NCLH’s CEO Teams up with Former FDA Commissioner to Push Back Against Unfair Messages and Give Advisors Confidence to Book Cruises

Clockwise from the top center: Frank Del Rio, President and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd.; Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Chairman of the Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. SailSAFE Global Health and Wellness Council; and Andrea DeMarco, Chief Sales & Marketing Officer, Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Clockwise from the top center: Frank Del Rio, President and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd.; Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Chairman of the Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. SailSAFE Global Health and Wellness Council; and Andrea DeMarco, Chief Sales & Marketing Officer, Regent Seven Seas Cruises

The head of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) held an unprecedented online event just one day after the CDC made it official that its Conditional Sail Order would be allowed to expire on 15JAN and become a voluntary set of guidelines for cruise lines to apply to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on ships sailing in U.S. waters.

Frank Del Rio, President and CEO of NCLH, brought in the big guns – science – to give invited media and trade the facts of the safety of cruising, the science behind projections of when the pandemic will stop playing havoc with the cruise industry, and confidence to travel advisors at their wits’ end after two long, hard years.

The timing was vital. During Wave Season – cruising’s ‘Christmas’ – as travel advisors should be reaping huge bookings, but are instead dealing with another round of cancellations due to the spread of Omicron.

Read more...

The cruise company invited the Chairman of its SailSAFE Global Health and Wellness Council and former Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, to answer the questions on every travel advisor’s mind, presented to him by Andrea DeMarco, the new Chief Sales & Marketing Officer of one of the NCHL brands, Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

The Double Standard “Has Hurt our Industry”

Frank Del Rio, President and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd.

Del Rio came out fighting during his opening and closing remarks, pulling no punches in blaming media and even politicians for the unfair bad rap cruising has gotten during COVID.

“There are different rules for cruising,” he declared of CDC regulations of the industry. “That hurts our industry.”

He said because the cruise industry has been responsible with testing and measuring risks and reporting that data, “media and politicians turn to the data we’ve provided and sensationalize it.”

And he pointed out, “It’s the only industry they can pick on because we report so honestly.”

Del Rio compared the COVID experience to the “war of our generation,” urging trade partners, “We’ve survived two years… now is not the time to quit.”

“We’re almost there,” he assured the online audience.

Gottlieb: “Reclaiming” Vacations

In answer to several key questions by DeMarco, Dr. Gottlieb was firm that the science says that Omicron is peaking “right now”, and that, within a couple of weeks, “that’s going to be evident to consumers so that’s good news,” he said.

By the end of the month, he added, “We will see confidence return to make future plans.”

Vaccinations and prior infections are creating a “wall of immunity” Gottlieb explained.

Combine that with “gamechanger” therapeutic drugs to treat new cases that Gottlieb said will be in “ample supply” to consumers by the fall, he said, “This is the year we’ll start to transition” from a pandemic, to an “endemic phase where it’s persistent but in the background of our lives.”

Once we get past the Omicron wave, he argued, “Consumer confidence will change quickly, “ with consumers feeling more secure and less at risk this summer.

By spring, he predicted we’ll see such low levels of COVID that consumers “won’t be worrying about it. They’ll be looking to regain and reclaim things important to them, like vacations.”

“As we go into the fall, we will not want to give up those freedoms – the psychology going into the fall will be different,” he said, adding COVID will feel more like other viruses we are already accustomed to dealing with.

Cruising’s Competitive Advantage

Del Rio took an early stance strongly in favour of strict protocols and then, vaccines, as key tools and even a competitive advantage in the return to cruising for not only NCLH brands, but for the recovery of the industry.

Gottlieb reinforced that view.

“I felt at start and now – that this is a leisure activity that lends itself to implementing measures that control risk,” he told the online audience, pointing out that cruise ships can control their environments including testing, vaccinated crew and pax, as well as the upcoming availability of therapeutic drugs.

“This can be a safer vacation than in hotel or foreign city where you can’t manage risk,” he said.

But being able to control risk – and measure and report data, compared to other activities where it’s not being measured, “captures attention of the media,” which has been an unexpected “downside.”

But he believes that “thoughtful consumers who understand the risk” involved in most vacations, between airports, planes, restaurants and other congregate settings, will appreciate the risks being measured as cruises do, in order to mitigate those risks.

Where the Rubber Hits the Road – or the Water

At the end of the discussion, Del Rio asked the question on everyone’s minds: “What our travel advisor partners are selling now is summer in Europe and summer in Alaska,  into fall,” he told Gottlieb, “Can they sell those with confidence?”

“The most likely scenario is low prevalence this summer,” Gottlieb replied, adding that Alaska as part of the U.S. and also the EU, were on the same trajectory of recovery as the rest of the U.S.

“People are going to want to get back to things they enjoy.”

Dr. Gottlieb is even putting his money where his mouth is.

“Are you really going to cruise this summer?” DeMarco asked him.

“I am!  I’m looking forward to bringing my kids as well,” Gottlieb replied. “I’m very confident…  I’ve been very cautious –  I have young kids – and I’m very confident we’re going to be travelling this summer.”

Lynn Elmhirst

With a background in broadcast news and travel lifestyles TV production, Lynn is just as comfortable behind or in front of the camera as she is slinging words into compelling stories at her laptop. Having been called a multi-media ‘content charmer’, Lynn’s other claim to fame is the ability to work 24/7, forgoing sleep until the job is done. Documented proof exists in a picture of Lynn at the closing celebrations of an intense week, standing, champagne in hand - sound asleep. That’s our kind of gal.

Girls’ Trip on the French Riviera at The Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, A Four Seasons Hotel
Four Seasons Launches New Hotel Package Inspired by ‘Emily in Paris’ TV Series
The Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, A Four Seasons Hotel has launched "Girls’ Trip on the French Riviera," a new package inspired by ...
OWG Airline
Direct Flights To Cuba With Hola Sun And OWG!
Escape to Cuba with Hola Sun on its exclusive airline OWG - offering 4 weekly direct flights to Cayo Santa Maria, ...
More Office Openings, Staff, Streamlined Process: Ottawa Tackles Half-Million Passport Applications
Service Canada is reopening all of its passport service counters across the country, and opening select offices on Saturdays, as well ...
Windstar's Star Pride
Windstar Cruises Cancels Asia and Adds Tahiti Sailings
Windstar becomes the latest cruise line to cancel Asia in the coming season, citing 'continued uncertainty' about ports in the region ...
From left to right: Dave Bourdages, Vice President, In-Flight Services and Customer Experience, Transat; Bernard Côté, Director, Marketing, Public Relations and Social Media, Transat; Joseph Adamo, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, Transat; and Stéphane Lapierre, Vice President, Air Operations and Development, Aéroports de Montréal.
Air Transat Begins California Service with Direct Flights from YUL to LAX
Flights to LAX will be operated until the end of OCT 2022 three times weekly. On 19MAY, Air Transat will also ...

Leave a Reply