Norwegian Cruise Line Announces Summer Non-US Cruise Restart
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings became the first of the major cruise lines to map out a comprehensive plan for the restoration of its operations. The strategic plan, which starts with cruises originating outside the United States this summer, came as the cruise company also sent a plan to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asking for the rescinding of the current restrictions on U.S. cruises.
The company’s Norwegian Cruise Line was the first of its three brands to announce dates for its resumption of service. Three of the company’s large cruise ships, the Norwegian Joy, Norwegian Jade, and Norwegian Gem, will be the first to resume sailing. The corporation’s other brands, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises canceled cruises through July 31, while Norwegian said they will announce details on their voyage resumption plans at a future date. Norwegian reports that it expects a phased-in approach to reintroducing additional vessels across its three brands while taking into account the public health environment, global travel restrictions, port availability, and other considerations.
“We are excited to unveil our initial plans for the resumption of cruise voyages embarking outside of the U.S. with sailings to the Caribbean and Europe. In addition, we continue to plan for a resumption of cruising from U.S. ports and await further discussion with the CDC regarding our proposal for a July 4 restart to participate in America’s national opening,” said Frank Del Rio, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings. “Safe and highly effective vaccines are a game changer and to create the safest environment possible, we will require all guests and crew to be vaccinated against COVID-19.”
As part of the phased return to cruising, Norwegian Cruise Line will initially offer seven-day cruises to the Greek Isles on the Norwegian Jade from Piraeus, Greece beginning July 25, 2021, and seven-day Caribbean itineraries originating in Montego Bay, Jamaica beginning on August 7, 2021, on the Norwegian Joy and from La Romana, Dominican Republic on the Norwegian Gem beginning August 15, 2021. They did not specify the itineraries only noting that the ships in the Caribbean would make four ports of call with a total of 10 to 11 hours of port time on each sailing and two days at sea. The Greek Island cruises aboard the Norwegian Jade will visit a different port each day.
Norwegian said that it plans to require all its passengers and crew to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and that it will also continue to implement the health and safety protocols developed by a panel of experts. As such, the company will not be accepting families or minors on its cruises at this time as children are currently excluded from the global vaccination programs. The lien further said it would initially limit capacity on its cruise ships.
Norwegian becomes the latest of the cruise lines to announce plans to resume operations outside the United States as the criticisms of the CDC continue to grow. Royal Caribbean Group has also announced plans for cruises marketing to Americans on two of its brands sailing outside the United States. Other cruise restart programs are for domestic cruise markets such as the U.K.
Carnival Cruise Line, however, continued to cancel additional sailing dates while saying it continued to work towards a restart. However, Carnival Corporation’s smaller Seabourn Cruise Line became the first of the corporation’s U.S. brands to announce restart plans. Seabourn has received permission from Greece to offer 7-day Greek Island cruises aboard the Seabourn Ovation beginning on July 3, 2021. Carnival has also announced plans to resume cruises in Europe with AIDA, Costa Cruises, P&O, and Princess Cruises, with each marketing only in Europe.
The cruise line trade group, Cruise Lines International Association, issued a statement on behalf of the industry in response to the CDC’s technical guidance issued on April 2. Calling the CDC’s announcement, “disappointing,” CLIA responded saying, “The new requirements are unduly burdensome, largely unworkable, and seem to reflect a zero-risk objective rather than the mitigation approach to COVID that is the basis for every other US sector of our society.”
With no discernible path forward or timeframe for resumption in the U.S., CLIA says that more sailings originating in the Caribbean and elsewhere are likely to be announced. Joined by other travel organizations, CLIA continues to call for the lifting of the current barriers that are preventing cruises from resuming from U.S. ports.