Cruise Lines Including Norwegian Continue to Delay US Restart

cruise lines continue to delay USA cruise return
Norwegian Encore is the line's newest ship introduced five months before the suspension - courtesy NCL

Published Oct 5, 2020 7:13 PM by The Maritime Executive

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, the parent company of the Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, and Regent Seven Seas Cruises brands, extended its suspension of cruises for an additional 30 days through the end of November 2020 for all its cruise ships. This announcement was despite the recent order by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that only extended its current no sail order on cruise ships in US waters until the end of October.

In making today’s announcement that it is extending its cruise pause, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings said, “The company will continue to work in tandem with global government and public health authorities and its Healthy Sail Panel expert advisors to take all necessary measures to protect its guests, crew and the communities visited.”

Norwegian’s decision to cancel all cruises for November surprised some industry observers, especially in light of the chief executive of the company who spoke out a few weeks ago to Miami’s tourism committee.  At the time, Frank Del Rio said the time had come for cruises to resume in the United States. He observed that experts had learned how to manage with the virus. Norwegian along with the Royal Caribbean Group had also sponsored an expert panel that was convened to develop health and safety protocols for the return to cruising.

The CDC, however, in extended its no sail order said that cruise ships continued to pose a danger citing its contention that the industry spread the virus at the beginning of the pandemic. Also, the CDC has just begun to review the massive volume of comments it received when it asked for input on the actions required to safely resume cruises.

Before announcing the one-month extension of the no sail order, it was widely reported that the CDC had proposed extending the no sail order till February 2021. As first reported by Axios, the CDC was reportedly overruled during a White House meeting of the coronavirus task force. A meeting between officials from the White House and the cruise industry executives scheduled for October 2, was postponed when it was announced that President Donald Trump tested positive for the virus.

Among the largest cruise operators in North America, Norwegian has been the only one to extend its total suspension on cruising since the CDC’s announcement. Carnival Cruise Line also cited the CDC saying that it was canceling most of its planned cruises for November and December. Carnival, however, said it was not canceling cruises planned to depart from Miami and Port Canaveral. “While operations from Miami and Port Canaveral in November and December are still not certain, Carnival is focusing its initial return to service from those two homeports, whenever that might occur,” the company said noting that it would continue to evaluate options.

The other largest cruise companies, Royal Caribbean Group and MSC Cruises, are both selling cruises scheduled to depart the United States in November. Several of the smaller cruise lines had previously extended their pauses till the end of 2020 or beyond. Last week, Virgin Voyages, the start-up cruise line from Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, announced it was also canceling its November cruises further delaying the company’s first commercial cruises. Virgin had been scheduled to operate its first commercial cruises in April, but instead laid up its first cruise ship, the Scarlet Lady, while the ship was still doing pre-launch previews.

While the resumption of cruising continues to be delayed in North America, in Europe the cruise lines are continuing their gradual scale-up in operations. In the coming days, Costa Cruises is scheduled to start weekly cruises on its third ship to resume service, while after several delays AIDA is also scheduled to start sailing its first ship. Both Costa and AIDA are bands owned by Carnival Corporation.