Believe it or not, our experience traveling during the pandemic has not been terrible. Of course, there were plans that were changed or cancelled, but for the most part we found that we could still do a lot of things!
As you all know, we went back to the states when COVID first started, just because there was so much unknown. We cruised up the east coast, and found that there were barely any restrictions aside from the mask mandate and Connecticut being shut down. Then we came back down south and debated about what we should do with the rest of the cruising season. We understood that it was going to be a bit challenging but decided it was worth it and still doable. At first, I was intimidated by thinking about all of the restrictions we would be facing, but as I dove into more research I found out that it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting.
First, we picked where we wanted to go and decided on The Bahamas. Then I researched what the protocols were because at this point vaccines are now available, so we didn’t know if we had to be vaccinated, or maybe just need a negative test. After researching The Bahamas, we found that they were pretty easy to deal with. We had to apply for our Bahamas health certificate online to start the process. I did this while we were in the Palm Coast and making plans. Each person needs their own account unless you're applying for a dependent as well, in which case that dependent can go under an adult's account. So, I applied for my account with Rhys and also applied for Jeremiah's account.
After that I decided to call the customs and immigrations office just to make sure that what I was doing was correct, and the woman on the phone confirmed that we are doing everything correctly. There are 2 ways you could get to the Bahamas -- one is vaccinated and one is non-vaccinated.
Since we are not vaccinated, our journey went like this:
We had to create accounts (check!)
Set the estimated arrival date. To do this we had to find a weather window and pick our best estimate.
We also had to get to the anchorage where we would be leaving from.
We took a 2-day pass down to the anchorage we would be leaving from.
Once there, we had to get a negative PCR test -- This had to be within 5 days of that estimated arrival date.
So, at that anchorage Brittany called around and found an Urgent Care that we could dinghy to.
We went, got lunch, got some tests, and were told that we would have the results in 24-48 hours.
The next day we wake up to see our negative results!
Then, I uploaded them into the portal.
The Bahamas then had 24 hours to respond to me if we were approved or declined.
They responded around dinner time which was perfect because we had a weather window that night!
Once you arrive, you check into customs and you pay your fees like normal-- you are not in quarantine!
There's no limits or restrictions, but on the fifth day of being in the Bahamas, you have to take a rapid test to make sure you didn't get anything on the way.
We paid a $450 lump sum that covered all three of us to check into customs and immigration, a fishing license, and two 15-minute rapid tests as well.
The only other requirement was that every day for 14 days, we got an email for us to fill out a three question survey.
There were times that we couldn’t do it because of service and immigration gave us the okay, but we made sure to fill it out whenever possible.
Basically, as soon as you arrive, you're able to cruise free and clear. Obviously, if you're vaccinated it’s way easier. In that case, you would create the portal, upload your vaccination documents, check-in and that’s it! Rhys didn’t have to get vaccinated or get testing done because he is under 10.
The verdict--it was great! It wasn't hard at all. We are not going to get vaccinated. We would rather go through the process instead. So we're happy to go through that process and honestly, it was easier than checking in the dog and the weapons! Not a big deal at all.
On another note, the vibe here in the Bahamas and with other cruisers is completely different than in the states. Back in the states, everyone was talking about COVID and the vaccine, but here they don't feel the same way. When you hang out with other cruisers and boats, we're not wearing masks, and we don't even talk about COVID honestly. We haven't talked about COVID with anybody since writing this post, but in the states everybody's talking about COVID. It is a completely different vibe which is pretty interesting to note.
However, I do want to say that out of respect, when we go to eat at a restaurant here in The Bahamas, we do wear a mask. I'm sure the locals look at us like “they’re not an Islander and they could be the reason that it's coming here.” So out of respect, we do wear a mask and try to make everybody super comfortable around us. As far as the cruising boats, I feel like COVID is non-existent, and sometimes we forget about it which is kind of nice.
Moral of the story-- you can cruise on your boat and go to different countries, even if you're not vaccinated! Don’t let it stop you!