Norwegian Cruise Line Changes Policy, Now Asks Guests to Wear Masks

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In an email sent to booked guests, Norwegian Cruise Line has updated its onboard mask policy to ask guests to wear masks while indoors as well as outdoors when social distancing cannot be maintained. This is an abrupt change from the line’s fully-vaccinated “cruise mask-free” policy, and has been made without warning.

Norwegian Cruise Line “Asking” Guests to Wear Masks

Guests booked on sailings of Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Joy, Norwegian Breakaway, and Norwegian Gem have received notification emails that the health and safety protocols onboard their upcoming sailings – as early as tomorrow, December 18, 2021 – have been changed.

Masks should now be worn on board in indoor areas unless passengers are actively eating or drinking or while in passengers’ staterooms. Masks must also be worn in any outdoor areas where social distancing cannot be maintained.

Email Sent to Guests - Image Courtesy of Melissa Mayntz
Email Sent to Guests – Image Courtesy of Melissa Mayntz

While the email’s language does say they are “asking” guests to wear masks and does not use the word “required” this amounts to a direct change of the line’s “cruise mask-free” policy in recent weeks, a policy for NCL’s fully-vaccinated sailings that many cruise passengers have appreciated.

The email goes on to reiterate the cruise line’s vaccination and pre-cruise testing protocols, which have not been changed. Guests who do not comply with the requirements listed in the email will be denied embarkation for their cruise without any refund or compensation.

The line’s official website has not yet been updated about this change in protocol and there is no confirmation as to whether this is a fleet-wide change or how long the protocol may be in effect.

UPDATE – Several hours after guests received their notification emails, updated the “Sail Safe” portion of its website to clarify that “For sailings with embarkation dates through and including¬†December 19, 2021, all guests and crew are required to wear masks onboard while indoors, except when actively eating or drinking, or seated at a table in a dining setting, or when in their stateroom.”

NCL Mask Update - Image from
NCL Mask Update – Image from

Short Notice Changes

This notification email has been sent to guests just days, even hours, before their cruises set sail, including the December 18, 2021 sailings of Norwegian Escape from Port Canaveral and Norwegian Joy from PortMiami, the December 19, 2021 sailing of Norwegian Breakaway from New Orleans, and the December 19, 2021 sailing of Norwegian Gem from New York. Additional ships may also be impacted by this change.

Norwegian Gem Cruise Ship
Photo Credit: Wangkun Jia /

Norwegian Breakaway recently made headline news for multiple COVID-19 cases onboard, a total of 17 documented cases out of roughly 3,200 passengers and crew. The cruise with those cases returned to New Orleans on schedule and debarked as normal on December 6.

According to the CDC Cruise Ship Color Status, updated with data from December 16, no Norwegian vessels have “red” status indicating a severe outbreak. All four ships where passengers have confirmed receiving the notification email of new protocols – Breakaway, Escape, Joy, and Gem – are listed as “green” status which indicates no reported cases of COVID-19.

No Compensation Offered

At this time, Norwegian Cruise Line is not offering any refunds, future cruise credits, rebooking options, or other compensation for affected passengers who may wish to change their travel plans because of the dramatic change in protocols. It is possible that the line may change that policy in the next few hours, as this is a developing situation.

Stay tuned to Cruise Hive for further updates and more details as they become available.

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