The Viking Cruise Ship Orion is due to arrive in Bermuda tomorrow (May 21) “two days ahead of the scheduled arrival of May 23, and will remain at anchor in Great Sound for six (6) days to complete its 14 day quarantine period”.

Speaking at a news conference yesterday (May 19), the Minister of Transport, Lawrence Scott said the 460 crew will quarantine before the cruise ship homeports in Bermuda.

The ship will sail from Bermuda on eight-day cruises and call in to Hamilton, St George’s and Dockyard.

The 900 passenger capacity will be reduced by 50 percent for vaccinated passengers and crew members only.

The Minister stressed that tough measures will be used to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“The company has spent millions of dollars outfitting each ship to mitigate COVID-19.

“The Orion will arrive in Hamilton on May 27 and the crew will stay on board to ready the ship for the first Bermuda 8-day Escape cruise on June 15,” he added.

The Bermuda Escape cruises are scheduled to end on August 3, with the hope that the cruises will be extended.

“We are hopeful that the success of this summer’s program will lead to an extension of the Viking’s Bermuda Escape itinerary in addition to Bermuda becoming a more regular port of call for years to come,” said the Minister.

“We welcome this much-needed stimulus to our economy.

“Homeporting will generate more airlift in and out of Bermuda. It will also bring additional business for local transportation, hotels, shore excursions, bunkering, freshwater provisioning, and garbage disposal services. It also creates the potential for pre- and post-cruise extension visits. We look forward to seeing a buzz with increased visitors during the summer months and beyond,” he said.

“Like many industries in Bermuda, the Island Tour Boats and Charter Industry has struggled with reduced demand and reduced customer capacity during COVID.

“Bermuda Tour Boat Association reached out to the Government to request assistance them through these harsh times and until they can operate to some level of normalcy.

“Their requests included relief from payroll tax, liquor licensing fees, and boat licensing fees. The Association also requested to operate with a capacity greater than the 25 persons maximum under the various Covid-19 related regulations over the last year.

“Additionally, they requested that the current Fuel Rebate allowance for May to October be extended for the entire year and that a moratorium on charter and island boats be introduced. These two items are still under consideration since the Ministry prioritized the requests to address the most time-sensitive items.

“Their requests were considered and while boat licensing fees were increased by 5 percent across the board for 2021/22, fees were not increased for the boat and charter industry.

“The liquor licensing fee was also reduced by 50 percent this year and those who applied from the tour boats and charters industry received unemployment benefits.”

He also noted that the Government has revised the” COVID Guidelines for Commercial Vessels that went into effect on  May 9th “to allow them to operate with reduced capacity per the COVID-19 Maximum Capacity Assessment under the Department of Marine and Ports”

“This will be reviewed regularly and is subject to change as required based on Bermuda’s COVID status,” he said.

“As the weather gets warmer and more and more Bermudians and visitors take part in Bermuda’s active boating culture, we want to remind boaters and water-craft users to be mindful of others and use care and caution.”