It was a one-two punch from Norwegian in the cruise industry’s ongoing standoff with the CDC. Today the question remains: is it enough to knock out the CDC’s restrictions on cruising in American waters?
On Monday, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH), parent company of Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), Oceania and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, sent a letter to the CDC. The tone was significant. No begging. Instead, announcing its “plans to resume cruise operations from U.S. ports in July.”
The company described its own Sail SAFE Health and Safety Program. Most notably, that includes a requirement for guests and crew to be vaccinated. And that’s where NCLH is calling out the CDC on its own guidance from late last week.
In a press release, NCLH pointed out “the company’s plan is consistent with the CDC’s updated guidance that international travel is safe for fully vaccinated individuals and that COVID-19 vaccination efforts will be critical in the safe resumption of cruise ship travel.”
Its letter addressed to CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Paula Walensky, went on to add, “Therefore, we respectfully request the CDC lift the CSO for all NCLH cruise vessels departing from U.S. ports effective July 4, 2021.”
NCLH CEO Frank Del Rio made the case – and the challenge to the CDC – plain, and took to the airwaves to make the company’s – and the entire cruise industry’s – new case public.
“I challenge you to tell me of another venue anywhere that has this kind of iron-clad health and safety protocols in place … cruise ships will de facto become the safest place on earth,” Del Rio told CNBC. “We want to start in the safest manner possible and that is … everybody on board has to be vaccinated.”
NCL To Sail Offshore Anyway
While its parent company waits for the CDC to respond to that gauntlet thrown, Norwegian Cruise Line announced Tuesday that it was cancelling some cruises but also hedging its bets and joining several other cruise lines in launching offshore summer cruises.
Three NCL ships will launch from Greece, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. Norwegian Jade will sail the Greek Isles from Athens (Piraeus) beginning 25JUL. Norwegian Joy will set sail from Jamaica on 07AUG, offering weeklong Caribbean itineraries, while Norwegian Gem will sail from Punta Cana (La Romana), Dominican Republic beginning 15AUG.
All guests sailing aboard cruises with embarkation dates through 31OCT, 2021 will be required to be fully vaccinated and tested prior to boarding.
At the same time, NCL cancelled all JUL and AUG itineraries aboard Norwegian Breakaway, Dawn, Escape, Getaway, Sky, Spirit, Star and Sun. Voyages aboard Norwegian Epic through 01SEP, 2021 and Norwegian Pearl through 07NOV, 2021 have also been cancelled.
Other NCLH Brands
Sister cruise line Regent Seven Seas Cruises will not be joining NCL in offshore sailing – yet.
In a Tuesday release, CEO Jason Montague acknowledged the news from NCLH and NCL, but at the same time confirmed Regent’s suspension of all sailings through JUL, He added, “At this moment, while we are not yet ready to confirm a return to sail date please be assured that we are actively planning for this.”
At time of press, Open Jaw had not received any word from NCLH’s third brand, Oceania.