Ah, the BVI…Zipping around from one stunning island to another, Painkillers at Soggy Dollar Bar, lobster quesadillas from One Love, lobster from Sydney’s, honey rum and corn hole at the Bee Line, jumps off the Willie T, exploring The Baths and beautiful local characters with charisma and charm and the ability to make you laugh. I cannot believe it has been a year. And it’s looking like it’s going to be a bit longer for pleasure boats and day trippers.
Every week, I check the BVI government pages, scanning them for information about an eventual re-opening that makes sense for USVI residents and visitors. And for several weeks, there have been no updates. But, on Friday, and after several weeks without a chirp, there was a bit of movement with a press release from the BVI Ports Authority and a statement from Premier Fahie. Both releases were dated March 19.
The last time I updated you on the BVI was back in January. And there was not much to mention in the way of good news for visitors, anxious to return to the shores of our sister islands. they simply announced that they would be pushing back the re-opening of the ferry terminal for International ferry passengers to April 15. Initially, this is strictly for ferry passengers who intend to stay in the territory and undergo the testing protocol and mandatory four day quarantine. In his statement on Friday, the Premier said that they would be pushing forward on the April 15 deadline to re-open the Road Town Ferry Terminal on Tortola.
To date, we have seen NO mention of private vessels in these statements. Except to warn them about crossing that imaginary line in the deep blue sea that divides the US and British Virgin Islands. Their shores, and their waters, remain closed to anything outside of pre-approved cargo and passenger vessels.
In this statement from Premier Fahie, however, we did see our first positive mention for private vessels!
Measures are being put in place for the private vessels and will be announced in the not too distant future” – Premier Fahie, March 19, 2021
By not too distant future, we may be looking at a few months or another year. Ha! But I’ll take it as a sign that we are moving in the right direction 🙂
In the press release from the BVI Ports Authority, dated the same day, an announcement was made in regards to re-opening their seaports to very limited cruise ship traffic.
Starting in June, Royal Caribbean’s Celebrity Millennium will dock in Tortola and the first cruise ship passengers in over a year will be greeted on the shores of the BVI. Other stops on the regional itinerary are the home port of St. Marteen, St. Lucia and Barbados. But passengers aboard this luxury liner will have to undergo required COVID testing and pre-screening. AND, all passengers and crew will be required to have completed the COVID-19 vaccination process.
“Cruise operators must demonstrate adherence to embarkation testing, social distancing, masking and 100 percent vaccination requirements for guests over 18 and all crew.”- BVI Ports Authority Press Release – March 19, 2021
The passengers will be able to enjoy the BVI with restrictions under a “bubble concept” that will help to ensure that residents and passengers do not mingle.
So, wait, let me get this straight. A six-pack passenger vessel cannot enter the territory but a CRUISE SHIP can? There is one port of entry for this one large vessel. Everyone on that boat is vaccinated and I would imagine that paperwork documenting the pre-screening requirements would need to be submitted for all passengers and crew disembarking the ship prior to arrival. With this “bubble concept” they can keep tabs on where people are and who they are interacting with. The local economy can get a huge boost in just one day without so many threats of an outbreak. While this all seemed odd to me at first glance, it does kind of make sense I guess.
The BVI received their first shipment of vaccinations on February 4, 2021, and, like the USVI, has been pushing to vaccinate as many residents of the territory as possible ever since. It would not shock me, based on these cruising requirements, if the BVI requires a vaccination card for entry once the seaports DO open to private vessels. This is NOT a fact, nor is it printed anywhere, but my opinion based on following along about the strict protocols in the BVI since the beginning of this pandemic.
So, cruise ships in the BVI, but what about the USVI?
Well, Governor Bryan touched on this topic in his press briefing on Monday, citing a need for cruise ships in order to further push the local economy back into a more “normal” and flourishing state. He stated that Barbados and the Bahamas had announced the welcoming of cruise ships with no mention of the BVI. And, although he and 15 other Governors from states with cruise ports are taking a pro-active approach to the lifting of the no sail order by the CDC, it’s likely not going to happen overnight.
A bit more than two weeks ago these Governors met with several cruise ship companies an the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association.
“The meeting was very cordial, but it was apparent that the principals were not optimistic about the return of cruise travels to US waters,” Governor Bryan stated on Monday.
They are urging the CDC to release guidelines for cruise ships are pushing hard for the information in order to lessen the ongoing economic impact on US communities that rely heavily on cruise ships.
Governor Bryan and his team have worked diligently in navigating the unknown waters of this pandemic in order to balance lives and livelihoods. The cruise ship situation is yet another hurdle to jump in order to ease back into normalcy.
“We have been doing really well, and we have managed to strike that balance between protecting the public health, keeping our economy afloat and allowing individuals again to enjoy again some of the leisure of the pre-pandemic life,” the Governor said. “But we can easily lose our footing on that tight rope if we don’t do the right thing.”
He urges residents and visitors alike to remain diligent in compliance with the territory wide mask mandate and social distancing protocols.
He also urges residents to take advantage of readily available vaccinations in the territory stating they are making it as “easy as possible” to receive the shots with pop-up vaccination clinics and local providers on each island.
As of Monday, 33, 826 COVID-19 vaccinations have been administered in the USVI. Thirty per cent of the population has received the first shot and 12% are fully vaccinated. The vaccines in the territory are currently available to everyone over the age of 16.
If you know someone in the territory who is interested in being vaccinated, please have them call the vaccination hotline at 340-777-8227 to find a provider or vaccination pop-up clinic that works for them.
Disclaimer: You MUST get both your first AND your second shot from the same provider which means you would have to be in the territory for 21-28 days in order to receive the vaccination in the USVI.
As of Monday, there are 91 active COVID-19 cases in the territory with zero reported on St. John.