Updated: Apr 17, 2021
April 5 2021,
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. (NCLH) sent a letter to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outlining its plan to resume sailing from U.S. ports, starting July 4, 2021.
Most notably, it plans to require 100 percent vaccination of guests and crew for all three brands in the initial relaunch. NCLH said that's consistent with CDC 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.
The line will also implement its multi-layered "SailSAFE Health and Safety Program" developed in conjunction with globally recognized experts, including the "Healthy Sail Panel."
NCLH's press statement said:
"By requiring full and complete vaccinations of guests and crew, the company believes it shares in the spirit and exceeds the intent of the CDC’s Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) to advance mutual public health goals and protect guests, crew and the communities it visits."
"Norwegian trusts and is optimistic the CDC will agree that mandatory vaccination requirements eliminate the need for the CSO and therefore requests for the lifting of the order for Norwegian’s vessels, allowing them to cruise from U.S. ports starting July 4."
"The company looks forward to its continued partnership with the CDC in recommencing operations with 100 percent vaccinated guests and crew aboard and reduced capacity initially as part of a phased-in launch."
Frank Del Rio,
NCLH's president and CEO, also congratulated the CDC on the steps it's taken to open travel for vaccinated Americans, noting that his company "shares the CDC’s view that vaccinations are the primary vehicle for Americans to get back to their everyday lives."
Del Rio added: ”We believe that through a combination of 100 percent mandatory vaccinations for guests and crew and science-backed public health measures as developed by the Healthy Sail Panel...we can create a safe, ‘bubble-like’ environment for guests and crew. We look forward to joining the rest of the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors in participating in this next phase of our recovery.”
While acknowledging that the risk of COVID-19 cannot be eliminated in its entirety, NCLH's press statement said that during the past eight months the crfuise industry has successfully carried nearly 400,000 passengers in more than 10 major cruise markets outside the United States with only a few isolated COVID-19 cases. These cases were identified, contained and mitigated without impacting the health or interrupting the vacations of others, the company said, adding that "this was all done prior to the availability of widespread vaccinations."
Del Rio continued, saying, “Our robust and comprehensive SailSAFE health and safety program extends well beyond the protocols of the travel, leisure and hospitality sectors, all of which have already reopened including hotels and resorts, casinos, restaurants, sporting venues, theme parks and airlines."
He said that "with vaccine mandates and strict health and safety protocols in place, we believe we can provide a uniquely safe and healthy vacation experience."
In addition, NCLH pointed out the sizable benefits of a cruise restart. With vessels back in operation from U.S. ports, thousands of American jobs will be reinstated. The company also will satisfy significant consumer demand for cruising and re-contribute billions of dollars to the U.S. economy as the industry resumes cruise operations.
Requirements to Sail
As per the letter, Del Rio said that NCLH will require that all guests embarking from a U.S. port and/or disembarking to a U.S. port provide proof of having been fully vaccinated with an FDA-, EMA-, or WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccine no less than two weeks prior to their departure date. All crew on NCLH vessels will also be fully vaccinated with an FDA-, EMA- or WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccine at least two weeks prior to commencement of their duties onboard their assigned vessel.
Additionally, NCLH will incorporate and operationalize the protocols developed by the Healthy Sail Panel, led by former secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt and former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration Dr. Scott Gottlieb.
These protocols, include universal testing of guests and crew, combined with required vaccines for all guests and crew, thereby creating a safe, “bubble-like” environment.
On or about July 4, 2021, NCLH vessels would begin cruise operations at an initial reduced capacity of 60 percent, gradually ramping up our fleet departing from U.S. ports and increasing capacity by 20 percent every 30 days.
These stringent requirements will remain in place, Del Rio said, until public health conditions allow for the implementation of more lenient protocols.
To view the SailSAFE health and safety program, visit www.nclhltd.com.