Just when it looked like all hope was lost for winter sun cruising, some good news has appeared on the horizon.
As revealed in Telegraph Travel yesterday, SeaDream Yacht Club, which started sailing again in June after a three-month pause, has confirmed a series of 22 sailings in the West Indies commencing on 7 November.
The seven-night round-trip cruises from Barbados will visit ports and anchorages that are relatively off-grid compared to the usual Caribbean itineraries.
Barbados is currently considered safe enough by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) to have a ‘travel corridor’ with the UK, and is a well-known destination for holidays both before and after cruises. SeaDream I will visit islands regarded as low-risk for Covid-19. These include the raffish ports of Kingston, in St Vincent, and St George’s, the colourful capital of Grenada. The yachts will also drop anchor at gems of the Grenadines, such as funky Port Elizabeth on Bequia; laid-back Canouan Island; palm-covered Mayreau; secluded Union Island; as well as the Tobago Cays, which revel in gin-clear seas and are fringed with talcum-soft beaches.
If there is sufficient demand for these sailings, sister-yacht SeaDream II will also offer voyages to sequestered islands in the West Indies.
Far removed from the hoopla of big-ship cruising, the all-inclusive SeaDream I less cruise ship and more private motor yacht – with a hundred new-found friends along for the voyage.
The SeaDream vessels are revered as the most bijou of luxurious ‘boutique’ ships (with a crew-to-passenger ratio of 1:1 ), and they yield a high level of repeat guests.
SeaDream has featured cruises from Barbados to St Vincent and the Grenadines for many years, and they appear convinced that in these challenging times for the travel industry they can offer a ‘Barbados Bubble’ season of departures throughout the winter season.
The cruise line is not alone in targeting Barbados as a preferred Caribbean destination. British Airways are offering twice-daily direct flights to the island from Heathrow from November. Virgin Atlantic will be introducing their brand-new Airbus A350 on the Heathrow-Barbados route at the same time, while their Manchester-Barbados service will also operate four times weekly from November.
Currently Barbados is exempt from the Foreign Office and Department for Transport advice against all non-essential international travel. At present Barbados classifies incoming travellers into four groups: very low-risk, low-risk, medium-risk, and high-risk. British passengers are currently rated as medium-risk, meaning that upon entering Barbados they will be required to complete and submit an online immigration/customs form 24 hours prior to travel. They are also advised to arrive in Barbados with a Covid-19 negative PCR test taken 48 to 72 hours prior to departing the UK. If travellers arrive without a valid PCR test they will be subject to a mandatory test on arrival and will have to quarantine until the test results are verified.
Embarkation times to the yacht will be staggered between midday and 6pm. Once on board, the vessel’s doctor will conduct a further Covid-19 test using an Abbott ID Now machine, which gives results within 15 minutes. A facial-recognition thermal scanner will also record guest’s temperatures every time they embark the yacht as well as on a daily basis.
Other Covid-secure protocols include the pre-sanitisation of the entire yacht, as well as guests’ luggage, using a state-of-the-art Altapure AP-4 ultrasonic fogger, while UV-C lamps will sanitise all accommodation on a daily basis. Special floor mats will even sanitise guests’ shoes. As a result of these hospital-grade measures, passengers will not be required to wear face-masks during their time on board the yacht.
Sudesh Kishore, SeaDream's senior vice-present of hotel operations, said: “At each port of call, pre-organised tours to specific highlights will ensure guests are in a Covid-secure bubble. We have gone to great lengths to offer our guests an environment in which they can enjoy our unique style of ‘SafeSeaDreaming’”.
With the FCDO currently advising against ocean cruising, insurance has become an important consideration. British travellers are still able to secure insurance from a variety of specialist providers, often in conjunction with initiatives such as SeaDream’s ‘Ultimate Booking Assurance’. This resource assures guests that if their destination has stricter quarantine restrictions imposed immediately prior to travel, SeaDream will give a full refund or transfer the balance to a future voyage.