops just to get on. Her PAT was early and it took hours before she got onboard. I am not a patient person so this experience would not be for me so we are in a wait and see mode at this point.

  43. S

    @Jo and @Cathy

    Cathy – glad to hear you and your hubby have recovered.

    I agree with both of you. Have had so many great memories on DCL but am really struggling with going on one of these cruises at current prices knowing that services are pretty limited. My concern is even if they open things up let’s say in September/October (we are sailing the week of Christmas) that doesn’t mean that things couldn’t and wouldn’t significantly change (in either direction) by the time we sail. We are disappointed that things like Shuffleboard (where on our last cruise, Workout dressed Goofy showed up and started playing with us for about 5 minutes and then took pictures with us) and the sports hoops are all closed at the moment. I too only live 2 hrs from Port Canaveral so can drive and easily make it no worries but it is the experience on a DCL ship that keeps us paying premium prices and coming back for more (our kids are now 19 and 17) – to me without that experience I am struggling justifying the spend. Each person has their own value prop so I am not passing any judgetment just expressing my thoughts. I also agree @Jo that with so many poeople getting sick, having passed away or having had serious consequences from Covid that we are definitely one of the lucky ones for sure. There are a whole lot of things to be thankful for.

    For those that are sailing soon, please share your experiences with the rest of us. It is greatly appreciated and needed at this time. If you are sailing, please stay safe and happy sailing. Here’s to wishing we can join you all soon!

  44. CATHY

    @S Thanks for the well wishes. Yes it is a hard call but all we can do is wait and see and be thankful we live here and can still have magical experiences if we choose not to cruise. I live in Tampa and no matter what anyone says about Florida I really don’t think I could have survived this pandemic anywhere else. I am praying that this will turn around soon and we can all go back to our wonderful Disney cruises just like they used to be.

  45. Disney Convert

    At the risk of being cynical, who do you think helped “support” the Bahamas to make this change?

    How do I count those private cruise-line owned islands – Castaway, Royal Stirrup, Princess, Half Moon, Coco – oCay?!

  46. Rhonda

    Sounds sane to me! We are hoping that’s the case cause we want to book and will definitely feel more confident with 100% vaccinated

  47. CATHY

    @Rhonda.. not sure why because my husband and I are fully vaccinated. We both got covid and were able to spread it. Unfortunately being vaccinated is not a guarantee you will not get covid. There are no guarantees with this one. You are in the public vaccinated or not, masked or not and you are still vulnerable. I think people just mentally feel better and that is fine however be aware that you may not be as protected or shielded as you think you are.

  48. Lori

    I imagine Disney has the highest number of children under 12 on their ships. Since they cannot be vaccinated and are now experiencing higher infection rates (supposedly, who knows if actually true) then I’m confused as to how the ship stops at port even if everyone over 12 is vaccinated, especially since they are now pushing the delta variant is causing more infections in vaccinated people. CDC is also now saying not to cruise even if vaccinated. 🤷‍♀️

  49. Kevin B

    While alternative #1 sounds fun, a Disney cruise to no where…it might violate the Passenger Vessel Service Act (VPSA). It requires foreign flagged ships to visit at least one foreign port during a cruise. It’s one of the reasons Disney can’t offer a cruise to visit the ports of America, e.g. an East Coast cruise.


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