Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) has proposed a 4 July 2021 relaunch date for cruising from US ports, initially operating ships with 60% capacity.
In a letter to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Frank Del Rio, President and CEO of NCLH said the cruise company, which comprises Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania and Regent, has developed a “comprehensive and robust science-backed path” that the rest of the travel and hospitality industries should operate in a COVID-19 environment.
In his letter, Del Rio said that after 13 months of pausing the operations of its three cruise brands due to the pandemic, “we believe that in light of the current health trends, buttressed by the more than 650 million vaccines administered worldwide to date, it is time for NCLH to join the rest of the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors in participating in the next phase of our recovery”.
Subscribe to LATTE Cruise’s free eNewsletter to keep up to date with everything in the luxury cruise space.
“We have worked tirelessly to ensure that our resumption of operations is guided by science and prioritises the health and safety of our passengers, crew and the communities we visit. Most importantly, because our return to service plan mandates that the entire population onboard our vessels be vaccinated, our plan reduces the risk of outbreaks and severe COVID-19 cases,” Del Rio said.
The cruise chief said NCLH has invested tens of million dollars in enhanced onboard health and safety protocols, with ships equipped to handle “one-off cases of infection that could occur”.
Additionally, NCLH has developed its own SailSAFE Health and Safety Program that extends beyond the protocols of the travel, leisure and hospitality sectors.
Del Rio outlined a five-point plan to the CDC that it intends to follow to resume sailing. That includes;
- All guests embarking/disembarking from a US port must have been vaccinated against COVID-19 at least two weeks prior to cruise departure date;
- All crew will be fully vaccinated at least two weeks prior to commencement of their duties on board;
- NCLH to incorporate protocols developed by the Healthy Sail Panel;
- NCLH will begin cruise operation “on or about 4 July 2021”, initially with reduced capacity at 60%, gradually ramping up fleet departures from US ports and increasing capacity by 20% every 30 days;
- Stringent requirements to remain in place until more lenient protocols are implemented.
(The flagged 4 July 2021 date, America’s Independence Day, coincides with remarks by President Joe Biden to have US states aim to return to normalcy by the same date after the national COVID-19 vaccine take-up by 1 May.)
Del Rio continued in his letter, adding, “By requiring full and complete vaccinations of guests and crew, we believe our extensive health and safety standards share in the spirit and exceed the intent of the CDC’s existing Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) to advance public health goals and to protect guests, crew and the communities we visit. Therefore, we respectfully request the CDC lift the CSO for all NCLH cruise vessels departing from US ports effective July 4, 2021.”
Del Rio added that NCLH’s ships back in operation from US ports will both reinstate tens of thousands of American jobs to meet the “significant American consumer’s demand for cruising”, as well as re-contribute hundreds of billions of dollars to the US economy.
Lead image: Seven Seas Splendor in Miami