Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings has today announced a cancellation of all of its voyages within all brands. Voyages onboard Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, and Regent Seven Seas have all been canceled until December 31st, 2020, at least.
The announcement comes just days after the announcement from the CDC to lift the No-Sail-Order. Although the company did not give specific details on the cancellations and the reasoning behind it, CEO Frank Del Rio had stated earlier last month that it would take up to 60 days to prepare the vessels for operations.
It could also be expected that the protocols and regulations that the CDC has demanded from the cruise lines need significant time to prepare. The CDC released a 40-page document with protocols that will need time and preparation to be executed properly.
Why does it take 60-days to prepare a ship?
While a 60-days period might seem extravagant to prepare a vessel for operations, in these times, it seems to be a relatively healthy estimate. There are several factors the cruise lines will need to take into account when starting up a ship.
- Many countries are returning to a lockdown to curb the infection rates. Flying crew in from other countries is becoming harder and harder to do. In many countries, national travel is difficult or even impossible. Cruise lines will need to find the human resources to put onboard. It seems unlikely all ‘regular’ crew members will be able to join the vessels.
- Ships have been at anchor or cold layup for six to seven months now. While a ship at anchor means the engines have been running most of the time, and there would be a skeleton crew onboard to maintain the vessel, a ship at cold layup means there was little to no crew onboard. Getting these ships back into shape will require time and effort. It even looks like Norwegian will take some or most of its vessels into dry dock before operations start.
- Once the ships are running, and the crew is onboard, there is still COVID testing and quarantine periods. These could take up to two weeks. In that time, the crew will most likely not be allowed to work onboard. That means that training the crew to deal with the COVID regulations will need to happen afterward. All in all, these measures alone will take a significant amount of time. On top of that, there are the CDC’s regulations to take into account.
What is the CDC requiring?
As we said above, the first step would be to test all crew onboard. Once this has been done, and crew members are trained and ready to go, there are ‘mock voyages’ to go through.
These are voyages where the CDC will place observers onboard the vessels, and volunteers will act as guests. The goal is for the cruise lines to show the CDC that they are ready for guests and can mitigate or avoid any infection and transmission on board.
Related: The Next Steps Cruise Lines Need to Take on Resuming Cruises
Only when the CDC is fully satisfied will a ship receive a certificate with which they may sail. As there is no precedent for the current situation and it is unclear how the CDC will react to the measures on board, the cruise lines will undoubtedly do all they can to be ready.
With these issues in mind, it is not surprising that Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings has chosen to cancel all voyages and ensure they are ready when the time does come to sail. With this announcement, the company has bought itself 60 days to get ready instead of rushing into an unknown.
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