* File photo by Kageaki Smith. Visitors: Tourists soak up the sights in Dockyard, above, but new visa restrictions have seen at least six stuck on ships.
* File photo by Kageaki Smith. Visitors: Tourists soak up the sights in Dockyard, above, but new visa restrictions have seen at least six stuck on ships.
New visa restrictions are causing chaos and confusion on board cruise ships coming to Bermuda.

Some passengers have been left holed up on vessels because they did not realise they needed visas to visit the island.

Crew members have also been stopped from flying home from the island because they did not satisfy the new requirements.

At the beginning of the month, Government announced an updated list of nationalities that required visas to enter Bermuda. It included a host of new nationalities including South Africans, Filipinos and Indians.

Shipping sources told the Bermuda Sun that passengers from the countries added to the list, who had booked cruises several months before the announcement, had arrived on the island without visas.

As a result, some were unable to get off the ship when they arrived. So far it is believed that at least six passengers have been unable to set foot on Bermudian soil.

More than a dozen passengers, including a group of Indian nationals, are expected to suffer the same fate when the Norwegian Dawn arrives today.

Last week, five passengers from South Africa and the Philippines who arrived on the Caribbean Princess were only allowed off the ship after they were granted special exemptions by Immigration.

Sailors

One source, who did not wish to be named, said: "It has been ridiculous. There has been a lot of confusion about the new rules.

"There are a lot more than just a couple of extra nationalities on this new list. Visitors from India, Kenya, Kosovo, Panama and the Philippines all require visas.

"A lot of the sailors who operate the ships and the cruises that come into Bermuda are Filipino.

"They are okay so long as they come and go by the same boat. But they can not change from one cruise liner to the next in Bermuda, even though they can come ashore."

Many passengers leaving their home ports without the newly required visas face the unenviable prospect of not knowing whether they will be able to get off the ship when it arrives in Bermuda.

In the last 12 days at least two crew members on cruise ships have not been able to fly out of Bermuda as they had planned.

One Filipino sailor whose father died while he was at sea was unable to fly home for the funeral because he did not have a visa.

A South African crew member who had booked a ticket to fly home from Bermuda after disembarking here was unable to complete the journey because he did not have the correct visa. He had to stay on board and change his travel arrangements.

Captain Blair Simmons, vice president of vessel operations for Bermuda Ship Agencies, told the Bermuda Sun there was uncertainty as to how future cruise passengers without visas will be treated.

He said: "We had a cruise liner in the other day with five people from countries that were on the new list.

"They did not have visas because they did not know they had to have them when they booked their trip several months before.

"We thought they would not be able to get off the ship at one point.

"It was only at the 11th hour that Immigration allowed them to get off even though they did not have visas.

"There is a lot of uncertainty how the cruise ship passengers will be treated in the next couple of months.

"In general the changes don't affect the crew so long as they come and go on the same ship.

"But we had a situation the other day when a Filipino sailor was supposed to join the crew of a cruise ship in Bermuda. But he was not able to get a visa in time so we had to fly him to the next port of call for the ship.

"It was a hassle and a challenge that the cruise line faced.

Warning

"The general feeling is there should have been a bit more warning or a grace period for cruise passengers of a couple of months.

"Many of the cruise lines have been caught unawares by the addition of these new countries to the list."

The Bermuda Sun contacted the Ministry for Labour, Home Affairs and Housing to get more information about the problem but we did not receive a response by the time we went to press.