All cruise passengers will now be able to leave the ship. New rules meant South Africans, Indians and a raft of other nationalities needed visas to come ashore when they visited Bermuda. But some passengers booked their cruises before the new list was revealed. The Immigration Department has issued a grace period until July 15. *Photo by Kageaki Smith

All cruise passengers will now be able to leave the ship. New rules meant South Africans, Indians and a raft of other nationalities needed visas to come ashore when they visited Bermuda. But some passengers booked their cruises before the new list was revealed. The Immigration Department has issued a grace period until July 15. *Photo by Kageaki Smith

Immigration bosses have backed down on new visa regulations that had left some cruise passengers stranded on their ships.

The rules, which were announced in May, meant South Africans, Indians and a raft of other nationalities needed visas to come ashore when they visited Bermuda.

But some passengers booked their cruises before the new list was revealed and as a result were not allowed ashore when they arrived on the island.

The confusion has led the immigration department to grant these new nationalities a “grace period” of two and a half months.

Consequently those recently added to the visa requirement list will be allowed to come ashore up until July 15 without a visa.

The Bermuda Sun has repeatedly contacted the government for an official comment over the last two weeks. But again at the time going to press we had still not received a statement from the Ministry for Home Affairs.

A shipping source welcomed the department’s change of heart.

The source said: “Bermuda Immigration has been very accommodating and this extension waiver has been a relief to all vessels calling into Bermuda.

“The waiver extends to passenger ships, cargo vessels and mega yachts and will continue until July 15.

“After that the list that was put into effect on May 1 will once again go into effect.”

Captain Blair Simmons from Container Ship Management added: “It’s nice to have some clarification now — especially for the cruise passengers.

“I think our shared concern with the cruise liners was for the nationalities that had been recently added to the list and whether they would be able to come ashore.

“Now that should not be a problem as they have got until July 15 to get their visas sorted out.”

The Bermuda Sun revealed earlier this month how the new visa regulations had caused chaos and confusion on board cruise ships arriving in Bermuda.

Some passengers had been left holed up on board ships because they did not realize they needed visas.

While crew have been stopped from flying home from Bermuda because they did not satisfy the new requirements.

At least six passengers on the new list have been unable to set foot on Bermudian soil.

While more than a dozen passengers, including a group of Indian nationals, were expected to suffer the same fate when the Norwegian Dawn arrived on May 12.

However the passengers were granted a special exemption at the last minute and came ashore.

Earlier in the month five passengers from South Africa and the Philippines that arrived on the Caribbean Princess were only allowed off the ship after they were granted special exemptions by immigration.