For those ready to travel and dive, it is possible. The Bahamas is back open and the Aqua Cat, Blackbeard’s and Cat Ppalu are running trips and happy to see guests. I headed to the Bahamas in December and All Star Liveaboards did a great job of helping navigate the travel requirements to get into the Bahamas and they are doing everything possible to keep guests and crew safe while onboard. While some things are a little different; the beautiful diving, fantastic food, and amazing crew remain the same.
Traveling Safely During a Pandemic
Getting into the Bahamas was not difficult, but it does require some planning. An RT-PCR Covid test must be taken no more than five days before arriving. Anyone having troubles getting an in-person test or worried about delays in receiving results should consider ordering an in-home kit from Pixel. (https://www.pixel.labcorp.com/covid-19) I requested a kit and it arrived the next day with FedEx. I took the test, which came with easy to understand directions and a postage-paid return envelope and returned it to a FedEx drop box before the last pick up of that day. I was able to track the package arriving back at the lab and after 48 hours I received my results via email. Pixel says results will be available 24-48 hours after they receive the kit.
The Bahamas requires a Travel Health Visa which I applied for online after receiving my negative test results. The current cost is $60 and after filling out information online they email a barcode to be printed and shown to immigrations when arriving in The Bahamas. This also includes Covid insurance, which I actually found reassuring. If Covid is the reason for illness it covered up to $50,000 in medical expenses incurred on the island, up to $500 per day for quarantine or isolation, and medical evacuation.
I flew into Nassau via Miami and the immigrations/customs went quite quickly. They took our temperatures and immigrations also looked at my Health Visa and reconfirmed where I was going/staying. I had my negative test results with me too, but because they were uploaded to get the health visa, I didn’t need to show them again. After that it was straight to customs to gather my luggage and out to meet the transport to the boat.
The Bahamas takes masks seriously and wearing them is required by law, with fines of $250-1000 or imprisonment with each offense. They are required in the airport, while traveling in taxies/group transport, and inside all establishments like grocery stores, shops, and restaurants.
I didn’t find these extra requirements to disrupt my trip too much, but I certainly was glad to arrive on the dock, step aboard the Aqua Cat, and see all the smiling crew welcoming us (even if they were smiling behind their masks). It felt amazing to be doing something ‘normal’ again after so many months and I missed diving.
Bahamas Liveaboards Safety Precautions
Although a few things were different onboard, by the full first day we had all figured out the new protocols and it felt like normal. Really, very few protocols changes were required of us, as guests, but the crew definitely worked even harder than normal to keep the boat disinfected as safe as possible. They were endlessly cleaning: spraying all surfaces six times a day and constantly wiping down door handles, railings, and everything in the salon.
At meal times (and snack times) we experienced the same excellent food the Aqua Cat is known for, just served up a little different. Gone are the days of helping yourself to the buffet, but now the galley staff in masks and gloves load up dishes with the amazing culinary delights they make each day. Guests stand a ways back from the counter (also social distanced from one another) and we simply told them what we would like. Like always, snacks were available throughout the day (i.e. the muffins and cookies I dream about when I’m not onboard) but now they are individually wrapped in plastic for sanitary reasons. Some of us ate meals outside on the alfresco deck (which I always enjoy even in normal times because it’s nice to be outside in the fresh air) but there was plenty of room in the dining area to eat and be distanced as well.
Underwater, the ocean knowns nothing of Covid. The diving was incredible and ranged from peaceful, shallow reefs and sheer walls descending into the blue abyss; to the more adventurous dives including an airplane wreck and the world-renown Washing Machine dive. We also visited the Lost Blue Hole where we had a brilliant encounter with one of the resident loggerhead turtles. It felt so good to be underwater again and helped calm my mind at bit in these crazy times.
The only sad part of the trip was the end and returning back to port.
The Bahamas also requires a second Covid rapid-test be taken on day five of the trip. For those of us arriving in the Bahamas to do a week long liveaboard and leave immediately after by air, it wasn’t really required. We just could not leave the boat/marina until it was time to go to the airport. For those staying longer or wishing to explore beyond the boat, a nurse would come to the boat and administer a rapid test (price included in the health visa) and the results were emailed about two hours later.
Don’t Be Afraid to Reschedule Your Trip!
Traveling right now is obviously not for everyone, but if you are ready to go diving, All Star Liveaboards can take you there. Also keep in mind that travel is currently more flexible than it’s ever been. If you find yourself feeling bad a few days before your trip, postpone it. You can call the office to find a later trip and most flights are not charging change fees. While the measures in place in the Bahamas and onboard All Star Liveaboards are good, they are not perfect and the nature of this virus means it could be possible someone takes all the required precautions and still becomes sick or spreads the virus while in the Bahamas.
Call or email the office (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any questions and we can’t wait to see you diving again whenever you are ready.