After an absence of more than 500 days, Norwegian Cruise Line is restarting operations in the United States today. The cruise line is the last of the three major US-based cruise lines to sail in North America.
Norwegian Encore is setting sail today from its homeport of Seattle, Washington, to Alaska on 7-day voyages. While other cruise lines have been sailing for over a month already, NCL has taken things slow and steady, preferring to take a route where they can guarantee the safety of all guests onboard.
All guests need to be vaccinated and tested pier-side before boarding, and the cruise line is so confident in its measures onboard it does not require guests to purchase additional COVID-19 insurance; instead, the cruise line has said it will pay for all costs involved with any COVID-19 transmission onboard its ships.
Norwegian Encore Resumes U.S. Operations
Norwegian Cruise Line’s return to cruising has been long-awaited. Parent company NCLH CEO Frank Del Rio had initially planned to sail from July 4; however, the CDC thwarted this plan as the cruise line wanted to sail with 100% vaccinated guests and skip test cruises. Something the CDC denied at the time but would implement themselves only weeks later.
It was already too late for Norwegian Cruise Line to man the ships and bring them back into service by that time. Later the cruise line had to cancel cruises from Jamaica and the Dominican Republic to make crew members available for Norwegian Encore sailing in Alaska.
The journey for the cruise line and its crew has been long. Still, for now, Norwegian Cruise Line’s brand president Harry Sommer can only be delighted with Norwegian Encore’s return to Alaska, he said on August 6:
“It has been a long journey for all of us, and I am incredibly grateful for the loyalty and collaboration of our guests, team members, crew and partners around the world that have allowed us to achieve this momentous milestone. Tomorrow, we will celebrate together when Norwegian Encore makes history as the first ship in the fleet to return to cruising from the U.S. in over 500 days and sets sail on her inaugural season of Alaska voyages.”
The company’s newest ship Norwegian Encore is a Breakaway-Plus class vessel built at the Meyer Werft in Papenburg, Germany. The 169,116 gross ton vessel was delivered in August 2019 and sailed her maiden voyage on November 2, 2019. There is space for 3998 passengers on board, but she will sail with fewer guests than that on her Alaska Season.
Voyages to Alaska onboard Norwegian Encore will last seven days from Seattle with calls to Icy Strait Point, Skagway, Juneau, and Ketchikan, Alaska. From November, the ship will be sailing from Miami, Florida, on Caribbean cruises calling at Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands, Tortola, British Virgin Islands, and Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic.
Norwegian Cruise Line Restrictions
In the past few weeks, much has been said about the health restrictions Norwegian Cruise Line is implementing onboard its ships. Although the CDC allows ships to sail with 95% of all guests and crew vaccinated, Norwegian Cruise Line is going much further than that.
100% of all guests and crew must be fully vaccinated 14 days before sailing. All guests will also be tested on the pier by the cruise line (at the cruise line’s cost), and only after the negative antigen test result comes through are guests allowed to step onboard.
Not everyone is happy with how Norwegian is conducting its business. The state of Florida has recently banned businesses from asking for proof of vaccination. Something that could make it hard or even impossible for Norwegian to reach its 100% vaccination goal for sailings from Florida. The cruise line appealed the law in court on Friday, urging a federal judge to block Gov. Ron DeSantis’s ban.
The company said: “The Company has been unable to reach a mutually agreeable solution with the State of Florida that would allow it to require documentation confirming guests’ vaccination status prior to boarding cruises from Florida. At Friday’s hearing the company hopes to receive additional clarity shortly on its path forward to resume sailing from Florida.”
We will know whether the cruise line is successful in Florida in the upcoming days; if not, it has said it would be canceling Florida cruises and sail from elsewhere. Where that is, remains unclear, but currently, the cruise line is already successfully sailing in Greece and now Alaska under these requirements.